Large Hadron Collider exhibit comes to town: an Open Access success story

By Sandra Fry

The world’s greatest scientific collaboration comes to Brisbane, Australia today with the opening of the Hadron Collider exhibit at the Queensland Museum.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest, most powerful particle accelerator ever built, consisting of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets which sits in a tunnel 100 metres underground at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland.

The project was dubbed the biggest science experiment of all time, and has involved thousands of scientists funded by hundreds of universities and governments around the world.

One of the most significant outcomes of the collaboration has been the very deliberate focus on ensuring the findings are available freely and openly.  The sciences have been leading the movement towards Open Access (OA) and an increasing number of Australian research organisations including universities, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council policies have OA policies.  The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) advocates on behalf of its member universities who are based in Australia and New Zealand and its affiliates to promote OA through collaboration and raising awareness.

One of the biggest discoveries to come from the LHC was in 2012 with the discovery of Higgs boson elementary particle – it was last remaining particle from the Standard Model of particle physics to be observed.  Australian Professor Geoffrey Taylor  (pictured below) is a director and chief investigator at the Centre of excellence in Particle Physics (CoEEP) at the University of Melbourne.  He was heavily involved in the Higgs boson discovery along with many other Australian scientists and said it came after decades of inquiry around across the globe.

geoff-taylor-1

“It was a very fundamental discovery, and it was a component of the Standard Model which was missing, but through this building of the Large Hadron Collider scope, its higher energies, higher intensities, we were capable of discovering the Hicks and we did.

“So that was a massive step forward for understanding the fundamental basis of the universe, and what particles are made of and what their basic interactions are.”

Professor Taylor said this LHC exhibition presents science on industrial scale, and that has benefits in the community.

“First of all it drives this collaboration for ventures in science and engineering, but on the other side of the coin, it involves major industrialisation and commercial involvement, and knowledge transfer.”

He said there is a large amount of technology which comes out of this research which is all publicly funded.

“Something like two or three times the turnover of what it would cost…. which I think it’s important for the public to know, it’s not just a drain … it generates growth.”

Much of the research being extracted from experiments using the LHC is made available around the globe via Open Access initiatives.

According to Dr Salvatore Mele, from CERN (pictured below), research in the field of physics has always been openly available.

salvatore-mele

“For more than half a century, researchers mailed each other hard copies of preprints, preliminary articles they had submitted for publication”  Dr Mele said, and now there are repositories like arXiv.org, all around the work hosting millions of  Open Access articles and preprints.

“Thanks to our Open Access initiative SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics), most of the articles in the field are also Open Access in their final peer-reviewed published version.

Dr Mele said that by aligning the mission of researchers, libraries, funding agencies and publishers it is possible to remove access barriers.

“Just imagine if all medical research was available to any single medical worker anywhere in the world,” he said.

Dr Mele said the impact of these scientific discoveries being available freely and openly has enormous impact on the research community.

“We have a way to measure how often these ‘preprints’, preliminary articles in our field, cite each other. This means that by being openly and freely available,ideas can spread before being formally published: we see that these citations happen up to one year before the day in which articles are published.

“Open Access accelerates science!” he said.

“Another way to measure impact is how often scientific articles are downloaded. While you cannot be sure this means someone has read them and got an idea – that of course cannot happen if you do not read the articles. We have been amazed to see that journals that SCOAP3 has made openly accessible on publisher web sites are downloaded twice as much as before.”  Five Australian universities are part of the consortium that supports SCOAP3, including two in Queensland, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Griffith University, as well as ANU, The University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia.

Dr Mele said the research community should not only share their work with peers in other disciplines, they should engage with libraries and funding agencies to support Open Access as part of the investment in research.

There is increasing pressure by funding agencies at national and international levels to embrace Open Access, Dr Mele said.

“Large charities, such as the Wellcome Trust and now the Gates Foundation, have been instrumental in moving this agenda and raise awareness in important areas in the life sciences and medical research, among others.

“In Europe, governments have agreed in the importance of Open Access in particular and Open Science in general: in May this year ministers of the European Union Member states concluded that Open Access should become the default for scientific publishing.

He said there are no negatives in making research open to everyone for free.

“In some fields there is hesitation about using them [open access journals], their reputation, and how to pay for them. In our field we see that research published in Open Access journals is downloaded twice as much as before, and by virtue of the fact that authors do not need to pay for this service, there are neither barriers nor hesitations,” Dr Mele said.

