Archive for April, 2010

About the first phase of PMC Canada

As noted in a previous post, the first element of the PMC Canada system – the search interface – was launched in October 2009. It allows users to browse, search and download articles.The next element, a manuscript submission system, has been launched. Excerpts from a press release (dated April 28, 2010) that’s available via the website of National Research Council Canada:

PMC Canada supports CIHR’s Policy on Access to Research Outputs, which requires CIHR grant recipients to make their peer-reviewed publications freely accessible online within six months of publication. PMC Canada’s manuscript submission system will enable CIHR-funded researchers to deposit their peer-reviewed articles, exposing their research to a global audience and facilitating collaboration to advance scientific progress.

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This first phase of PMC Canada includes a basic bilingual interface, a manuscript submission system for CIHR researchers and a bilingual help desk. Plans for the second phase of the repository will incorporate a customized web front-end along with enhanced reporting and alerting features for system funders and users. An advisory committee of Canadian health researchers and other stakeholders will guide PMC Canada’s future development.

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AgEcon Search: A case study of a subject repository

AgEcon Search: A case study on the differences between operating a subject repository and an institutional repository by Julie Kelly and Louise Letnes, Journal of Digital Information, 2010(Mar); 11(10) [Full text PDF][FriendFeed entry][In an issue on: Open Repositories 2009]. Abstract:

AgEcon Search is a subject repository containing the full text of working papers, conference papers and small press journals in agricultural and other areas of applied economics. In existence since 1995, it contains material from 170 organizations. Comparisons are made between the operations of a subject repository and those of an institutional repository, with each having easier and more challenging aspects. The field of economics has characteristics that contribute to the success of a subject repository, such as a pre-print culture and an interest in intellectual property and the economics of publishing.

Examples of excerpts from the full text:

[From page 3/9]: A number of factors have made creating and sustaining a subject repository an easier undertaking than doing the same for an institutional repository. An obvious one is the fact that AgEcon Search covers just one subdiscipline, although a variety of work is done under the umbrella of agricultural and applied economics.

[From page 4/9]: Much to the consternation of some college and university administrators, researchers often have more loyalty to their discipline than to their institution. In the repository world, this may translate into more interest in subject repositories than institutional ones.

[From page 8/9]: Including data sets in AgEcon Search is a topic that continues to come up, and possibilities in that area are being monitored. The current software platform, DSpace, was not designed with data as its main file type, so data-related issues will be carefully investigated before the migration to a new platform.

Comment: The full text is recommended. Some of the areas that may be more challenging for a subject repository than for an institutional one are discussed.

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How does the lay public use the literature?

Philip Davis recently authored a post, The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), Science, and the Public Good, The Scholarly Kitchen, April 22, 2010. So far, there have been 11 responses to this post.

Comments: This sentence in the post caught my eye: “While much is known about how researchers make use of the scientific literature, much less is known about the consumption of scientific literature by the general public“.

The 11th response (by Philip Davis) includes a similar sentence: “There has been much written on how scholars use the scientific literature; much less about how the lay public uses the literature“. I agree.

After reading the post and the responses, I then attempted to post a response of my own, but failed (perhaps because the blog software didn’t like the HTML tags that I had included in my response?). My response was:

Those unfamiliar with Participatory Medicine may find the website of the Journal of Participatory Medicine | Society for Participatory Medicine to be informative. Some of the initial contributors to this new OA journal [JoPM] are well-informed citizens, not scientists or physicians. See, for example, the contributions by Musa Mayer [bio] , a breast cancer survivor who is a “research advocate”, and by Gilles Frydman [bio], whose wife’s diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer in 1995 led him to become the activist who founded ACOR (the Association of Online Cancer Resources). ACOR has been very successful.

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Ten Years of PubMed Central

The blog post PubMed Central Turns Ten – Dr. David Lipman, by Dean Giustini (Open Medicine Blog, April 21, 2010), includes a link to
a video (51 min), entitled “Ten Years of PubMed Central “.

It’s a video of a talk given by David Lipman, Director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Library of Medicine, on March 23, 2010. He provides an overview of the past, present, and future of the National Institutes of Health’s archive of biomedical research articles, PubMed Central (PMC). Some noteworthy sections of the video are:

0 – 3:30 min: Introduction by Ian Lapp, Mailman School of Public Health (which cosponsored the event).

3:30 – 22:40 min: David Lipman describes the past of PMC.

22:40 – 31:30 min: He discusses the “Discovery Initiative”, an effort to “improve the quantity, quality and relevance of information obtained/viewed by users“. The value of weblog analyses is emphasized.

31:30 – 32:25 min: PMC statistics (as  of January 2010) are discussed.

32:25 – 38:50 min: Changes in written communication are considered.  Some very interesting comments are made about use of the Google knol authoring system to produce a new kind of journal, PLoS Currents: Influenza. Plans to produce other journals using this same authoring system are mentioned. These plans include additional PLoS Currents journals, but also journals initiated by other groups.

