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France Prefers to Pay (twice) for Papers by Its Researchers

Guest - November 11, 2014 in Open Access

France may not have any money left for its universities but it does have money for academic publishers.

While university presidents learn that their funding is to be reduced by EUR 400 million, the Ministry of Research has decided, under great secrecy, to pay EUR 172 million to the world leader in scientific publishing Elsevier .

In an exclusive piece published by the French news outlet Rue89 (Le Monde press group), Open Knowledge France members and open science evangelists Pierre-Carl Langlais and Rayna Stamboliyska released the agreement between the French Ministry and Elsevier. The post originally appeared here, in French.

Des fioles (Erlenmeyer), dans une classe de science (Lokesh Dhakar/Flickr/CC)

The Work of Volunteers

The scientific publishing market is an unusual sector, those who create value are never remunerated. Instead, they often pay to see their work published. Authors do not receive any direct financial gain from their articles, and the peer review is conducted voluntarily.

This enormous amount of work is indirectly funded by public money. Writing articles and participating in peer review are part of the expected activities of researchers, expected activities that lead to further research funding from the taxpayer.

Scientific publishing is centred around several privately-held publishing houses who own the journals where scientific research is published. Every journal has an editorial review board who receive potential contributions which are then sent to volunteer scientists for peer review. It is on the basis of comments and feedback from the peer review process that a decision is made whether an article is to be published or rejected and returned to the author(s).

When the article is accepted, the authors usually sign their copyright over to the publishers to sell access to the work, or can choose to make their work available to everyone, which oftentimes involves paying a given sum. In some cases journals only receive income for the service of publishing an article which is henceforth free to the consumer, but some journals have a mixed ‘hybrid’ selection so authors pay to publish some articles and their library still pays to purchase the rest of the journal. This is called ‘double dipping’ and while publishers claim they take it into account in their journal pricing, the secrecy around publisher contracts and lack of data means it is impossible to tell where money is flowing.

Huge Profit Margins

This is important because access to these journals is rarely cheap and publishers sell access primarily to academic libraries and research laboratories. In other words, financial resources for the publication of scientific papers come from credits granted to research laboratories; access to the journals these papers are published in is purchased by these same institutions. In both cases, these purchases are subsidies by the public.

The main actors in scientific publishing generate considerable income. In fact, the sector is dominated by an oligopoly with “the big four” sharing most of the global pie:

  • The Dutch Elsevier
  • The German Springer
  • The American Wiley
  • The English Informa

They draw huge profits: from 30% to 40% annual net profit in the case of Elsevier and Springer.

In other words, these four major publishers resell to universities content that the institutions themselves have produced.

In this completely closed market, competition does not exist, and pre-existing agreement is the rule: subscription prices have continued to soar for thirty years, while the cost of publishing, in the era of electronic publishing, has never been lower. For example, the annual subscription to Elsevier’s journal ‘Brain Research’ costs a whopping 15,000 EUR.

The Ministry Shoulders This Policy

The agreement between France and Elsevier amounted to ca. EUR 172 million for 476 universities and hospitals.

The first payment (approximately EUR 34 million of public money) was paid in full in September 2014. In return, 476 public institutions will have access to a body of about 2,000 academic journals.

This published research was mainly financed by public funds. Therefore in the end, we will have paid to Elsevier twice: once to publish, a second time to read.

This is not a blip. The agreement between Elsevier and the government is established policy. In March 2014, Geneviève Fioraso, Minister of Higher Education and Research, elaborated upon the main foci of her political agenda to the Academy of Sciences;two of which involve privileged interactions with Elsevier. This would be the first time that negotiating the right to read for hundreds of public research institutions and universities was managed at national level.

Pre-determined Negotiations

One could argue in favour of the Ministry’s benevolence vis-à-vis public institutions to the extent it supports this vital commitment to research. Such an argument would, however, fail to highlight multiple issues. Among these, we would pinpoint the total opacity in the choice of supplier (why Elsevier in particular?) and the lack of competitive pitch between several actors (for such an amount, open public tendering is required). The major problem which prevents competition is the monopolistic hold of publishers over knowledge – no-one else has the right to sell that particular article on cancer research that a researcher in Paris requires for their work – so there is little choice but to continue paying the individual publishers under the current system. Their hold on only expires with copyright, which is 70 years from the death of the last author and therefore entirely incompatible with the timeline of scientific discovery.

Prisoners of a game with pre-set rules, the negotiators (the Couperin consortium and the Bibliographic Agency for Higher Education, abbreviated as ABES) have not had much breathing space for negotiation. As aforementioned, a competitive pitch did not happen. Article 4 of the Agreement is explicit:

“Market for service provision without publication and without prior competition, negotiated with a particular tenderer for reasons connected with the protection of exclusive distribution rights.”

Therefore, a strange setup materialises for Elsevier to keep its former customers in its back pocket. The research organisations already having a contract with the publisher can only join the national license providing they accept a rise of the costs (that goes from 2.5 to 3.5%). Those without previous contract are not concerned.

How Many Agreements of the Sort?

To inflate the bill even more, Elsevier sells bundles of journals (its ‘flagship journals’): “No title considered as a ‘flagship journal’ (as listed in Annex 5) can be withdrawn from the collection the subscribers can access” (art. 6.2). These ‘flaghip journals’ cannot all claim outstanding impact factors. Moreover, they are not equally relevant acrossdisciplines and scientific institutions.

The final price has been reduced from the estimation initially planned in February: “only” EUR 172 million instead of EUR 188 million. Yet, this discount does not seem to be a gratuitous gift from Elsevier. Numerous institutions have withdrawn from the national license: from 642 partners in February, only 476 remain in the final deal.

