Archive for May, 2007

Linkage of OA to larger causes

In Trends favoring open access (SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #109, 2 May 2007), Peter Suber noted that: “While it’s clear that OA is here to stay, it’s just as clear that long-term success is a long-term project“. He also commented that: “Nobody is surprised when cultural inertia slows the adoption of radical ideas. But cultural inertia slowed the adoption of OA by leading many people to mistake it for a more radical idea than it actually is“.

In this OA Newsletter item, Peter also outlined a number (I counted 26) of trends that are favorable to OA. I’ll add another trend that I didn’t see mentioned explicitly in Peter’s list: the increasing likelihood of linkages between OA and larger issues, such as climate change. An example of such a linkage is provided in Speaking Out on Global Warming, by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles, 26 May 2007. Excerpts:

In a fascinating article published in the open access journal Environmental Research Letters, James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York argues that widespread “scientific reticence” poses a threat to the future well-being of the planet by hindering a necessary conversation between scientists and the public over potentially large sea level rises. He points out that any delay in the discussion carries tremendous risk as system inertias could precipitate a situation in which future sea level changes careen out of control.

In laying out his case against scientific reticence, Hansen cites numerous studies that sought to examine this “resistance to scientists to scientific discovery” and this tendency to “delay discount” out of concern for being the one to erroneously “cry wolf.” In essence, as do most individuals, scientists prefer immediate over delayed gratification, a practice that Hansen believes “may contribute to irrational reticence even among rational scientists” (for full list of cited references, see original article here [J E Hansen, Environ. Res. Lett. 2007(Apr-Jun); 2(2)]).

The lack of more than a passive interest in OA by many scientists has also been a major reason for the delays in the acceptance of OA in several fields of science (with the notable exception of fields covered by the arXiv repository). As Peter Suber noted in Nature debate, 10 June 2004, “…the single largest obstacle to OA is author inertia or omission“. Why is there such inertia? I’ll not try to identify all of the probable reasons here, but will focus on one that was identified by James Hansen (see above): a preference for immediate over delayed rewards. Publication in a high-profile journal, whether it’s OA or not, provides immediate gratification for scientists, in their role as authors.

And, short-term gratification for scientists in their role as readers has been, for many years, provided by libraries. The form of this gratification has shifted in recent years from provision of access to “atoms-based” (printed) publications to provision of even more convenient access to “bits-based” (digital) publications. A consequence of this shift is that the role of libraries has become increasingly invisible to scientists. As Dorothea Salo has recently pointed out, in Disciplinary culture, libraries, and IRs, Caveat Lector, 17 May 2007:

The natural constituency of institutional repositories as they are generally envisioned is the STM world–scientific, technical, medical. That’s where the serials crisis is most acute. That’s where funders are starting to mandate open access to research results and the underlying data used to generate them. That’s where the digital revolution in scholarly communication has made the most progress. That’s also the group least invested in academic libraries, especially in their traditional image as The Book Barn. (Library branders take note! The “Book Barn” brand, I would argue, is actively harmful among this population.)

E-journals and article databases are a transparent service to these researchers; surveys have shown that because the access technology is the same–that is, the web browser–they simply cannot distinguish between a resource on the free web and a resource that their libraries have paid dearly for.

Because of the lack by many scientists of much more than a passive interest in OA, I’ll argue that the linkage of OA to larger issues may be an increasingly important determinant of a wider acceptance of OA. Of course, linkage of OA to the issue of access to health-related information has been happening for several years, and has led to some important initiatives, including the OA mandates adopted by an increasing number of health-related funding agencies, such as the Wellcome Trust in the UK. As noted by Amanda Schaffer in an article posted on 14 Dec 2004, Open Access: Should scientific articles be available online and free to the public?: “At a time, too, when patients are asked to participate much more actively in health care decision-making, better access to information is crucial“.

Perhaps advocates for OA should begin to think about strategies for fostering linkages between OA and larger causes (while continuing to advocate researcher-oriented strategies, such as institutional and funding agency-based OA mandates)? One example: social bookmarking sites, such as Connotea, may be used to tag information that’s relevant both to OA and to other issues. As of today (27 May 2007), 1142 Connotea bookmarks carry the tag “open access“. And, 131 Connotea bookmarks carry the tag “global warming“. However, at present, only one bookmark carries both tags. It’s to the article Speaking Out on Global Warming (see above). In fact, I put it there today.

