Science publishing has opened up during the coronavirus pandemic. It won’t be easy to keep it that way (re-post from The Conversation)

Monday, July 27th, 2020 | Richard White | No Comments

Dr Ginny Barbour, Director of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group writes in The Conversation today.


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Virginia Barbour, Queensland University of Technology

Scientific publishing is not known for moving rapidly. In normal times, publishing new research can take months, if not years. Researchers prepare a first version of a paper on new findings and submit it to a journal, where it is often rejected, before being resubmitted to another journal, peer-reviewed, revised and, eventually, hopefully published.

All scientists are familiar with the process, but few love it or the time it takes. And even after all this effort – for which neither the authors, the peer reviewers, nor most journal editors, are paid – most research papers end up locked away behind expensive journal paywalls. They can only be read by those with access to funds or to institutions that can afford subscriptions.

What we can learn from SARS

The business-as-usual publishing process is poorly equipped to handle a fast-moving emergency. In the 2003 SARS outbreaks in Hong Kong and Toronto, for example, only 22% of the epidemiological studies on SARS were even submitted to journals during the outbreak. Worse, only 8% were accepted by journals and 7% published before the crisis was over.

Fortunately, SARS was contained in a few months, but perhaps it could have been contained even quicker with better sharing of research.

Fast-forward to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the situation could not be more different. A highly infectious virus spreading across the globe has made rapid sharing of research vital. In many ways, the publishing rulebook has been thrown out the window.




Read more:
The hunt for a coronavirus cure is showing how science can change for the better


Preprints and journals

In this medical emergency, the first versions of papers (preprints) are being submitted onto preprint servers such as medRxiv and bioRxiv and made openly available within a day or two of submission. These preprints (now almost 7,000 papers on just these two sites) are being downloaded millions of times throughout the world.

However, exposing scientific content to the public before it has been peer-reviewed by experts increases the risk it will be misunderstood. Researchers need to engage with the public to improve understanding of how scientific knowledge evolves and to provide ways to question scientific information constructively.




Read more:
Researchers use ‘pre-prints’ to share coronavirus results quickly. But that can backfire


Traditional journals have also changed their practices. Many have made research relating to the pandemic immediately available, although some have specified the content will be locked back up once the pandemic is over. For example, a website of freely available COVID-19 research set up by major publisher Elsevier states:

These permissions are granted for free by Elsevier for as long as the Elsevier COVID-19 resource centre remains active.

Publication at journals has also sped up, though it cannot compare with the phenomenal speed of preprint servers. Interestingly, it seems posting a preprint speeds up the peer-review process when the paper is ultimately submitted to a journal.

Open data

What else has changed in the pandemic? What has become clear is the power of aggregation of research. A notable initiative is the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), a huge, freely available public dataset of research (now more than 130,000 articles) whose development was led by the US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Researchers can not only read this research but also reuse it, which is essential to make the most of the research. The reuse is made possible by two specific technologies: permanent unique identifiers to keep track of research papers, and machine-readable conditions (licences) on the research papers, which specify how that research can be used and reused.

These are Creative Commons licences like those that cover projects such as Wikipedia and The Conversation, and they are vital for maximising reuse. Often the reading and reuse is done now at least in a first scan by machines, and research that is not marked as being available for use and reuse may not even be seen, let alone used.

What has also become important is the need to provide access to data behind the research papers. In a fast-moving field of research not every paper receives detailed scrutiny (especially of underlying data) before publication – but making the data available ensures claims can be validated.

If the data can’t be validated, the research should be treated with extreme caution – as happened to a swiftly retracted paper about the effects of hydroxychloroquine published by The Lancet in May.




Read more:
Not just available, but also useful: we must keep pushing to improve open access to research


Overnight changes, decades in the making

While opening up research literature during the pandemic may seem to have happened virtually overnight, these changes have been decades in the making. There were systems and processes in place developed over many years that could be activated when the need arose.

The international licences were developed by the Creative Commons project, which began in 2001. Advocates have been challenging the dominance of commercial journal subscription models since the early 2000s, and open access journals and other publishing routes have been growing globally since then.

Even preprints are not new. Although more recently platforms for preprints have been growing across many disciplines, their origin is in physics back in 1991.

Lessons from the pandemic

So where does publishing go after the pandemic? As in many areas of our lives, there are some positives to take forward from what became a necessity in the pandemic.

The problem with publishing during the 2003 SARS emergency wasn’t the fault of the journals – the system was not in place then for mass, rapid open publishing. As an editor at The Lancet at the time, I vividly remember we simply could not publish or even meaningfully process every paper we received.

But now, almost 20 years later, the tools are in place and this pandemic has made a compelling case for open publishing. Though there are initiatives ongoing across the globe, there is still a lack of coordinated, long term, high-level commitment and investment, especially by governments, to support key open policies and infrastructure.

We are not out of this pandemic yet, and we know that there are even bigger challenges in the form of climate change around the corner. Making it the default that research is open so it can be built on is a crucial step to ensure we can address these problems collaboratively.The Conversation

Virginia Barbour, Director, Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Put your work in a repository (Open Access Week 2019)

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 | Richard White | No Comments

Yesterday we focused on the citation advantage for open access articles, particularly for repository-based articles. Today’s post is a guest post by Fiona Glasgow of our Research Support Unit.

There are many ways to make your work openly available. One option is to deposit your work in an institutional repository; at Otago we have OUR Archive. An institutional repository aims to collect, preserve, and make available digital copies of the intellectual output of an institution.

Around 80% of journals will allow you to deposit your research in an institutional repository after a certain time has elapsed from the date of publication – for free! This time period is often 6-12 months, though some but you will need to double check the contract you signed with the publisher or the policies on their websites. Alternatively, you can check this information on SHERPA/RoMEO. This site is a great way to find publisher copyright and self-archiving policies. As mentioned in Richard’s posts earlier this week, 84% of Otago-authored articles from 2017 that are currently behind a paywall could now be legally deposited in a repository.

Some benefits of using OUR Archive include:

  • Making your research visible and accessible. Publications are indexed by search engines (Google, Google Scholar, DigitalNZ, etc); this can increase the ranking of your publications in Google searches and help them reach a broader audience.
  • Providing persistent access. Each item is assigned a unique handle (persistent URL).
  • Gathering statistics on views and downloads. Usage statistics are available for all items and department collections in OUR Archive, and include statistics based on city and country.

Associate Professor Janet Stephenson, Director of the Centre for Sustainability, makes a succinct and compelling case for the benefits of using OUR Archive in this short video interview. She talks about how using OUR Archive has been a critical part in getting the right kind of profile and impact for the Centre’s research outputs, and how increasing access to their work is important for PBRF.

Currently, the majority of research that is deposited into OUR Archive are theses, but it’s possible to deposit a wide range of research outputs, and file types. Over the coming months, the Library is going to focus on increasing the number of non-thesis deposits in OUR Archive. If you have questions or need assistance with the depositing process, please contact your subject librarian.

In early 2020, the Research Support Unit is planning upload-a-thons where librarians will help you deposit your research outputs in OUR Archive. These upload-a-thons also aim to demystify copyright and open access. By going into departments, we hope to tailor the events to your own domain-specific research needs – so bring along any questions you have and works you want to deposit. We hope to see you there!

Open research has more impact (Open Access Week 2019)

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 | Richard White | No Comments

So far this Open Access Week, there’s a chance I’ve depressed readers of this blog. “2 out of 5 Otago articles are free-to-read?” I hear you moan. “Access to research costs us how much?!?” you wail. But I did suggest that there are reasons to be positive.

Open access is often framed as being the right thing to do: the public paid for it so they should have access. That’s not my focus here and the research I’ve been discussing this week sought to look for measurable ways in which we can assess the effect that making your work open has on its impact.

Increasingly the agencies that fund our work are looking at impact, in particular with a new focus on impact outside academia (see MBIE’s recent position paper on research impact). Research that is referenced by policymakers and the media is more likely to have real-world outcomes than research that is cited only by the academic community. In our sample we found that open articles were cited in the media 3.5 times more than closed ones and mentioned in policy documents twice as often.¹

Another, more traditional, way to asses this is our old favourite academic citation rates.

Let’s examine the graph in some detail.