Needless to say, the sitation is outrageous. Yet, it is just one agreement with one among several vendors. A recent report by the French Academy of Science [http://www.academie-sciences.fr/presse/communique/rads_241014.pdf] alluded to a total of EUR 105 million annually, dedicated to acquiring access to scientific publications. This figure, however, comes out as far below the reality. Indeed, the French agreement with Elsevier grants access to publications only to some of the research institutions and universities in France; and yet in this case, the publisher already preempts EUR 33-35 million per year. The actual costs plausibly reach a total of EUR 200-300 million.

An alternative exists.

Elsewhere in Europe…

An important international movement has emerged and developed promoting and defending a free and open access to scientific publications. The overall goal is to make this content accessible and reusable to anyone.

As a matter of fact, researchers have no interest whatsoever in maintaining the current system. Copyright in scholarly publication does not requite authors and thus constitutes a fiction whose main goal is to perpetrate the publisher’s rights. Not only does this enclosure limit access to scientific publications — it also prevents the researcher from reusing their own work, as they oftenconcede their copyright when opting in to publication agreements.

The main barrier to opening up access to publications appears to stem from the government. No action is taken for research to be released from the grip of oligopolistic publishers. Assessment of publicly funded research focuses on journals referred to as “qualifying” (that is, journals mainly published by big editors). Some university departments even consider that open access publications are, by default, “not scientific”.

Several European Countries lead the way:

  • Germany has passed a law limiting the publishers’ exclusive rights to one year. Once the embargo has expired, the researcher is free to republish his work and allow open access to it. More details here.
  • Negotiations have been halted in Elsevier’s base, the Netherlands. Even though Elsevier pays most of its taxes there, the Dutch governement fully supports the demands of researchers and librarians, aiming to open up the whole corpus of Dutch scientific publications by 2020. More details here.

The most chilling potential effect of the Elsevier deal is removing, for five years, any possible collective incentive to an ambitious French open access policy. French citizens will continue to pay twice for research they cannot read. And the government will sustain a closed and archaic editorial system whose defining feature is to single-handedly limit the right to read.

Open Access in Ireland: A case-study

Guest - October 29, 2014 in OKF Ireland, Open Access

Following last week’s Open Access Week blog series, we continue our celebration of community efforts in this field. Today we give the microphone to Dr. Salua Nassabay from Open Knowledge Ireland in a great account from Ireland, originally posted on the Open Knowledge Ireland blog.

In Ireland, awareness of OA has increased within the research community nationally, particularly since institutional repositories have been built in each Irish university. Advocacy programmes and funder mandates (IRCSET, SFI, HEA) have had a positive effect; but there is still some way to go before the majority of Irish researchers will automatically deposit their papers in their local OA repository.

Brief Story

In summer 2004, the Irish Research eLibrary (IReL) was launched, giving online access to a wide range of key research journals. The National Principles on Open Access Policy Statement were launched on Oct 23rd 2012 at the Digital Repository of Ireland Conference by Sean Sherlock, Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation and Department of Education & Skills with responsibility for Research & Innovation. The policy consists of a ‘Green way’ mandate and encouragement to publish in ’Gold’ OA journals. It aligns with the European policy for Horizon 2020. OA on national level is managed by the National Steering Committee on OA Policy, see table 3.

A Committee of Irish research organisations is working in partnership to coordinate activities and to combine expertise at a national level to promote unrestricted, online access to outputs which result from research that is wholly or partially funded by the State:

National Principles on Open Access Policy Statement

Definition of OA

Reaffirm: freedom of researchers; increase visibility and access; support international interoperability, link to teaching and learning, and open innovation.

Defining Research Outputs:

include peer-reviewed publications, research data and other research artefacts which
feed the research process”.

General Principle (1): all researchers to have deposit rights for an AO repository.

Deposit: post-print/publisher version and metadata; peer-reviewed journal articles and
conference publication. Others where possible; at time of acceptance for publication; in
compliance with national metadata standards.

General Principle (2):Release: immediate for meta-data; respect publisher copyright, licensing and embargo (not
normally exceeding 6months/12months).

Green route policy – not exclusive

Suitable repositories

Research data linked to publications.

High-level principles:

Infrastructure and sustainability: depositing once, harvesting, interoperability and long-term preservation.

Advocacy and coordination: mechanisms for and monitoring of implementation, awareness raising and engagement for ALL.

Exploiting OA and implementation: preparing metadata and national value-added metrics.

Table 1. National Principles on Open Access Policy Statement. https://www.dcu.ie/sites/default/files/communications/pdfs/PatriciaClarke2014.pdf and http://openaccess.thehealthwell.info/sites/default/files/documents/NationalPrinciplesonOAPolicyStatement.pdf

There are seven universities in Ireland http://www.hea.ie/en/about-hea). These Irish universities received government funding to build institutional repositories in each Irish university and to develop a federated harvesting and discovery service via a national portal. It is intended that this collaboration will be expanded to embrace all Irish research institutions in the future. OA repositories are currently available in all Irish universities and in a number of other higher education institutions and government agencies:

Higher Education

Government Agency

Institutional repositories

Subject repository

Dublin Business School; Dublin City University; Dublin Institute of Technology; Dundalk Institte of Technology; Mary Immaculate College; National University of Ireland Galway; National University of Ireland, Maynooth; Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; University College Cork; University College Dublin, University of Limerick; Waterford Intitute of Technology

Irish Virtual Research Library & Archive, UCD

Health Service Executive Lenus; All-Ireland electronic Health Library (AieHL); Marine Institute; Teagasc

Table 2. Currently available repositories in Ireland

AO Ireland’s statistics show more than 58,859 OA publications in 13 repositories, distributed as can be seen in the figures 1 and 2.

oa_figure1Figure 1. Publications in repositories.From rian.ie (date: 16/9/2014). http://rian.ie/en/stats/overview