39:20 – 51 min: Discussion. The initial question is about the process for starting a Google knol journal.

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Can the costs of quality-filtration be reduced?

The costs of the conventional ‘hierarchy of journals’ approach to the quality-filtration of the research and scholarly literature can be very high.

For example, Mike Rossner, Executive Director of the Rockefeller University Press, has quoted a figure of US$10,000 as the average cost per article for the online versions of the three journals that this press publishes. These journals (and their 2008 Journal Impact Factors) are: J Cell Biol (9.1), J Exp Med (15.5) and J Gen Physiol (4.7). He provided this cost figure at the 07:50 min. point during his presentation at an event held on March 9, 2010 by the Scholarly Communication Program at Columbia University.

The full 97 min. video of the presentations is available at: Who Pays for Open Access?. Mike Rossner is the first of three speakers. He called these Rockefeller University Press journals ‘selective journals’, and described their business model, which provides free public access to articles after a 6-month embargo period. He suggested (at the 18:25 min. point in the video) that, for biomedical research journals, “charging for information in only the first 6 months after publication is a clear-cut way to know how valuable it is“.

The costs per article for these ‘selective journals’ are high mainly because of staffing costs of the ‘publication platform’. Tasks such as the management of the peer review system and the performance of copy-editing are done by paid staff. These people must deal with all of the manuscripts that are received, even though only about 10% of them are published.

Mike Rossner also suggested (at the 14:00 min. point in the video) that PLoS ONE provides an example of his definition of an ‘archival journal’ – one where: “Reviewers ask if data support conclusions, not whether the research represents an advance in the field “. An ‘archival journal’ publishes a higher proportion of submitted articles than does a ‘selective journal’. This higher volume reduces costs.

The current publication fee for PLoS ONE is US$1,350. This figure probably overstates the actual cost per article, if PLoS is indeed using PLoS ONE to subsidize its more selective journals (see the 14 min. point in the video, and, for example, Bulk Publishing Keeps PLoS Afloat, Philip Davis, The Scholarly Kitchen, July 7, 2008).

In contrast, Green OA costs much less. To date, an exemplar for Green OA is the arXiv repository, which provides OA to e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics. The cost of per submission for an article in the arXiv repository is much, much lower than the publication fee for PLos ONE. It’s less than US$7 per article (see the section on “How much does arXiv cost to operate? ” in the arXiv Support FAQ).

This much lower cost was mentioned (at the 48:35 min. point in the video) by Ivy Anderson, Director of Collection Development and Management at the California Digital Library, the second speaker in the event at Columbia University (whose presentation begins at the 18:50 min. point in the video). However, she also pointed out that arXiv is primarily a repository. It’s not a publishing platform.

Although submission to the arXiv doesn’t involve peer review, there is an arXiv moderation system. Excerpt:

The arXiv moderators are experts in their fields and in the types of submissions that are appropriate for their subject classifications. They evaluate based on the content of the submission and the policies of arXiv.

In an analogous way, the OA collection PLoS Currents: Influenza also uses a Board of Expert Moderators. In the PLoS Currents FAQs, it’s stated (here) that:

There are currently no publication charges for PLoS Currents. However, it is possible that we will introduce a small publication charge in future to cover the running costs.

It’s also stated, near the bottom of the same FAQs page, that: “We intend PLoS Currents: Influenza to be the prototype for additional PLoS Currents sites“.

Comments: The entire video (Who Pays For Open Access?) is recommended, including the presentation by the third speaker (Bettina Goerner, Manager, Open Access for Springer, beginning at 51:40 min. in the video) and the discussion session (beginning at 72:25 min.).

So, how best to increase the cost-effectiveness of quality-filtration of the research and scholarly literature? One can ask (as does Mike Rossner at the 17:40 min. point in the video): “Has the revolution in searchability negated the utility of selective journals as filters of information?“. He thinks that it hasn’t (and won’t for some time).

Perhaps, if PLoS Currents: Influenza is successful, in that it’s valued by it’s users and it’s running costs are low, then this peer moderation-based approach to quality-filtration of contributions to specified areas of research may flourish, as it has for those specified areas served by the arXiv.

It’s noteworthy that some basic article-level metrics (ALMs) are also provided for each contribution to PLoS Currents: Influenza. These include statistics about “Views” and “Comments“, together with “Ratings“. One need not wait for citation data in order to obtain some guidance about those contributions to this collection that are already attracting attention.

For more about the need for sophisticated ALMs, see: Article-Level Metrics and the Evolution of Scientific Impact by Cameron Neylon and Shirley Wu, PLoS Biol 2009(Nov); 7(11): e1000242. See also the “Metrics” and “Comments” that are attached to this same article.

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