Archive for the Open Access Category

Plan S for Open Access: Guidance and Feedback

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2018 by telescoper

Those of you interested in the topic of Open Access Publishing, and Open Science generally, will no doubt already have heard of `Plan S’. For those that haven’t it is a proposal by 11 European Nations to give the public free access to publicly funded science. The 11 countries involved in this initiative are: France, Italy, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK. Together, these nations compise `cOAlition S’ – the `OA’ is for `Open Access’ – to carry out the plan, which can be found here.

Here is a summary:

I have blogged about this and some of the reactions to it before (e.g. here and here).

I’m writing today, however, to pass on an important piece of news, which is that comprehensive technical guidance on how to comply with Plan S has now been issued by Coalition S, where. you can also submit feedback on the guidance.

I’ve got quite a busy day teaching today and have so far only just skimmed the guidance. At first sight it looks a lot more flexible than some people feared. Comments are welcome belo.

My main preoccupation will, however, be to ensure that the Open Journal of Astrophysics can be made compliant (if it isn’t already)..

 

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Open Journal Promotion?

Posted in Maynooth, Open Access with tags , , on November 20, 2018 by telescoper

Back in Maynooth after my weekend in Cardiff, I was up early this morning to prepare today’s teaching and related matters and I’m now pretty exhausted so I thought I’d just do a quick update about my pet project The Open Journal of Astrophysics.

I’ve been regularly boring all my readers with a stream of stuff about the Open Journal of Astrophysics, but if it’s all new to you, try reading the short post about the background to the Open Journal project that you can find here.

Since the re-launch of the journal last month we’ve had a reasonable number of papers submitted. I’m glad there wasn’t a huge influx, actually, because the Editorial Board is as yet unfamiliar with the system and require a manageable training set. The papers we have received are working their way through the peer-review system and we’ll see what transpires.

Obviously we’re hoping to increase the number of submissions with time (in a manageable way). As it happens, I have some (modest) funds available to promote the OJA as I think quite a large number of members of the astrophysics community haven’t heard of it. This also makes it a little difficult to enlist referees.

So here I have a small request. Do any of you have any ideas for promoting The Open Journal of Astrophysics? We could advertise directly in journals of course, but I’m wondering if anyone out there in the interwebs has any more imaginative ideas? If you do please let me know through the comments box below..

Learned Societies and Open Access

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , , on November 8, 2018 by telescoper

Tuesday’s quick post about a letter of opposition to Plan S generated some comments from academics about the role of “Learned Societies” in academic publishing.  I therefore think it’s relevant to raise some points about the extent that these organizations (including, in my field,  the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics) rely for their financial security upon the revenues generated by publishing traditional journals.

Take IOP Publishing, for example. This is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Institute of Physics that has an annual turnover of around £60M generated from books and journals. This revenue is the largest contribution to the income that the IoP needs to run its numerous activities relating to the promotion of physics.  A similar situation pertains to the Royal Astronomical Society, although on a smaller scale, as it relies for much of its income from Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in which as a matter of fact I have published quite a few papers.

Not surprisingly, these and other learned societies are keen to protect their main source of cash. When I criticized the exploitative behaviour of IoP Publishing some time ago in a recent blog post, I drew a stern response from the Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics, Paul Hardaker. That comment seems to admit that the high prices charged by IOP Publishing for access to  its journals is nothing to do with the real cost of disseminating scientific knowledge but is instead a means of generating income to allow the IoP to pursue its noble aim of  “promoting Physics”.

This is the case for other learned societies too, and it explains why such organizations have lobbied very hard for the “Gold” Open Access some authorities are attempting to foist on the research community, rather than the far more sensible and sustainable “Green” Open Access model and its variants.

Some time ago I came across another blog post, pointing out that other learned societies around the world are also opposing Green Open Access:

There is also great incentive for the people who manage and run these organisations to defend their cartel. For example, the American Chemical Society, a huge opponent to open access, pays many of its employees, as reported in their 990 tax return, over six figures. These salaries ranged from $304,528 to $1,084,417 in 2010.