The Hadron Collider: Step Inside the World’s Greatest Experiment opens at the Queensland Museum & Sciencentre on December 9.

Follow the money: tracking Article Processing Charges at the University of Canterbury

Anton Angelo writes on how hard it can be to figure out who is paying what in Article Processing Charges

A thousand dollars, a hundred thousand or a million?  Peter Lund, the UC Research Support Manager and I asked ourselves that question last year as we tried to work out how much the University of Canterbury pays in Article Processing Charges (APCs).  We wanted to know how much we paid for articles to be published as Open Access, and it was turning out to be surprisingly hard to find out.  It was even difficult to ascertain what order of magnitude APCs were in.

Our first attempts – in an All the President’s Men ‘follow the money’ approach – were stymied. We talked to our finance department, but university financial systems were not granular enough to see what was being put into publisher’s hands out of research grants.  We were not even sure if research grants were the source of funds in the first place – any budget could conceivably be paying APCs.

A phase of heroic data-wrangling came next.  I grabbed the output of our Current Research Information System, “Profiler”, for the last few years, and popped it into MS Access.  That held all the details for articles submitted for the NZ research funding exercise Performance Based Funding Review (the PBRF), including the journal title for each research output.  Another table, sourced from the Directory of Open Access Journals included the title, and if the journal accepted APCs.

A bit of Structured Query Language later and I had a list of all the articles by Canterbury researchers for which APCs could have been paid for by one of the authors.

Then, came the figures. I looked up the APC rates of the 10 top journals Canterbury scholars published in, multiplied them up and got an answer:  tens to hundreds of thousands of NZ dollars.  This back of an envelope method didn’t give us actionable figures, but it did sharpen our minds.  Canterbury is still suffering the effects of a major natural disaster, as well as the twin prongs of fiscal austerity and a demographic shift leading to fewer undergraduate age students.  In short, we’re strapped for cash.

Our first question, knowing the magnitude of the sum, led, of course to more questions.  Could we refine that figure further?  We decided that we needed harder figures.   From our first investigation we now had a list of Canterbury researchers that might have paid APCs to enable their research to become Open Access.  Problems with the data were that fees could have been waived, or co-authors at other institutions might have paid them (a good reason to collaborate with someone in the UK, and their block grants) so we decided to do the hard thing, and go out and ask them.

Like all academic librarians, we are leery of putting extra workload on researchers and teachers.  With all the traditional roles, they are suffering Herculean amounts of extra administration – reports, copyright reviews, applications for research funding, and these tasks are increasing regularly.  We spent time with questionnaire designers creating something that would give us the most wisdom for the least input.  The result was a 50% response rate of a population of 100 researchers we knew had published in OA journals charging APCs.  Our results, published in our repository the University of Canterbury Research Repository [1] and the data in figshare [2] had some startling implications.

  • We were correct that the magnitude of APCs was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • The source of funds for APCs was varied, including in some cases the researcher’s personal funds.
  • Researchers were paying APCs to support Open Access, but more importantly because they believed that Open Access journals were the best places to publish that specific research.
  • Researchers expected to pay more APCs in the future.

So, this confirmed that there was a problem: funding was required to pay for APCs. The next question was how to fund these fees.  Our approach was to suggest a central fund for those who may not be able to draw on other sources, and the story of how that has developed, dear readers, is in the next episode.

 Anton Angelo is Research Data Co-ordinator, University of Canterbury.

[1] Angelo, A., & Lund, P. (2014). An evolving business model for scholarly publishing: exploring the payment of article processing charges (APCs) to achieve open access. Retrieved from http://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/9730

[1]      Angelo, A., & Lund, P. (2014, September 2). Raw dataset for University of Canterbury APC study. Retrieved from http://figshare.com/articles/Raw_dataset_for_University_of_Canterbury_APC_study/1157870

How researchers can protect themselves from publishing and conference scams

Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian at ANU and AOASG’s Deputy Chair, provides practical advice to researchers on how to prevent exploitation through being published in a journal, or participating in a conference, that could be considered “predatory” or “vanity”.

With the evolution of open access, enterprises have emerged that run conferences and journals with low or no peer review or other quality mechanisms. They approach academics, particularly early career academics, soliciting contributions for reputable sounding journals and conferences.

