Tag Archives: open access

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.

It’s #OAWeek

Open Access Week 2015 is in full swing!  Here’s a list of events happening this week worldwide.

Just a couple quick points of note.  First, Congress continues to consider S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), which the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved.  It calls on federal agencies with research budgets of over $100 million to establish, to the extent possible, common public access policies for peer-reviewed journal literature resulting from federally funded research.  ARL continues to engage with Congress on this issue to support passage of this bill.

Additionally, there was great news to start off the week with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign passing its Open Access policy.  The policy (subject to waivers) states

Each Faculty member, for the purpose of making his or her scholarly articles widely and freely available in an open access repository, grants to the University of Illinois a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of several universities that have adopted open access policies this year, building on the success of policies adopted by universities previously.  MIT Libraries maintains a list of institutions with open access policies and their scope.

Enjoy the rest of #OAweek2015!

New Advocacy and Policy Update: August 14, 2015

A new ARL Advocacy and Policy Update, covering mid-June to mid-August is now available here.  Prior updates can be accessed here.

The summary and contents from the current Advocacy and Policy Update are reproduced below:


The US House of Representatives began the summer recess on July 30th, and the US Senate adjourned on August 6th with both reconvening on September 8th. September and October promise to be very busy months as both chambers must act on the FY 2017 appropriations bills, highway trust fund, debt ceiling, and many other issues. It is also hoped that there will be a deal to increase the spending limits under sequestration, which higher education institutions and others have long advocated for.

Much of the activity related to copyright has centered around the Copyright Office. Congressional offices continue to explore and discuss ways to modernize the Copyright Office, including various proposals to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress. Additionally, the Copyright Office has issued notices of inquiries that relate to orphan works, mass digitization, visual works, and extended collective licensing.

There have been positive developments with respect to open access, open educational resources, and open data. The Obama Administration released science and technology priorities for FY 2017, which note that “preserving and improving access to scientific collections, research data, other results of federally funded research, open datasets and open education resources should be a priority for agencies.” The FASTR Bill to enhance public access to research was approved unanimously by the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Privacy and surveillance concerns continue as Congress is considering cybersecurity legislation that raises serious issues for privacy and civil liberties. Litigation around net neutrality is in full swing, with the briefs of telecommunications companies opposing the FCC’s net neutrality rules filed in July.

Finally, ARL continues to promote a simple and quick ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. Currently, 10 countries have ratified the Treaty, and 10 more are needed for it to enter into force.


Copyright and Intellectual Property

  • Proposal to “Modernize” the Copyright Office
  • Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry on Visual Works
  • Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry on Mass Digitization and Extended Collective Licensing
  • House Judiciary Committee’s Copyright Review

Open Access, Open Educational Resources, and Open Data

  • Obama Administration Releases Science and Technological Priorities for FY 2017
  • Coalition Calls on White House to Open Up Access to Federally Funded Educational Resources
  • FASTR Bill to Enhance Public Access to Research Approved by US Senate Committee
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS)

Update Appropriations

Draft Bill Would Eliminate NHPRC

Privacy and Surveillance

  • Cybersecurity Legislation
  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act Reform


  • Net Neutrality Litigation

International Treaties

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
  • Marrakesh Treaty

More than 90 Organizations and Institutions Call for Administration Policy on Open Educational Resources

On August 4, 2015, ARL joined more than 90 organizations and institutions wrote to President Obama calling for a policy to ensure that federally funded educational materials “are made available to the public as Open Educational Resources to freely use, share and build upon.”


The letter discusses the impact of open educational resources (OER) and points to several examples where the use of OER has resulted in significant cost savings, including Washington State’s Open Course Library program that has saved students more than $5.5 million.  It also points out that “[e]merging evidence in both K-12 and higher education has begun to demonstrate that students using Open Educational Resources have the same or better academic outcomes than peers using traditional materials.”


The letter recommends:

To achieve these goals, Administration policy on access to federally funded educational materials should direct the agencies to adhere to these core principles:

1.  A broad definition of educational materials. The educational, training, and instructional materials covered by the Order should include any unclassified information resource created, in whole or in part, with Federal funds designed to educate, instruct, train or inform. At the core, these would include learning materials, professional development resources and job training materials, but recipients of Federal funds create many other informational resources concerning, for example, public health, the environment, or energy that could be adapted for educational use if these were made freely available over the Internet under terms that permitted such adaptation.

2.  Free access through the internet. Any covered information should be freely accessible through the Internet if in digital form.

3.  Conditions that enable reuse. To maximize the value of these informational resources created with public funds, it is essential that recipients of Federal funds agree as a term and condition of such funding that they grant to the public broad copyright permission to reuse and adapt these materials for any purpose so long as the creator and the agency receive appropriate attribution.[6]

4.  Prompt implementation. Agencies should be required to implement this policy in no more than 12 months. This action is well within the purview of existing procurement law and does not require notice and comment.

5.  Reporting to OSTP.  Agencies should report their progress and results to the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

[T]he price of textbooks has risen more than 800% over the past 30 years, a rate faster than medical services (575%), new home prices (325%), and the consumer price index (250%).

from The Changing Textbook Industry – a fascinating blog post by Jonathan Band for CCIA’s DisCo blog.

