Archive for the Open Access Category

Want to use the Open Journal of Astrophysics? Get an Orcid ID!

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on November 23, 2015 by telescoper

We’re getting ready to launch the Open Journal of Astrophysics site so for all the folks out there who are busy preparing to submit papers let me just give you advanced warning how it works. The website is currently being tested with real submissions, but these have so far been canvassed from the Editorial Board for testing purposes: the journal is not yet available for general submission, and the site is not yet public. Once we’re sure everything is fully functional we will open up.

Anyway, in order to submit a paper you will need to obtain an ORCID ID. In a nutshell this is a unique identifier that makes it much easier to keep track of researchers than via names, email address or whatever. It can be used for many other things other than the Open Journal project so it’s a good thing to do in itself.

You can register for an ID here. It only takes seconds to do it, so do it now! You can find out more about ORCID here. When you have your ORCID ID you can log into our Open Journal website to submit a paper.

The Open Journal is built on top of the arXiv which means that all papers submitted to the Open Journal must be submitted to the arXiv first. This in turns means is that you must also be registered as a “trustworthy” person to submit there. You can read about how to do that here. When you have succeeded in submitting your paper to the arXiv you can proceed to submit it to the Open Journal.

As an aside, we do have a Latex template for The Open Journal, but you can for the time being submit papers in any style as long as the resulting PDF file is readable.

To submit a paper to be refereed by The Open Journal all you need to do is type in its arXiv ID and the paper will be imported into the Open Journal. The refereeing process is very interactive – you’ll like it a lot – and when it’s completed the paper will be published, assigned a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and will be entered into the CrossRef system for the purpose of gathering citations and other bibliometric data.

We will be issuing a general call for submissions very soon, at which point we will also be publishing general guidance in the form of an FAQ, which includes information about copyright etc. In the meantime, all you need to do is get your ORCID ID and get your papers on the arXiv!

Enough of the Academic Publishing Racket!

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on November 5, 2015 by telescoper

There have been some interesting developments this week in the field of academic publishing. A particularly interesting story concernes the resignation of the entire editorial board of the linguistics journal Lingua, which is published by – (no prizes for guessing) – Elsevier. Not surprisingly this move was made in protest at Elsevier’s overpricing of “Open Access” options on its journal. Even less surprisingly, Elsevier’s response was considerably economical with the truth. Elsevier claims that it needs to levy large Article Processing Charges (APCs) to ensure their Open Access publications are economically viable. However, what Elsevier means by “economically viable” apparently means a profit margin of 37% or more, all plundered from the tightly constrained budgets of academic research organizations. In fact these APCs have nothing to do with the actual cost of publishing research papers. In any other context the behaviour of publishers like Elsevier would be called racketeering, i.e.

Racketeering, often associated with organized crime, is the act of offering of a dishonest service (a “racket”) to solve a problem that wouldn’t otherwise exist without the enterprise offering the service.

Let me remind you of the business model that underpins the academic publishing industry.  We academics write papers based on our research, which we then submit to journals. Other academics referee these papers, suggest corrections or improvements and recommend acceptance or rejection. Another set of academics provide oversight of this editorial process and make decisions on whether or not to publish. All of this is usually done for free. We academics then buy back the  product of our labours at an grossly inflated price through journal subscriptions, unless the article is published in Open Access form in which case we have to pay an APC up front to the publisher. It’s like having to take all the ingredients of a meal to a restaurant, cooking them yourself, and then being required to pay for the privilege of eating the resulting food.

Why do we continue to participate in such a palpably  ridiculous system? Isn’t it obvious that we (I mean academics in universities) are spending a huge amout of time and money achieving nothing apart from lining the pockets of these exploitative publishers? Is it simply vanity? I suspect that many academics see research papers less as a means of disseminating research and more as badges of status…

I’d say that, at least in my discipline, traditional journals are simply no longer necessary for communicating scientific research. I find all the  papers I need to do my research on the arXiv and most of my colleagues do the same. We simply don’t need old-fashioned journals anymore.  Yet we keep paying for them. It’s time for those of us who believe that  we should spend as much of our funding as we can on research instead of throwing it away on expensive and outdated methods of publication to put an end to this absurd system. We academics need to get the academic publishing industry off our backs.

All we need to do is to is dispense with the old model of a journal and replace it with a reliable and efficient reviewing system that interfaces with the arXiv. Then we would have a genuinely useful at a fraction of the cost of a journal subscription . That was the motivation behind the Open Journal of Astrophysics , a project that I and a group of like-minded individuals will be launching very soon. There will be a series of announcements here and elsewhere over the next few weeks, giving more details about the Open Journal and how it works.

