Tag Archives: open access

Documentary “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship” Premieres in Washington, DC

*This is a guest blog post by Judy Ruttenberg, ARL program director for strategic initiatives.*
*Updated September 11, 2018, with quotation from Geneva Henry.*

The documentary film Paywall: The Business of Scholarship made its global premiere in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018, the same week that 11 European countries proclaimed that all their publicly funded research would be open access by 2020. Paywall producer and director Jason Schmitt and director of photography Russell Stone welcomed the DC audience, which comprised many of the scientists, publishers, and open access advocates featured in the 65-minute film. With minimal narration and expertly sequenced interviews, the film weaves together two principal stories: the exorbitant financial cost to access for-profit academic journals and the associated, incalculable human cost when doctors, patients, students, and would-be innovators all over the world hit paywalls that deny them access to the latest research.

Schmitt, an associate professor of media and communication at Clarkson University, told the DC audience that the film was made not for them but for their neighbors, friends, and colleagues who are not immersed in the world of academic publishing. To the uninitiated, the system makes little sense. The labor of writing articles is unpaid, as is much of the editing, peer review, and curation. Taxpayers fund most scientific research, whether done within government agencies, or through universities, and yet the results (until recently) have not been available to them. The top five academic publishers—which dominate the market—earn profit margins up to ten times that of top technology firms. While many of the film’s subjects acknowledged innovation and value within these publishing companies, Elsevier in particular, most were quick to say those contributions are outweighed by the costs to the scientific enterprise of excluding so many people from participating in it.

Some of Paywall’s most compelling interviews address the consequences of exclusion. Brian Nosek, executive director of the Center for Open Science (COS), described a meeting with a cohort of graduate students in Budapest who were all studying implicit cognition. Why so many students, in one sub-field? Because the papers are largely available on the open internet. Schmitt met with medical students and faculty in Africa and India who were unable to access the latest literature, and unable to contribute their own discoveries to it. Paywalls inhibit innovation because they minimize the chance that “the right person will be in the right place at the right time,” with respect to the literature, said Tom Callaway, from the open source software company Red Hat. And the audience laughed along with Sci-Hub creator Alexandra Elbakyan as, in a rare on-camera interview, she explained that Sci-Hub is targeting this exclusion by helping Elsevier fulfill its mission to make “uncommon knowledge common.”

Paywall is a celebration of the open access (OA) movement and its victories to level the playing field through preprint services like arXiv, and through policies mandating public access to government-funded research. The film is also a sober reflection on the OA movement’s progress, as for-profit academic publishers have both stalled and monetized open access while maintaining ever-increasing subscription revenue. The consortium of European national funders, called cOAlition S, announced their initiative this week with a set of principles addressing these exorbitant costs, including a cap on open access publication fees and a prohibition on publishing in hybrid journals (that charge a mix of subscription and open access fees). Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, emphasized in Paywall the critical importance of authors retaining copyrights in order for a large-scale open access system to function.

Geneva Henry, dean of Libraries and Academic Innovation at The George Washington University, also attended the premiere and offered this reflection:

Academic library leaders have been raising the concern for years about the unsustainable rate of inflation with online journals, particularly those supporting the sciences. We have shown our faculty and university leadership the solid data that demonstrates this problem, have cut journals each year to fit our budgets and have been met with criticism by the researchers, have provided information about open access and its advantages, and have received polite nods and smiles from everyone. But little has changed and the high-impact (high-cost) journals are still the ones that remain a priority for faculty publications. Paywall has the opportunity to present these audiences with perspectives from a wide variety of scholars and professionals who identify the issues we’ve been trying to communicate for so long. Its format as a film will enable broader distribution and hopefully be that communication vehicle for bringing this issue to the forefront of academic leadership. We’ve known for a long time that something needs to change and this film will hopefully serve as a catalyst for turning the tide on commercial publishing practices that limit the distribution of knowledge in our society. Perhaps librarians will now be viewed as the canaries in the coal mine rather than a bunch of chicken littles.