The problem with the learned societies behaving this way is twofold.

First, I consider it to be inevitable that the traditional journal industry will very soon be completely bypassed in favour of some form of green (or at least not gold) Open Access. The internet has changed the entire landscape of scientific publication. It’s now so cheap and so easy to disseminate knowledge that traditional journals are already virtually redundant, especially in my field of astrophysics where we have been using the arXiv for so long that many of us hardly ever look at journals.

The comfortable income stream that has been used by the IoP to “promote Physics”, as well as to furnish its brand new building in King’s Cross, will dry up unless these organizations find a way of defending it. The “Gold” OA favoured by such organizations their attempt to stem the tide. I think this move into Gold `Open Access’, paid for by ruinously expensive Article Processing charges paid by authors (or their organizations) is unsustainable because the research community will see through it and refuse to pay.

The other problematic aspect of the approach of these learned societies is that I think it is fundamentally dishonest. University and institutional libraries are provided with funds to provide access to published research, not to provide a backdoor subsidy for a range of extraneous activities that have nothing to do with that purpose. The learned societies do many good things – and some are indeed outstandingly good – but that does not give them the right to siphon off funds from their constituents in this way.  Institutional affiliation, paid for by fee, would be a much fairer way of funding these activities.

I should point out that, as a FRAS and a FInstP, I pay annual subscriptions to both the RAS and the IoP. I am happy to do so, as I feel comfortable spending some of my own money supporting astronomy and physics. What I don’t agree with is my department having to fork out huge amounts of money from an ever-dwindling budget for access to scientific research that should be in the public domain because it has already been funded by the taxpayer.

Some time ago I had occasion to visit the London offices of a well-known charitable organization which shall remain nameless. The property they occupied was glitzy, palatial, and obviously very expensive. I couldn’t help wondering how they could square the opulence of their headquarters with the quoted desire to spend as much as possible on their good works. Being old and cynical, I came to the conclusion that, although charities might start out with the noblest intentions, there is a grave danger that they simply become self-serving, viewing their own existence in itself as more important than what they do for others.

The commercial academic publishing industry has definitely gone that way. It arose because of the need to review, edit, collate, publish and disseminate the fruits of academic labour. Then the ease with which profits could be made led it astray. It now fulfills little or no useful purpose, but simply consumes financial resources that could be put to much better effect actually doing science. Fortunately, I think the scientific community knows this and the parasite will die a natural death.

The question for learned societies is whether they can find a sustainable funding model that isn’t reliant upon effectively purloining funds from university library budgets. If their revenue from publishing does fall, can they replace it? And, if not, in what form can they survive?

Chemists against Plan S..

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on November 6, 2018 by telescoper

There’s an `Open Letter’ doing the rounds which rails against the European Plan S for open access to research papers . You can find it here on Google Docs. It is apparently initiated by some chemists, and there are very few signatories who are not chemists, though the language used in the letter suggests that the authors are talking for a much broader group.

My own thoughts on Plan S can be found here. I’m basically supportive of it. I suggest you read the letter for yourself and decide what you think. I think there are many rather inaccurate statements in it, including the idea that the journals run by Learned Societies are not profit-making. In my experience some of the most exploitative publishing practice comes from these organizations, though it takes something to beat the likes of Elsevier and Springer in that regard.

I share the concern about some researchers being driven to expensive `Gold’ Open Access modes of publication,  which is why I started the Open Journal of Astrophysics which I think offers a viable route to peer-reviewed publication that’s not only low-cost, but entirely free for authors and readers. Open Access publication is really not expensive to do. It’s just that some organizations see it as an opportunity to make enormous profits.

Incidentally, I just came across this summary of different routes to open access and their implications here:

In my opinion, Column H is the place to be!