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A revenue-sharing ‘Platinum’ journal (AZojono)

There’s an article, Financial rewards for nanotech science authors and peer reviewers, in Nanotechnology Now, Australia, May 22, 2007.

Abstract: The open-access Nanotech Science Journal (AZoJono) confirms revenue share with authors and peer reviewers at Nanotech 2007 Santa Clara, California.


The AZo Journal of Nanotechnology Online, residing on has recently notified all authors and peer reviewers of their revenue share earnings for the last 12 month period.

Authors of the most popular papers have earned in excess of $500 for their contributions under the AZoNetwork Patented OARS (Open Access Revenue Share) scheme and peer reviewers have earned between $100 and $500 for their efforts.

Due to the free and open access nature of the journal and the size of the online audience, which now exceeds 350,000 monthly visitor sessions, the most popular AZoJono paper has been viewed more than 17,000 times in the last 12 months.

Intrigued, I visited the webpage for AZojono – Journal of Nanotechnology Online and the AZoNano Information page. The latter provided access to information about the Founding Sponsors of the host organization: Cenamps, based in the North East of England, and NanoVic, based in Victoria, Australia.

Excerpts from the FAQ ‘s page about AZojono:

What is the “OARS” publishing model?

* Authors contribute a paper.
* The paper is peer reviewed by a qualified editorial panel.
* The paper is published on-line
* The publication is 100% free to access on a global basis.
* The authors and peer reviewers then receive a percentage of the revenue attributable to the publication.

OARS – Open Access Rewards System

Can I also use the published work on my own website?

Yes, authors may post copies on their personal or institution/company web sites.

The revenue distribution model may favour “populist” general articles, isn’t this a negative?

It may be the case that “review” or “generalist” articles and papers are attractive to authors who wish to maximise their earning potential. However, although the subject areas may be broad, it is the responsibility of the editors to ensure the scientific quality of all the papers and articles approved for publication and to ensure there is not substantial duplication in the journal content.

Will the payment of authors “taint” the scientific purity of the publication?

We don’t believe this to be the case. Authors can request that their earnings are paid to their Institutions if they wish.

Will I be able to see the popularity of specific articles?

Yes. We will publish the page view popularity of all published works.

Still intrigued, I then visited the Journal Papers page. So far, for 2007, only one article appears: Multi-Functional Nanoparticles and Their Role in Cancer Drug Delivery – A Review, by Priya Pathak and V. K. Katiyar, published 11 May 2007. During 2006, only 3 articles were published. During 2005, the total was larger: 11 articles.

Then, I recognized the name of the author of one of the 2005 papers: Edna Einsiedel, author of In the Public Eye: The Early Landscape of Nanotechnology among Canadian and U.S. Publics, published 30 Dec 2005.

As I already knew, Edna Einsiedel has published a number of articles that have been indexed by PubMed. (However, none of these were to the article in Azojono, because it’s not indexed by PubMed).

A Google Scholar search for the key words “Einsiedel” “Public Eye * Early” yielded a relevant citation and a notation Cited by 2, but not a link to the article. Clicking on the “Web Search” button for the citation did provide the relevant link.

My conclusion? This is an intriguing model for a ‘Platinum’ (no-fee) journal, but the promise of revenue sharing doesn’t seem to be attracting many publishable articles (after a promising beginning in 2005, including the publication of Edna Einsiedel’s article).

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In praise of OJS

No, I’m not praising OJ Simpson. I’m praising the Open Journal Systems:

Open Journal Systems (OJS) is a journal management and publishing system that has been developed by the Public Knowledge Project through its federally funded efforts to expand and improve access to research. …

OJS is open source software made freely available to journals worldwide for the purpose of making open access publishing a viable option for more journals, as open access can increase a journal’s readership as well as its contribution to the public good on a global scale (see PKP Publications).

