Call for retention of authors’ rights

The high-ranking JISC Open Access Implementation Group has released a strongly worded statement in support of authors’ retention of publishing rights.

This seems to relate to recent moves by some publishers to try to limit institutional archiving of materials by asking for separate agreements to be reached between the publisher and individual institutions.

Elsevier, in particular, has begun to try to restrict its previously permissive policy allowing authors to archive their own final versions, by saying that if an institution has a systematic deposit mandate for its staff, that authors should no longer be allowed to archive their work. See the 1,800 words of their policy guidance which they expect authors  to understand and comply with.

This is being done on the basis that Elsevier will still allow authors to archive their work if it is done on a voluntary basis: but if there is a mandate, they will seek to prohibit it.  So authors can if they want to:  but not if they are told to!

Such efforts seem to try to amend policies that have been put in place by funders or institutions “upstream” of the author’s final production of an article for publication and make adherence to these policies a matter of post-hoc negotiation.

In the case of Elsevier, the publisher seems to be seeking to make independent agreements with individual institutions, rather than more open collective agreements: a point raised in the OAIG statement.  Rumours of negotiations with individual institutions so far seem to suggest that Elsevier is seeking to track usage of authors’ articles from institutional repositories and asking institutions, as a condition of allowing archiving, to give them reports of detailed monitoring and use of institutions’ own institutional systems.

Will institutions agree to third-party monitoring of their own internal systems, if that is really what is truly being requested? It will be interesting to see what finally results from any negotiations if any are actually concluded.  The OAIG statement calls for institutions:

” . . . not to enter into one-to-one negotiations with publishers on self-archiving rights for their staff, and instead to rely on publicly declared rights as shown on the Sherpa-RoMEO website.”

Bill

 

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Industrial taskforce urges opening access

A major report by the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) is urging universities to open access to their knowledge and intellectual property to support and boost UK manufacuring capacity.

The reports assesses the UK’s current position in manufacturing – Britain is still the sixth largest manufacturer in the world by output, with manufacturing contributing £131 billion to GDP (13.5%), 75% of business research and development (R&D), 50% of UK exports and ten percent of total employment.

Given the conventional wisdom that the eighties finished off UK manufacturing, this is cheering to read.  However, the UK currently only ranks 17th in competitativeness and is forecast to slide.  The report identifies greater access to innovative IP and cutting edge research as essential to halt this decline.

From their release:  Simon Bradley, vice-president of EADS, said to gain greater access to universities’ knowledge, ideas and creativity was vital for manufacturing: “Our Taskforce has found that the simple act of universities opening their vast knowledge banks and providing free access to their intellectual property would have the single biggest impact on accelerating the capability and growth of smart manufacturing in the country.”

This is where open access to articles and data cuts into the “real world” and benefits can be seen outside the research community.

Some sceptical publishers continue to argue against Green OA and for locking down copyright on the grounds of (unproven) economic impacts on their business. Open Access journals, while developing, are still far from the norm: “hybrid” journals continue to charge high fees on top of their continuing subscription costs. The response from much of the publishing world has been to see open access as an additional profit line, or as something to allow by exception, rather than a recognition of a different and new way of working and of OA as playing a part in a far larger working environment.

This report highlights that there is an economic world outside the publishing industry too, and one which is crying out for the benefits of OA.

Given the potential for open access to research to benefit this wider economic picture, as well as collaborative developments between research institutes and industry,  restrictive arguments become increasingly untenable. If funders want OA, researchers want OA, institutions want OA and industry wants OA, why are some publisher’s contracts still stopping this from happening?

Bill

 

Electrons get frayed at the edges . . .

The Library Journal reports that Harper Collins are considering restricting the amount of times an e-book can be loaned, on the analogy that since paper books wear out, e-books should “virtually” wear out as well . . .

This seems an entirely blinkered view that takes no account of the reality of the electronic distribution and use environment, but instead tries to push things back into old moulds and old expectations of the ways of making money.

Harper Collins issued a clarification, noting that ;

“If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point.”

Whatever the economics of this, there are two significant issues.  The first relates to the idea that electronic content is leased and not bought outright – something that academic libraries have had to deal with in “leasing” e-journals. Without outright ownership, what security does a library have for future access, preservation and the notion that knowledge is cumulative, rather than a temporary collection?

The other issue is in the way that some publishers seem to be responding to change.  Notice the approach – because paper books have an expected life of 26 loans, e-books will be artificially limited likewise: the price for replacement books will be pegged to the paperback price. None of this relates to actual cost, let alone new possibilities or innovations that may be possible, but to a fixation on past models, past profit margins, past returns.

All that this means, of course, is that while there might be an uneven transition to the electronic environment, with new surprising charges being proposed here and there, the future will belong to agile businesses able to embrace the new environment and innovate within it. Leadership – and profit – will inevitably fall away from those publishers clinging to old paradigms.

Bill

Publisher and Institutional Repository Usage Statistics (PIRUS 2)

Yesterday I attended a seminar – Counting Individual Article Usage – which reported on the results of the JISC funded PIRUS 2 Project.

It was a full day, with many interesting speakers. In the morning the talks focused on the project itself, while afternoon talks covered the bigger picture.