SPARC Europe, LIBER (the Association of European Research Libraries), and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) have all issued statements in support of cOAlition S. Peter Suber has also blogged about the plan.

Funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, Paywall will be screened by more than 175 universities this fall, and is available to stream under a CC BY 4.0 license at www.paywallthemovie.com. SPARC, a global coalition committed to making open the default for research and education, helped organize the DC premiere.

Richard Poynder Interview with UCLA University Librarian Ginny Steel on Open Access

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Poynder interviewed Virginia (“Ginny”) Steel, Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian at UCLA on open access. Ginny Steel is also the past chair of ARL’s Advocacy and Policy Committee and chair of the SPARC Steering Committee. She is, of course, deeply knowledgeable and thoughtful about open access—Poynder notes in the introduction to the interview, “In contrast to many OA advocates in Europe, Steel’s views on open access are nuanced and undogmatic”—and the entire interview (the PDF of which runs 24 pages, including Poynder’s intro) is well worth reading. The interview covers a range of OA topics from goals, current challenges, specifics related to University of California actions, publishers and more.

While I do recommend reading the full interview, here are a few highlights:

Ginny notes that while there are numerous OA models, including ones currently under development, it is important to evaluate these models and determine how they serve the ultimate goals of OA:

What’s really important and needs to be carefully evaluated . . . is 1) who controls the copyright of the content, 2) to whom is reading access provided, and 3) is there equity in the opportunities to publish for researchers in institutions or parts of the world that are not able to provide the level of financial support available in Europe and North America.

The ultimate goal of OA is to allow open sharing of research results in a way that offers equal opportunities for researchers around the world to publish, reserves effective peer review, allows authors to retain control over their work, allows worldwide reading access, and provides a sustainable financial model that covers the costs of publishing . . . It’s still very much a work in progress, and there are competing interests that make these conversations difficult.

Ginny’s statement points to the important issue of copyright because it is the copyright owner who chooses to make a work OA. Additionally, while a publisher with copyright ownership over an article might consent to open access so that a reader can read the text itself, it could try and limit other uses (such as text-and-data mining) particularly for licensed, born digital content.

Thus, the importance of academy controlled, rather than publisher controlled, content in ensuring meaningful open access. Ginny points out that new business models need to be developed and that these models will vary based on disciplinary needs. In addition to referencing the UC’s “Pathways to OA” document, she points to “a small group of members of the Association of Research Libraries is working on ‘Academy-owned OA’ (AO-OA) and is partnering with a handful of professional societies and disciplinary repositories to explore new models to move away from subscription-based models dominated by commercial publishers.”

In the final question, Poynder asks about preprint servers and Ginny responds with an “optimistic” view, while again emphasizing the importance of academy retaining control:

Actually I’m optimistic about the potential of preprint servers becoming full-scale platforms that provide access to preprints, peer-reviewed content, and underlying datasets.

If the academy builds open tools that result in a ‘Sustainable Knowledge Commons’ and there is widespread collaboration with professional societies, I would hope that governance models would ensure that control is retained by the academy and the content creators.

But there will have to be a deep institutional commitment to not cede control.

Springer, Censorship and the Need for Open Access

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*Updated January 22, 2017 to include a statement by Sarah Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian*

It’s Copyright Week! Today’s topic is “Copyright and Censorship: Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right essential to a functioning democracy. Copyright should encourage more speech, not act a legal cudgel to silence it.”

When a rightsholder uses his or her rights to prevent others from relying on, accessing, or using information, copyright can act as a tool of censorship. One example of where this happened occurred in November 2017 when Springer Nature agreed to exclude Chinese readers and institutions from accessing certain articles in its journals at the request of the Chinese government. Regardless of whether Springer acted in good faith in order to maintain access in China to the rest of its collection, because authors collectively relinquished control over their copyrights there was no effective remedy. We are familiar with the problem of authors assigning rights to corporate entities, which may be more inclined to aggressively enforce their rights under copyright law or demand high fees in order to access or use the work. In the Springer case, because of copyright, authors could not promote access to their work because the publisher acquiesced to a government’s censorship demands.

