Archive for the Open Access Category

Open Science in the European Union

Posted in Open Access, Science Politics with tags , on May 29, 2016 by telescoper

A few days ago I noticed a remarkable announcement about a meeting of European Ministers in Brussels relating to Open Access Publishing.This has subsequently been picked up by the Grauniad and has been creating quite a stir.

To summarise the report coming out of the meeting, here is a quotation from the draft communique, which states that they

…welcome open access to scientific publications as the option by default for publishing the results of publicly-funded research..

They also plan to

To remove financial and legal barriers, and to take the necessary steps for successful implementation in all scientific domains.

In a nutshell, the proposal is a move to abandon the traditional journal subscription model and embrace freely-available scientific research by 2020.

This is definitely a very good move. My only worry is that those involved seem not to have been able to make a decision on whether to go for the Green or Gold Open Access Model. The latter route has, in my opinion, been grossly abused by profiteering academic publishers who charge eye-watering “processing fees” for open access. I hope this initiative by the EU is not hijacked by vested interests as was the case with the UK’s Finch Report.

There’s clearly a lot more to be done before this proposal can be implemented, but it’s a very positive development the EU which will benefit science, both in the UK and across the continent, hugely. The European Union’s enthusiastic embrace of the principles of open access to scientific research is just one more to add to the list of reasons to remain.

 

 

 

Yes, academic publishers are greedy (and dishonest)

Posted in Open Access, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 22, 2016 by telescoper

I saw a blatant piece of propaganda in the Guardian the other day, written by the Chief Executive of the Publishers Association.The piece argues that the academic publishing industry benefits the academic community through “innovation and development” and by doing so “adds value” to the raw material supplied by researchers. This is nonsense. The academic publishing industry does not add any value to anything. It just adds cost. And by so doing generates huge profits for itself.

I was annoyed by several other things relating to this item:

  1. It’s written by a vested interest but is presented without a balancing opinion, which makes one wonder why the Guardian is allowing itself to be used as a mouthpiece by these profiteers;
  2. It has been tweeted and retweeed by the Publishers Association several times, as if it were a piece of reporting instead of what it actually is, essentially a commercial;
  3. Some of the claims made in the piece are so risible that they’re insulting.

However, the most annoying thing for me is that I’ve been too busy marking examinations to let off steam by writing a riposte.

I should have worried however, because scrolling down to the comments on the article you can easily find out what academics really think. Moreover, there’s an excellent rebuttal by Mike Taylor here, which I shall reblog.

 

 

 

Sinister Moves by Elsevier

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on May 18, 2016 by telescoper

I’ve been away at yet another Awayday today so only have time for a brief post before I go home and vegetate. I felt obliged, however, to draw the attention of my readership to the fact that there’s something sinister afoot in the world of academic publishing. It seems that the notoriously exploitative academic publishing company Elsevier has acquired the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), which is  the leading social science and humanities repository and online community. The SSRN currently allows readers free access more than 500,000 academic papers for free but that is highly likely to change under Elsevier whose previous practice has always been to squeeze the academic community for every penny it can get. In particular, Elsevier has a reputation for cracking down on academic papers for which it owns licences, so these recent acquisitions look like very bad news.

The Chairman of SSRN is  trying to present this as a positive move:

SSRN announced today that it has changed ownership. SSRN is joining Mendeley and Elsevier to coordinate our development and delivery of new products and services, and we look forward to our new access to data, products, and additional resources that this change facilitates.

Like SSRN, Mendeley and Elsevier are focused on creating tools that enhance researcher workflow and productivity. SSRN has been at the forefront of on-line sharing of working papers. We are committed to continue our innovation and this change will enable that to happen more quickly. SSRN will benefit from access to the vast new data and resources available, including Mendeley’s reference management and personal library management tools, their new researcher profile capabilities, and social networking features. Importantly, we will also have new access for SSRN members to authoritative performance measurement tools such as those powered by Scopus and Newsflo (a global media tracking tool). In addition, SSRN, Mendeley and Elsevier together can cooperatively build bridges to close the divide between the previously separate worlds and workflows of working papers and published papers.

We realize that this change may create some concerns about the intentions of a legacy publisher acquiring an open-access working paper repository. I shared this concern. But after much discussion about this matter and others in determining if Mendeley and Elsevier would be a good home for SSRN, I am convinced that they would be good stewards of our mission. And our copyright policies are not in conflict — our policy has always been to host only papers that do not infringe on copyrights. I expect we will have some conflicts as we align our interests, but I believe those will be surmountable.

Until recently I was convinced that the SSRN community was best served being a stand-alone entity. But in evaluating our future in the evolving landscape, I came to believe that SSRN would benefit from being more interconnected and with the resources available from a larger organization. For example, there is scale in systems administration and security, and SSRN can provide more value to users with access to more data and resources.