Some samples of Irish OA journals are:

- Crossings: Electronic Journal of Art and Technology: http://crossings.tcd.ie;

-Economic and Social Review: http://www.esr.ie;

-Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland: http://www.music.ucc.ie/jsmi/index.php/jsmi;

-Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland: http://www.ssisi.ie;

-Minerva: an Internet Journal of Philosophy: http://www.minerva.mic.ul.ie//;

-The Surgeon: Journal of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Ireland: http://www.researchgate.net/journal/1479-666X_The_surgeon_journal_of_the_Royal_Colleges_of_Surgeons_of_Edinburgh_and_Ireland;

-Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine: http://www.ijpm.ie/1fmul3lci60?a=1&p=24612705&t=21297075.

oa_figure2Figure 2. Publications by document type. From rian.ie (date: 16/9/2014). http://rian.ie/en/stats/overview

Institutional OA policies:

Name

URL

OA mandatory

OA Infrastructure

Health Research Board (HRB) - Funders

Webside: http://www.hrb.ie

Policy:http://www.hrb.ie/research-strategy-funding/policies-and-guidelines/policies/open-access/

Yes

No

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) – Funders

Webside: http://www.sfi.ie

Policy: http://www.sfi.ie/funding/grant-policies/open-access-availability-of-published-research-policy.html

Yes

No

Higher Education Authority (HEA) – Funders

Webside: http://www.hea.ie

Policy: http://www.hea.ie/en/policy/research/open-access-scientific-information

No

No

Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) – Funders

Webside: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie

Policy:http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/research/DAFMOpenAccessPolicy.pdf

Yes effective 2013

No

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Funders

Webside: http://www.epa.ie/

Policy:http://www.epa.ie/footer/accessibility/infopolicy/#.VBlPa8llwjg

Repository: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/#.VBmTVMllwjg

Yes

Yes

Marine Institute (MI) – Funders

Webside: http://www.marine.ie/Home/

Policy: http://oar.marine.ie/help/policy.html

Repository: http://oar.marine.ie

No

Yes

Irish Research Council (IRC) – Funders

Webside: http://www.research.ie

Policy: http://www.research.ie/aboutus/open-access

*Yes

No

Teagasc – Funders

Webside: http://www.teagasc.ie

Policy: http://t-stor.teagasc.ie/help/t-stor-faq.html#faqtopic2

Repository: http://t-stor.teagasc.ie

*No

Yes

Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) – Funders

Webside: http://www.publichealth.ie

Policy: http://www.thehealthwell.info/node/628334?&content=resource&member=749069&catalogue=Policies,%20Strategies%20&%20Action%20plans,Policy&collection=none&tokens_complete=true

Yes

No

Irish Universities Association (IUA) – Researchers

Representative body for Ireland’s seven universities:

http://www.iua.ie

https://www.tcd.ie/research_innovation/assets/TCD%20Open%20Access%20Policy.pdf

http://www.ucd.ie

Yes effective 2010

Yes

Health Service Executive (HSE) – Researchers

Webside: http://www.hse.ie/eng/

Policy:http://www.hse.ie/eng/staff/Resources/library/Open_Access/statement.pdf

Repository: http://www.lenus.ie/hse/

Yes effective 2013

Yes

Institutes of Technology Ireland (IOTI) – Researchers

Webside: http://www.ioti.ie

-

No

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) – Researchers

Webside: http://dit.ie

Policy: http://arrow.dit.ie/mandate.html

Repository: http://arrow.dit.ie

*Yes

Yes

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) – Researchers

Webside: http://www.rcsi.ie

Policy: http://epubs.rcsi.ie/policies.html

Repository: http://epubs.rcsi.ie

*No

Yes

Consortium of National and University Libraries (CONUL) – Library and Repository

Webside: http://www.conul.ie

Repository: http://rian.ie/en

-

Yes

IUA Librarians’ Group (IUALG) - Library and Repository

Webside: http://www.iua.ie

Repository: http://rian.ie/en

-

Yes

Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) - Library and Repository

Webside and Repository: http://www.dri.ie

DRI Position Statement on Open Access for Data: http://dri.ie/sites/default/files/files/dri-position-statement-on-open-access-for-data-2014.pdf

Yes

effective 2014

Yes

EdepositIreland - Library and Repository

Webside: http://www.tcd.ie/Library/edepositireland/

Policy: https://www.tcd.ie/research_innovation/assets/TCD%20Open%20Access%20Policy.pdf

Repository: http://edepositireland.ie

Yes

Yes

*IRC: Some exceptions like books. See policy.

*Teagasc: Material in the repository is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Share-Alike License

*DIT: Material that is to be commercialised, or which can be regarded as confidential, or the publication of which would infringe a legal commitment of the Institute and/or the author, is exempt from inclusion in the repository.

*RCSI: Material in the repository is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Share-Alike License

Table 3. Institutional OA Policies in Ireland

Funder OA policies:

Major research funders in Ireland

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/research/DAFMOpenAccessPolicy.pdf

IRCHSS (Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences): No Open Access policies as yet.

Enterprise Ireland: No Open Access policies as yet.

IRCSET (Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology): OA Mandate from May 1st 2008:http://roarmap.eprints.org/63/

HEA (Higher Education Authority): OA Mandate from June 30th 2009: http://roarmap.eprints.org/95/

Marine Institute: No Open Access policies as yet

HRB (Health Research Board): OA Recommendations, Policy: http://roarmap.eprints.org/76/

SFI (Science Foundation Ireland): OA Mandate from February 1st 2009: http://roarmap.eprints.org/115/

Table 4. Open Access funders in Ireland.

oa_figure3Figure 3. Public sources of funds for Open Access. From rian.ie (date: 16/9/2014), http://rian.ie/en/stats/overview

Infrastructural support for OA:

Open Access organisations and groups

Open Access projects and initiatives. The Open Access to Irish Research Project. Associated National Initiatives

RIAN Steering Group. IUA (Irish Universities Association) Librarian’s Group (Coordinating body). RIAN is the outcome of a project to build online open access to institutional repositories in all seven Irish universities and to harvest their content to the national portal.

