Archive for Open Access Publishing.

Plan S and the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on June 24, 2019 by telescoper

Things have been a little quiet on this side of the Open Journal of Astrophysics but rest assured it has been very busy behind the scenes, with a sizeable batch of papers going through peer review and a number of those are very near the finishing post.

My target was to build up to an average of about one submission a week by the end of 2019, and I think we’re on track to reach that comfortably by the end of summer.

I’ll report more on new publications as they are published, but before that I thought I’d report on a couple of bits of news to do with Plan S, following the issuance last month of revised guidelines.

First, here is a nice summary (taken from this article) of the different ways in principle one could deliver Open Access publishing in a manner consistent with Plan S:

You can click on the image to make it bigger.

The important thing is that the Open Journal of Astrophysics belongs in the column on the far right of the table. I draw your attention to the various comments, especially the one at the end that says the cost of overlay journals is substantially lower. It is, as I explain here.

the authors of this post think it is unclear whether these are compliant with Plan S. That’s a fair comment, but it can be clarified into a definite yes with very few tweaks. It is very encouraging on this point that the CEO of Scholastica (who provide our platform) has written a blog in which he describes the steps being taken to ensure that all Scholastica journals are indeed compliant with Plan S.

Over the coming months, we will announce new functionality that supports complying with Plan S guidelines, and we’re committed to updating our software to meet changes to the Plan S implementation rules as they come out.

I was very happy to read this plan as it includes adding a number of things to the Scholastica system that we currently have to do ourselves (e.g. registering DOIs with CrossRef).

Anyway, another notification from Scholastica has just come in so that will have to be that for now.

 

 

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Promoting the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on March 24, 2019 by telescoper

The talk I gave at the meeting I attended last week to celebrate the retirement 60th Birthday of Alan Heavens was about the Open Journal of Astrophysics project. Here are the slides:

I decided a while ago that whenever I get the opportunity at conferences or other meetings I will talk about the Open Journal of Astrophysics (OJA for short) , mainly to encourage more submissions but also to raise OJA’s profile so people aren’t tempted to dismiss review invitations as spam from predatory journals.  At the moment, refereeing is the rate-limiting step in the publication process, at least part of the reason being that people don’t really know what we’re about and perhaps assume that it’s not a bona fide operation.

The talk I gave on Friday generated a fair amount of discussion, and was hopefully a small step along the way to establishing OJA as a mainstream journal and perhaps even the default choice for papers on astrophysics. Emma Chapman posted a tweet about my talk (including a picture of me in action) which got quite a lot of attention on Twitter:

 

I’ll just add that you can read more about the extent of the profiteering going on here.

 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, let me mention I have some money (in a grant courtesy of the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation) to help promote this project, and I can legitimately spend it on travel to give talks etc.. If anyone would like a talk about this project, please feel free to contact me!

 

The future of journal publishing here today – Guest Post by Syksy Räsänen

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on February 8, 2019 by telescoper

You may recall that the Open Journal of Astrophysics recently published a paper by Syksy Räsänen of the University of Helsinki. I invited Syksy to write a blog post on the Open Journal for Astrophysics about why he chose to publish with us, and I’m delighted to say that his post is now available there and, with the author’s permission, I am reproducing it below on this blog. It’s also available at Syksy’s own blog . It’s quite a long post, but there is some very interesting information in it, which will probably surprise you!

—0—

The bad news:: the scientific community can no longer afford commercial science journals.

The good news: the scientific community no longer needs commercial science journals.

The bottom line: open internet archives and overlay journals are the solution.

Scientific journal publishing is in crisis. Already 25 years ago librarians referred to the rising costs of journals as a “doomsday machine”. In 2012, Harvard University Library announced that it can no longer afford scientific journals, warning that publishers had created a “fiscally unsustainable” situation. The library took the unprecedented step of asking faculty to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls.

In its 2015 Open Access Policy White Paper, the Max Planck Digital Library assessed the annual revenue of scientific journal publishing as 7.6 billion euros. Divided by an estimated 1.5-2.0 million published articles, they arrived at a cost of €3800 to €5000 per article. The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers has estimated $10 billion in revenue and 2.5 million articles annually, which gives €3500 per article. According to them, 68-75% of the costs are borne by academic libraries.

These are enormous sums, funnelled from science to the pockets of large corporations. (Some journals are published by scientific societies, but this doesn’t change the overall picture.)