On a personal note, it has been an honor to be involved over the past 25 years in the founding and growth of the SSRN website and the incredible community of authors, researchers and institutions that has made this all possible. I consider it one of my great accomplishments in life. The community would not have been successful without the commitment of so many of you who have contributed in so many ways. I am proud of the community we have created, and I invite you to continue your involvement and support in this effort.

The staff at SSRN are all staying (including Gregg Gordon, CEO and myself), the Rochester office is still in place, it will still be free to upload and download papers, and we remain committed to “Tomorrow’s Research Today”. I look forward to and am committed to a successful transition and to another great 25 years for the SSRN community that rivals the first.

Michael C. Jensen
Founder & Chairman, SSRN

It sounds like they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse…

I don’t think Elsevier’s involvement in this is likely to prove beneficial to anything other than their own profits. Elsevier is one of the biggest problems in academic publishing and can  never be part of the solution.

My main concern, however,  is  that some day Elsevier might launch a hostile takeover bid for the arXiv, which would be a major setback to the physics community’s efforts to promote the free exchange of scientific papers. That must be resisted at all costs. How did the academic community allow its publishing culture to be hijacked by such companies?

 

 

 

 

Discrete Analysis launched

Posted in Open Access on March 1, 2016 by telescoper

I’m reblogging this to congratulate Tim Gowers on the launch of his new arXiv overlay journal, Discrete Mathematics. I wish this venture every success!

The Open Journal of Astrophysics won’t be far behind, and hopefully this will be the start of a real change to “the absurdly expensive and anachronistic system of academic publishing” that Tim Gowers describes in his post!

Gowers's Weblog

As you may remember from an earlier post on this blog, Discrete Analysis is a new mathematics journal that runs just like any other journal except in one respect: the articles we publish live on the arXiv. This is supposed to highlight the fact that in the internet age, and in particular in an age when it is becoming routine for mathematicians to deposit their articles on the arXiv before they submit them to journals, the only important function left for journals is organizing peer review. Since this is done through the voluntary work of academics, it should in principle be possible to run a journal for almost nothing. The legacy publishers (as they are sometimes called) frequently call people naive for suggesting this, so it is important to have actual examples to prove it, and Discrete Analysis is set up to be one such example. Its website goes…

View original post 1,623 more words

The Open Journal of Astrophysics: Update

Posted in Open Access with tags on February 25, 2016 by telescoper

Just a quick post to update you all on the Open Journal of Astrophysics project. The journal was opened to submissions just before Christmas 2015 and we’ve been putting papers through our editorial processes since then. We did plan to go live in January, but we have not yet done so because we haven’t had enough publishable articles. It has taken a bit longer than we expected partly because of the relatively low numbers of papers submitted – presumably because authors are understandably nervous about submitting to a new journal – but also because editors and referees are still learning how to use the system, which has slowed us down a bit. However the submissions we have had have allowed us to test the platform and do a bit of tinkering behind the scenes. We also fixed a bug that caused a problem when the site was viewed using Safari (rather than a proper browser).

I’m always delighted when I see something like this on the daily arXiv listing:

OJ_planet

That and several other papers are already in the system but we could do with a few more to join the first batch of half-a-dozen or so we intend to publish soon. For that reason I’m appending below some information I’ve already circulated about the philosophy of the project and the practicalities of how to submit a paper.

–0–

We no longer need traditional academics journals to disseminate research in astrophysics and cosmology. We all post our research to the arXiv and read other papers there too. It’s been years since I last accessed a paper in a journal.  The only useful function that journals provide is peer review, and we in the research community do that (usually for free) anyway.  We only need journals for peer review, although we also like the prestige that is associated with them. But traditional journals have an unnecessarily slow and expensive editorial process, along with a nasty habit of placing the articles they publish behind a paywall.

The Open Journal does things differently, because we are not a publisher in the traditional sense. Instead, we are a peer-review platform, piggybacking on the arXiv for all the “publishing.” The Open Journal provides peer review for arXiv articles, making the process as fast and easy as we can. Once peer review for a particular article is successfully completed, we mark that article as accepted and send that information to the arXiv. Accepted articles will receive a DOI, and citations to them will get picked up through the CrossRef system just as they would in any other journal — but in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost. In fact, the service is provided free of charge both for authors and readers. There is no Article Processing Charge, no submission fee and no subscription is payable. The Open Journal is a service to the academic community, not a profit-making venture.

Moreover, articles published by the Open Journal are open, in that all articles  are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The infrastructure is open too – the code running the Open Journal is available under an MIT license. The reviewer comments can be made open too, with the agreement of both the authors and reviewer(s).  In the long run I hope  that the community will embrace the spirit of open reviewing so anonymous confidential reviews will become the exception rather than the rule, but we’ll see how that goes just for now.