  • Closed access articles (n=1480) – that is, those available only via subscription – fare worse than all the types of open access apart from the bottom one (Diamond).
  • Hybrid articles (n=89) – those in subscription journals where you have the option of paying for your single article to be open – achieve the highest average. This result is not surprising as they are likely to be high-profile publications (a topic for further investigation for us). It comes at a cost, with the average Article Processing Charge (APC) being $4260 and totaling $93,000 in 2017.
  • Green OA (n=237) – self-archiving or repository-deposited work – is almost on a par with Hybrid. Self-archiving incurs no APC, of course, and its average citation rate in our Otago sample is 93% higher than closed research (compared to a 66% advantage for all New Zealand universities).
  • Bronze articles (n=162) – those articles whose open status is uncertain but are currently free-to-read – and Gold have similar average citation rates. Gold cost us an estimated $643,000 dollars at an average APC of $2873.
  • Diamond journals are those in which is free to publish and free to read. These represent a small subset of our data (n=41) and are mostly small, independent journals.

The Green result is most interesting in the context of yesterday’s discussion, where we saw that we could be depositing the majority of our closed research in repositories, avoiding APCs. But we are not and thus we’re missing out on the citation advantage we see for Green OA here. To compound this, we’re missing out compared to other countries we would normally like to compare ourselves to, which have much higher rates of openness.²

The result for Green OA is also interesting in the context of the common attitude that the final, published version is the only one with value. Our findings suggest that that doesn’t matter to people who don’t have access to that version. Here we’re seeing that Green OA achieves a higher citation rate than the Gold/Bronze/Diamond forms of OA and that almost-double average compared to closed articles. Remember that what we’re counting as Green has been published in a closed journal, it’s just that a free version has been made available. You can still cite the published version even if all you’ve had access to is a free version. And that’s the heart of it here: I’m not going to cite something at all if I couldn’t read it.

None of this is rocket science but it’s the first time we’ve had evidence that is specific to our university and the New Zealand university sector as a whole.

No doubt, after reading the above, Otago researchers will be clamouring to deposit their closed access research in OUR Archive. We’ll look at the practicalities of that in tomorrow’s post, a guest post from the wonderful folks in our Research Support Unit.

Richard White is the Manager, Copyright and Open Access at the University of Otago.

This is one of a series of posts for Open Access week 2019. The comments can be used below for discussion or debate. Otago staff can refer to our Open Access Policy and associated Guidelines.

Notes

For the national results of the research referred to here, including an infographic and full report, refer to the Universities New Zealand website for:

¹ See a fuller discussion of this in our full report, cited immediately above, pp. 9-10.

² The Leiden Ranking tool uses a different method to that employed by our group, including using data from 2014-17, but is a useful tool to evaluate global trends and compare its results to our own. Leiden’s figure for the proportion of NZ research that is openly available in some form is 38.4%, close to what our research found at 41% nationally and 39% for Otago. Leiden’s NZ figure of 38.4% compares to Canada 42%, Australia 42%, Germany 48%, Ireland 49%, Norway 54%, United States 54%, and United Kingdom 71%. 34 of the top 50 universities for proportion of OA research are from the UK; New Zealand’s top-ranked university is the University of Canterbury at number 416 in the list.

What does it cost to be open? Sometimes a lot, sometimes nothing (Open Access Week 2019)

Monday, October 21st, 2019 | Richard White | No Comments

When I talk to researchers about open access, cost is often the first thing that comes up. We know that researchers are in principle overwhelmingly in favour of their work being free to read (with 87% in a large survey backing open as default)¹ but, as we saw yesterday our practice in making our work open is hugely at odds with this since 39% of Otago-authored articles are openly accessible. Cost is definitely one barrier but lack of understanding of the scholarly publishing ecosystem is just as much a factor. Today’s post looks at these issues – it’s going to get detailed further down, so buckle up.

The short version is: we pay a lot for subscription access still and a not-insignificant amount on top of that for open access publications but we could be doing a lot more to make our work open in other, cheaper ways that are just as good (if not better).

The longer version? Here we go.