NDLR (National Digital Learning Repository):http://www.ndlr.ie

National Steering Group on Open Access Policy. See Table 3

RISE Group (Research Information Systems Exchange)

Irish Open Access Repositories Support Project Working Group. ReSupIE: http://www.irel-open.ie/moodle/

Repository Network Ireland is a newly formed group of Repository managers, librarians and information: http://rni.wikispaces.com

Digital Repository Ireland DRI is a trusted national repository for Ireland’s humanities and social sciences data @dri_ireland

Table 5. Open Access infrastructural support.

Challenges and ongoing developments

Ireland already has considerable expertise in developing Open Access to publicly funded research, aligned with international policies and initiatives, and is now seeking to strengthen its approach to support international developments on Open Access led by the European Commission, Science Europe and other international agencies.

The greatest challenge is the increasing pressure faced by publishers in a fast-changing environment.

Conclusions

The launch of Ireland’s national Open Access policy has put Ireland ahead of many European partners. Irish research organisations are particularly successful in the following areas of research: Information and Communication Technologies, Health and Food, Agriculture, and Biotechnology.

Links

- Repository Network Ireland / http://rni.wikispaces.com

-Open Access Scholarly Publishers / http://oaspa.org/blog/

- OpenDoar – Directory of Repositories / http://www.opendoar.org

- OpenAire – Open Access Infrastructure for research in Europe / https://www.openaire.eu

- Repositories Support Ireland / http://www.resupie.ie/moodle/

-UCD Library News / http://ucdoa.blogspot.ie

- Trinity’s Open Access News / http://trinity-openaccess.blogspot.ie

- RIAN / http://rian.ie/en/stats/overview

Contact person: Dr. Salua Nassabay salua.nassabay@openknowledge.ie

https://www.openknowledge.ie; twitter: @OKFirl

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Let’s imagine a creative format for Open Access

Guest - October 26, 2014 in OKF France, Open Access

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world. It is written by Celya Gruson-Daniel from Open Knowledge France and reports from “Open Access Xsprint”, a creative workshop held on October 20 in the biohackerspace La Paillasse in Paris – as announced here.

More and more information is available online about Open Access. However it’s difficult to process all this content when one is a busy PhD Student or researcher. Moreover, people already informed and convinced are often the main spectators. The question thus becomes : How to spread the world about Open Access to a large audience ? (researchers, students but also people who are not directly concerned). With the HackYourPhD community, we have been developing initiatives to invent new creative formats and to raise curiosity and/or interest about Open Access. Open Access Week was a perfect occasion to propose workshops to experiment with those kinds of formats.

An Open Access XSprint at La Paillasse

During the Open Access Week, HackYourPhD with Sharelex design a creative workshop called the Open Access Xsprint (X standing for media). The evening was held on October 20 in the biohackerspace La Paillasse in Paris with the financial support of a Generation Open Grant (Right to Research Coalition)

The main objective was to produce appealing guidelines about the legal aspects and issues of Open Access through innovative formats such as livesketching, or comics. HackYourPhD has been working with Sharelex on this topic for several months. Sharelex aims at providing access to the law to everyone with the use of a collaborative workshop and forum. A first content has been produced in French and was used during the Open Access XSprint.

One evening to invent creative formats about Open Access

These sessions brings together illustrators, graphic designers, students, researchers. After a short introduction to get to know each other, the group discussed about the meaning of Open Access and its definition. First Livesketching and illustration emerged.

B0eU8AFIUAA-cig

In a second time, two groups were composed. One group worked on the different meaning of Open Access with a focus on the Creative Commons licences.

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The other group discussed about the development of the different Open Access models and their evolution (Green Open Access, 100% Gold Open Access, hybrid Journal, Diamond, Platinum). The importance of Evaluation was raised. It appears to be one of the brakes in the Open Access transition.

After an open buffet, each group presented their work. A future project was proposed. It will consist of personalizing a scientific article and inventing its different “”life””. An ingenious way to present the different Open Access Models.

B0eVPZSIIAEH0Sl

Explore also our storify “Open Access XSprint”

Next Step: Improvisation Theatre and Open Access

To conclude the Open Access Week, another event will be organized on October 24 in a science center (Espace Pierre Gilles de Gennes) with HackYourPhD and Sharelex, and the financial support of Couperin/FOSTER.

This event aims at exploring new format to communicate about Open Access. An improvisation theatral company will participate to this event. The presentations of different speakers about Open Access will be interspersed with short improvisation. The main topic of this evening will be the stereotypes or false ideas about Open Access. Bring an entertaining and original view is a way to discuss about Open Access for a large public, and maybe a starter to help them to become curious and to continue exploring this crucial topic for researchers and all citizen.

Licence Creative Commons Ce(tte) œuvre est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution – Partage dans les Mêmes Conditions 4.0 International.

Nature-branded journal goes Open Access-only: Can we celebrate already?

Guest - October 26, 2014 in OKF Brazil, Open Access

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world. It is written by Miguel Said from Open Knowledge Brazil and is a translated version of the original that can be found the Brazilian Open Science Working Group's blog.