On 2 August, the ABC’s Background briefing highlighted the operation of this industry, Predatory publishers criticised for ‘unethical, unprincipled’ tactics” focusing in particular on one organisation, OMICS. There is little doubt that the industry has burgeoned.  The standard of review in such unethical journals can best be described by the example of the article written by David Mazières and Eddie Kohler which contains basically the words of the title repeated over and over. The article was accepted by the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology and the review process included a peer review report that described it as “excellent”. You can see the documentation here. Not only will these publishers take your publications, they will charge you for the pleasure (or lack of).

Jeffrey Beall, librarian at Auraria Library, University of Colorado, Denver, coined the term “predatory publisher” after noticing a large number of emails requesting he submit articles to or join editorial boards of journals he had not heard of.  His research has resulted in lists – “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” and “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals”.

While Beall’s lists have been the subject of some debate, acknowledging publishers that are low quality is important to assist researchers. The debate on predatory publishing does not mean that open access publishing is poor per se. There are many high quality open access publishers, including well established university presses at the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University and University of Technology, Sydney.

Ensuring the quality of the journals you submit to and conference you propose papers for is important to assist you in developing your research profile and building your career.

And don’t forget, traditional publishers can also have problems of quality. For example, in early 2014 Springer and IEEE removed more than 120 papers after Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, discovered  computer-generated papers published in their journals.

How can you prevent this happening to you?

Three major tips are:

  • If you haven’t heard of the journal or conference check Beall’s list or ask your local librarian
  • Don’t believe the web site – ask your colleagues and look at indicators of journal impact. A library’s guide to Increasing your research impact with information on Journal measures and tools can help you
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails – choose the journals you wish to submit to.

If in doubt contact your local Library or Research Office.

The Australasian Open Access Support Group is committed to supporting quality open access publishing and will continue to provide information through this web site and in our twitter, newsletters and discussion list.

Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian (Chief Scholarly Information Services), The Australian National University, Canberra.

Open Access Champion 2013 – Open Journal Project

To celebrate Open Access Week 2013, the Australian Open Access Support Group is recognising two ‘Open Access Champions’ – an individual and an organisation.

The Open Access Champion 2013 – Organisation Category has been awarded to the not-for-profit international development organisation Engineers Without Borders Institute’s Open Journal Project.

Julian O’Shea, the Director of the EWB Institute, who is heading up the project, spoke to Danny Kingsley about what has happened in the three months since the AOASG featured a story about the project in July.

Award

In bestowing the Open Access Champion 2013 award the AOASG is recognising the excellent work that Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has been doing to open access to research. The Open Journal Project publishes the Journal of Humanitarian Engineering (JHE)  which is not only open access, but provides easy to understand interpretations of the technical papers, translated into the local language(s) and addresses other issues of accessibility.

This project exemplifies a true commitment to open access in its pure form. The Project has considered all aspects of accessibility, well beyond the first step of simply providing access to the original research. In addition, the stated intention of the Project to act as a stimulus for others to follow the example set further increases the already impressive impact of the Project.

Increasing academic engagement

Since the project launched there has been a great deal of interest, explained Julian. “What is really pleasing is the level of academic interest,” he said.

The EWB have been talking to practitioners in the area of WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene Wash) research. Despite the focus on development, much of this research is still published in closed journals.

“This is probably one of the most important groups for development practice”, he explained. “But even people who would like to be out in the open publish in closed journals”.

The group has been offering them the opportunity to publish in the JHE. And to increase interest, the EWB have started discussions with organisers of the international WASH conference being held next year in Australia. The JHE is intending to publish a WASH-themed issue at the same time.

“The conference brings together leading academics and practitioners in WASH, so we will be using this as a platform to showcase our relatively young journal,” said Julian. “We want to build a network of the WASH and to formalise this as another opportunity to publish”.

The project is also looking to engage researchers in many of the countries where the humanitarian work is being conducted.  “We are looking at opportunities for them to publish”, said Julian.

The Project has considered the issue of different academic standards in different countries. “If you apply a fixed standard to your journal you are ruling out many parts of the world that do not have that experience,” he said. “English is the primary language of our journal”.

Many people who work in the area of humanitarian engineering may not have higher education degrees and may not have done formal academic writing. “If English is their second language we are happy to provide people in international research who can support and collaborate on the work”, said Julian. This is an open invitation, he explained, noting the journal is still a peer-reviewed journal committed to academic and technical rigour. “Their ideas have no less merit to their work but they do face academic hurdles”.

Sharing the message in the community

The target audience for the journal’s articles are practitioners in the field in developing countries. “What we have found is the idea that something is on the web so therefore it can be accessed is a bit of a stretch”, explained Julian. The EWB have a program which is a design challenge for Australian students – to come up with research outcomes that can be more readily understood.

“They make plain language guides rather than just the 10 page article,” he said. “So part of the process is we have readable understandable summaries of the research.”

The EWB are also planning to start spreading the word in person. “As of next year we will be disseminating these outcomes in country,” he said. “Because we have a network of people in country, with our local partners we will be holding local workshops targeting the groups we know about and share in person about what some of these outcomes have been”.

The group hopes to run some workshops in Nepal, one on water and one on energy. This will be using a human connection. “We can’t underestimate that,” said Julian. “Sharing in person makes it a lot more real. We will be working on the networks within their communities that spread the word”.

This AOASG award is not the only recognition the project has had. It was shortlisted for the World Youth Summit awards which recognises ICT and technology solutions addressing poverty alleviation. “We were the only program nominated from Australia”, explained Julian.

Future plans

The Project continues to innovate, with a summer project planned. “A student will develop a technology solution that converts an academic paper’s pdf or preprint into a low bandwidth version”, explained Julian.

The EWB are hoping to be able to automate the conversion, to allow the process to be scaled up across whole journals. “We expect to have a prototype by early next year that will enable editors and publishers to have a version that is low bandwidth friendly,” he said. “So these can be accessed in the developing world where downloading a pdf can be a technical challenge – this will give practitioners more scope to download. The outcome of the project will be open source so it can be shared.

Julian and the EWB team are brimming with ideas, but time is an issue as the Open Journal Project is just one of the projects currently running. Julian would like to develop a resource pack for editors and publishers to help them with these access issues. “It could help them with the change from one type of licensing to other”, he said.  “That would make it more of a movement.”

Open Access Champion 2013 – Alex Holcombe

To celebrate Open Access Week 2013, the Australian Open Access Support Group is recognising two ‘Open Access Champions’ – an individual and an organisation.

The Open Access Champion 2013 – Individual Category – has been awarded to Associate Professor Alex O. Holcombe, who is a psychologist studying human visual perception and visual attention. He is based in the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney. Alex spoke to Danny Kingsley about his interest in open access and how he is spreading the message.

The realisation that there were flaws with the scholarly communication system started during Alex’s PhD when he began publishing in academic journals. “It was hard not to notice the many closed aspects of the process,” he said. “Research is supposed to be well documented but it is published without raw data and often the article is behind paywalls”.

But the issues Alex identified were broader than just access challenges. During meetings of journal clubs – where PhD students bring in articles for discussions – inevitably people came up with criticisms even for articles published in Nature or Science. “Yet there was no indication of any weaknesses in the paper,” explained Alex. “The group often were left wondering ‘how did this get past peer review?’”.

There was no way for others to point out errors in already published papers. Alex and his colleagues concluded this system cannot be the future of communication if these problems are being swept under the rug.

During his postdoctoral fellowship Alex began his advocacy, submitting with a colleague a letter to Nature “Improving science through online commentary” which was published in May 2003 (the paper can be downloaded from here).  The pair also contacted the director of PubMed, which was not able to add this capability at the time.

When Alex became a lecturer in Cardiff, Wales, “PLOS had just started and they were thinking of starting PLOS One, they sent a survey around to test the waters”. Alex joined the founding advisory board, and watched PLoS ONE grow to become the largest journal in the world.

Australian advocacy

Alex has been in Australia for the last seven years and became an Australian citizen last week. His activities in the open access arena has ranged from writing articles for The Conversation to blogging, advocating at professional meetings and universities, and working on new open-access scientific journal initiatives. “I have seen how the movement has gained steam”, he said.

Alex shares the difficulty most open access advocates face: “It is hard to get the academic community involved,” he said. “Most people don’t give a thought to open access”.

One solution is to jump on newsworthy items that engage academics. Alex has made several presentations to his colleagues about open access. The Australian Research Council mandate has proven to be a good excuse to have conversations about open access in the university because researchers need to know about it. Another way of spreading the message is engaging people in casual conversation.

But Alex thinks the big boon for open access has been the rise in social media because it allows a continuing dialogue around “meta-issues that aren’t normally discussed outside the pub. These are backchannels cutting across academic disciplines that we didn’t have when we started”.