I’ve been paying attention to the initiation of two new ‘Platinum‘ OA journals that have recently been added to the list of journals using OJS. They are Open Medicine and Open Access Research. The former is, I think, off to a very good start. The latter hasn’t published its first issue yet. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

I’ve recently had my first personal experience with serving as a reviewer for one of these journals, and I was very favorably impressed by the manner in which the software performed its tasks. Except for a couple of minor glitches (probably my own fault), I experienced no difficulties with the downloading of the manuscript to be reviewed, with the uploading my review, or with any of the few other steps involved in the automated review process.

Well done, all of those involved in the Public Knowledge Project, a “three-way partnership under the direction of John Willinsky, with the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University Library, and SFU’s Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing” (see OJS Credits).

Can such ‘Platinum’ OA journals achieve and maintain a consistently high standard? I fervently hope so.

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Niche journals and self-archiving

Browsing through the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ self-archiving policies can yield some interesting information. I was looking for niche journals that are intended for members of particular disciplines in a specific geographic area (in my case, Canada). Some disciplines deal with topics that may vary greatly in substance from one geographic area to another. Health services research is one such area, because healthcare policy (e.g. how are particular health services delivered and paid for?) may differ greatly from one geographic area to another.

In 2005, the quarterly journal Healthcare Policy was launched, by “Longwoods Publishing, The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Health Services and Policy Research, the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR) and Editor-in-Chief Brian Hutchison …“. See: Announcement and Call for Papers. Only some selected contributions to this journal are OA, such as: Editorial: Getting Started by Brian Hutchison, Healthcare Policy 2005; 1(1): 1-3.

When I looked for this journal in the SHERPA/RoMEO database, neither the journal title, nor the publisher, were listed. This was an unusual result. What was usually found was information about the niche journal or the publisher, but not information about self-archiving policies.

For example, for the first 50 journal titles that contain the word “Canadian”, I found information about self-archiving policies for only five. Of these, two, Canadian Geographer and Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics, are listed as Blackwell journals, and three, Canadian Journal of Botany, Canadian Journal of Chemistry and Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, are listed as National Research Council Canada (NRC Research Press) journals. Thus, information about self-archiving policies is currently available in the database for only about 10% of these Canadian journals.

Similarly, of 28 journal titles that contain the word “Canada”, I found information about self-archiving policies for only one, Health Law in Canada, an Elsevier journal.

Is this lack of information a result, at least in part, of the SHERPA/RoMEO database currently being incomplete? Probably, yes. And, efforts to improve the database are under way. See, for example, Copyright Knowledge Bank – Database. An excerpt from the webpage:

The Copyright Knowledge Bank (CKB) is a database containing comprehensive information on the self-archiving policies of journal publishers. It is an extension of the existing well-known and heavily-used SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ self-archiving policies.

At the moment the CKB is still in development. As well as providing more detailed information on open access and self-archiving policies of publishers, the CKB will also have: * Improved coverage … and * Improved functionality …

However, the main reason for the lack of information about self-archiving policies for these Canada-oriented journals is probably because they do not yet have such policies. How best to deal with this issue, from the perspective of authors/researchers/scholars?

For results from a survey of author’s attitudes about such an issue, see: Copyright Issues in Open Access Research Journals: The Authors’ Perspective by Esther Hoorn and Maurits van der Graaf, D-Lib Magazine 2006(Feb); 12(2).

An excerpt:

The following emerging copyright models in OA journals were identified:

* a model in which the author keeps the copyright: this was preferred by nearly half of the respondents

* two models in which the author shares the copyright (with Creative Commons licences): these were preferred by nearly a third of the respondents

* a model in which the author transfers only the exploitation rights to the journal publisher: this was preferred by a small minority.

But, what if the publisher’s policy is the conventional one, in which the author is required to transfer copyright to the publisher?

One response is to make an effort to retain copyright on an individual, article-by-article, basis. An addendum can be added to the conventional copyright agreement. An example is the one recommended by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). See: Author Agreement (PDF).


Copyright of the Work remains in Author’s name.

Author agrees not to publish the Work in print form prior to publication of the Work by the Publisher. [ALA requests that should you publish the Work elsewhere, you cite the publication in ALA’s Publication, by author, title, and publisher, through a tagline, author bibliography, or similar means.]