I’ve given quite a few talks about Open Access recently and one of the things that struck me in the Q & A sessions after them is the extent to which attitudes differ in different disciplines. My own research area, astrophysics and cosmology, embraced open access over twenty-five years ago. Virtually every paper published in this discipline can be found for free on the arXiv, as is the case for particle physics. More recently, condensed matter physics and some branches of mathematics have joined in.

Chemistry, by contrast, is conspicuous by its absence from the arXiv. I don’t know why. Moreover, those who have expressed the most negative attitudes to Open Access whenever I’ve given talks about it have always been chemists. And now there’s this letter. It’s definitely part of a pattern. If any chemists out there are reading this, perhaps they could tell me why there’s such an enormous cultural difference between physics and chemistry when it comes to research publication?

The Letter states (paragraph 4):

Plan S has (probably) a much larger negative effect on chemistry than on some other fields.

Maybe so, but isn’t that just another way of saying that chemistry is more in need of cultural change than other disciplines?

P.S. I’d be happy to advise anyone interested in setting up an Open Journal of Chemistry, but if you want it to run like the Open Journal of Astrophysics you will have to set up a chemistry arXiv first – and that’s a much bigger job!

P.P.S. Thanks to a comment below I now know that there is a Chemistry archive, but it only has a small number (hundreds) of papers on it. Moreover, it does not host final refereed versions of papers. It is run by the American Chemical Society, German Chemical Society, and the Royal Society of Chemistry all learned societies who are opposed to Open Access no doubt because it threatens their funding models.

Another Day, Another Open Access Talk..

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, Open Access with tags , , on October 26, 2018 by telescoper

So having exercised my franchise earlier this morning, I found myself in Maynooth University Library giving yet another talk about Open Access publishing as part of Open Access Week.

I’ve got a lecture at noon, which will be the last one I give before the half-term `Study Week’ which begins with a bank holiday on Monday 29th October (Lá Saoire i mí Dheireadh Fómhair). It’s very nice to have a break before Christmas like this. Also the University study week is timed to be the same as School half-term holidays, which is good for those members of staff who have kids of school age.

Well, that’s enough blogging. I need to get my vector calculus notes together. I’m doing line integrals today, by the way

The Open Journal Tweets!

Posted in Open Access with tags , on October 19, 2018 by telescoper


I’ve got a busy day today with teaching and other things so I’m just taking a brief moment to let you know that the Open Journal of Astrophysics now has Twitter account which, if you are so minded, you can follow here

 

Open Journal Updates

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on October 16, 2018 by telescoper

Just finished today’s teaching so I thought I’d chill for a few minutes and pass on a few quick updates about the Open Journal of Astrophysics, which was formally (re)launched last week.

The first thing is that at the weekend I sent an online training video and guide around the members of the Editorial Board and introduced them all to the new platform’s messaging system, which is a very convenient way for us to keep in touch. I had lots of volunteers for the Editorial Board and I couldn’t select everyone but I tried to choose members with a good geographical distribution, spread of expertise, and gender balance. We may add more in due course, as we’re still quite cosmologist-heavy, but I think we have enough to get started: we have editors in Australia, France, Italy, United States of America and Mexico as well as the United Kingdom.

We have received some submissions already and are dealing with them through the new platform, which is requiring the Editors to engage in some `on-the-job’ training. Hopefully they’ll get the hang of it soon!

Another relevant piece of news is that we have updated the DOIs associated with the papers we published with the old platform to point to the new site so they are now fully incorporated. For the record these are:

10.21105/astro.1708.00605

10.21105/astro.1603.07299

10.21105/astro.1602.02113

10.21105/astro.1502.04020

I’ll also take this opportunity to remind you that the Open Journal of Astrophysics is open for new submissions, so please feel free to give it a try!

Finally, I’d like to point you to an article about Open Access Publishing in the latest Physics Today, which begins

Publishers of scientific journals are facing renewed threats to their business models from both sides of the Atlantic.

You better believe it!