He also notes that The Conversation has been a great development in Australia. The information authors receive means “I know people are reading it, and not just academics”, he said. Comments on articles are made by academics, doctors and business people. One example is a small solar technology company that needs access to engineering journals.

Future projects

Alex continues to work towards a more effective scientific communication system. One new project he is involved in is the “Registered Replication Reports” (RRR) project where he is taking an editorial role. This is a new and open-access type of article in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the peak organisation in scientific psychology.

“In psychology research there are many disputed findings and people want to know if the findings will replicate,” he explained. But in the current system, it is difficult to publish negative findings such as non-replications.

The new RRR replication process begins with a submission of a proposal for an experiment that should be replicated. If the associated research is deemed important to replicate, a replication protocol is developed in conjunction with the original author.

The entire protocol – the exact series of steps involved in the experiments – is then announced prior to any collection of data.  Such preregistration often required for clinical trials to protect against bias in reporting the eventual results. But this process is only beginning to reach other types of research. Every step is documented on the Open Science Framework website with all raw data posted on the site. Commentary is encouraged, and “if it is important enough it will be published in the pages of the journal”, he said.

The project is a world-wide effort. “The first one has 27 labs across the world participating,” he said. “We have 27 datasets coming in”. The project promises to publish the results as a summary of the big experiment in the journals, with all the contributors are co-authors.

Alex is hoping that as people see this replication data it will push the broader open access message because people will see the value of making the raw data publicly available.

“To further open research we need policy changes, plus education, plus cultural change,” said Alex. “Cultural change is furthered by sharing positive examples”. This is the philosophy behind a second project in which Alex is currently involved, called “Badges to Acknowledge Open Practices”.

These badges will appear alongside articles in journals to acknowledge researchers sharing their materials, their data, and preregistering their methods., “Individual journals can decide to participate by awarding the badges to any articles they publish that meet the criteria”, he said. The project will be launched in Open Access Week and is led by the Center for Open Science.

Accessibility is more than making the paper OA

Journals

Proponents of open access generally agree that there are many benefits to open access, but discussions about the processes involved in achieving open access often stop at making the published research available. But what happens when the issues of accessibility are considered?

A remarkable project is underway in Australia, spearheaded by the Australian chapter of a not-for-profit international development organisation, Engineers Without Borders (EWB). The Open Journal Project aims to explore and promote techniques to make academic information genuinely open and accessible – with a focus on groups that are often excluded from access to this type of information.

EWB is a volunteer organisation, sending volunteers overseas to a local non government organisation to work on the ground on a project. The Open Journal Project considers the needs of individuals and practitioners in other countries.

“The Project doesn’t finish the day you press publish – that’s when it starts,” explained Julian O’Shea, who is the Director of the EWB Institute, the education, research and training section of EWB, and is heading up the Project.

“We are thinking about what we can do to make the work more accessible.”

The EWB Institute is based in Melbourne, and is publishing a peer-reviewed journal as a pilot and case study in their work. The Journal of Humanitarian Engineering (JHE) is piloting innovations in open access, including multi-language access, developing country access, low-bandwidth websites, and disability-accessible content.

“We want to pilot innovations and share our experiences with doing this,” explained Julian. “We want to work out what is world’s best practice, do it and live it and show it is not too hard.”

The problem

The EWB has noticed that practitioners overseas are under-served by the current publishing process. As an example, Julian stated that the leading university in Cambodia does not have access to the largest database in the field of engineering.

The idea for the focus of the journal began because the group saw there were very few that focused on experience, drawing on outcomes from developments and disseminating that information.

“The aim of the journal is not to be published or cited, but to provide outcomes in communities,” explained Julian. “This is different to other research organisations as a metric of success. It gives us a different angle or lens.”

The group wanted to encourage this as a field of research in academia. They were not sure what level of interest there would be in the journal because from a purely technical point of view they are not publishing innovative technologies. Rather, the focus is on new ways of applying this technology.

“We have been surprised and pleased that the journal has been really positively responded to,” said Julian.

Open access

The journal is published open access, with no cost to the author or to the reader. It uses an open source program called Open Journal Systems to run the administration of the peer review and publication. All papers in the journal are available under a CC-BY 3.0 license.

“We have had no negative feedback at all from people wanting to publish in the journal,” said Julian. “People doing this kind of research don’t have any issue with making their work freely available.”