To put the numbers in perspective, the total construction cost of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN –the largest scientific experiment in the history of humanity–was around 5 billion euros, or 500 million euros per year. The cost of science publishing would cover the construction of 10 to 20 top-of-the-line successor experiments to the LHC. It is equivalent to the salaries and overheads of 150,000 to 200,000 postdoctoral researchers per year. This is likely more than the combined number of postdocs in the United States and the European Union.

Scientific publishing is a strange business. Scientists carry out research for free, write it up for free, give the article to the publisher for free, manage the peer review process as editors (some editors get paid), do peer-review for the publisher for free – and then the scientists’ institutions pay the publisher so that they can read the articles. In some cases scientists even pay the publisher to have their articles published. (Here “free” simply means the scientists are not paid by the publisher, but rather by their university or research institute – in the end, mostly by taxpayers.)

Is there any other industry where corporations pay nothing for the raw materials, have negligible processing costs and enjoy a captive market that automatically buys everything they produce? This setup leads to record profits. For example, the profit margin of Elsevier’s Scientific, Technical & Medical publishing division in the years 1991-2013 was consistently over 30%, and in 2013 it was 39%. For comparison, in the same year Apple, Google and Microsoft had profit margins of 22%, 20% and 28%, respectively. No wonder Robert Maxwell, a pioneer of scientific journal publishing, described the business as a “perpetual financing machine”.

In the past, publishers at least had the expenses of printing and shipping journals. With the internet, this cost has disappeared for many journals. However, prices have not come down – quite the opposite. Thankfully, the same technological advances that have made commercial journals so profitable have also rendered them unnecessary.

Journals used to be needed for registering and communicating research, for archiving it (via paper journals in libraries), and for performing quality control via peer review. In cosmology and particle physics, the first three services have been provided by the internet archive arXiv since 1991. Depositing articles to arXiv is free, and they can be read for free in perpetuity. In 2018, 140,616 articles appeared on arXiv, and its estimated total expenditures were $1,915,997, or 12€ per article. Other disciplines, such as economics and biology, have followed suit, either starting new categories on arXiv or setting up their own archives such as bioRxiv. There is no reason why this model cannot be extended to all fields of science.

A lot of discussion around the cost of journals centred on open access, so it is important to emphasise one thing: the issue is not open access. That problem has been solved by arXiv 27 years ago. The question is how to organise peer review in a cost-effective manner. This is where overlay journals come in.

The idea of overlay journals is simple: they are journals that concentrate on the only thing journals are needed for anymore, namely peer review. As articles appear on arXiv (or other online archives) anyway, there is no need to duplicate their work. An overlay journal has a website where papers (typically already available on arXiv) can be submitted. Peer review is conducted as usual, and in case of acceptance, the final version of the paper is updated on arXiv, with a journal reference and DOI link to the journal website.

Custom toolkits for overlay journals have been designed for more than 10 years, for example in the astrophysics RIOJA project. These days the necessary software is also available off the shelf from Scholastica. The service costs $99 per month plus $10 per submitted article, and getting a DOI from Crossref costs $1 per published article. As in the case of arXiv, the costs scale well with the number of papers. If a journal publishes 100 articles annually and has a 2/3 rejection rate, the cost works out to €38 per article – about 100 times less than the sum currently paid for article publishing.

Given that open archives and overlay journals could save 7 to 9 billion euros every year, why haven’t they already replaced commercial journals?

Unfortunately, the existence of a more optimal configuration does not automatically lead the community to shift there. Instead, people respond to individual incentives, and scientists are no exception. The publishing peer Robert Maxwell noted that “scientists are not as price-conscious as other professionals, mainly because they are not spending their own money”. As journal fees are paid centrally, there is little motivation for an individual researcher to change their publication pattern. Established journals are seen to provide a quality stamp that is necessary in the competition over positions and grants. Also, founding an overlay journal requires an investment of time that does not necessarily yieldproportionate professional rewards.

So researchers as individuals have rational reasons for not changing the system. What about libraries and scientific consortia that are struggling to bring the costs down? Unfortunately, institutional efforts have often concentrated on the narrow problem of getting journals to accept payment from the author rather than the reader (i.e. open access). However, the main issue is not whether the money is paid by the author or the reader (or rather their institutions), but what they are paying for.