Most readers will know that publishers charge us subscription fees for access to research. This is still how we get access to most electronic material we use in teaching and research. In 2017 New Zealand universities combined spent $68.5 million on access to electronic resources and this goes up each year.² Open access came along but in some of its models this actually introduced a new cost, where publishers charge the authors/researchers to make it open as opposed to libraries (with fees known as Article Processing Charges or APCs). As I said yesterday that’s where our work estimated $735,000 spent by Otago researchers in 2017.³ The figure for the eight universities combined was $2.1 million so Otago’s share was about one-third.

This estimated $735k was spent for two types of open access, as indicated by the black line with the curved line at the end of it. The vast majority of this money was for what are termed Gold OA journals, where there is no subscription fee and all articles are open access with an APC charged to the authors (about $642k or 87% of the total), like Public Library of Science or Biomed Central. The remainder was in Hybrid journals, which charge libraries subscriptions but allow researchers the option of paying an APC to open up that particular article to all readers (e.g. the Lancet, Nature). This is an area of interest for further investigation: why did our researchers choose to publish in these venues and pay this fee, especially where it was optional in the Hybrid cases?

But there are other ways to make your work open. There are several different ‘shades’, as indicated in the smaller arch in the graphic,⁴ but the Green OA proportion is of particular interest because there are no APCs. My title for this post was deliberately provocative and not strictly true: it’s doesn’t cost ‘nothing’ to self-archive in that it requires time and effort to do it and repositories must be developed and maintained. But it’s much cheaper at scale than paying publishers $3000 to $4000 on average per article, with one piece of work identifying the cost per-article of depositing in a repository to be NZ$62.⁵

Most publisher policies now allow you to deposit an accepted manuscript in a non-commercial repository, sometimes with the proviso that you have to wait for a period after publication, most commonly 12 months. (Note: you can actually check the policy of any journal here). The figure on the right here shows what we could have deposited perfectly legally in a repository but haven’t:

People don’t realise they can do this or they don’t feel it’s worth the time and effort to do so. But they likely also don’t understand that on average there appears to be a big advantage in self-archiving your work in terms of impact, which is the subject of tomorrow’s post for OA Week 2019.

Richard White is the Manager, Copyright and Open Access at the University of Otago.

This is one of a series of posts for Open Access week 2019. The comments can be used below for discussion or debate. Otago staff can refer to our Open Access Policy and associated Guidelines.

Notes

For the national results of the research referred to here, including an infographic and full report, refer to the Universities New Zealand website for:

¹ Blankstein, M., & Wolff-Eisenberg, C. (2019, April 12). Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey 2018. doi: 10.18665/sr.311199

² The Consortium of New Zealand University Libraries reported that subscription to electronic content in 2017 cost universities NZ$68.5 million. See the Universities NZ submission to the Copyright Act review p. 28. For context the Marsden Fund gave out  $84.6 million (Source: Royal Society).

³ This estimate is an estimate because, while we know how many 2017 articles were published where the corresponding author was an Otago researcher in a journal that would require an APC to be paid, we don’t know for sure if that fee was waived or paid by someone else.

⁴ Getting into the minute detail, we can break down the white 39% open section in the graph above into sub-groups to show how the articles were made open. The largest proportion was for Gold OA (16.91% of all articles); next comes Green OA at just under 10% (sometimes called self-archiving, where articles are published in a closed journal but an accepted manuscript version is deposited in a repository like OUR Archive); Bronze OA (6.7%) is where the article is currently freely available but it’s status is uncertain and could change; Hybrid (optional APC) and Diamond (free to publish, free to read) made up the remainder.

⁵ Johnson, R., Pinfield, S., & Fosci, M. (2016). Business process costs of implementing “gold” and “green” open access in institutional and national contexts. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(9), 2283-2295. doi.org/10.1002/asi.23545

How many of Otago’s research articles are free-to-read on the web? (Open Access week 2019)

Sunday, October 20th, 2019 | Richard White | No Comments

How many of Otago’s research articles are free-to-read on the web? Not as many as you would hope.

 

‘Access provided by the University of Otago’: when you’re reading an online article how often do you notice that little piece of text at the top of the screen? It’s ubiquitous (and tiny) so we hardly notice it but, of course, we can read most of the research we’re interested in because we’re paying for access. The University of Otago has a very high level of access compared to many other teaching or research organisations – not to mention all the decision-makers in government or local bodies, practitioners, business/innovators, media, iwi groups and other stakeholders and the general public who have little or no access to a lot of research publications.