Open access 2(1)Nature Publishing Group reported recently that in October, its Nature Communications journal will become open access only: all articles published after this date will be available for reading and re-using, free of charge (by default they will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution license, allowing virtually every type of use). Nature Communications was a hybrid journal, publishing articles with the conventional, proprietary model, or as open access if the author paid a fee; but now it will be exclusively open access. The publishing group that owns Science recently also revealed an open access only journal, Science Advances – but with a default CC-NC license, which prevents commercial usages.

So we made it: the greatest bastions of traditional scientific publishing are clearly signaling support for open access. Can we pop the champagne already?

This announcement obviously has positive aspects: for example, lives can be saved in poor countries where doctors may have access to the most up-to-date scientific information – information that was previously behind a paywall, unaffordable for most of the Global South. Papers published under open access also tend to achieve more visibility, and that can benefit the research in countries like Brazil, where I live.

The overall picture, however, is more complex than it seems at first sight. In both cases, Nature and Science adopt a specific model of open access: the so-called "gold model", where publication in journals is usually subject to a fee paid by authors of approved manuscripts (the article processing charge, or APC). In this model, access to articles is thus open to readers and users, but access to the publication space is closed, in a sense, being only available to the authors who can afford the fee. In the case of Nature Communications, the APC is $5000, certainly among the highest in any journal (in 2010, the largest recorded APC was US $ 3900 – according to the abstract of this article… which I cannot read, as it is behind a paywall).

This amounts to two months of the net salary of a professor in state universities in Brazil (those in private universities would have to work even longer, as their pay is generally lower). Who is up for spending 15%+ of their annual income to publish a single article? Nature reported that it will waive the fee for researchers from a list of countries (which does not include Brazil, China, India, Pakistan and Libya, among others), and for researchers from elsewhere on a "case by case" basis – but they did not provide any further objective information about this policy. (I suspect it is better not to count on the generosity of a publisher that charges us $32 to read a single article, or $18 for a single piece of correspondence [!] from its journals.)

On the other hand, the global trend seems to be that the institutions with which researchers are affiliated (the universities where they work, or the scientific foundations that fund their research) bear part of these charges, partly because of the value these institutions attach to publishing in high-impact journals. In Brazil, for example, FAPESP (one of the largest research foundations in Latin America) provides a specific line of funding to cover these fees, and also considers them as eligible expenses for project grants and scholarships. As it happens, however, the funds available for this kind of support are limited, and in general they are not awarded automatically; in the example of FAPESP, researchers compete heavily for funding, and one of the main evaluation criteria is – as in so many situations in academic bureaucracy today – the researcher's past publication record:

Analysis criteria [...] a) Applicant's Academic Record a.1) Quality and regularity of scientific and / or technological production. Important elements for this analysis are: list of publications in journals with selective editorial policy; books or book chapters [...]

Because of this reason, the payment of APCs by institutions has a good chance of feeding the so called "cumulative advantage" feedback loop in which researchers that are already publishing in major journals get more money and more chances to publish, while the underfunded remain that way.

The advancement of open access via the gold model also involves another risk: the proliferation of predatory publishers. They are the ones that make open access publishing (with payment by authors or institutions) a business where profit is maximized through the drastic reduction of quality standards in peer review – or even the virtual elimination of any review: if you pay, you are published. The risk is that on the one hand, predatory publishing can thrive because it satisfies the productivist demands imposed on researchers (whose careers are continually judged under the light of the publish or perish motto); and on the other hand, that with the gold model the act of publishing is turned into a commodity (to be sold to researchers), marketable under high profit rates - even without the intellectual property-based monopoly that was key to the economic power mustered by traditional scientific publishing houses. In this case, the use of a logic that treats scientific articles strictly as commodities results in pollution and degradation of humankind's body of scientific knowledge, as predatory publishers are fundamentally interested in maximizing profits: the quality of articles is irrelevant, or only a secondary factor.

Naturally, I do not mean to imply that Nature has become a predatory publisher; but one should not ignore that there is a risk of a slow corruption of the review process (in order to make publishing more profitable), particularly among those publishing houses that are "serious" but do not have as much market power as Nature. And, as we mentioned, on top of that is the risk of proliferation of bogus journals, in which peer review is a mere facade. In the latter case, unfortunately this is not a hypothetical risk: the shady "business model" of predatory publishing has already been put in place in hundreds of journals.

Are there no alternatives to this commodified, market-oriented logic currently in play in scientific publishing? Will this logic (and its serious disadvantages) be always dominant, regardless if the journal is "proprietary" or open access? Well, not necessarily: even within the gold model, there are promising initiatives that do not adhere strictly to this logic – that is the case of the Public Library of Science (PLOS), an open access publishing house that charges for publication, but works as a nonprofit organization; because of that, it has no reason to eliminate quality criteria in the selection of articles in order to obtain more profits from APCs. Perhaps this helps explain the fact that PLOS has a broader and more transparent fee waiver policy for poor researchers (or poor countries) than the one offered by Nature. And finally, it is worth noting that the gold model is not the only open access model: the main alternative is the "green model", based on institutional repositories. This model involves a number of challenges regarding coordination and funding, but it also tends not to follow a strictly market-oriented logic, and to be more responsive to the interests of the academic community. The green model is hardly a substitute for the gold one (even because it is not designed to cover the costs of peer review), but it is important that we join efforts to strengthen it and avoid a situation where the gold model becomes the only way for scientists and scholars in general to release their work under open access.

(My comments here are directly related to my PhD thesis on commons and commodification, where these issues are explored in a bit more detail – especially in the Introduction and in Chapter 4, pp. 17-20 and 272-88; unfortunately, it's only available in Portuguese as of now. This post was born out of discussions in the Brazilian Open Science Working Group's mailing list; thanks to Ewout ter Haar for his help with the text.)

Open Access Week in Nepal

Kshitiz Khanal - October 25, 2014 in OKF Nepal, Open Access

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world.

