Notes from the National Scholarly Communication Forum – May 3, 2013

On Friday 3 May, the 2013 National Scholarly Communication Forum (NSCF) was held at the Australian National University on the topic:  “Open Access Research Issues in the Humanities and Social Sciences”.

The forum is an annual event supported by the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

The (slightly out of date) NSCF website states the membership of the NSCF is “a wide range of organisations representing academics, independent researchers, writers, librarians, publishers, and specialists in copyright and in digital technologies.”

Certainly the audience was diverse at the 2013 event, ranging across academics, librarians, university executives and people from several relevant government departments.  There was only one publisher representative. The discussions were robust and detailed.

The audience appeared to be overwhelmingly pro-open access (this may be a result of self-selection). There was certainly very little dissent on the issue of the importance of opening access to research and scholarship funded by the taxpayer. Generally ‘green’ open access – making a copy of work available in a digital repository – was preferred over the ‘gold’ method of paying to have work published in an open access journal.

Conference themes

The stated conference themes were:

  • to gain a better understanding of the current practices and challenges with regard to Open Access in the Humanities and the Social Sciences in Australia;
  • to provide an overview of existing Open Access activities in the Humanities and the Social Sciences globally and envisaged developments;
  • to review national and institutional funders’ policies and how these are implemented and supported; and
  • to reflect on suitable business models for sustainable Open Access infrastructures that take into account the specificities of the Humanities and the Social Sciences in relation to serials, monographs and data.

Overall outcomes

(Note: I have written a summary of my observations from each individual session included at the end of the blog.)

Open access definition: Open access is broader than simply science, technology and medical articles. It includes monographs, conference papers, grey literature and especially data – so the term Open Scholarship is more accurate.

Open access implementation: Strong leadership is required within institutions to develop an open access culture. Similarly, there is a need for examples of best practice cases of university open access policies and implementation, both for individual universities and for Universities Australia to take forward.

ARC and NHMRC policies:  The point was made that not only is gold open access publishing allowed under the policies, but that researchers can choose to use some of their grant allocation to pay for this.  There was an indication that the ARC might increase the percentage of grant allocations that can be used for this purpose.

OA and reward 1: Increasing the percentage of research available open access is affected by the conservative nature of reward systems. This is a particular problem for the younger researcher, who despite being embedded in digital scholarship, needs to establish reputation through traditional processes.

OA and reward 2: There is a need to widen and evaluate the scope of research evaluation metrics, moving towards article-level metrics. Many tools already exist to do this, for example alt-metrics. HASS disciplines can benefit from open access, particularly in regard to a wider impact in the community.

OA and reward 3:  There is already some discussion about standardising the reporting for HERDC and ERA. It would help to align the reporting objectives and data collection for HERDC and ERA with open access. It is unclear what percentage of universities in Australia report through their open access repository.

Scholarly communication education: There is a major need for university researchers to be involved in, and be aware of, changes in scholarly publishing.  Particular emphasis needs to be given to education for academics, possibly through best practice cases in copyright and licensing issues with publishers, such as Creative Commons.

Scholarly communication research: Research is needed into changes to the publishing arena – in relation to data, evidence and impact. Potential funding sources for this kind of research could include an ARC linkage grant. The kinds of questions in this area include:
* Are there better ways to fund publication, provide incentives and reward researchers in support of open access?
* How can open data be encouraged, recognised and rewarded?
* How can return on public/institutional investment be optimised?

Peer review: While acknowledging that peer review is essential for judging academic quality, free peer review could be threatened if pressures on individual academics increase and there continues to be no reward or recognition for peer review or more particularly, journal editorial responsibilities.  Should more open peer review be encouraged?

Open access publishing & preservation: Australian university open access publishers lead the world but need continued support. Digital preservation is a high priority, particularly for Government and educational resources but faces budget shortfalls – this is creating the ‘digital dust’ problem.

Suggested pre-reading

Participants were sent a list of reading prepared by Colin Steele to help them get across the open access topic. The list is below.