Thus, for example, the SCOAP3 consortium has become part of the problem by providing life support to commercial journals. It has arranged to pay publishers vast amounts of money, entirely incommensurate with the actual costs, to make articles open access, guaranteeing them a steady stream of revenue.

The open access initiative Plan S launched last September is more ambitious. Particularly noteworthy is the commitment to provide incentives to establish new open access journals and platforms. However, open archives are only “acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation”, not as publishing channels of their own right when paired with overlay journals. A lot depends on how the initiative will be implemented, but for now the scheme seems to focus on the old-fashioned aim of getting commercial publishers to convert journals to open access.

According to the Max Planck Digital Library White Paper, switching all commercial journals to an open access model would drop the cost of publication to between €1,100 and €2,000 per article. This would cut expenditures by a factor of 2 to 5, saving billions of euros every year – and continuing to waste billions of euros every year.

It is striking that the principles of Plan S contain no commitment to maximising the returns on public money and optimising financial sustainability, even though this is the heart of the matter. Instead, it supports the continuation of the commercial publishing model in co-operation with corporations, whose interests are at odds with those of the scientific community. We do not need to reform the business model of scientific journal publishing, we have to abandon it.

Open access consortia should start supporting a publishing model that begins from the needs of the scientific community and aims to fulfil them in an economical manner, while helping to make the transition as smooth as possible. This involves communicating with scientists about the costs of corporate publishing, following and expanding on Harvard’s example of calling on scientists to use the power of their labour (often given to the publishers for free) to change the situation, and providing incentives and support to establish and publish in overlay journals. Scientists, in turn, need to re-evaluate their brand loyalty to established journals, and give appropriate career merits for time spent on changing the publishing system.

Open archives and overlay journals are not a utopian solution for the future. Discrete Analysis, Open Journal of Astrophysics and others are publishing already. They are a proven model for open access publishing and quality peer review in a modern, cost-effective manner tailored to the needs of the scientific community. The sooner they become the new standard, the more money we will save for science.

The Open Journal of Astrophysics: Last Update for 2018

Posted in Maynooth, Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on December 20, 2018 by telescoper


As term staggers to its close tomorrow, two things this morning reminded me that I should post a final update for the The Open Journal of Astrophysics.  I’ve been regularly boring all my readers with a stream of stuff about the Open Journal of Astrophysics, but if it’s all new to you, try reading the short post about the background to the Open Journal project that you can find here.

The first item was a little piece in the latest edition of University News (which was delivered this morning) about the launch event for the journal here at Maynooth University way back in October.

I didn’t make it into the picture above as I had to leave the event before the end in order to give an undergraduate lecture, but the appearance of this piece reminds me to express once more my gratitude to Maynooth for providing such excellent support for this project.

The other event this morning was an email notification that the OJA has received yet another submission. We now have a number of papers in the pipeline, and interest seems to be picking up. I can’t say how many submissions will actually be published, but the papers we have received are working their way through the peer-review system and we’ll see what transpires.

On a related point, a few people have asked me why the Open Journal of Astrophysics is not in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The answer to that is simply that DOAJ requires a minimum of five papers published in a calendar year and because we had a long hiatus before the re-launch we don’t yet qualify. The way things are going we should meet the threshold for 2019 pretty quickly.

Though I stress that the Editorial Board of OJA is not going to compromise standards just to get listed on DOAJ.
we are hoping to increase the number of submissions with time (in a manageable way). As it happens, we do have funds available to promote the OJA as I think quite a large number of members of the astrophysics community still haven’t heard of it. This also makes it a little difficult to enlist referees who perhaps jump to the conclusion that this is a dodgy or predatory journal. There are many of these about, sadly, but I hope we can establish relatively easily the fact that we’re not of that ilk.

I would like here to repeat a small request I posted a while ago. Do any of you have any ideas for promoting The Open Journal of Astrophysics? We could advertise directly in journals of course, but I’m wondering if anyone out there in the interwebs has any more imaginative ideas? If you do please let me know through the comments box below.

Open Journal Updates

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on October 16, 2018 by telescoper

Just finished today’s teaching so I thought I’d chill for a few minutes and pass on a few quick updates about the Open Journal of Astrophysics, which was formally (re)launched last week.