So how much of Otago’s own research is free-to-read online for those who are interested in it? This is something we haven’t had a good idea about – until now. You can see from the above that 3 out of every 5 (61%) are only available to those who can afford to pay for access. This finding comes from a national project looking at the current state of open access in New Zealand, the results¹ of which I’ll be blogging about over the course of Open Access week (21 – 25 October 2019). Out of the 2418 journal articles in our sample published in 2017 by Otago researchers, 938 were online for anyone to read for free (39% or, roughly, 2 out of 5).² The other 1480 papers were only available via a subscription, meaning all those groups I listed above generally won’t have access.

We’re interested in knowing how much of our work can be accessed without barriers because we know that this benefits us not only in scholarly terms but also because it can benefit the wider impact of our work outside of academia. But we’re also interested in how we made our work open and whether it cost extra to do so: that’s the estimated $735,000 in the callout box on the right spent by Otago researchers in 2017 on what are termed Hybrid and Gold open access journals. More on these interesting questions in tomorrow’s post!

Richard White is the Manager, Copyright and Open Access at the University of Otago.

This is one of a series of posts for Open Access week 2019. The comments can be used below for discussion or debate. Otago staff can refer to our Open Access Policy and associated Guidelines.

Notes

¹ For the national results of this work, including an infographic and full report, refer to the Universities New Zealand website for:

² This study used a dataset comprising all the journal articles published by the eight New Zealand universities in 2017 with a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). The graphic and data discussed in this post represent a subset that had at least one Otago author on the paper.

Nature: Data sharing and how it can benefit your scientific career

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 | Richard White | No Comments

Nature has published a feature article that provides good overview of the current state of data publication and sharing in science. Despite the title, which suggests evangelism in favour of open access, it’s a generally well-balanced view of the challenges facing us right now:

“…the current state of science: partly open, partly closed, and with unclear and inconsistent policies and expectations on data sharing that are still in flux.”

Popkin, Gabriel. Nature 569, 445-447 (2019) doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01506-x

What’s the future for open access?

Friday, October 26th, 2018 | Richard White | No Comments

What next for open access? It’s been around since 2002 (if you use a particular statement as the starting point) or even earlier if you prefer to think about how some researchers realised the potential of the nascent Internet and started sharing papers.

It would be fair to say the ‘open access movement’ (for want of a better term) has achieved a lot less than early advocates hoped. Depending on how you define ‘open’ and who you listen to, as little as around 20% of the world’s research is freely available for anyone to access, reuse or build upon. This is not the Utopian dream of unfettered access to the world’s research that many envisaged when we developed the technology that would enable this. This is not the place to get into why this hasn’t happened other than to say that academic publishing is a complex ecosystem with a lot of interdependent organisms. Like many things, cost is a fundamental issue.

One very recent development that has caused much debate is the announcement of the rather Bond-villianesque ‘Plan S’. Eleven of Europe’s major research funders have collaborated to put out this plan — the S has been said to stand for science, speed, solution and shock — which will require, from 1 January 2020 no less, that any research outputs funded by these agencies be made freely available immediately. If you read yesterday’s post, you’d be interested to know that the ‘funders or the universities’ would cover the cost of publication. Researchers retain copyright but would be required to publish with an OA licence that allows reuse by others. Interestingly, hybrid journals are specifically non-compliant with this policy (i.e. a journal that is normally subscription-based, but you can pay to have your one article published OA, these often being accused of ‘double dipping’). One of the ten principles outlined in the plan emphasises that the funders are interested in, and will, support, the development of innovative platforms on which research could be hosted. The announcement has provoked praise and criticism in fairly equal measure but has been heralded, if nothing else, as a significant shift in attitude of funders, with Nature.com headlining it’s story ‘Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions.’* Essentially, Plan S is saying to the publishing industry: you’re not doing enough and change has been too slow — and, as the people paying the bills, we’re taking matters into our own hands. It’s intentionally ambitious and contentious and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

* Don’t worry, it’s not a paywalled article on Nature.com.

‘Down the back of the chair’ — how to pay for OA (in New Zealand)

Thursday, October 25th, 2018 | Richard White | No Comments

Your paper’s been accepted for Nature Communications
Fin’ly your research career can hit the stratosphere
But hold your celebrations —
“APC six thousand bucks?!? That simply isn’t fair!”