ARC (2013). ARC Open Access Policy.

Australian Open Access Support Group (2013). Comparison of ARC & NHMRC policies. 

Bjork, Bo-Christer (2013). Open Access: Are the Barriers to Change Receding?


European Research Council. (2013). Workshop on Open Access infrastructures in the Social Sciences and Humanities 

European Union Policy (2013)

Hey, Tony (2013). Part 6: The Open Access Revolution: The Next Steps

Hitchcock, Tim and Kelly Jason , (2013) Reinventing the Academic Journal: The ‘Digital Turn’, Open Access, & Peer Review 

Houghton, John and Swan, Alma. Planting the Green Seeds for a Golden Harvest: Comments and Clarifications on “Going for Gold”

House of Lords Select Committee Report on Open Access (with links to report and summary)

Housewright, Ross, et al (2013). Ithaka US Faculty Survey 2012.

HSBC Global Research Academic Publishing Report (2013).

McMillan, John (2013). Open public sector information: from principles to practice.

Nature (2013). The Future of Publishing. Nature Symposium

NH&MRC (2013). Dissemination of Research Findings.

Open access: an information resource for historians in the UK (IHR)

Open Access Publishing in European Network project page

Research Councils UK (2013). RCUK Policy on Open Access. Frequently Asked Questions.

Sale, Arthur (2013). Recent Developments in Open Access.

UK Government (2012a). The Finch Report.

UK Government (2012b). Executive Summary of the Finch Report.

UK Government (2013). The Implementation of Open Access.

US Congress (2013). Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2013.

US President (2013). Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research.

Willetts, David (2013). We cannot afford to keep research results locked away in ivory towers.

Summary of presentations

“Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences – Global and Australian Developments”
Colin Steele –  Emeritus Fellow & Convenor of NSCF

Colin gave an overview of what is happening in open access around the world. He made the point that we are still echoing the horse and buggy of the 20th century. Recent research demonstrates the importance of the library in obtaining information. Australian universities spend $257.7 million on library acquisitions. While it is agreed there is a cost to publishing, the concern is the lack of transparency in costs and the size of the publisher profits. There have been statements around the world about open access – but the devil is in the detail. The debate has focused on scientific articles and not on HASS issues.

“Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences – Global and Australian Developments”
Dr Danny Kingsley – Executive Officer of Australian Open Access Support Group

Danny summarised the ARC and NHMRC policies in terms of what they require, permit and allow. She then talked about the barriers to compliance, including copyright issues and technology barriers. Currently due to copyright restrictions it appears we are only able to make a maximum of 55% of NHMRC funded research available. Technology barriers include the way the repository fits with the reporting databases in institutions.

“The ARC and Open Access”
Prof Aidan Byrne CEO of Australian Research Council

Aidan said it is important the two large funding bodies have policies that are as close as possible. The ARC was careful to introduce the policy in a way to give some breathing space to allow us to work out some detail.

The reason we are at this point now –

  1. The technology is at the point where we can actually physically archive all material.
  2. The unsustainability of the current model that gives academics access to that information. At some stage that will collapse.
  3. Requirement from society that academics are not working in isolation but that there is a partnership between what is happening at universities and the society at large.

The ARC feels that publisher’s agreements are a relationship between the publishers and the authors. Putting the funder into this equation is not something the ARC wants to see happen.

Open access is a way for individuals to get their research out to the broader community. The biggest impediment is the reward system in the academic environment. The ARC is also the owner of the ERA evaluation process. The next ERA is 2015 – because of the timing there will be very little that can be tagged as open access. The following ERA (if it happens) has some scope to tie open access to direct rewards or impact of research.

Books are another issue – partly because of the long lead time to research. The timeframe allows us some room to work through those details. Open data is more difficult. Need to go back to first principles. The research benefit is equally high. The data benefit is the best way to improve research. Not sure about individual benefit .

