Archive for the Open Access Category

Thirty Years of Preprints

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on February 21, 2021 by telescoper

I thought I’d share an interesting paper (by Xie, Shen & Wang) that I found on the arXiv with the title Is preprint the future of science? A thirty year journey of online preprint services. The abstract reads:

Preprint is a version of a scientific paper that is publicly distributed preceding formal peer review. Since the launch of arXiv in 1991, preprints have been increasingly distributed over the Internet as opposed to paper copies. It allows open online access to disseminate the original research within a few days, often at a very low operating cost. This work overviews how preprint has been evolving and impacting the research community over the past thirty years alongside the growth of the Web. In this work, we first report that the number of preprints has exponentially increased 63 times in 30 years, although it only accounts for 4% of research articles. Second, we quantify the benefits that preprints bring to authors: preprints reach an audience 14 months earlier on average and associate with five times more citations compared with a non-preprint counterpart. Last, to address the quality concern of preprints, we discover that 41% of preprints are ultimately published at a peer-reviewed destination, and the published venues are as influential as papers without a preprint version. Additionally, we discuss the unprecedented role of preprints in communicating the latest research data during recent public health emergencies. In conclusion, we provide quantitative evidence to unveil the positive impact of preprints on individual researchers and the community. Preprints make scholarly communication more efficient by disseminating scientific discoveries more rapidly and widely with the aid of Web technologies. The measurements we present in this study can help researchers and policymakers make informed decisions about how to effectively use and responsibly embrace a preprint culture.

The paper makes a number of good arguments, backed up with evidence, as to why preprints are a good idea. I recommend reading it.

Here is Figure 1 from the paper:

(Parts of the chart are difficult to read, so see the paper for details).

This shows that about 50% of all preprints are in the areas of physics and mathematics and their distribution mode is predominantly through the arXiv. Other scientific disciplines have much lower prevalence of preprints, e.g. biology. I’ve been putting my papers on arXiv since the early Nineties, i.e. for most of the duration of the period covered by the paper. I don’t know why other fields are so backward.

It’s standard practice in my own field of astrophysics to put preprints of articles on the arXiv but younger readers will probably not realize that preprints were not always produced in the electronic form they are today. We all used to make large numbers of these and post them at great expense to (potentially) interested colleagues before publication in order to get comments. That was extremely useful because a paper could take over a year to be published after being refereed for a journal: that’s too long a timescale when a PhD or PDRA position is only a few years in duration. The first papers I was given to read as a new graduate student in 1985 were all preprints that were not published until well into the following year. In some cases I had more or less figured out what they were about by the time they appeared in a journal!

The practice of circulating preprints persisted well into the 1990s. Usually these were produced by institutions with a distinctive design, logo, etc which gave them a professional look, which made it easier to distinguish `serious’ papers from crank material (which was also in circulation). This also suggested that some internal refereeing inside an institution had taken place before an “official” preprint was produced and this lending it an air of trustworthiness. Smaller institutions couldn’t afford all this, so were somewhat excluded from the preprint business.

With the arrival of the arXiv the practice of circulating hard copies of preprints in astrophysics gradually died out, to be replaced by ever-increasing numbers of electronic articles. The arXiv does have some gatekeeping – in the sense there are some controls on who can deposit a preprint there – but it is definitely far easier to circulate a preprint now than it was.

It is still the case that big institutions and collaborations insist on quite strict internal refereeing before publishing a preprint – and some even insist on waiting for a paper to be accepted by a journal before adding it to the arXiv – but there’s no denying that among the wheat there is quite a lot of chaff, some of which attracts media coverage that it does not deserve. It must be admitted, however, that the same can be said of some papers that have passed peer review and appeared in high-profile journals! No system that is operated by human beings will ever be flawless, and peer review is no different.

Nowadays, in astrophysics, the single most important point of access to scientific literature is through the arXiv, which is why the Open Journal of Astrophysics was set up as an overlay journal to provide a level of rigorous peer review for preprints, not only to provide a sort of quality mark but also to improve the paper through the editorial process.

So is the preprint the future of science? I think that depends on how far ahead you are willing to look. In my opinion we are currently in an era of transition trying to shoehorn old publishing practices into a digital world. At some point in the future people will realize that the scientific paper itself – whether a preprint or not – is an outmoded 18th Century concept and there are far more effective ways of disseminating scientific ideas and information at our fingertips if only we stopped living in the past.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2021 by telescoper

Time to announce another publication in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was published yesterday, actually, but I didn’t get time to post about it until just now. It is the second paper in Volume 4 (2021).

The latest publication is entitled Characterizing the Sample Selection for Supernova Cosmology and is written by Alex G. Kim on behalf of the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration.  It’s nice to be getting papers from large collaborations like this!

Here is a screen grab of the overlay which includes the abstract:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here. This is one for the Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics folder.

Open Journal of Astrophysics Impact Factor Poll

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on February 5, 2021 by telescoper

A few people ask from time to time about whether the Open Journal of Astrophysics has a Journal Impact Factor.

For those of you in the dark about this, the impact factor for Year N, which is usually published in year N+1, is based on the average number of citations obtained in Year N for papers published in Years N-1 and N-2 so it requires two complete years of publishing.

For the OJA, therefore, the first time an official IF can be constructed is for 2021, which would be published is in 2022 and it would be based on the citations gained in 2021 (this year) for papers published in 2019 and 2020. Earlier years were incomplete so no IF can be defined.

It is my personal view that article-level level bibliometric data are far more useful than journal-level descriptors such as the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). I think the Impact Factor is very silly actually. Unfortunately, however, there are some bureaucrats that seem to think that the Journal Impact Factor is important and some of our authors think we should apply to have an official one.
What do you think? If you have an opinion you can vote on the twitter poll here:

I should add that my criticisms of the Journal Impact Factor are not about the Open Journal’s own citation performance. We have every reason to believe our impact factor would be pretty high.

Comments welcome.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on February 2, 2021 by telescoper

Time to announce the first publication of 2021 in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was actually published a few days ago but  it took a bit of time to get the metadata and DOI registered so I held off announcing it until that was done.

The latest publication is a lengthy and comprehensive review article (67 pages altogether) by Allahverdi et al. which has 26 authors from all round the world. It is entitled The First Three Seconds: a Review of Possible Expansion Histories of the Early Universe and is a study of the various possible evolutionary histories of cosmic expansion possible with a wide range of cosmological models with their implications for baryogenesis, nucleosynthesis, primordial gravitational wave production, and many other things besides.

Here is a screen grab of the overlay:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here. This is one for the Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics folder.

And so Volume 4 begins. Volume 3 had 15 papers, Volume 2 had 12 , and Volume 1 just 4 so we’re growing slowly but surely! Let’s see how many we publish in 2021. I can tell you  we have some very exciting papers in the pipeline…

And the most viewed paper at the Open Journal of Astrophysics in 2020 is…

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2021 by telescoper

Yesterday I was looking at the Publishing Analytics tool on the Open Journal of Astrophysics to see which paper(s) had attracted the most interest in 2020. The winner in terms of  page views is  this paper, A Beginner’s Guide to working with Astronomical Data. Here is a grab of the overlay:

You can find the arXiv version of the paper here.

The author is Markus Pössel of the Haus der Astronomie at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg (Germany). This is a long paper – 71 pages with over a hundred figures – that gives a comprehensive introduction to the various kinds of astronomical data and techniques for working with such data. This paper has obviously attracted a lot of interest from many different kinds of people, especially  students doing undergraduate projects involving astronomical data (and their supervisors). It has had more than three times as many views as the runner-up.

It’s interesting to note that this paper has not yet obtained any citations from academic papers through the Crossref system and it may never that because of the kind of paper it is. Nevertheless, I think this is a valuable resource for the astronomical community and I am very glad we published it. I do hope, however, that anyone who does use this paper does remember to cite it!

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that we do not track download statistics for the papers we publish. This is because the PDF files are held on the arXiv, which does not publish download statistics for individual papers.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2020 by telescoper

Just time before Christmas to announce another paper in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was actually published a few days ago but because of holiday delays it took some time to get the metadata and DOI registered so I held off announcing it until that was done.