[My thanks to Heather Morrison, AmSci OA Forum, 21 Feb 2007 for information about this addendum].

Another example is available via the SPARC Author Rights page, which provides access to the SPARC Author Addendum (PDF). Excerpt:

1. Author’s Retention of Rights. In addition to any rights under copyright retained by Author in the Publication Agreement, Author retains: (i) the rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display the Article in any medium for non-commercial purposes; (ii) the right to prepare derivative works from the Article; and (iii) the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the Article so long as Author receives credit as author and the journal in which the Article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the Article. For example, Author may make and distribute copies in the course of teaching and research and may post the Article on personal or institutional Web sites and in other openaccess digital repositories.

But, what to do if the publisher refuses to accept such an addendum? An alternative approach is one that’s been advocated vigorously by Stevan Harnad: ID/OA (Immediate-Deposit, Optional-Access), paired with a “Fair Use” Button. See, for example, Blackwell Instructions for self-archiving manuscripts, by Stevan Harnad, 17 April 2007. Excerpts:

Blackwell’s is a 12-month embargo publisher.

The solution is extremely simple: always deposit the postprint (i.e., the refereed, revised, accepted final draft) immediately upon acceptance for publication (definitely not 12 months later!) and set the access as “Closed Access” instead of “Open Access,” if you wish, which means the metadata (author, title, journal, abstract) are openly accessible to anyone on the web immediately, but the full-text is not. In addition … make sure to implement the “Fair Use” Button … : EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST …

All searches will lead to the Closed Access Deposit, and that in turn has the Button, which will provide for all usage needs during the 1-year embargo, semi-automatically, almost immediately, via almost-OA.

Embargoes will all die (I promise!) a *very* quick death once all institutions mandate immediate deposit like this; but embargoes will win the day if institutions foolishly make the mandated *deposit* date contingent on when publisher embargo’s say-so.

Will this strategy indeed serve to convince publishers (including publishers of niche journals) to permit self-archiving and minimal embargoes? Only time will tell (and, only if the strategy is used by many authors).

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Possibilities for publishing enabled by IT

An interesting Connotea bookmark tagged “open access” was posted on Tue May 08, 2007. The bookmark links to an article entitled: Scholarly Publishing and Open Access: Searching for Understanding of an Emerging IS Phenomenon.

Access is provided to a paper accepted for ECIS 2007 – The 15th European Conference on Information Systems, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, 7-9 June 2007. The authors are Mary Anne Kennan and Karlheinz Kautz.

Conceptual models are presented of traditional scholarly publishing (Fig. 1), electronic scholarly publishing (Fig. 2) and of the possibilities for publishing enabled by IT (Fig. 3). An excerpt (from page 8/12):

An interesting difference to note between the existing ways of publishing as modelled in Figures 1 & 2 and the possibilities which actually exist for scholarly publishing as presented in Figure 3, is that there is a lot more activity occurring, with regard to peer reviewing and responses by readers as well as awareness, access, distribution and publicity through repositories, blogs or wikis and the activity involves a larger number of actors.

The authors note (on page 3/12) that “scholarly publishing fills at least three purposes within a scholarly community; publicity, access and trustworthiness“. They also add a fourth less frequently acknowledged function (see page 4/12):

Journal publications have become an entrenched part of the academic reward system …

… the culture of top tier journals, and the power of monopolistic journal publishers act as disincentives for authors and other actors to investigate alternative models of scholarly communication.

The final paragraph of the “Conclusion” section:

Advances in information and communication technologies are motivating change in scholarly publishing; a reassembling of the scholarly publishing system is under way. The changes are emerging without us fully understanding what the changes may actually mean for scholarly communication, even who the all current actors are, and how these changes may affect the nature of scholarly work. Broadly, this paper has reported the current situation and some emergent associations. It then proposes further research to enable fuller understanding both of the current situation and future possibilities.

Perhaps research on OA is itself providing a very useful case study of the 3rd conceptual model of scholarly publishing (see Fig. 3 in the article by Kennan and Kautz)?

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