“Universities Australia: A Smarter Australia”
Dr Rebecca Harris – Director of Copyright

The policy statement  – “A Smarter Australia” http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/resources/792/1549 was put forward by Glyn Davis and written and developed through consultation with all member unis in 2012, through a number of workshops on main themes and issues.

The context is to look at issues across the sector that UA wants to put to government. Several important foci:

  • Sustainable increase in uni participation
  • Develop a globally engaged uni sector
  • Powerful research and innovation system
  • Improve efficiency, investment and regulation

The goals and targets represent the direction the sector wishes to move in terms of both ability to reforms and settings needed by government to enable reform. UA has expressed support and commitment for many years to move to OA to research.

As the peak body, UA recognises that any public commitments must be realistic for all members, large and small, urban and regional and applicable to the mix of disciplines embraced by all unis. While the open access goals are conservative, the commitment is there. The target includes all outputs.

A comment from the floor was that the Dept of Innovation has asked innovating businesses where they get their info from, a relatively small proportion (27%) get them from journals’ websites and publications. If we increase open access then the amount that is out there will link to more outcomes.

“Australian Government and Open Access”
Prof John McMillan AO – Australian Government Information Commissioner

Government information is an open resource. It is no longer ‘government’ information but ‘public sector’ information. It is a property asset protected by Crown copyright, a national resource to be managed on an open license basis. The community should be consulted about information of use to them. Published information should be easily discoverable and usable. Open information translates into open data and then into open dialogue.

John mentioned several government data initiatives, starting with the original Data.gov http://data.gov.au  site. He also talked about Gov Space – http://govspace.gov.au an online communications platform that hosts public blogs and other engagement websites on behalf of Australian Government agencies, and Gov Dex – http://www.govdex.gov.au which supports collaboration across government. It is a secure, private web-based space that helps government agencies to manage projects, and share documents and information.

“Australian Government and Open Access”
Prof Gerard Goggin – Chair, Dept Media & Communications,  Sydney University

Gerard serves on the Government’s eResearch Infrastructure Research Committee. The humanities and research sciences are fragmented and chronically under developed in relation to eResearch. The problem is how to connect HASS information. If we can find the right sort of data, Australia has founded a research data alliance.

The Research Data infrastructure committee is about to release a discussion paper about how we can get different data archives to talk to each other.

There is no clear picture of:

  • What HASS data sources, holdings and repositories exist
  • What kids of HASS cognate or relevant data exists in govt agencies
  • Kinds of data that could be of benefit to HASS research held in private hands (eg: Google, companies making mobile  health apps

There is little idea how to join the first two in a systematic way.

“Open Access Content: Ownership, Dissemination and Impact”
Assoc Prof Matthew Rimmer –  ANU College of Law

Matthew began by talking about Aaron’s Law , in memory of Aaron Swartz, which argues for a need for consistency in open access policies and education institutions.

There are big things happening now in the area of copyright – the Australian Law Reform Commission is currently underway. Currently the Trans-Pacific Partnership is being developed. There is a robust IP section, with the aim to raise standards of IP. There has been some discussion of the Obama administration push towards open access. But at same time the US government is pushing closing access to copyright works. The issue is problematic because we can’t see the text at the moment. Recent FoI requests have returned highly redacted documents. This could undermine open access initiatives and open government initiatives.

Matthew ended with a quote from Aaron Swartz, who wrote the afterword for a book called Homeland: “The system is changing. Thanks to the Internet … we finally have a chance. But it only works if you take part. … it’s up to you to change the system.”

“Open Access Content: Ownership, Dissemination and Impact”
Dr John Lamp – School of Information Systems, Deakin University

John began by noting the World Wide Web [Correction 16 May – original said internet] is 20 years old this week, then pointed out that given publishing took 200 years to really take hold, the internet is disruptive technology. The electronic era has added open access journals, blogs & social media, open non peer reviewed publishers – eg: The Conversation and new formats – audio video, simulation.