According to The Financial Times, Springer blocked an estimated 1,000 articles its journal, International Politics and the Journal of Chinese Political Science, effectively aiding China’s censorship request. This decision by Springer followed a similar August 2017 action by Cambridge University Press to block access to 315 articles at the request of the Chinese government, though Cambridge University Press later reinstated the articles after heavy criticism, citing the desire to “uphold the principle of academic freedom.” Other university presses, such as Oxford University Press, MIT Press and the University of Chicago Press have stated that they will not comply with censorship demands.

Ultimately, censorship directly harms research, scholarship and academic freedom. In the digital age, global collaboration is commonplace and Chinese students and researchers are at a significant disadvantage without access to the full corpus of works that researchers in other countries have. Research institutions should work to support barrier free access to information to combat censorship.

Springer’s decision to censor 1,000 articles illustrates that, as a for-profit institution, its goals may not align with those of academic institutions and highlights the necessity for higher education to regain control over scholarly communication. Working with publishers that agree to censor materials raises questions regarding threats to academic freedom, research and discovery.

Authors should carefully consider whether assigning their copyright to publishers is in their best interests knowing that, in addition to the ability for publishers to impose high costs to read articles, these entities may comply with requests that prevent readers in other countries from having access to these works.

Ultimately, copyright and licensing issues have serious consequences for the research community. Ensuring that the research community can retain control over its scholarly communication outputs will promote barrier free access too all. Publishing in open access outlets, including in preprint services, or retaining copyright can help ensure that selective censorship is more difficult.

Statement of Sarah Thomas, Vice President of Harvard Library and University of Librarian:

I’m astonished that Springer Nature has not used their important leverage as a content provider to protect the rights of their authors to be read and to exercise their professional leadership in promoting access to knowledge. Censorship is the suppression of ideas, and is directly opposed to Springer Nature’s stated policy: “Our publishing and editorial policies have been developed in consultation with the research communities we serve, including authors and librarians, and are rooted in belief that scholarly communication is aided by greater transparency of the processes by which we operate.”

Springer Nature proudly proclaims on their home page: “We advance discovery by publishing robust and insightful research, supporting the development of new areas of knowledge and making ideas and knowledge accessible around the world.” Apparently this statement is a qualified one, subject to governmental influence and balanced by commercial considerations.

Certainly I will work at Harvard to increase awareness of Springer Nature’s complicity in the silencing of scholars who write for their journals. In a world in which basic democratic values are increasing threatened by authoritarian leaders, it is shocking that the Von Holtzbrinck-owned publisher Springer Nature would contribute to their decay. Is this the work of new CEO Daniel Ropers, who comes out of retailing?

I urge Springer Nature to show the commitment to the “advancement of science, learning, and society” that Ropers espoused when joining Springer Nature in autumn 2017 and to look to publishers such as Cambridge University Press as a model.

#OAWeek: Opening LIS Work with the LIS Scholarship Archive

*This is a guest blog post by Vicky Steeves, the Librarian for Research Data Management and Reproducibility at New York University. She serves on the LIS Scholarship Archive Advisory Board.*

Folks in all walks of LIS are celebrating #OAWeek with beautiful posters, polls, social media campaigns, events, and cookies (like these awesomely decorated cookies from the Ryerson Library in Toronto). Most of all, during this week there is a special emphasis  on assisting patrons in opening up their scholarship. However – what about our work, as folks in LIS? What can we do to ‘walk the walk’ of open access?

You can submit your work to the Library and Information Science  Scholarship Archive (LISSA)! LISSA, in partnership with the Center for Open Science, is a free, open source, open access, and community-led archive for scholarship in library and information science and allied fields. On LISSA, LIS workers, students, trainees, and others in the field can make their incredible work open and discoverable, from metadata records to oral histories to manuscripts to data, and more!

