Archive for the Open Access Category

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on July 7, 2021 by telescoper

Time to announce another publication in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was actually published last Friday, but I didn’t get time to post about it until just now. It is the fifth paper in Volume 4 (2021) and the 36th paper in all.

The latest publication is entitled Gravitational Wave Direct Detection does not Constrain the Tensor Spectral Index at CMB Scales and the author is Will Kinney of the State University of New York at Buffalo (which is SUNY Buffalo, for short).

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 one is, fairly obviously, in the Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics folder..

Over the last few months I have noticed that it has taken a bit longer to get referee reports on papers and also for authors to complete their revisions. I think that’s probably a consequence of the pandemic and people being generally overworked. We do have a number of papers at various stages of the pipeline, so although we’re a bit behind where we were last year in terms of papers published I think may well catch up in the next month or two.

I’ll end with a reminder to prospective authors that the OJA  now has the facility to include supplementary files (e.g. code or data sets) along with the papers we publish. If any existing authors (i.e. of papers we have already published) would like us to add supplementary files retrospectively then please contact us with a request!

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on June 7, 2021 by telescoper

Time to announce another publication in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was actually published on Friday actually, but I didn’t get time to post about it until just now. It is the fourth paper in Volume 4 (2021) and the 35th paper in all.

The latest publication is entitled The local vertical density distribution of ultracool dwarfs M7 to L2.5 and their luminosity function and the ultracool authors are Steve Warren (Imperial College), Saad Ahmed (Open University) and Richard Laithwaite (Imperial College).

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 one is in the Astrophysics of Galaxies section but it also has overlap with Solar and Stellar Astrophysics.

Over the last few months I have noticed that it has taken a bit longer to get referee reports on papers and also for authors to complete their revisions. I think that’s probably a consequence of the pandemic and people being generally overworked. We do have a number of papers at various stages of the pipeline, so although we’re a bit behind where we were last year in terms of papers published I think may well catch up in the next month or two.

I’ll end with a reminder to prospective authors that the OJA  now has the facility to include supplementary files (e.g. code or data sets) along with the papers we publish. If any existing authors (i.e. of papers we have already published) would like us to add supplementary files retrospectively then please contact us with a request!

Open Science and Open Software

Posted in Open Access, Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on May 22, 2021 by telescoper

As the regular readers of this blog – both of them – will know, I’ve been banging on from time to time about Open Access to scientific publications. After posting a video featuring Volker Springel and the GADGET-4 code I thought I’d return to an issue that came up briefly in my recent talk about Open Access and the Open Journal of Astrophysics here which is the question whether open access to scientific results enough, or do we have to go a lot further?

An important aspect of the way science works is that when a given individual or group publishes a result, it should be possible for others to reproduce it (or not as the case may be). Traditional journal publications don’t always allow this. In my own field of astrophysics/cosmology, for example, results in scientific papers are often based on very complicated analyses of large data sets. This is increasingly the case in other fields too. A basic problem obviously arises when data are not made public. Fortunately in astrophysics these days researchers are pretty good at sharing their data, although this hasn’t always been the case.

However, even allowing open access to data doesn’t always solve the reproducibility problem. Often extensive numerical codes are needed to process the measurements and extract meaningful output. Without access to these pipeline codes it is impossible for a third party to check the path from input to output without writing their own version assuming that there is sufficient information to do that in the first place. That researchers should publish their software as well as their results is quite a controversial suggestion, but I think it’s the best practice for science. There isn’t a uniform policy in astrophysics and cosmology, but I sense that quite a few people out there agree with me. Cosmological numerical simulations, for example, can be performed by anyone with a sufficiently big computer using GADGET the source codes of which are freely available. Likewise, for CMB analysis, there is the excellent CAMB code, which can be downloaded at will; this is in a long tradition of openly available numerical codes, including CMBFAST and HealPix. Researchers in these and other areas do tend to share their software on open-access repositories, especially GitHub.

I suspect some researchers might be reluctant to share the codes they have written because they feel they won’t get sufficient credit for work done using them. I don’t think this is true, as researchers are generally very appreciative of such openness and publications describing the corresponding codes are generously cited. In any case I don’t think it’s appropriate to withhold such programs from the wider community, which prevents them being either scrutinized or extended as well as being used to further scientific research. In other words excessively proprietorial attitudes to data analysis software are detrimental to the spirit of open science.

Anyway, my views are by no means guaranteed to be representative of the community, so I’d like to ask for a quick show of hands via a poll that I started about 8 years ago.

You are of course welcome to comment via the usual box, as long as you respect my comments policy…

Rights Retention, Open Access and Learned Society Publishing.

Posted in Open Access on May 4, 2021 by telescoper

The April 2021 issue of Physics World arrived this morning after the usual month in the post to Ireland. I don’t know why it takes so long. My copy of Private Eye usually takes just a couple of days.

Anyway, there is an interview in the latest issue with Steve Hall, the former Managing Director of IOP Publishing who stepped down last month. The piece is entitled The Future of Learned-Society Publishing. Here’s a short excerpt:

I laughed out loud when I read the bit about the “downsides” of a rights-retention policy (basically that authors of a work keep the copyright to their work). Such a policy would of course undermine the subscription model and the Gold Open Access models in the way Steven Hall describes, but that is exactly why it is a good idea as neither of these models is sustainable or justifiable. The Open Journal of Astrophysics – a Diamond Open Access journal fully compliant with Plan S – allows authors to own the copyright of their papers. I’d be astonished if anyone who has the best interests of scientific research at heart would argue against such a policy.

This interview does raise an interesting aspect of the ongoing debate about Open Access publishing is the extent to which “learned societies”, such as the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics, rely for their financial security upon the revenues generated by publishing traditional journals.

IOP Publishing is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Institute of Physics that generates a sizeable annual income – tends of millions of pounds – from books and journals. This is the largest source of the revenue 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.

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 in a blog post some time ago, 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 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 explains why such organizations have lobbied very hard for the “Gold” Open Access that is being foisted on the research community, rather than the far more justifiable Diamond Open Access.

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 by other modes of publication. The internet has changed the entire landscape of scientific publication. It’s now so cheap and so easy to disseminate knowledge that journals are already redundant, especially in my field of astrophysics. The “Gold” OA favoured by such organizations is unjustifiable and unsustainable and it won’t last. The IoP, RAS et al need to find another way of funding their activities pronto, or downsize accordingly.

The other problematic aspect of this approach 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 disseminating research. The learned societies do many good things – and some are indeed oustandingly good – but that does not give them the right to syphon off funds from their constituents in this way. Institutional affiliation, paid for by fee, would be a much fairer way of funding these activities than raiding library budgets.

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 in any case 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 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 fulfils 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.

But I wonder if the learned societies will go the same way. Is there a financial model according to which they can enjoy a stable and sustainable future? Are they actually needed? After all, if we can publish our own physics, why can’t we ourselves also promote it?

Cosmology Talks about the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on May 3, 2021 by telescoper

I have from time to time posted videos from the series of Cosmology Talks curated by Shaun Hotchkiss. These are usually technical talks at the level you might expect for a cosmology seminar, but this time it’s something different. Shaun asked me if I’d like to give a talk about the Open Journal of Astrophysics, so one night last week we recorded this. We ended up chatting about quite a lot of things so it turned out longer than most of the videos in the series, but it’s not a technical talk so I hope you’ll find it bearable!

Name Change Policy at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in LGBT, Open Access with tags , on April 27, 2021 by telescoper

This lunchtime I took a bit of time out to complete a task that has been on my to-do list for some time. It has been announced in a blog post at the Open Journal of Astrophysics.

The recent announcement by arXiv of a name change policy has enabled the Open Journal of Astrophysics to introduce a policy of its own concerning author name changes. The aim of such a policy is to reduce barriers to changing public records and online identity, thereby fostering diversity and promoting inclusivity. The changes announced follow recommendations by the Committee On Publication Ethics (COPE).

Since the Open Journal of Astrophysics is an arXiv overlay journal which is totally dependent on the arXiv platform we had to wait until arXiv announced its policy before following it with one of our own, which were recently able to do.

The arXiv now allows the following options:

  1. In full text works: the author name can be changed in the PDF and/or LaTeX source where it appears in the author list, acknowledgments, and email address.
  2. In metadata: the name and email address can be changed in the author list metadata and in the submission history metadata for all existing versions.
  3. In user accounts: the name, username, and email address can all be changed.

The arXiv policy notes, however, that

We are not currently able to support name changes in references and citations of works. Also, arXiv cannot make changes to other services, including third party search and discovery tools that may display author lists for papers on arXiv.

Since the Open Journal of Astrophysics deposits author metadata for all our papers with the Crossref system we can plug this gap by undertaking to redeposit all necessary information to reflect author name changes. Since author metadata is attached to the DOI we issue, this will ensure that citations and references tracked through this system are updated when an author changes their name.

If any author of a paper published in the Open Journal of Astrophysics wishes to make use of this policy the best procedure is to first contact the arXiv under their policy. Once any changes have been made to the arXiv submission the author should contact us with a request. We will then make any necessary changes to the overlay on the Open Journal of Astrophysics site and redeposit amended metadata to Crossref free of charge. We also undertake to ensure entries are updated at the NASA/ADS system.

Following the guidance from COPE the Open Journal of Astrophysics will neither seek permission from nor inform co-authors of any such change.

A list of other journals/publishers and their name change policies can be found here.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , on March 24, 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 third paper in Volume 4 (2021) and the 34th paper in all.

The latest publication is entitled Dwarfs from the Dark (Energy Survey): a machine learning approach to classify dwarf galaxies from multi-band images and is written by Oliver Müller  of the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (France) and Eva Schnider of the University of Basel (Switzerland).

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 one is in the Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics Folder, though it does overlap with Astrophysics of Galaxies too.

It seems the authors were very happy with the publication process!

Incidentally, the Scholastica platform we are using for the Open Journal of Astrophysics is continuing to develop additional facilities. The most recent one is that the Open Journal of Astrophysics now has the facility to include supplementary files (e.g. code or data sets) along with the papers we publish. If any existing authors (i.e. of papers we have already published) would like us to add supplementary files retrospectively then please contact us with a request!

Open Access Diamond Journals Study Published

Posted in Open Access on March 10, 2021 by telescoper

I came across this report into a review of Diamond Open Access journals and thought I’d share it here, as the Open Journal of Astrophysics is a “diamond journal”…

A new study of open access journals which are free for readers and authors, known as “diamond journals” has been published. The in-depth report and its recommendations cover diamond journals across the world and provide a better understanding of the open access diamond landscape. Funded by Science Europe and commissioned by cOAlition S, the study represents the […]

Open Access Diamond Journals Study Published

Elsevier? Just say No!

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , on March 6, 2021 by telescoper

I found out via Twitter that UK Universities are now negotiating again with publishing giant Elsevier for access to its range of hideously overpriced journals.

Five years ago the result of similar negotiations was a clear victory for Elsevier and UK institutions have been paying ever since. This time there’s a strong feeling in the UK academic community that the negotiators have to take a much firmer line, even if that means losing access to Elsevier journals.

See, e.g., this thread from mathematician Tim Gowers (who runs a very successful arXiv overlay journal called Discrete Analysis along similar lines to the Open Journal of Astrophysics).

and this from Computational Neuroscientist Stephen Eglen:

It is important to take a stand on this issue if you want the negotiations to succeed in reducing the burden on University budgets caused by profiteering publishers like Elsevier. If you’re on Twitter you can do so using the hashtag #NoElsevier. Alternatively you can make it clear to your institution’s library that you’re prepared to do without Elsevier journals unless they reduce the price substantially.

I’d add a more general comment. If you’re an academic who thinks academia needs the likes of Elsevier then you’re an academic who is not thinking. There are plenty of ways of communicating your results without shaking hands with the Devil. I find it completely mystifying why so many academics and their institutions are so willing to be fleeced in the academic journal racket. Perhaps they believe they don’t understand how little it actually costs to publish articles online?

You could do a lot worse than seize this opportunity to set up your own journal. It’s really quite straightforward and inexpensive, especially if your research community uses the arXiv. Why not try setting up your own overlay journal?

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.