Measuring impact – Citation measure are a problem because it is only academia that tends to cite. Also often things that are incredibly useful and influential might never get cited. We can look at different measures – for example Google analytics. Citation measures include h-index, g-index, hc-index, etc and Publish or Perish, Social media e.g. klout.com – gives you a number between 1-100

The new researcher’s dilemma is they are trained up in the old paradigms – libraries, journals & monographs. They think ERA has always been there and always will be there. But they are considered to be digital natives (and often are not).  They have opportunities – they are positioned to exploit new technologies and will not endure old technology limitations. Many early career researchers may be well known before the mantle of traditional qualifications, so can not be judged by older measures and are moving from  ‘publish or perish’… to get ‘visible or vanish’.

“Open Access Content: Ownership, Dissemination and Impact”
Prof Joy Damousi – History, University of Melbourne

Supporters of alt metrics identify it as the future of humanities and social sciences. Impact is a word that makes the social sciences nervous. It is typically the preserve of sciences. In the UK it is using the term ‘pathways to impact’. The idea is to encourage researchers to explore who could benefit from their work in the long term and to look at how could look at ways to get their work to a wider world.

She believes this will change behaviour.

A second practice in impact is the use of case studies – and this is the paradigm we are working within. That continues to be practised in terms of working outward. The problem with both these practices – how can academics provide tangible evidence? Not just that the work is available and out there, but that the public is using them. That discussion around an alternative metric system of public use that is called alt metrics. Idea to make the connection between output and use more direct.

The relationship between altmetrics and open access is very clear and complementary. OA is well established, altmetrics is fairly new and under developed. It enables a public filtering system. Offers repository managers a different measurement system. Provide supplementary impact measure. May be used as quantitative measure.

“The Economics of Open Access”
Prof John Houghton – Centre for Strategic and Economic Studies, Victoria University

(This was a pre-recorded video as John was in Copenhagen at the time.)  The initial economic work – was what’s the most cost effective type of OA? The next question is where do the costs fall and where do the benefits accrue? He has also explored the issue of a policy at the national level or at institutional level (not if the whole world did the whole thing). We found the only practical and affordable solution for a country or institution (as a small producer overall) is green open access. Recognises the benefits of open access with relatively limited additional cost. So unilateral policies should focus on green – completely opposite to the conclusions of the Finch finding.

It is interesting that the publishers have criticised the figures and never put forward the figures to refute it (probably because they can’t). From an economic point of view price is set at supply and demand. Ultimately what we pay is what we are willing to pay.  So papers are bundled into journals and journals are bundled into subscriptions. Very little for the reader in terms of cost of journals.

There is a worry that some publishers are doing deals to bundle author deals – making the cost less transparent to the authors rather than the readers. In purely economic terms the publishing industry is small. If OA were to damage the publishing industry (a big if, and not likely), there would be an adjustment cost. In publishing would be making professional information specialists in Oxford redundant (this is not the same as closing a mine in Wales and having long term unemployment).

Current research – winding up three projects working on with Neil Beagrie [Correction 16 May 2013,- originally wrote Burbery] in the UK costs benefits in research data curation and sharing.

“Open Access issues for Australian Serial Publications – Editors and Publishers”
Prof Keith Dowding – Political Science, ANU

Keith has been an editor of a journal for 16 years. Originally people used to submit articles by mail & sometimes the editors discussed them by mail with the referees. Now moved to Sage Track – centralised.  Journal only gets 150 submissions a year, dislike the system. The system is better for a journal with larger number of submissions. Keith thinks Sage is one of the better publishers. Also have Sage Open. He gets royalties from the journal and that runs the office. The royalties from the sale of the journal – 50 hardcopies a year sold to private individuals.  They get data as editors all the money that comes in via the JTP.

There is a concern with the issue of multiple ways of publishing the same piece. As an academic you need to track down the original item and sometimes it is not available any more. If there is too much data sometimes you can’t find anything. So even if getting a open access version of the pre print it has been added to and improved in the process. Process that we have in place for ensuring quality research is important and results in quality.