Currently on LISSA, there are preprints, postprints, grant narratives, posters, book manuscripts, student work/assignments, data, and code, in a variety of languages, from a diverse authorship! Let’s keep this going! If you are someone who works in LIS and who supports open scholarship, this is what you can do:

  • Submit your work in < 5min.
  • Spread the word about LISSA, and encourage others to submit their work.

For #OAweek, let’s make a strong showing of not only helping our patrons, but our fellow colleagues in libraryarchiveland!

You can get updates from LISSA on lissarchive.org or Twitter at @LISSArchive. We have a feed of new work on LISSA via RSS feed or Twitter @LISSA_SCHOL. You may also reach the LISSA board via email at lissarchive@gmail.com for questions, comments, or general feedback, which is most welcome.

Happy Open Access Week: Move FASTR

This week, October 23-29, 2017, is International Open Access Week, a week to celebrate all things open access.

While there are a number of events happening worldwide, those of us in the United States should turn our attention to the bipartisan bill, Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act.  This bill, if passed, would codify the 2013 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy memo requiring public access to taxpayer-funded research.  It would do so by requiring agencies with extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to maintain policies that would provide public access to research results, no later than 6 (House version) or 12 months (Senate version) after publication in peer-reviewed journals, and to make them available under terms permitting reuse, such as text and data mining.

Access to research is fundamental in promoting and advancing progress.  Research provides the very building blocks of understanding, learning and innovation.  For Open Access Week, SPARC launched a fantastic website, celebrating openness with concrete examples: Open In Order To. As we promote progress on a diversity of issues, from addressing climate change, to solving malnutrition, to finding new medical technologies, we must ensure equitable access to research results, particularly those that the public has already paid for in terms of taxpayer-funded research.  Congress should swiftly move to pass FASTR and promote the advancement of science and technology. #MoveFASTR. #OAWeek.

Drinking our own champagne: a toast to the success of LISSA!

*This is a guest blog post by Judy Ruttenberg,Program Director at the Association of Research Libraries and the co-director of SHARE. She serves on the SocArXiv Steering Committee and the OSF Preprints Advisory Board*

In early May, a group of information professionals and leaders announced the launch of the LIS Scholarship Archive, or LISSA. Co-directed by April Hathcock and Vicky Steeves (NYU Libraries), LISSA joins a growing list of scholarly communities building open “preprint” services in partnership with the Center for Open Science (COS) and using COS’s flagship product, the Open Science Framework (OSF), as a platform. LISSA’s mission is more expansive than open preprint publishing, however. It acknowledges that LIS professionals produce a wide range of scholarly materials worthy of preservation, open dissemination, and community evaluation. Here’s where the OSF is a terrific platform: when a paper is deposited in an OSF Preprints service, an OSF project is automatically created, with all the collaborative tools, versioning, storage, file-rendering, and other features supporting the scholarly life cycle.

That LISSA enters an active space—including a spate of arXiv descendants in social science, psychology, engineering, agriculture, paleontology and more—doesn’t diminish the unique opportunity that the library and archives community now has to “drink our own champagne” and embrace rapid, open publication, and retool tenure and promotion processes in our own organizations so that they recognize open scholarship deposited in LISSA.

Tenure and promotion committees within academic libraries will doubtless ask the same questions our colleagues throughout academia have asked us as librarians have advocated for open access: What is the role of peer evaluation and review in an OA model? How will I know the work is good work? What new metrics can I use to understand the impact of non-traditional publications? With the groundswell of interest in preprints across many disciplines, and an open source, public goods technology partner (COS) building the infrastructure, we in LIS organizations can work with LISSA (in parallel with other disciplines and services) to participate in building new, mission-aligned editorial and review processes that support this public good.