Open Access Week was celebrated for the first time in Nepal for the opening 2 days: October 20, 21. The event, which was led by newly founded Open Access Nepal, and supported by EIFL and R2RC, featured a series of workshops, presentation, and peer to peer discussions and training by country leaders in Open Access, Open Knowledge, and Open Data including a 3 hour workshop on Open Science and Collaborative Research by Open Knowledge Nepal on the second day.

Open Access Nepal is a student led initiative that mostly includes students of MBBS. Most of the audience of Open Access Week celebrations here, hence, included med students, but engineering students, management students, librarians, professionals, and academics were also well represented. Participants discussed open access developments in Nepal and their roles in promoting and advancing open access.

EIFL and Right to Research Coalition provided financial support for the Open Access Week in Nepal. EIFL Open Access Program Manager Iryna Kuchma attended the conference as speaker and facilitator of workshops.

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Open Knowledge Nepal hosted an interactive session on Open Science and Collaborative Research on the second day of two. The session we led by Kshitiz Khanal, Team Leader of Open Access / Open Science for Open Knowledge Nepal with support from Iryna Kuchma and Nikesh Balami, Team Leader of Open Government Data. About 8-10 Open Access experts of the country were present inside the hall to assist participants. The session began a half an hour before lunch where participants were first asked to brainstorm till lunch was over about what they think Open Science and Collaborative Research is, and the challenges relevant to Open Access that they have faced / might face in their Research endeavors. The participants were seated in round tables in groups of 7-8 persons, making a total of 5 groups.

After lunch, one team member from each group took turns in the front to present the summary of their brain-storming in colored chart papers. Participants came up with near exact definitions and reflected the troubles researchers in the country have been facing regarding Open Access. As we can expect of industrious students, some groups impressed the session hosts and experts with interesting graphical illustrations.

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Iryna followed the presentations by her presentation where she introduced the concept, principles, and examples related to Open Science. Kshitiz followed Iryna with his presentation on Collaborative Research.

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Session on Collaborative Research featured industry – academia collaborations facilitated by government. Collaborative Research needs more attention in Nepal as World Bank’s data of Nepal shows that total R&D investment is only equivalent to 0.3% of total GDP. Lambert Toolkit, created by the Intellectual Property Office of the UK, was also discussed. The toolkit provides agreement samples for industry – university collaborations, multi–party consortiums and few decision guides for such collaborations. The session also introduced version control and discussed simple web based tools for Collaborative Research like Google Docs, Etherpads, Dropbox, Evernote, Skype etc.

On the same day, Open Nepal also hosted a workshop about open data, and a session on Open Access Button was hosted by the organizers. Sessions in the previous day included sessions that enlightened the audience about Introduction to Open Access, Open Access Repositories, and growing Open Access initiatives all over the world.

This event dedicated to Open Access in Nepal was well received in the Open Communities of Nepal which has mostly concerned themselves with Open Data, Open Knowledge, and Open Source Software. A new set of audience became aware of the philosophy of Open. This author believes the event was a success story.

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Uncovering the true cost of access

Jenny Molloy - October 24, 2014 in Open Access, Open Science

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world.

Large amounts of public money are spent on obtaining access to published research results, amounting to billions of dollars per year.

Large amounts of public money are spent on obtaining access to published research results, amounting to billions of dollars per year.

Despite the huge amounts of public money spent on allowing researchers to access the published results of taxpayer funded research [1], there is little fiscal transparency in the scholarly publishing market and frequent examples of secrecy, where companies or brokers insert non-disclosure clauses into contracts so the cost of subscriptions remains opaque. This prevents objective analysis of the market, prevents libraries negotiating effectively with publishers for fair prices and makes it hard to ascertain the economic consequences of open access policies.

This matters. Open access campaigners are striving to make research results openly and freely available to everyone in a sustainable and cost effective manner. Without detailed data on current subscription costs for closed content and the emerging cost of article processing charges (APCs) [2], it is very difficult to accurately model and plan this transition.

Library budgets are stretched and their role within institutions is changing, making high journal costs an increasing concern.

Library budgets are stretched and their role within institutions is changing, making high journal costs an increasing concern.

Specifically, there are concerns that in the intervening period, publishers may be benefiting from ‘double dipping’ – offering hybrid products which incur APCs for open access articles and subscription fees for all other content which could result in higher overall income. In a market where the profit margins of several major publishers run at 35-40% and they exert monopolistic control over a large proportion of our accumulated scientific and scholarly knowledge, there is understandably a lot of anger and concern about the state and future of the market.

Over the past year, members of the Open Knowledge open science and open access working groups have joined many other advocates and concerned researchers, librarians and citizens in working tirelessly to gather information on the true cost of knowledge. Libraries do not routinely publish financial information at this level of granularity and may be constrained by contractual obligations, so the route chosen to obtain data in the UK has been Freedom of information act (FOI) requests. High profile mathematician and OA advocate Tim Gowers revealed that the cost at Elsevier journals at top universities. Two further rounds of FOI requests by librarian and OKFest attendee Stuart Lawson and Ben Meghreblian have given an even broader overview across five major publishers. This has been released as open data and efforts continue to enrich the dataset. Working group members in Finland and Hong Kong are working to obtain similar information for their countries and further inform open access advocacy and policy globally.

Subscription data only forms part of the industry picture. A data expedition at Oxford Open Science for Open Data Day 2014 tried to look into the business structure of academic publishers using Open Corporates and quickly encountered a high level of complexity so this area requires further work. In terms of APCs and costs to funders, the working groups contributed to a highly successful crowdsourcing effort led by Theo Andrew and Michelle Brook to validate and enrich the Wellcome Trust publication dataset for 2013-2014 with further information on journal type and cost, thus enabling a clearer view of the cost of hybrid journal publications for this particular funder and also illustrating compliance with open access policies.