But wait a mo’ — stay your dejection
We’ve found some dosh to spare
In the finance equivalent of
Down the back of the chair!

New Zealand researchers no doubt often look with envy at colleagues overseas, who are far more likely to have their publishing cost covered by their institution or their funder, since we don’t have mandates or policies set by our major funders or at a national level (yet), despite the government having a policy that covers its own work (the NZ Government Open Access Licensing (NZGOAL) Framework). So, a while back we asked researchers who had paid to have their work published in an open access publication how they had done so.(1)

As mentioned in the first post for OA week, making your work freely available doesn’t have to cost you money, given that there are free OA journals and that in other cases pre-publication versions can be easily shared in certain ways. However, if your publication venue of choice is OA-only and charges a fee you’re left with no choice but to look elsewhere or in many cases, as is clear from the chart above, find the money ‘down the back of the [research budget] chair.’ Only 16 of 191 respondents to this question (13%) had funding that specifically covered the cost of paid-OA. It should be of concern to researchers, the University, funders, the government and, indeed, publishers that the economics of OA can affect people’s decision-making and even prevent them from publishing in the best journal for their research.

As things stand in New Zealand, the key point for researchers is that if it’s likely that a paid-OA publication will be the best place for your research then this potential cost should be part of your planning. Don’t submit and then, after acceptance, work out how you’ll pay. There are things you can do: investigate a publisher’s waiver policy or ask them for consideration of other work you do for them.(2)  Are any of your co-authors in a position to help? (Note too that to qualify for a waiver journals will likely require that you apply for this at the time of submission.) If all else fails and you really want your work freely available then finding an equivalent closed journal and making a pre-publication version of your work freely available may be the best option.

The very bad poem at the top of this post was inspired by Margaret Mahy’s classic ‘Down the back of the chair’ — available here to read but better in book form with Polly Dunbar’s wonderful illustrations.

Reference

(1) White, R., & Remy, M. (2016). University of Otago Open Access Publishing Survey Results: p. 18. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10523/6947

(2) Our research also found that 36% of our authors had their fee waived for one reason or another (White, R., & Remy, M. (2016) p. 17).

Who controls our stuff? or: Equitable foundations for open knowledge (OA Week 2018)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018 | Richard White | 4 Comments

A lot of our researchers put their work on ResearchGate, Academia.edu, their own web spaces or wherever. It’s perfectly understandable: these are easy ways to get your work online for interested people to be able to read and RG or Academia are great for networking, especially if your work is in a paywalled journal and your discipline is one with a high degree of public or professional interest. But for those of us who support and advocate for open access doing these things make us deeply uncomfortable. Let me explain why.

The overall theme for OA week 2018 is designing equitable foundations for open knowledge. Recent years have seen the acquisition by large commercial interests of a number of services or systems that had been dedicated to the open dissemination and preservation of the work we do. Other popular services, like ResearchGate or Academia.edu, while independent, are commercial operations, ultimately responsible to their shareholders, i.e. their interest in keeping your work online (or whatever service they provide) will last only as long as it’s in their interests to do so. Could it be bought out, like the Social Sciences Research Network or the repository software bepress? Does it have legal headaches? Can work you’ve uploaded be removed without your knowledge? This is what makes us uncomfortable: it seems like it’s part of the infrastructure supporting the scholarly community but the community has no control over or input into it. By all means use services that are useful to you but recognise what they do and don’t do.

These recent developments have mirrored the path followed by academic publishing during the 90s and 00s, where, with the advent of the web we saw the gradual acquisition of smaller and society publishers to the extent that it has been estimated that the ‘big 5’ academic publishers control over 50% of the research papers published per year. In part, of course, this shift was one of the key reasons for the birth of the OA movement in the early 00s as the academic community lost control of its own research outputs. These developments have even prompted some funders, like Wellcome or the Gates Foundation, to eschew traditional publishing and develop their own platforms to host research outputs and data, essentially because they found academic publishers weren’t able to meet the requirements for openness and public dissemination required of the researchers they funded.