Accessibility – language issues

Academic papers can be difficult to read even for people within a field. They can become impenetrable to researchers in parallel fields. This problem is further exacerbated in an international environment, working with practitioners on the ground who may not have any tertiary education.

There are several issues with language. The first is the problem of making the technical reports understandable to the lay person. Often the papers in this area are very technical, including many equations, and can reach 300 pages.

To solve this problem authors in the JHE are required to submit a two page plain summary about the paper with the formal paper. This means a project manager on the ground can make a decision about applying the technology or approach and then pass the full paper on to the technical manager.

But many of these projects are in countries where English is not the primary language. The Project addresses this by making the reports available in the language of the country it is targeted towards. The Project translates the plain language guides into both the local language of most importance and into other general languages.

The Project called on goodwill to obtain the translations. They sent articles out to the world, asking for volunteers to translate the papers. This had a good response from universities, companies or simply people to help out on the website.

The Project now has an approved translator list. The first time an article is translated it is sent to a native speaker to approve it and once this is done the translator can go onto the list. The quality of translations has been very high, said Julian, with only one that had to be sent back.

To date the plain language summaries have been translated into Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish, Danish, Khmer and French. The number of languages is growing.

Accessibility – distribution

Another consideration is bandwidth. In many countries the internet connection is through a mobile telephone which prevents the download of large documents. The Project decided to produce the journal on a low bandwidth, and this opened up new issues.

“Generally the journal system distributes through pdfs,” explained Julian. “The problem is it is all or nothing – if the download cuts out at 90% you get nothing.” So the Project looked at releasing html versions of the papers. This has reduced the size of the website to 4.3KB and the journal articles are about 18KB. “We can put about 80 journals onto a floppy disk,” he said.

The Project also has plans to further improve the distribution to remote areas. “We haven’t done it yet but we will have a system that says ‘here’s a postcard, send it to us and we will send the paper to you by donkey’”, said Julian.

Accessibility – inclusion

With a philosophy of sharing research, it was important to the project to provide versions of the papers in an accessible format for people with disabilities.

The choice of publishing html versions of papers assists people with vision impairment, as they translate better using text-to-talk programs than pdfs.  In addition, the project is being proactive about embedding helpful metadata within the document such as describing images.

The Project has used the guidelines for Vision Australia to release a large print edition of the papers. “The first one took about couple of minutes – after that it was very simple,” said Julian. “That is what we are trying to show in this project, to meet a need for some people can be solved in literally two minutes.” The team has also produced Braille editions of the plain language guides.

Future plans

The project hopes to share their experience and inspire others. “We are doing this through the case study approach,” said Julian.  “This is my goal – to be able to communicate better. I am an author – what can I do? I am a publisher – what can I do?”

The Open Journal Project is hoping to formally launch later this year. Meanwhile, Volume 2 issue 1 is about to be released.

Twitter handle – @OpenJournal

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group

Journal editors take note – you have the power

Some interesting news has come across my desk today, both as an open access advocate and someone who is based in a library.

The editorial board from the Journal of Library Administration has resigned in protest of the restrictive licensing policy imposed by its publisher Taylor & Francis (T&F). Brian Mathews includes the text of the resignation in his blog here

They might not be aware of it, but the editorial board are following in the footsteps of other editorial boards. A webpage put together by the Open Access Directory called Journal declarations of independence  lists examples of “the resignation of editors from a journal in order to launch a comparable journal with a friendlier publisher”. There are 20 journals listed on the pages, with the timeline running from 1989 to 2008.

What is a licensing policy?

For those people new to open access, a quick explainer. This is referring to the restrictions the publisher is imposing on what an author can do with copies of their published work. T&F say on their author pages that authors who have published work in a T&F journal are limited in what they can do with copies of the work:

  • Authors are not allowed to deposit the Publisher’s Version

This is fine – the publisher does manage the peer review process and provide the electronic distribution platform. They also have investment in the layout and design of the page and the manufacture of the downloadable pdf. Most publishers do not allow the Published Version to be made available.

  • Authors are allowed to put a copy of the Submitted Version (this is the version sent to the journal for peer review) into their institution’s web-based repository. In some disciplines this is called the pre-print. T&F rather confusingly call this the ‘Author’s Original Manuscript’.

So far so good – it seems quite generous. But in many disciplines, sharing the Submitted Version is inappropriate because it may contain errors which could reflect badly on the author, or even in some instances be dangerous to be made public without correction.