Mapping open access globally at #OKFestOA.  The session conclusion was that far more data is needed to present a truly global view.

Mapping open access globally at #OKFestOA. The session conclusion was that far more data is needed to present a truly global view.

This work only scratches the surface and anyone who could help in a global effort to uncover the cost of access to scholarly knowledge would be warmly welcomed and supported by those who have now built up experience in obtaining this information. If funders and institutions have datasets they could contribute this would also be a fantastic help.

Please sign up to the wiki page here and join the related discussion forum for support in making requests. We hope by Open Access Week 2015 we’ll be posting a much more informative and comprehensive assessment of the cost of accessing scholarly knowledge!

Footnotes:

[1] A significant proportion of billions of dollars per year (estimated $9.4 billion on scientific journals alone in 2011). See STM report (PDF – 6.3MB).

[2] An open access business model where fees are paid to publishers for the service of publishing an article, which is then free to users.

Photo credits:

Money by 401(K) 2012 under CC-BY-SA 2.0

OKFest OA Map, Jenny Molloy, all copyright and related or neighboring rights waived to the extent possible under law using CC0 1.0 waiver. Published from the United Kingdom.

Library by seier+seier under CC-BY 2.0

Open Access and the humanities: On our travels round the UK

Guest - October 23, 2014 in Open Access

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world. It is written by Alma Swan, Director of Key Perspectives Ltd, Director of Advocacy forSPARC Europe, and Convenor for Enabling Open Scholarship.

Large amounts of public money are spent on obtaining access to published research results, amounting to billions of dollars per year.

Large amounts of public money are spent on obtaining access to published research results, amounting to billions of dollars per year.

Whither the humanities in a world moving inexorably to open values in research? There has been much discussion and debate on this issue of late. It has tended to focus on two matters – the sustainability of humanities journals and the problem(s) of the monograph. Neither of these things is a novel topic for consideration or discussion, but nor have solutions been found that are satisfactory to all the key stakeholders, so the debate goes on.

While it does, some significant developments have been happening, not behind the scenes as such but in a quiet way nevertheless. New publishers are emerging in the humanities that are offering different ways of doing things and demonstrating that Open Access and the humanities are not mutually exclusive.

These publishers are scholar-led or are academy-based (university presses or similar). Their mission is to offer dissemination channels that are Open, viable and sustainable. They don’t frighten the horses in terms of trying to change too much, too fast: they have left the traditional models of peer review practice and the traditional shape and form of outputs in place. But they are quietly and competently providing Open Access to humanities research. What’s more, they understand the concerns, fears and some bewilderment of humanities scholars trying to sort out what the imperative for Open Access means to them and how to go about playing their part. They understand because they are of and from the humanities community themselves.

The debate about OA within this community has been particularly vociferous in the UK in the wake of the contentious Finch Report and the policy of the UK’s Research Councils. Fortuitously, the UK is blessed with some great innovators in the humanities, and many of the new publishing operations are also UK-based. This offers a great opportunity to show off these some new initiatives and help to reassure UK humanities authors at the same time. So SPARC Europe, with funding support from the Open Society Foundations, is now endeavouring to bring these new publishers together with members of the UK’s humanities community.

We are hosting a Roadshow comprising six separate events in different cities round England and Scotland. At each event there are short presentations by representatives of the new publishers and from a humanities scholar who can give the research practitioner perspective on Open Access. After the presentations, the publishers are available in a small exhibition area to display their publications and talk about their publishing programmes, their business models and their plans for the future.

The publishers taking part in the Roadshow are Open Book Publishers, Open Library of the Humanities, Open Humanities Press and Ubiquity Press. In addition, the two innovative initiatives OAPEN and Knowledge Unlatched are also participating. The stories from these organisations are interesting and compelling, and present a new vision of the future of publishing in the humanities.

Humanities scholars from all higher education institutions in the locality of each event are warmly invited to come along to the local Roadshow session. The cities we are visiting are Leeds, Manchester, London, Coventry, Glasgow and St Andrews. The full programme is available here.

We will assess the impact of these events and may send the Roadshow out again to new venues next year if they prove to be successful. If you cannot attend but would like further information on the publishing programmes described here, or would like to suggest other venues the Roadshow might visit, please contact me at sparceurope@arl.org

New Open Access Button launches as part of Open Access Week

David Carroll - October 22, 2014 in Featured Project, Open Access

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world.

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Push Button. Get Research. Make Progress.

If you are reading this, I’m guessing that you too are a student, researcher, innovator, an everyday citizen with questions to answer, or just a friend to Open Knowledge. You may be doing incredible work and are writing a manuscript or presentation, or just have a burning desire to know everything about anything. In this case I know that you are also denied access to the research you need, not least because of paywalls blocking access to the knowledge you seek. This happens to me too, all the time, but we can do better. This is why we started the Open Access Button, for all the people around the world who deserve to see and use more research results than they can today.

Yesterday we released the new Open Access Button at a launch event in London, which you can download from openaccessbutton.org. The next time you’re asked to pay to access academic research. Push the Open Access Button on your phone or on the web. The Open Access Button will search the web for version of the paper that you can access.

If you get your research, you can make progress with your work. If you don’t get your research, your story will be used to help change the publishing system so it doesn’t happen again. The tool seeks to help users get the research they need immediately, or adds papers unavailable to a wish-list we can get started . The apps work by harnessing the power of search engines, research repositories, automatic contact with authors, and other strategies to track down the papers that are available and present them to the user – even if they are using a mobile device.