The latest publication is by my colleague* John Regan (of the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth), John Wise (Georgia Tech), Tyrone Woods (NRC Canada), Turlough Downes (DCU), Brian O’Shea (Michigan State) and Michael Norman (UCSD). It is entitled The Formation of Very Massive Stars in Early Galaxies and Implications for Intermediate Mass Black Holes and appears in the Astrophysics of Galaxies section of the arXiv.

Here is a screen grab of the overlay:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here.

I think that will be that for for 2020 at the Open Journal of Astrophysics. We have published 15 papers this year, up 25% on last year. Growth is obviously modest, but there’s obviously a lot of inertia in the academic community. After the end of this year we will have two full consecutive years of publishing.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our authors, readers, referees, and editors for supporting the Open Journal of Astrophysics and wish you all the very best for 2021!

*Obviously, owing to the institutional conflict I recused myself from the editorial process on this paper.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2020 by telescoper

The Christmas rush is definitely upon us and papers are queuing up to be published in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. The latest publication is by Tom Kitching and Anurag Deshpande of MSSL (University College London) and Peter Taylor of JPL (Caltech). It is entitled Propagating residual biases in masked cosmic shear power spectra. This is another one for the folder marked Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics.

Here is a screen grab of the overlay:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here.

When I last posted about a new OJA paper I mentioned that it seemed to be taking authors longer than usual to make revisions. There are signs now that some authors are trying to get papers off their desk before the Christmas break so we may have two or three more to publish before the year is out.

P.S. Last week I received an offer from a commercial organization to buy the Open Journal of Astrophysics. I replied politely that it is not for sale.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics!

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on December 10, 2020 by telescoper

Time to announce another new paper in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. The latest publication is by Johan Comparat and 27 others – too numerous to list individually here –  and is entitled Full-sky photon simulation of clusters and active galactic nuclei in the soft X-rays for eROSITA. This is another one for the Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics folder.

This paper is closely connected to the eROSITA instrument which is why it involves a considerable number of authors in different institutions – the current record length for an OJAp author list – though this is by no means a large collaboration by the standards of astrophysics and cosmology! It’s good to see some big names in there though!

Here is a screen grab of the overlay:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here.

With this paper we have exceeded the number of papers published last year. We do in fact have quite a few in the pipeline but owing to the ongoing pandemic there have been some refereeing delays and in some cases authors are taking more time than expected to do the “revise and resubmit” routine. I think there are plenty of other people around who are just as tired as I am! Perhaps we’ll see a clutch emerging in the New Year!

Plan S – are you compliant?

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on November 19, 2020 by telescoper

Those nice people at cOAlition S have produced a new online tool that allows authors to check whether a given academic journal complies with the requirements of Plan S as they apply to a given funder and institution. For information on how ot works see here. For the actual tool (beta version) see here.

Obviously I checked how it applies to the Open Journal of Astrophysics and here’s an example result!

Open Access, but at what cost?

Posted in Open Access with tags , on October 23, 2020 by telescoper

I couldn’t resist passing on the news that the Max Planck Digital Library has signed an agreement with the Nature Publishing Group to enable authors in about 120 German institutes to publish Open Access articles in Nature journals.

That’s the set up, now here’s the punchline.

Each paper published in this way will cost the authors – or more accurately the authors’ institutes and/or research grants – the sum of €9,500.

No that’s not a misprint. It’s about $11,200, or about £8600. For each paper. Typical article processing charges in the range of $2000 or so are already out of all proportion to the cost of publishing scientific papers; at this level they are simply ridiculous. Recent experiences suggest these charges are out of all proportion to the quality of the editorial process too!

The person who negotiated the arrangement, Ralf Schimmer, Head of Information at the MPDL seems to think it is a good deal. It’s certainly a good deal for Nature Publishing Group, but to anyone else it’s yet another egregious example of profiteering by the academic journal industry. The Academic Journal Racket strikes again!

Why is that so many academics and learned societies fail to see the extent to which they are being ripped off by these publishers? The only explanation I can think of is that it is the same reason why some people pay to produce vanity publications…