We will be starting in a modest way but I hope that those who believe – as I do – in the spirit of open science and the free flow of scientific ideas will support this initiative. I hope that the Lingua debacle is a sign that change is on the way, but we need the help and participation of researchers to make the revolution happen.

The Open Journal cometh..

Posted in Biographical, Open Access on October 25, 2015 by telescoper

I have been at a meeting in Oxford with a group of conspirators this afternoon to plot the final downfall of the academic publishing industry..


All systems are go and we have agreed a schedule for the official launch of the long-awaited Open Journal of Astrophysics.

More details will come out over the next few weeks. Watch this space!

Fracking, Gender, and the need for Open Science

Posted in Open Access, Politics, Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2015 by telescoper

I can’t resist commenting on some of the issues raised by Professor Averil MacDonald’s recent pronouncements about hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” for short). I know Averil MacDonald a little bit through SEPNet and through her work on gender issues in physics with the Institute of Physics and I therefore found some of her comments – e.g. that women “don’t understand fracking, which is why they don’t support it” – both surprising and disappointing. I was at first prepared to accept that she might have been misquoted or her words taken out of context. However she has subsequently said much the same thing in the Guardian and, worse, in an excruciating car crash of an interview on Channel 4 News. It seems that having lots of experience in gender equality matters is no barrier to indulging in simplistic generalisations; for a discussion of the poll which inspired the gender comments, and what one might or might not infer from it, see here. For the record, Professor MacDonald is Chair of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, an organization that represents and lobbies on behalf of the United Kingdom’s onshore oil and gas industry.

Before I go on I’ll briefly state my own position on fracking, which is basically agnostic. Of course, burning shale gas produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse agent. I’m not agnostic about that.  What I mean is that I don’t know whether fracking is associated with an increased  risk of earthquakes or with water contamination. I don’t think there is enough reliable scientific literature in the public domain to form a rational conclusion on those questions. On the separate matter of whether there is enough shale gas to make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s energy needs I am rather less ambivalent – the balance of probability seems to me to suggest that fracking will never provide more than a sticking-plaster solution (if that) to a problem that which reach critical proportions very soon. Fracking seems to me to be a distraction; a long-term solution will have to be found elsewhere.

The central issue in the context of Averil MacDonald’s comments seems to me however to be the perception of the various risks associated with fracking that I have mentioned before, i.e. earth tremors, contaminated water supplies and other environmental dangers. I think it’s a perfectly rational point of view for a scientifically literate person to take to be concerned about such things and to oppose fracking unless and until evidence is supplied to allay those fears. Moreover, it may be true that most women don’t understand science but neither do most men. I suspect that goes for most of our politicians too. I’ve commented many times on what a danger it is to our democracy that science is so poorly understood among the general population but my point here is that the important thing about fracking is not whether men understand the science better than women, but that there’s too little real scientific evidence out there for anyone – male or female, scientifically literate or not – to come to a rational conclusion about it.

I’ve yet to see any meaningful attempt in the mainstream media on the actual science evidence involved when surely that’s the key to whether we should “get behind” fracking or not? It struck me that quite a few readers might also be interested in this issue to, so for them I’d recommend reading the Beddington Report. The problem with this report, however, is that it’s a high-level summary with no detailed scientific discussion. In my opinion it’s a very big problem that geologists and geophysics (and climate scientists for that matter) have not adopted the ideals of the growing open science movement. In particular, it is very difficult to find any proper scientific papers on fracking and issues associated with fracking that aren’t hidden behind a paywall. If working scientists find it difficult to access the literature how can we expect non-scientists to come to an informed conclusion?

Here’s an exception: a rare, peer-reviewed scientific article about hydraulic fracturing. The abstract of the paper reads:

The widespread use of hydraulic fracturing (HF) has raised concerns about potential upward migration of HF fluid and brine via induced fractures and faults. We developed a relationship that predicts maximum fracture height as a function of HF fluid volume. These predictions generally bound the vertical extent of microseismicity from over 12,000 HF stimulations across North America. All microseismic events were less than 600 m above well perforations, although most were much closer. Areas of shear displacement (including faults) estimated from microseismic data were comparatively small (radii on the order of 10 m or less). These findings suggest that fracture heights are limited by HF fluid volume regardless of whether the fluid interacts with faults. Direct hydraulic communication between tight formations and shallow groundwater via induced fractures and faults is not a realistic expectation based on the limitations on fracture height growth and potential fault slip.