There is an issue about making data freely available for anyone to use and produce articles from. Feel this is often pushed by high tech high quality at Professors at universities with resources. People don’t want others to get hold of the data before they publish from it. In some areas there is movement towards acknowledging the data creator in any publication from it.

“Open Access issues for Australian Serial Publications – Editors and Publishers”
Assoc Prof Christina Twomey – ARC Future Fellow, Monash

Christina is the Editor of Historical Studies. She is dealing with issues of open access and quality. One thing that came out was the relationship with publishers. A variety of business models and a variety of support from the publishers.

This is the kind of research that gets picked up in policy. Some were published by societies, independent control. Others from smaller societies rely on the largesse of the institutions. There is a class of smaller journals without large subscription bases – publish online and open access already. Less prestigious journals . The fourth model – is those entered in large contracts with large publishing houses.

These contracts are signed by people who don’t know anything about contract law – possibly signed without realising what they were signing. The publishers distribute editions of the journal. Provide a limited amount of copy editing. A feature common to this and all other journals is that the content of all of theses journals is provided free of charge. Most academics who publish have full time positions or under grants. But there is another level of labour – the editing and the refereeing process provided without remuneration.

She doesn’t think there are many large business models in the world that rely on such a large amount of unpaid labour. Some money comes back to pay for an editorial assistant by most of the editing is done for free. This model comes from a time when most journals came form scholarly societies, and when demands on academics were different.

Usually to maintain a level of prestige it means it needs to be edited by senior academics. This is not factored into any university workload or rewarded financially by the publishers. For open access to work it needs recognition for the people who put something in for the quality. We need to develop a way of funding editorial work for journals and external validation for it.

“Open Access issues for Australian Serial Publications – Editors and Publishers”
James Mercer – Licensing Manager, Oceania, Springer

(James was hampered by a technical issue with his slides and he had to present without them.) Springer started experimenting with open access after the merger between Springer and Kluwer. They launched Springer OpenChoice – the first hybrid journal option. The original thought in the community was that Springer might have been trying to kill off open access because the article processing charges were very high.

Springer is the second largest commercial publisher and they started offering open access because it is an opportunity. As a business that publishes experiments Springer feels we should be willing to do experiments themselves. They have supported green open access.

“Open Scholarship, Open Access Monographs”
Cathrine Harboe-Ree – University Librarian, Monash University & President of CAUL

Monograph creation and consumption is undergoing revolutionary change. Very little current material is open access. Australian university libraries have taken a lead. Business cases, support structures, evidence cases and policies all need to be considered. Monash University Publishing uses an open access/hybrid model. The traditional university publishers in Australia are publishing about half the number that the OA publishers are. About 10% of the books listed in the HERDC returns are published by Australian university presses.

Cathrine also discussed policy issues, open research data and data collections (including Research Data Australia) and the issues of Research Data Alliance. She mentioned digitising and digital collections – a topic close to the HASS communities’ hearts. There is very little investment in digitising in Australia. Unlike what has happened overseas, digitisation in Australia has had to be funded internally.

“Open Scholarship, Open Access Monographs”
Emeritus Professor James Fox

Jim gave a summary of the ANU E Press, which began in 2002. They began by publishing previous ANU publications. The original idea was to enhance the reputation of the ANU – everything is peer reviewed – and to provide book and journals online free of charge.

The key was to have a decentralised editorial process. Embraces the entire university then special research groups within the universities. E Press does electronic format. Since establishment the press has published 456 monographs. It is listed as a commercial publisher and recognised by HERDC. The total complete downloads in 2012 were 692,760. The ANU E Press publishes monographs that include Music, Ethnographic Sound Recordings and Video as an integral part of the monograph.

The Press also publishes ANU E View – material that is not peer reviewed. And also produces journals – able to track particular issues of journals. Have some best seller journals issues. Have held the line at five journals because they are more complicated process than handling monographs.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group

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