  • Authors are allowed to put a copy of the Accepted Version (the author’s post-peer reviewed and corrected version) into the institutional repository. T&F call this the ‘Author’s Accepted Manuscript’.

Again this seems generous. But the author can only do this “twelve (12) months after the publication of the Version of Scholarly Record in science, engineering, behavioral science, and medicine; and eighteen (18) months after first publication for arts, social science, and humanities journals, in digital or print form”.

Bear in mind the peer review and amendment process can take many months and there is often a long delay between an article’s acceptance and publication. This means the work is only able to be made open access two to five (or more) years after the original research was done.

This is what the Journal of Library Administration editors were originally protesting about, and then they took exception to the suggestion by T&F that authors could take up the open access ‘option’ for a fee USD$2995 per article. This amount is far beyond the reach of most H&SS scholars.

The lure of the commercial publisher

Talking to stressed, overworked editors it is easy to see why allowing a commercial publisher to take over the responsibility of publishing their journal is attractive.

But there is a catch. For a start, in the conversations I have had to date with journal editors who have ‘sold’ their title to a commercial publisher, it seems there is no exchange of money for ‘goodwill’ in the way there would be for the sale of any other business.

In addition, when a commercial publisher owns a journal title, it means they impose their own copyright transfer agreements – which determine what the authors are able to do with their work. This is often more restrictive than what the independent editorial team was allowing.

But the most dramatic difference to operations when a previously independent journal is bought by a commercial publisher is the amount they charge for subscriptions. For example, the Journal of Australian Studies  has a subscription which comes as part of the membership to the International Australian Studies Association (InASA). Members receive other benefits such as discounts to conferences. It costs AUD105 each year.

But if you consult the journal’s page on the T&F website  the online subscription is USD781 and the Print & Online subscription is USD893.

It is not that T&F are the only ones, mind you. The Journal of Religious History  is published by Wiley. Members of the Religious History Association can join for AUD45, and receive the print and online version of the journal. But subscriptions through Wiley range from USD593 for an institutional Print & Online subscription, to USD76 for a personal Print & Online subscription.

And when you start looking at Wiley’s permissions they are even more restrictive than T&F. Again the author can archive the Submitted Version, but for the Accepted Version there is an embargo of 0-24 months ‘depending on the journal’ and even then written permission from the publisher is required (good luck with that).

So what can journal editors do?

For a start remember that you are crucial to the success of a journal. Publishers rely on their editors absolutely to produce journals, which means you come into negotiations from a position of strength.

So if you are an editor of an independent journal and are considering ‘selling’ your journal to a commercial publisher the issues worth consideration include:

  • What are the restrictions the publisher will place on the re-use of the work published in the journal? Do they align with your current (or intended future) position? Are they prepared to negotiate these with you?
  • What will the subscription cost be to the journal? Does that mean some readers will not be able to afford subscriptions?

If you are the editor of a journal that is currently being published by a commercial publisher:

  1. Check out the restrictions imposed on your authors by looking the journal up in Sherpa/Romeo
  2. If those restrictions do not meet with the philosophy of the dissemination of your journal, consider contacting the publisher to request a less restrictive permissions policy

There is evidence that this has worked in the past. On 1 November 2011, T&F announced a two year pilot for Library and Information Science Journals, meaning that authors published in 35 library and information science journals have the right to deposit their Accepted Version into their institutional repository.

It seems that library journals have a reasonable track record on this front. In March this year- Emerald Group Publishing Limited announced a ‘special partnership’ with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Under this agreement, papers that have their origins in an IFLA conference or project and are published in one of Emerald’s LIS journals can become open access nine months after publication.

Moving your journal to an online open access platform

If you are the editor of an independent journal and you are considering moving online, some questions to consider include:

  • Who is your readership and how do they read the journal? In some cases the journal is read in lunchrooms in hospitals for example, so the printed version is necessary
  • Can the journal go exclusively online and assist readers by providing an emailed alert for each issue?

There are many tools to assist journal editors manage the publication process. The Open Journal System (OJS) was developed by the Public Knowledge Project, and is an open source (free to download) program to manage journals.

Australian universities host many open access journals (listed here) with a considerable portion published using OJS. Most of these journals are run with some subsidy from the institution, and do not charge authors article processing charges. From the researcher’s perspective they are ‘free to publish, free to read’.

In addition, the National Library of Australia runs the Open Publish program which hosts many open access journals.

If you have questions about this and want to know more please leave a reply to this post.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group