The London launch led other events showcasing the Open Access Button throughout the week, in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Notably, the new Open Access Button was previewed at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C. as part of the International Open Access Week kickoff event. During the launch yesterday, we reached at least 1.3 million people on social media alone. The new apps build upon a successful beta released last November that attracted thousands of users from across the world and drew lots of media attention. These could not have been built without a dedicated volunteer team of students and young researchers, and the invaluable help of a borderless community responsible for designing, building and funding the development.

Alongside supporting users, we have will start using the data and the stories collected by the Button to help make the changes required to really solve this issue. We’ll be running campaigns and supporting grassroots advocates with this at openaccessbutton.org/action as well as building a dedicated data platform for advocates to use our data . If you go there you now you can see the ready to be filled map, and your first action, sign our first petition, this petition in support of Diego Gomez, a student who faces 8 years in prison and a huge monetary fine for doing something citizens do everyday, sharing research online for those who cannot access it.

If you too want to contribute to these goals and advance your research, these are exciting opportunities to make a difference. So install the Open Access Button (it’s quick and easy!), give it a push, click or tap when you’re denied access to research, and let’s work together to fix this problem. The Open Access Button is available now at openaccessbutton.org.

New Open Knowledge Initiative on the Future of Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Jonathan Gray - October 21, 2014 in Open Access, Open Humanities, Open Research, WG Humanities

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world.

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To coincide with Open Access Week, Open Knowledge is launching a new initiative focusing on the future of open access in the humanities and social sciences.

The Future of Scholarship project aims to build a stronger, better connected network of people interested in open access in the humanities and social sciences. It will serve as a central point of reference for leading voices, examples, practical advice and critical debate about the future of humanities and social sciences scholarship on the web.

If you’d like to join us and hear about new resources and developments in this area, please leave us your details and we’ll be in touch.

For now we’ll leave you with some thoughts on why open access to humanities and social science scholarship matters:

“Open access is important because it can give power and resources back to academics and universities; because it rightly makes research more widely and publicly available; and because, like it or not, it’s beginning and this is our brief chance to shape its future so that it benefits all of us in the humanities and social sciences” – Robert Eaglestone, Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London.

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“For scholars, open access is the most important movement of our times. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to open up our research to the world, irrespective of readers’ geographical, institutional or financial limitations. We cannot falter in pursuing a fair academic landscape that facilitates such a shift, without transferring prohibitive costs onto scholars themselves in order to maintain unsustainable levels of profit for some parts of the commercial publishing industry.” Dr Caroline Edwards, Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature, Birkbeck, University of London and Co-Founder of the Open Library of Humanities

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“If you write to be read, to encourage critical thinking and to educate, then why wouldn’t you disseminate your work as far as possible? Open access is the answer.” – Martin Eve, Co-Founder of the Open Library of Humanities and Lecturer, University of Lincoln.

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“Our open access monograph The History Manifesto argues for breaking down the barriers between academics and wider publics: open-access publication achieved that. The impact was immediate, global and uniquely gratifying–a chance to inject ideas straight into the bloodstream of civic discussion around the world. Kudos to Cambridge University Press for supporting innovation!” — David Armitage, Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Harvard University and co-author of The History Manifesto

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“Technology allows for efficient worldwide dissemination of research and scholarship. But closed distribution models can get in the way. Open access helps to fulfill the promise of the digital age. It benefits the public by making knowledge freely available to everyone, not hidden behind paywalls. It also benefits authors by maximizing the impact and dissemination of their work.” – Jennifer Jenkins, Senior Lecturing Fellow and Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Duke University

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“Unhappy with your current democracy providers? Work for political and institutional change by making your research open access and joining the struggle for the democratization of democracy” – Gary Hall, co-founder of Open Humanities Press and Professor of Media and Performing Arts, Coventry University

Celebrating Open Access Week by highlighting community projects!

Christian Villum - October 20, 2014 in Featured, Open Access

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This week is Open Access Week all around the world, and from Open Knowledge’s side we are following up on last year’s tradition by putting together a blog post series to highlight great Open Access projects and activities in communities around the world. Every day this week will feature new writers and activities.

Open Access Week, a global event now entering its eighth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. This year’s theme is “Generation Open”, and what better way to celebrate that then to highlight some of all the amazing work out there. This past year has seen lots in great progress and with the Open Knowledge blog we want to help amplify this amazing work done in communities around the world:

  • TUESDAY, Jonathan Gray from Open Knowledge: “New Open Knowledge Initiative on the Future of Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences” (link)
  • WEDNESDAY, David Carroll from Open Access Button: “New Open Access Button launches as part of Open Access Week” (link)
  • THURSDAY, Alma Swan from SPARC Europe: “Open Access and the humanities: On our travels round the UK” (link)
  • FRIDAY, Jenny Molloy from Open Science working group: “Uncovering the true cost of access” (link)
  • SATURDAY, Kshitiz Khanal from Open Knowledge Nepal: “Open Access Week in Nepal” (link)
  • SUNDAY, Miguel Said from Open Knowledge Brazil: “Nature-branded journal goes Open Access-only: Can we celebrate already?” (link) – and Celya Gruson-Daniel from Open Knowledge France: “Let’s imagine a creative format for Open Access” (link)

We’re hoping that this series can inspire even more work around Open Access in the year to come and that our community will use this week to get involved both locally and globally. A good first step is to sign up at http://www.openaccessweek.org for access to a plethora of support resources, and to connect with the worldwide Open Access Week community. Another way to connect is to join the Open Access working group.

Open Access Week is an invaluable chance to connect the global momentum toward open sharing with the advancement of policy changes on the local level. Universities, colleges, research institutes, funding agencies, libraries, and think tanks use Open Access Week as a platform to host faculty votes on campus open-access policies, to issue reports on the societal and economic benefits of Open Access, to commit new funds in support of open-access publication, and more. Let’s add to their brilliant work this week!

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