The first thing is that at the weekend I sent an online training video and guide around the members of the Editorial Board and introduced them all to the new platform’s messaging system, which is a very convenient way for us to keep in touch. I had lots of volunteers for the Editorial Board and I couldn’t select everyone but I tried to choose members with a good geographical distribution, spread of expertise, and gender balance. We may add more in due course, as we’re still quite cosmologist-heavy, but I think we have enough to get started: we have editors in Australia, France, Italy, United States of America and Mexico as well as the United Kingdom.

We have received some submissions already and are dealing with them through the new platform, which is requiring the Editors to engage in some `on-the-job’ training. Hopefully they’ll get the hang of it soon!

Another relevant piece of news is that we have updated the DOIs associated with the papers we published with the old platform to point to the new site so they are now fully incorporated. For the record these are:

10.21105/astro.1708.00605

10.21105/astro.1603.07299

10.21105/astro.1602.02113

10.21105/astro.1502.04020

I’ll also take this opportunity to remind you that the Open Journal of Astrophysics is open for new submissions, so please feel free to give it a try!

Finally, I’d like to point you to an article about Open Access Publishing in the latest Physics Today, which begins

Publishers of scientific journals are facing renewed threats to their business models from both sides of the Atlantic.

You better believe it!

The Open Journal Launch Event

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , , , on October 9, 2018 by telescoper

Tuesday afternoons are usually quite busy for me, with teaching sessions from 12-2 and 3-4 this term, but today turned into almost four consecutive hours of activity as I gave a talk on Open Science at a lunchtime event as part of Maynooth University’s Library `Publication Festival’ which, in turn, is part of `Research Week’. I talked about Open Science generally from the point of view of astrophysics for a bit, but the main purpose of the event was to launch the Open Journal of Astrophysics which also marks the debut of Maynooth Academic Publishing as an OA publisher. Fortunately I’d managed to get everything up and running before the talk so I was able to show the assembled throng the actual journal with actual papers.

Anyway, here are my slides if you’re interested.

P.S. The gentleman at the left of the picture is Professor Philip Nolan, the President of Maynooth University, who launched today’s event.

P.P.S. I’d like to point out that I did not mock the UK Prime Minister Theresa May by dancing at the podium prior to my presentation.

 

 

The Open Journal for Astrophysics Project

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on May 10, 2014 by telescoper

I owe many people various apologies for not posting anything for a while about the Open Journal for Astrophysics. For a start I have to admit that the call for test submissions last year was a bit premature. I should have been more patient and ensured that the system was complete before going public. I hope nobody has been too seriously inconvenienced by the ongoing delay.

The project has got stalled a bit largely because I have just had too many things to do to devote enough time to complete the final stages needed to go fully live and also one of the people helping with the project Arfon Smith moved to a new job. Arfon and Chris Lintott have posted an account of the project so far which gives a bit more detail about how we wanted to realize the project (hosted by GitHub); the code development has involved major work by Robert Simpson and Stuart Lynn in addition to Arfon and Chris.  In essence they say that the job is now about 80% complete. I would have said it was more like 75%, so the OJFA is in some sense just the OJF at the moment! Much of what remains is not actual programming stuff but administrative stuff involved with, e.g., arranging the assignment of  digital object identifiers (DOIs) and so on, all of which has been on my to-do list for several months now.

Anywhere, just to show you that the whole project isn’t just hot air here is a demonstration of the snazzy user interface which we plan to use to facilitate the online refereeing process:

However, in the spirit not only of open access publishing but also of open source programming, Arfon has made available all the codes that have been developed so far. One intention of this is that  these can be adapted  for other OJFs hence the construction of a generic website (theoj.org) as well as the hope that some folks out there might help us bright the OJFA itself to completion. Anyone out there with the requisite skills is welcome to volunteer, either through the comments box here or through the OJ repository. If we can get enough volunteers we can meet and put together a plan to bring this idea to completion at last.

Despite being forced to accept that my own workload makes it difficult for me to be as involved as I’d like to be in this project I’d still really love to get this project off the ground. I hope I can use the time freed up by no longer being a member of RAS Council to work on the OJFA. I no longer have a conflict of interest in that regard either; like many other learned societies the RAS currently makes a large fraction of its income from academic publishing!

As Arfon mentions in his piece, the recent BICEP2 episode in particular provides pretty strong motivation that we need a new concept of academic publishing. Practical difficulties may have intervened for now but the motivation for the project itself is stronger now than it has ever been.