Any paper that’s suitable for the astro-ph section of the arXiv can be subvmitted to the Open Journal of Astrophysics. We will consider any “traditional” papers as well as others which may find it difficult to get into other journals, such as papers on astrophysics education or outreach or technical papers relating to instrumentation, mission proposals, and other documents.

Now, to business. The best way to get an idea of how the Open Journal works is by watching the following video (which was made using a beta version of the site, but nothing much has changed except for a few layout issues being changed):

Note that the site is currently just called the Open Journal, which is so that it can be used with minimal modification to create similar journals in other fields.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing here’s a quick summary of the steps you have to take to submit to the Open Journal.

  1.  If you don’t have one already, get an ORCID ID!
  2. Write your paper. There is latex style file you can use here, although it is not compulsory to use this and we will allow anything that produces a PDF that can be viewed easily using our mark-up tool. Single-column is strongly preferred.
  3. Submit your paper to the arXiv. You have to be registered in order to do this. Note also that you have to be prepared to submit your paper to the arXiv before it is reviewed. There is an enormous advantage in doing this, actually, as you may get more comments and suggestions than our refereeing system will generate.
  4. Log on to the Open Journal website
  5. Go to the submit tab on the left hand side of the screen.
  6. Type in the arXiv reference of your paper (you can do this in various ways)
  7. Our software will assign the paper to an editor, who will then select referee(s). Each referee makes comments by marking “issues” on the PDF, each of which needs a reply from the author. When all issues are resolved the paper is accepted. If revision is required a new version can be submitted to the arXiv which will be picked up by the software.
  8. When it us ready our software will automatically assign a DOI and write it to the appropriate field in the arXiv.
  9. That’s it! The paper is published and can be accessed either directly on the arXiv or through the Open Journal website.
  10. Go and have a beer.

One other thing is worth mentioning. Because this service is provided free we do not have the effort required to undertake extensive copy-editing or rewriting of papers that are very poorly written. If the editor or referee deems a paper to be unfit for review then we will refer the author to a professional writing and editing service who will charge a fee depending on the length and complexity of the task.

As well as submissions we are also looking for new editors. At the moment our Editorial Board is dominated by cosmologists but as word gets round we will probably need expertise in other areas of astrophysics. If you’d like to volunteer please send me an email or use the comment box below.

Well, that’s about it. I just remains for me to thank all the people without whom this project would never have got off the ground, chiefly Chris Lintott, Arfon Smith and Adam Becker, developers Stuart Lynn and Marc Rohloff, and of course the good folk of the wonderful arXiv!

 

Measuring the lack of impact of journal papers

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , on February 4, 2016 by telescoper

I’ve been involved in a depressing discussion on the Astronomers facebook page, part of which was about the widespread use of Journal Impact factors by appointments panels, grant agencies, promotion committees, and so on. It is argued (by some) that younger researchers should be discouraged from publishing in, e.g., the Open Journal of Astrophysics, because it doesn’t have an impact factor and they would therefore be jeopardising their research career. In fact it takes two years for new journal to acquire an impact factor so if you take this advice seriously nobody should ever publish in any new journal.

For the record, I will state that no promotion committee, grant panel or appointment process I’ve ever been involved in has even mentioned impact factors. However, it appears that some do, despite the fact that they are demonstrably worse than useless at measuring the quality of publications. You can find comprehensive debunking of impact factors and exposure of their flaws all over the internet if you care to look: a good place to start is Stephen Curry’s article here.  I’d make an additional point here, which is that the impact factor uses citation information for the journal as a whole as a sort of proxy measure of the research quality of papers publish in it. But why on Earth should one do this when citation information for each paper is freely available? Why use a proxy when it’s trivial to measure the real thing?

The basic statistical flaw behind impact factors is that they are based on the arithmetic mean number of citations per paper. Since the distribution of citations in all journals is very skewed, this number is dragged upwards by a few papers with extremely large numbers of citations. In fact, most papers published have many few citations than the impact factor of a journal. It’s all very misleading, especially when used as a marketing tool by cynical academic publishers.

Thinking about this on the bus on my way into work this morning I decided to suggest a couple of bibliometric indices that should help put impact factors into context. I urge relevant people to calculate these for their favourite journals:

  • The Dead Paper Fraction (DPF). This is defined to be the fraction of papers published in the journal that receive no citations at all in the census period.  For journals with an impact factor of a few, this is probably a majority of the papers published.
  • The Unreliability of Impact Factor Factor (UIFF). This is defined to be the fraction of papers with fewer citations than the Impact Factor. For many journals this is most of their papers, and the larger this fraction is the more unreliable their Impact Factor is.

Another usefel measure for individual papers is

  • The Corrected Impact Factor. If a paper with a number N of actual citations is published in a journal with impact factor I then the corrected impact factor is C=N-I. For a deeply uninteresting paper published in a flashily hyped journal this will be large and negative, and should be viewed accordingly by relevant panels.