Canceling Green OA Journals: A Very Expensive Way to Not Save Money (while impeding your community’s access)

A guest post by Ellen Finnie Duranceau, Program Manager, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In a recent blog post, prompted by a recent listserv thread, Joseph Esposito argues that

the better job Green OA does, the more it will be resisted [by publishers]. To keep Green OA programs going, they have to be imperfectly implemented.

In the real world, though, “perfect implementation” is about as likely as, well, perfect anything.

More importantly, I don’t think it’s feasible for a library to design a process that would allow it to know, on an ongoing basis, at a reasonable cost, whether Green OA has been implemented sufficiently by the authors in any particular journal that the library could afford to cancel its subscription.

Indeed, I can’t define a scenario that seems solid enough to even experiment with, let alone deploy, in a research library in the real world.

For this exercise, I’m leaving aside any broader goals of wider distribution of publicly funded research, etc., or any other philosophical commitment one might have to OA, and am just focusing on providing sufficient service to one’s own community. I’m being completely pragmatic.

The initial study to determine whether to cancel is cumbersome, expensive

First, we have the problem that a wide sampling from any given journal would be required, since author practices in self-archiving vary. This sampling would also have to be repeated regularly, and take in several sample years, since practices will vary over time.

Whoever performs this sampling would have to be trained in recognizing which version of a particular article is posted online, since presumably one wants the peer-reviewed version available to one’s faculty, researchers, and students. This would require, in many cases, comparing the manuscript with the version of record (which, please note, is only available to you if you subscribe).

After all the sampling is done and a spreadsheet created, one would have to calculate what percentage of the journal was openly available (and whether that percentage was acceptable–this would have to be a very high number, presumably), and after what time period. This would not be an easy feat, as one has to have numbers representing the total number of articles in order to make the comparison, and as far as I’m aware, this would involve manually tabulating the number of articles in each issue (again possibly through sampling).

Then this information would have to be used in conjunction with other important data such as usage level, faculty interest and feedback, cost, etc. Of course, this whole approach would only be responsible if one had buy-in from the community one is serving. That community would have to believe that this process is reasonable and that the end goal of replacing library journal subscriptions with reliance on authors’ self-archived articles is a good one.

The cumbersome, expensive survey would have to be repeated, year after year, and would get harder and harder to administer

If the decision were taken to cancel the journal, assuming here that the decision rested in significant part on the availability of OA manuscripts, then one would also have to have a cycle of returning to those titles to be sure a certain acceptable percentage was still available. This would be necessary because author practices vary and there is no reason at all to assume that because for one year, a good percentage of a journal was OA, that will be true the next year. So it’s likely a continuous sampling would be required. We are now talking about a dramatic impact on staff resources, so some other work would need to be stopped or slowed. (And by the way, this assumes the cancellation is likely to free up funds, which, in our package-driven purchasing world, is not always the case.)

But let’s assume one does cancel. Then, if one wants to continue to sample post cancellation —as would seem to be necessary —in many cases one would need the version of record to compare with, to be sure one is looking at the peer-reviewed version. Yet this version would not be available once the cancellation had taken place. So staff would be operating without solid information when carrying out future sampling, as it can be difficult to tell a preprint from a postprint without the version of record as a comparison point.

Self-Defeating Workflow: Publishers would respond, making any cancellation at best temporary, guaranteeing that follow-up surveys would be necessary

If any significant number of libraries followed this labor-intensive workflow and reassigned staff from other tasks to do it, within a year or two the affected publishers would simply change their green OA policy for authors, removing it entirely or adding an embargo. The library would have to track these publisher policy changes—another labor-intensive workflow I won’t attempt to lay out, as there is no reliable and targeted signaling process for such changes.

Resubscribing would probably be difficult

If the journal jettisons Green OA, or its authors stop self-archiving in a reliable manner, the library will want to resubscribe. That could be tricky, as the necessary funds may already have been diverted. Even if funds were available, it would be exceedingly labor intensive to resubscribe and decide about and act upon filling any gaps in access, as well as updating relevant metadata to facilitate useful services like SFX linking. Perhaps one would fill the gaps/restore the access via pay-per-view, but now we are talking about having to do another analysis to determine whether that is cost-effective.

Links would be broken in the meantime

When a library cancels a journal, the buttons in library open URL linking software no longer take users from discovery resources like Compendex, Inspec, Web of Knowledge, etc. to journal articles. Known article searches may function, but index-based searching that links to the actual documents to assist those new to a topic area would be limited to subscribed titles.


When looking at how to operate in this evolving ecosystem, I imagine we all agree it’s important to use funds and staff resources wisely, and to look beyond a quarter or a year in thinking about the impact of our decisions. Without considering any philosophical or social goals (no matter how mission-relevant, or noble), and looking just at the practical need of providing key research articles to a community, I do not see a viable workflow that is worth testing even on a trial basis.

This is probably part of the reason you do not hear about libraries canceling journals based on availability of OA manuscripts. I would also guess that if the numbers were run, there would not be any journals to cancel, as author practices in this area are not consistent, and are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

(Adapted from a post to the SPARC OA Forum Listserv.)