Having created a basic service—OSF Preprints—and its hosted, branded communities (SocArXiv, PsyArXiv, etc.), COS is now working on the critical features of moderation and evaluation, or peer review. You can see their public requirements and roadmap on the OSF Preprints page. To see this community infrastructure catch up to our policy and advocacy for open scholarship is incredibly exciting, and I hope academic libraries as individuals and as organizations see both opportunity in, and responsibility for, LISSA’s success by working through the hard issues of the moderation and evaluation of our own work.

So, a toast to LISSA! If you need a reviewer, you can find me at judy@arl.org.

ICYMI: New Advocacy and Public Policy Update

On May 19, 2017, ARL released its latest Advocacy and Public Policy Update. The topics covered in this update include various copyright issues (Register of Copyrights bill, Copyright Office study on moral rights, Copyright Office rulemaking on modernizing copyright recordation, and numerous amicus briefs filed), LSU v. Elsevier, appropriations, access to and preservation of government data, net neutrality, developments on trade agreements, and issues related to immigration and border control.  The full update is available here.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird Remains Under Copyright

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

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It’s Copyright Week once again and today’s theme is Building and Defending the Public Domain: The public domain is our cultural commons and a crucial resource for innovation and access to knowledge. Copyright policy should strive to promote, and not diminish, a robust, accessible public domain.

One of my favorite and least favorite things to do each year in January is to check out Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain and see what would have entered into the public domain, were it not for the changes to copyright term in the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. I find some morbid curiosity in looking to see what could have entered the public domain while mourning the fact that these great copyrighted works will remain under protection for another forty years. While most of the works covered in the Center for the Study of the Public Domain’s yearly list are well-known and the rightholder would presumably be easy to find, there are many more works that are orphans because of the lengthy term. The current copyright term significantly damages the public domain and raises the costs of access to knowledge.

As always, this year’s list has so many wonderful classics and well-known works, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue fish, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique. Aside from these books, there are a number of classic films and music that are going to remain under copyright until 2056 rather than enter into the public domain now. To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect example of the damage these copyright terms have; last year, I noted the swift action by Lee’s estate, weeks after her death, issuing a notice halting publication of the mass market version (also known as the “school” version) of the book (note that HarperCollins announced it would offer a discounted version to school purchasers — but not student purchasers — after a backlash against the elimination of the cheaper mass market publication).

Aside from these great books (the blog post also highlights films and music that would have entered the public domain), one of the notable points is that many of the scientific advances published in 1960 that is still copyrighted and behind paywalls:

1960 was another significant year for science. Max Perutz and Sir John Kendrew published articles on the structure of hemoglobin and the structure of myoglobin, respectively, and Robert Burns Woodward published an article describing a total synthesis of chlorophyll. (All three later won Nobel Prizes in Chemistry.) Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first working laser, a ruby laser. And the US launched its first successful weather satellite, TIROS-1.

If you follow the links above (and you do not have a subscription or institutional access), you will see that these 1960 articles are still behind paywalls. You can purchase the individual articles from the journal Nature for $32. A distressing number of scientific articles from 1960 require payment or a subscription or account, including those in major journals such as Science and JAMA. And the institutional access that many top scientists enjoy is not guaranteed—even institutions such as Harvard have considered canceling their subscriptions because they could no longer afford the escalating prices of major journal subscriptions.

It’s remarkable to find scientific research from 1960 hidden behind publisher paywalls. Thankfully, some publishers have made older articles available in full online, so that you can read them, even though it may still be illegal to copy and distribute them. In addition, some older articles have been made available on third party websites, but this is not a stable solution for providing reliable access to science. Third party postings can be difficult to find or taken down, links can get broken, and would-be posters may be deterred by the risk of a lawsuit. Under the pre-1978 copyright term, all of this history would be free to scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

With the fast pace of scientific and technological advances, it seems crazy that scientific research published 56 years ago remains behind paywalls.  The public domain is critical to promoting advances in culture and science, it is the very foundation of the Constitutional goal “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” It is a shame to see our current copyright terms restrict the rate at which works enter the public domain.

