Publishers, Open Access, and the Cost of Knowledge


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  • Over the last few centuries, the traditional publishing model has been a vital means of quality control and dissemination of research. However open access models are using new digital and interactive media to publish even more widely (forgoing prohibitive subscription charges) without sacrificing quality. This seminar will provide an overview to the increasing impact of open access, the backlash from some traditional publishers, and the ways researchers can support and take advantage of open access – without giving up the option of publishing in Nature!
  • When you publish an article you want it to be widely read, so other people can use it and build on it. Journals were developed to support wide dissemination in a print-based world. With the internet, journal articles have moved online – but they’re still locked behind paywalls.
  • Peer review’s an important function of journals – but it doesn’t require a subscription model. Academics (paid by universities) provide the research; Academics provide the peer review; Academics provide much of the editing work... ...and then the journal charges the library thousands of dollars in subscription costs
  • Thousands of dollars for a single year of a single journal title. [Insert secret subscription price of SciFinder here.] Libraries may be able to negotiate discounts – but this generally means buying into a publisher-determined package that bundles unwanted journals in with vital journals, vastly reducing flexibility in our budgets.
  • This limits access to researchers at institutions with large budgets – and even the largest can’t afford everything. Let alone smaller institutions, institutions in developing countries, independent researchers, science journalists, and the interested layperson. Subscription-based models no longer do the job of disseminating research as widely as possible.
  • So what’s the alternative? “ Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” (Peter Suber) Note that Open Access journals are peer-reviewed as often as subscription journals. There are different funding models – for some the author pays a fee. (Smaller than OA fees at eg Elsevier, and often waivable in cases of hardship. Can come from grant funding.) But many are supported by a university or other organisation. There’s increasing evidence that open access articles are cited more often than articles that aren’t open access.
  • Here’s a small selection of chemistry-related journals, sorted by SCImago rank. (ISI Journal Citation Reports don’t cover all journals, tend to be at least a year out-of-date, and are subscription only. FWIW, the correlation between the two – albeit not perfect since they’re calculated differently – is usually fairly high.) You can see there are plenty of open access journals – about 130!
  • Even research that is published in a subscription-based journal can often also be put into a repository. Physics and Biology have very strong traditions of subject-based repositories. The US National Institute of Health has a mandate requiring all research funded by NIH to be submitted to PubMed Central. At UC we have a Research Repository to which all staff and students can submit journal/conference papers and theses. (Inc if published at RSC, Elsevier, Springer, Nature.) Faculties at some universities (Princeton, Harvard, MIT) have mandates that all research must be submitted to their repositories.
  • The Research Works Act was proposed by politicians funded by Elsevier – it would have made open access mandates illegal. Elsevier argued that the articles are publishers’ work – despite the research, writing, peer review, and editing being done for free by academics. Some publishers let you put the post-print into a repository, some only let you put in the pre-print. Some offer the option to make an article open access, for a payment. (ACS, RSC, Wiley, Springer, Elsevier. OA journal charges are usually cheaper...)
  • The Cost of Knowledge pledge was started by a mathematician to protest specifically again Elsevier. (Elsevier isn’t the only publisher people are annoyed at, but it’s very good at being annoying.) The pledge is to refrain from authoring, reviewing, and/or editing for Elsevier journals. 11,000 academics from every discipline have signed, including 374 in Chemistry.
  • So the million dollar question is, what does this mean for you? How can you support open access, and how can you take advantage of open access?
  • Firstly you can read and cite open access papers. DOAJ and OAIster are two easy ways to find papers relevant to your subject. If you’re writing to a colleague for a copy of their article, encourage them to put it in their repository so others can access it too. Where relevant, cite these papers in your own work – this encourages authors to publish open access, and increases the impact factor of open access journals.
  • Look for high-ranked open access journals in your field (or journals whose rank is increasing) and submit to them. Or if you need to submit to a journal that isn’t open access, make sure you put a copy in the UC Research Repository so you can still get the citation advantages of OA work. If the default copyright agreement won’t let you submit to a repository, try attaching a SPARC copyright addendum – publishers frequently accept these for the public relations value.
  • Here’s one option of an Open Access pledge – lots of people have made their own pledges.
  • Keep an eye out on new open access initiatives: Open Notebook Science – putting lab notebooks on the open web so others can find your methods. Open Data – putting datasets up so others can verify, reanalyse, and recombine your results. ChemSpider is an open database pulling together chemical data from a huge variety of sources.
  • Please contact me if you have any questions!
  • Publishers, Open Access, and the Cost of Knowledge

    1. 1. Publishers,Open Access, andthe Cost of KnowledgeDeborah Fitchett21st May 2012
    2. 2. Dissemination of research
    3. 3. Added valueAcademics Publishers• research• peer review• act as editors • sell this work back to the university which pays academics
    4. 4. Prices
    5. 5. Prices “major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable” [Harvard] Faculty Advisory Council Memorandum
    6. 6. Open access © 1011010101011011100101 010100 $
    7. 7. Journals Title SCImago Nucleic Acids Research 1.542 OA Structure 1.514 not-OA Journal of Biological Chemistry 0.793 OA Analytical Chemistry 0.661 not-OA BMC Chemical Biology 0.586 OA SCImago Journal Ranks: DNA Research 0.556 OA Chemical Communications 0.507 not-OA Biosensors and Bioelectronics 0.493 not-OA Molecular Medicine 0.442 OA Journal of Physical Chemistry C 0.435 not-OA Journal of Cheminformatics 0.351 OA European Cells and Materials 0.322 OA Laser Chemistry 0.298 OA BMC Biochemistry 0.265 OA
    8. 8. RepositoriesSubject repositories Institutional repositories
    9. 9. Publisher’s reactionsIgnore itFight it • Forbid authors from depositing in repositories • Put out anti-OA misinformation • Support/fund anti-OA legislationJoin it – sort of... • Let authors deposit some version in repositories • Provide expensive OA publishing options
    10. 10. Reactions to the reactions 374 in Chemistry
    11. 11. Open Access for chemists
    12. 12. Read and cite OAJournals Repositories
    13. 13. Publish OA• Submit to Open Access journalsOR• Submit a copy to UC Research RepositorySPARC Copyright Addendum:
    14. 14. Review and edit OA“I pledge to devote most of my reviewing and editing efforts to manuscripts destined for open access. For other manuscripts, I will restrict myself to one review by me for each review obtained for me by an outlet that is not open access.”
    15. 15. Explore OAOpen Notebook Science
    16. 16. Questions? Thank you! Contact: Slides will be at: