Archive for Impact Factors

Open Access Update

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , on April 9, 2013 by telescoper

Very busy today with meetings. It’s a pleasant job introducing myself to all the new staff we’ve been appointing, but it does take quite a bit of time!

Anyway, I’ve just got a few moments  for a quick post while I eat a sandwich – sorry for the crumbs – in order to pass on some news about Open Access. The main thing is that, after a brief consultation last month, RCUK has (yet again) revised its policy on Open Acsess. The new guidance can be found here and there’s a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) supplement here. There’s even an explanatory blog post here.

Here’s an excerpt from the latter:

One of the most high profile additions to the guidance that we were asked for was, through Stephen Curry’s blog and subsequent letter, clarification that journal impact factors are not taken in to account when the Research Councils make funding decisions.

It’s good to see a science blogger making a real difference to policy! One can only dream.  Incidentally, I did post a little commentary on his post on here too and I’m very glad to see this clarified. Impact Factors are, frankly, bollocks. Perhaps that’s why so many publishers are obsessed with them?

I won’t copy the whole policy document here, but it is perhaps worth including the “Key Points to Note”:

  • This policy applies only to the publication of peer‐reviewed research articles (including review articles not commissioned by publishers) and conference proceeding sthat acknowledge funding from the UK’ s Research Councils.
  •  The Research CouncilsUK (RCUK) policy supports both ‘Gold’ and ‘Green’ routes to Open Access, though RCUK has a preference forimmediateOpen Access with the maximum opportunity for re‐use;
  •  Funding for Open Access arising from Research Council‐supported research will be available through a block grant awarded directly to research organisations;
  •  RCUK recognises that the journey to full Open Access is a process and not a single event and therefore it expects compliance to grow over a transition period anticipated to be five years; RCUK will undertake a comprehensive, evidence‐based review of the effectiveness and impact of its Open Access policy in 2014 and periodically thereafter(probably in 2016 and 2018);
  • When assessing proposals for research funding RCUK considers that it is the quality of the research proposed, and not where an author has or is intending to publish, that is of paramount importance;
  • RCUK is mindful that the impact ofits policy on different disciplinary areas is likely to be varied and has therefore made allowance for a different pace of adjustment by permitting different embargo periods across the discipline supported by the Research Councils. We will also be mindful of these differences between disciplines when monitoring the impact of the policy and, in future processes, when looking at compliance.

This is all very much more encouraging than the original guidance, but it remains to be seen whether it will evolve further.

P.S. A new Open-Access-O-Meter is available here. Just type in the Research Council funding your research, the journal you wish to publish in, and hey presto!

Time to go it alone on Open Access

Posted in Open Access, Science Politics with tags , , , , on September 10, 2012 by telescoper

Not at all surprisingly, the government has announced  that existing research council budgets are to be raided to provide funds (to the tune of £10M) to pay for “Gold” Open Access to scientific research. This is the model of open access in which most authors will have to pay publishers a whopping fee up front in order to disseminate their work. The figures being talked about are in the region of £2000 per paper by way of an “article processing fee”.

I put “article processing fee” in quotes there because a fee of that size bears no relation to the actual cost to the publishers of processing an article: articles in most physics journals are typeset by the author, and refereed for free by other academics suggested by the editor (another academic).  What it really represents is the amount of money researchers will have to pay to maintain the humongous profit margins currently enjoyed by the academic publishing industry. Currently they rake in the cash through subscription charges after papers have been published in their journals . In future they will get the dosh in advance, which will probably make their business even more lucrative. And who will pay for maintaining their profitability? Researchers, of course. It’s clear who is going to benefit from the provisions of the Finch Report, and it’s not us.

Not surprisingly the publishing racketeers want to try to make us think they provide a worthwhile service for all the money they sting us for. For example, in this month’s Physics World, there’s a response from Steven Hall (Managing Director of IOP Publishing) to a letter from a certain Dr Garrrett. The original letter pointed the facts of the current state of affairs that I have bemoaned on many occasion on this blog:

Currently, researchers have to typeset their own work, sign away the copyright to publishers and referee the work of their peers – all for no remuneration. They then pay large sums in publication fees or library subscriptions to buy that work back in refereed and collated form.

Steven Hall’s response includes the following paragraph:

Researchers do not perform peer review alone: publishers organize and manage it, invest in people and systems to facilitate it, appoint and support editorial boards to oversee it and develop journals to meet the needs of scientific communities.

This is very far from being an accurate or fair representation of the way things work, at least not in physics. Researchers do carry out peer review alone. And unpaid. The main system that facilitates it is email (which, to my knowledge, was not developed by the academic publishing industry). And the journals that IOP develops are less to do with the “needs” of scientific communities than they are with the desires of a profit-making company to exploit said communities for even greater commercial gain.

Don’t you think it’s very strange that in a time of shrinking library budgets the number of journals seems to be growing all the time? Do we really need new ones? Do we even need the old ones? I think not.

And for those of you who think that IOP Publishing, as a part of the Institute of Physics, must be acting in the best interests of physics research, that’s simply not the case. It’s run as a private publishing company that behaves in exactly the same unscrupulous profiteering manner as, e.g. Elsevier. The IOP’s Open Access journals already charge £1700 per paper in article processing fees. They’re also in the habit of peddling meaningless “impact factor” statistics when trying to market their journals, many of which have lamentably poor citation rates despite their extortionate costs. Hence the IOP’s practice of bundling journal subscriptions in order to force institutions who want the good stuff to pay for the dross as well.

Having looked carefully into the costs of on-line digital publishing I have come to the conclusion that a properly-run, not-for-profit journal, created for and run by researchers purely for the open dissemination of the fruits of their research can be made sustainable with an article processing charge of less than £50 per paper, probably a lot less.

There’s only one response possible to those who’ve hijacked the Finch committee to serve their own ends, and that is to cut them out of the process. I think we can do it better (and cheaper)  ourselves. And very soon I hope to prove it.