Other suggestions for citation metrics less stupid than the impact factor are welcome through the comments box…

 

The Open Journal is Open for Submissions!

Posted in Open Access on December 22, 2015 by telescoper

It has taken a lot longer to get to this point than I thought it would when I first proposed the Open Journal of Astrophysics way back in 2012 but better late than never!

For a while now we have been testing the platform with submissions we have solicited quietly for a while now and are satisfied that it works so we can now open up to the general public. The journal itself will go live early in the New Year when we have completed the refereeing process for those papers currently in the pipeline. There will be quite a few further things to announce then too.

Before I give more instructions on how to submit let me briefly recap the philosophy of the Open Journal project.

We no longer need traditional academics journals to disseminate research in astrophysics and cosmology. We all post our research to the arXiv and read other papers there too. It’s been years since I last accessed a paper in a journal.  The only useful function that journals provide is peer review, and we in the research community do that (usually for free) anyway.  We only need journals for peer review, although we also like the prestige that is associated with them. But traditional journals have an unnecessarily slow and expensive editorial process, along with a nasty habit of placing the articles they publish behind a paywall.

The Open Journal does things differently, because we are not a publisher in the traditional sense. Instead, we are a peer-review platform, piggybacking on the arXiv for all the “publishing.” The Open Journal provides peer review for arXiv articles, making the process as fast and easy as we can. Once peer review for a particular article is successfully completed, we mark that article as accepted and send that information to the arXiv. Accepted articles will receive a DOI, and citations to them will get picked up through the CrossRef system just as they would in any other journal — but in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost. In fact, the service is provided free of charge both for authors and readers. There is no Article Processing Charge, no submission fee and no subscription is payable. The Open Journal is a service to the academic community, not a profit-making venture.

Moreover, articles published by the Open Journal are open, in that all articles  are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The infrastructure is open too – the code running the Open Journal is available under an MIT license. The reviewer comments can be made open too, with the agreement of both the authors and reviewer(s).  In the long run I hope  that the community will embrace the spirit of open reviewing so anonymous confidential reviews will become the exception rather than the rule, but we’ll see how that goes just for now.

Any paper that’s suitable for the astro-ph section of the arXiv can be subvmitted to the Open Journal of Astrophysics. We will consider any “traditional” papers as well as others which may find it difficult to get into other journals, such as papers on astrophysics education or outreach or technical papers relating to instrumentation, mission proposals, and other documents.

Now, to business. The best way to get an idea of how the Open Journal works is by watching the following video (which was made using a beta version of the site, but nothing much has changed except for a few layout issues being changed):

Note that the site is currently just called the Open Journal, which is so that it can be used with minimal modification to create similar journals in other fields.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing here’s a quick summary of the steps you have to take to submit to the Open Journal.

  1.  If you don’t have one already, get an ORCID ID!
  2. Write your paper. There is latex style file you can use here, although it is not compulsory to use this and we will allow anything that produces a PDF that can be viewed easily using our mark-up tool. Single-column is strongly preferred.
  3. Submit your paper to the arXiv. You have to be registered in order to do this. Note also that you have to be prepared to submit your paper to the arXiv before it is reviewed. There is an enormous advantage in doing this, actually, as you may get more comments and suggestions than our refereeing system will generate.
  4. Log on to the Open Journal website
  5. Go to the submit tab on the left hand side of the screen.
  6. Type in the arXiv reference of your paper (you can do this in various ways)
  7. Our software will assign the paper to an editor, who will then select referee(s). Each referee makes comments by marking “issues” on the PDF, each of which needs a reply from the author. When all issues are resolved the paper is accepted. If revision is required a new version can be submitted to the arXiv which will be picked up by the software.
  8. When it us ready our software will automatically assign a DOI and write it to the appropriate field in the arXiv.
  9. That’s it! The paper is published and can be accessed either directly on the arXiv or through the Open Journal website.
  10. Go and have a beer.

One other thing is worth mentioning. Because this service is provided free we do not have the effort required to undertake extensive copy-editing or rewriting of papers that are very poorly written. If the editor or referee deems a paper to be unfit for review then we will refer the author to a professional writing and editing service who will charge a fee depending on the length and complexity of the task.

As well as submissions we are also looking for new editors. At the moment our Editorial Board is dominated by cosmologists but as word gets round we will probably need expertise in other areas of astrophysics. If you’d like to volunteer please send me an email or use the comment box below.

Well, that’s about it. I just remains for me to thank all the people without whom this project would never have got off the ground, chiefly Chris Lintott, Arfon Smith and Adam Becker, developers Stuart Lynn and Marc Rohloff, and of course the good folk of the wonderful arXiv!

 

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