All About PIRUS 2

  • Hazel Woodward started things off by setting the stage and providing us with the aims and objectives of the PIRUS 2 project. These can be found here. Basically they were looking at the viability of creating a system that can bring together usage (download) data, at an article level, from publishers and repositories, in a standardised format.
  • Peter Shepherd from COUNTER then gave a review of the organisational, economic, and political issues involved with the project. Cost allocation hasn’t been explored fully, but currently publishers would be expected to carry the brunt of the costs with repositories also contributing. Politically, there are still a lot of issues that remain (one being whether publishers and repositories are actually willing to provide their own data, and willing to pay for such a service).
  • Paul Needham then took us through the technical side, and showed us that, yes, it is technically feasible to collect, consolidate, and standardise “download event” usage data from a number of different providers.
  • Ed Pentz from CrossRef then talked about the importance (and relevance to PIRUS) of DOIs, and also described ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID).
  • Paul Smith from ABCe spoke about their possible role as auditor for PIRUS.

The bigger picture

  • Mark Patterson from PLoS, then gave an interesting talk, describing some of the new alternative impact metrics (some that PLoS now provides). He cited people such as Jason Priem (see alt-metrics: a manifesto) and commented that changing the focus from Journal to article, would change the publication process.
  • Gregg Gordon from SSRN also spoke of alternative methods to measure usage, and also noted the importance of context when thinking about usage.
  • Daniel Beuke from OA Statistik then gave a review of their project (very similar to PIRUS) set in Germany. It would be interesting to see how these two teams could work together. These projects (along with SURE) have worked together under the Knowledge Exchange’s Open Access Usage Statistics work (see here for their work on International interoperability guidelines).
  • Ross MacIntyre then spoke about the Journal Usage Statistics Portal, another JISC supported project
  • Paul Needham then gave us a demonstration of the functioning PIRUS database and we closed the day with a panel discussion.

Unfortunately, I felt not enough emphasis was placed on demonstrating the usefulness of PIRUS 2 and the data that it could potentially generate. The political side of the discussion would also have been very interesting to delve into further.

Interesting things that kept popping up:

  • The importance of standardisation of author and research names (ORCID)
  • The need for metadata description standard (e.g. whether the paper is peer reviewed)
  • And the need for all publishers to use DOIs

Some of the questions I’m still thinking about:

  • Are publishers really willing to share this data?
  • What can a publisher really gain from this type of collation of usage data? And a repository?
  • To make it most useful everyone would need to contribute (and have access?) What would be the competitive advantage to having access to this data if everyone has access?
  • We now know it is technically feasible, but is it economically and politically feasible?
  • Are we ready to place value on these alternative metrics of usage (i.e. not Journal Impact Factor)? Who says we are ready? Are institutions ready? Will this usage data count as impact in the REF?
  • What about other places people put articles – personal web pages, institutional web pages, etc. – could this data be included?
  • What about including data from the downloads of briefing papers, working papers, and preprints? Doesn’t usage of these also signify impact?

Complexity of Stakeholders

Open Access and other developments in research and education have often been inaccurately characterised as taking place between two opposed “sides” – between publishers and institutions or their libraries.

Quite apart from the combatative nature of such a characterisation, such a picture is not helpful because of the complexity of even these two stakeholder groups (let alone the funders, and the researchers as the key players in research).

For instance, institutions often have University Presses as publishing businesses within their organisations.  There are purely Open Access publishers who have a vested interest in the success of the OA model. There are traditional publishers like Springer who claim to be happy to provide any particular access model wanted by the user community, as Wim van der Stelt explained at a recent RSP event.

It now looks like things might get even more complex, with the news that the publishers Pearson are proposing to apply for independent degree-awarding powers .

As a company selling educational resources, it would be interesting to see how certain issues may be resolved.  For example, would they recommend OA educational resources as an alternative to their own products for cash-strapped students or for staff that want to use good material from elsewhere? If such OA resources – or research-ouput resources – were CC licenced for non-commercial use, would it matter if the institution was being run as a commercial enterprise?

Bill

Springer’s Realtime

It seems that traditional publishers may finally be beginning to catch up with the capabilities of the internet, and actually collecting and sharing metrics for the journals and articles they publish.

Springer has recently released Realtime, which aggregates download data from Springer journal articles and book chapters and displays them with pretty pictures (graphs, tag clouds, maps, and icons).

You can look up download data by journal (I looked up Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry) and it will show a graph of the number of downloads from the journal over time (up to 90 days). It also lists the most downloaded articles from the journal (with number of downloads displayed), and if you sit on the page for a while (a short while in the case of this journal) you will see which article was most recently downloaded (this is the “Realtime” part). They also display tag clouds of the most frequently used keywords of the most recently downloaded articles, a feed of the latest items downloaded, and an icon display that shows downloads as they happen.

Springer states that,

[t]he goal of this service is to provide the scientific community with valuable information about how the literature is being used “right now”.

Some of this information is definitely valuable (download counts for articles), and some of it is merely fun and pretty (the icon display). The real question is will they be providing download counts for individual articles on an ongoing / long-term basis? Currently you can only look back 90 days, and you can’t search for individual articles…you can only see download counts for your article (or a particular article) if it happens to be one of the most downloaded.  So for this to actually be useful to authors and the institutions they come from, Springer will have to give us a little more, but it is a step in the right direction.