Moving from SSRN to SocArXiv

In May, Elsevier acquired SSRN, an open access repository heavily used in fields of law, economics and other social sciences. A number of great articles raising serious concerns about this acquisition were written following Elsevier and SSRN’s announcement, including posts by Brandon Butler and Ellen Ramsey, Kevin Smith, Paul Gowder, the Authors Alliance, and TechDirt, among others.

More recently, reports surfaced that SSRN started removing articles from its database even when the author to the posted article retained copyright and had explicit permission to post to SSRN. Articles posted under a CC license or originally posted in green open access journals were similarly removed, even where the article contained an explicit footnote asserting that the authors retained copyright. After a huge backlash, SSRN started restoring the papers upon the request of authors claiming a mistake in enforcing their copyright policies. SSRN also indicated that faculty posting final papers would need to add a statement in a footnote asserting copyright and open access permissions or submit their publication agreements to SSRN in order to have their papers posted.

Authors Alliance—as well as numerous academics—responded by asking whether it is time for authors to remove their papers from SSRN and find alternatives. Authors Alliance pointed out:

SSRN authors: you have not committed to SSRN. You can remove your papers from their service, and you can opt instead to make your work available in venues that show real commitment to the sharing, vetting, and refinement of academic work.

Alternatives obviously include an academic’s institutional repository or personal website, but authors might also consider the new, non-profit open access archive for social science research, SocArXiv. The recent announcement of this new archive comes at an opportune time given Elsevier’s May acquisition of SSRN and the ensuing changes to SSRN policies regarding posting of papers. SocArXiv, in partnership with the Center for Open Science, explained:

The initiative responds to growing recognition of the need for faster, open sharing of research on a truly open access platform for the social sciences. Papers on SocArXiv will be permanently available and free to the public.

Social scientists want their work to be broadly accessible, but it is mostly locked up from the public and even other researchers—even when the public has paid for it. SocArXiv wants to help change that. In recent years, academic networking sites have offered to make preprints available and help researchers connect with each other, but the dominant networks are run by for-profit companies whose primary interest is in growing their business, not in providing broad access to knowledge. SocArXiv puts access front and center, and its mission is to serve researchers and readers, not to make money.

Immediately after news broke that SSRN was removing papers, I checked my own author page to see if my dozen or so journal articles and briefs were still posted.  They are and I will use my author page one final time: to download my papers (they’re easier for me to find this way since I placed all of them on SSRN and won’t have to look through different files on my computer to collect them all) before moving them to try out SocArXiv. I hope other others consider moving their works to SocArXiv, as well.

For further reading, see Richard Poynder, “SocArXiv debuts, as SSRN acquisition comes under scrutiny.”

ARL and Higher Education Support Lingua Editors

On November 12, 2015, ARL, together with The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), EDUCAUSE, and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) wrote in support of the editors of the Elsevier journal Lingua who resigned en masse on October 27, 2015.  Lingua’s editors cited the journal’s price increases that outpaced costs of production and Elsevier’s refusal to transition the journal to an open access model as reasons for their resignation.  The editors announced a plan to launch an open access journal and, as the letter notes, “The actions of the Lingua editors reflect the underlying values of scholarship that knowledge should be shared as widely as possible for the benefit of research and society.”

 

The letter continues:

As organizations committed to the principle that access to information advances discovery, accelerates innovation, and improves education, we share the significant concerns raised by the Lingua editors and we support sustainable open access models. Furthermore, research is becoming increasingly international and we must develop a system that fosters global participation, regardless of geographical location or size of institution. To that end, we strongly support the Lingua editors’ decision to pursue an alternative solution, which will better serve the needs and values of higher education and the public that sustains it.

[. . .]

We firmly believe that the higher education and research communities need to collectively advance alternative models of scholarly publishing that are fair, sustainable, and transparent.

 

For more information, see “ARL, Higher Education Groups Support Lingua Editors, Open Access” on the ARL website.