However, it is important to realise that, as noted in the acknowledgements, the work on which this paper is based was funded by “Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., a company that is active in the hydraulic fracturing industry in sedimentary basins around the world”. And therein lies the rub. In the interest of balance here is a link to a blog post on fracking in the USA, the first paragraph of which reads:

For some time now, proponents of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” have claimed there was little or no evidence of real risk to groundwater. But as the classic saying goes: “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” of a problem. And the evidence that fracking can contaminate groundwater and drinking water wells is growing stronger with every new study.

I encourage you to read it, but if you do please carry on to the comments where you will see detailed counter-arguments. My point is not to say that one side is right and the other is wrong, but that there are scientists on both sides of the argument.

What I would like to see is a proper independent scientific study of the geological and geophysical risks related of hydraulic fracturing, subjected to proper peer review and publish on an open access platform along with all related data; by “independent”, I mean not funded by the shale gas industry. I’m not accusing any scientists of being in the pockets of the fracking lobby, but it may look like that to the general public. If  there is to be public trust such studies then they will have to be seen to be unbiased.

Anyway, in an attempt to gauge the attitude to fracking of my totally unrepresentative readership, I thought I’d relaunch the little poll I tried a  while ago:

And if you have strong opinions, please feel free to use the comments box.

Discrete Analysis — an arXiv overlay journal

Posted in Open Access with tags on September 11, 2015 by telescoper


Good to see this experiment getting under way. Announcements about a similar (though not identical) initiative for Astrophysics and Cosmology (currently under beta testing) will appear shortly…

Originally posted on Gowers's Weblog:

This post is to announce the start of a new mathematics journal, to be called Discrete Analysis. While in most respects it will be just like any other journal, it will be unusual in one important way: it will be purely an arXiv overlay journal. That is, rather than publishing, or even electronically hosting, papers, it will consist of a list of links to arXiv preprints. Other than that, the journal will be entirely conventional: authors will submit links to arXiv preprints, and then the editors of the journal will find referees, using their quick opinions and more detailed reports in the usual way in order to decide which papers will be accepted.

Part of the motivation for starting the journal is, of course, to challenge existing models of academic publishing and to contribute in a small way to creating an alternative and much cheaper system. However, I hope that…

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Why traditional scientific journals are redundant

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on August 20, 2015 by telescoper

Was it really six years ago that I first blogged about the Academic Journal Racket which siphons off millions from hard-pressed research budgets into the coffers of profiteering publishing houses?

Change is coming much more slowly over the last few years than I had anticipated when I wrote that piece, but at least there are signs that other disciplines are finally cottoning on to the fact that the old-style model of learned journals is way past its sell-by date. This has been common knowledge in Physics and Astronomy for some time, as I’ve explained many times on this blog. But, although most wouldn’t like to admit it, academics are really a very conservative bunch.

Question: How many academics does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Change!!???

Today I came across a link to a paper on the arXiv which I should have known about before; it’s as old as my first post on this subject. It’s called Citing and Reading Behaviours in High-Energy Physics. How a Community Stopped Worrying about Journals and Learned to Love Repositories, and it basically demonstrates that in High-Energy Physics there is a massive advantage in publishing papers in open repositories, specifically the arXiv.Here is the killer plot:

citations_arXivThis contains fairly old data (up to 2009) but I strongly suspect the effect is even more marked than it was six years ago.

I’d take the argument further, in fact. I’d say that journals are completely unnecessary. I find all my research papers on the arXiv and most of my colleagues do the same. We don’t need journals yet we keep paying for them. The only thing that journals provide is peer review, but that is done free of charge by academics anyway. The profits of their labour go entirely to the publishers.

Fortunately, things will start to change in my own field of astrophysics – for which the picture is very similar to high-energy physics. All we need to do is to is dispense with the old model of a journal and replace it with a reliable and efficient reviewing system that interfaces with the arXiv. Then we’d have a genuinely useful thing. And it’s not as far off as you might think.

Watch this space.

“Dutch universities start their Elsevier boycott plan”

Posted in Open Access with tags , on July 3, 2015 by telescoper


Good for them!

Originally posted on Bibliographic Wilderness:

“We are entering a new era in publications”, said Koen Becking, chairman of the Executive Board of Tilburg University in October. On behalf of the Dutch universities, he and his colleague Gerard Meijer negotiate with scientific publishers about an open access policy. They managed to achieve agreements with some publishers, but not with the biggest one, Elsevier. Today, they start their plan to boycott Elsevier.

Dutch universities start their Elsevier boycott plan

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