Basically we’re in the middle of the next battle of the ‘walled garden’ (login required!) versus ‘community garden’. Hence this year’s rather technical and unsexy theme about infrastructure.

We do have, for example, non-profit repositories hosted by research institutions, such as Otago’s as OUR Archive, which staff can utilise to host their work (it’s not just for student theses!). These repositories provide a stable, long-term place for your work that is visible (i.e. search engines love repositories), accessible and measurable. OUR Archive (and others) is built on open source code so even a buyout of a parent company means the code is able to continue to be used regardless.

These examples are to highlight the theme for OA week: it might be unsexy but we need policies, licences, systems and software that work together and are not just for ‘now’ but offer a long-term, sustainable means of support for scholarly communication over which the academic community has some control or influence.

Richard White is the Manager, Copyright and Open Access at the University of Otago.

One of a series of posts for Open Access week 2018. The comments can be used below for discussion or debate. Otago staff can refer to our Open Access Policy and associated Guidelines.

Open access myths – how about some evidence?

Monday, October 22nd, 2018 | Richard White | No Comments

Many people (people who should know better) still rely on anecdotal evidence to form their opinions about open access. While academic publishing is complex — and the situation we find ourselves in is far from ideal and changes every day — we still hear a lot of things about open access that should be examined with a more critical eye.

Publishing open access benefits others but not the author

It’s not difficult to imagine that you’ll get increased reads and downloads of your research outputs if people can do those things but increasingly research also shows a clear citation advantage for work that can be accessed by anybody who wants to. A recent large-scale study(1) estimates 18% more citations on average than ‘closed’ research. So, although there can be a financial cost to the author’s institution or research project (not actually the author in most cases(2)) there are clear benefits here too.

The only way to make my work open access is to pay to publish

Not true. There are a lot of good, free OA journals (see the next myth) but, even if the journal you really want to publish in is subscription-only, most journals now allow you to post pre-publication versions of your work in stable, non-commercial places like our OUR Archive, our institutional research repository.(3) This is increasingly true when writing book chapters too. Come to a workshop if you want to understand your rights as an author to use your own work in the ways you want to.

Most OA journals charge fees

Actually the opposite is true. The Directory of Open Access journals currently lists 9441 English-language journals, with 6485 (69%) of those free to publish in. It is true that the more prestigious an OA journal is the more likely it will be to charge the author(s) a fee and the higher that fee will be and this can mean you can’t publish in your journal of choice. But it’s worth noting that, even for journals that normally charge, in research done here at Otago in 2016, 36% of survey respondents indicated that an OA journal waived their fee for one reason or another.(4)

OA journals are lower quality

This old chestnut. Yes there are a lot of poor journals that happen to use author fees to fund their operation and don’t provide any value in terms of review or editorial input. But don’t confuse open access journals with predatory journals — those that send you those phishing emails every day. There are plenty of good OA journals, just as there are poor quality non-OA journals. Quality is a product of the work of editors, reviewers and authors and has nothing to do with the business model a journal uses. When you’re considering *any* publication venue you’re not sure about: check with colleagues, look at/assess their editorial or review practices, find out if they are members of recognised quality evaluation mechanisms like the Committee on Publication Ethics. Thinkchecksubmit.org provides a useful checklist of things to consider.

Richard White is the Manager, Copyright and Open Access at the University of Otago.

This is the first in a series of posts for Open Access week. The comments can be used below for discussion or debate. Otago staff can refer to our Open Access Policy and associated Guidelines.

References

(1) Piwowar H, Priem J, Larivière V, Alperin JP, Matthias L, Norlander B, Farley A, West J, Haustein S. (2018The state of OA: a large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articlesPeerJ 6:e4375 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4375

(2) One older large-scale study from 2011 found that 12% of researchers used their own money to fund an open access publication (Dallmeier-Tiessen et al. (2011) Highlights from the SOAP project survey. What Scientists Think about Open Access Publishing. arXiv:1101.5260v2 p. 9); at Otago we found, in 2016, this to be 6% (White, R., & Remy, M. (2016). University of Otago Open Access Publishing Survey Results: p. 18. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10523/6947)

(3) See examples of such policies at Elsevier, Wiley and Springer, which all allow some form of making a pre-publication version of your work available.

(4) White and Remy (2016) p. 18.