Archive for Open Access

The Great Science Publishing Scandal

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on May 1, 2019 by telescoper

There was a programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 yesterday called The Great Science Publishing Scandal. It is now available on the interwebs here, which is how I listened to it this morning.

Here’s the blurb that goes with the programme:

Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, explores the hidden world of prestige, profits and piracy that lurks behind scientific journals.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of articles on the findings on research are published, forming the official record of science. This has been going on since the 17th century, but recently a kind of war has broken out over the cost of journals to the universities and research institutions where scientists work, and to anyone else who wants to access the research, such as policy makers, patient support groups and the general public.

Traditionally journals charge their readers a subscription, but since the start of the 21st century there’s been a move to what’s called open access, where the authors pay to get their articles published but anyone can read them, without charge. In Europe Plan S has called for all research funded by the public purse to be open access, by 2020. If and when this is implemented it could have downsides on learned societies who depend on income from journal subscriptions to support young researchers and on scientists in the less developed world.

Some universities, and even countries, have recently refused to pay the subscriptions charged by some of the big science publishers. This has lead to some scientists using a service run by a Russian hacker, which has effectively stolen the whole of the scientific literature and gives it away, free, on the internet.

Matthew Cobb looks back at how the scientific publishing industry got to its current state and asks how it could change. He argues that scientists themselves need to break their addiction to wanting their articles to appear in a few well known journals, and instead concentrate on the quality of their research.

I think this programme is well worth listening to as it makes many of the right criticisms of the status quo. I did, however, find it very frustrating in that it doesn’t really even touch on any of the viable alternative ways of disseminating peer-reviewed scientific research. I didn’t expect a mention for the Open Journal of Astrophysics specifically, but this is one model that at least tries to challenge the status quo. I’m assuming that at least part of the reason for this is the presenter Matthew Cobb works in Zoology, and that is a field that perhaps does not have the established practice of sharing papers via repositories that we have in physics and astronomy via the arXiv. Anyway, it felt to me like he missed an open goal…

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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!

 

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics!

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2019 by telescoper

It’s nice to be able to announce that the Open Journal of Astrophysics has just published another paper. Here it is!

It’s by Darsh Kodwani, David Alonso and Pedro Ferreira from a combination of Oxford University and Cardiff University.

You can find the accepted version on the arXiv here. This version was accepted after modifications requested by the referee and editor.

This is another one for the `Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics’ folder. We would be happy to get more submissions from other areas of astrophysics. Hint! Hint!

P.S. A few people have asked why the Open Journal of Astrophysics is not listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. The answer to that is simple: to qualify for listing a journal must publish a minimum of five papers in a year. Since OJA underwent a failure long hiatus after publishing its first batch of papers we don’t yet qualify. However, so far in 2019 we have published four papers and have several others in the pipeline. We will reach the qualifying level soon and when we do I will put in the application!

Splitting with Elsevier

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on March 7, 2019 by telescoper

Just time today to pass on a bit of Open Access news: the University of California has ended negotiations which academic publishing giant Elsevier and will no longer subscribe to Elsevier Journals. The negotiations broke down over two key points: a refusal by Elsevier to reduce its charges (currently $11M) and a failure to meet guarantees on Open Access. There’s another piece about this here.

The University of California should be congratulated on its firm position here, as should organizations in Sweden and Germany for their similar decisions last year.

I’ve made my views of the academic publishing racket very clear over a number of years so I won’t repeat that rant here. I’ll just remind readers of the staggering fact that the global revenues of the academic publishing industry amount to about, €22 billion per annum. This exceeds the global revenues of the recorded music industry. Profit margins for these publishers are much larger (up to 45%) than Apple, Google and BMW.

The research community is being fleeced, and the worst offenders are the `Big Four’: Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor & Francis. It’s taken a while but it seems many organizations are finally waking up to what is going on. I don’t think we need `for-profit’ publishers at all – there are far better and cheaper ways of disseminating scientific research in the digital era, such as the arXiv.

I’ll also make a small plea here. If there are any rich philanthropists out there who want to do something positive for science then let me suggest that instead of funding more prizes or awards they consider making a large donation to the arXiv? In my view that would do far more for science than throwing yet more money at a few eminent individuals!

Plan S – Get your feedback in!

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on February 4, 2019 by telescoper

It’s been a rather busy first day back at teaching, and I’m a bit tired after my first Engineering Mathematics lecture, so I’ll just post a couple of quick items on the topic of Open Access Publishing.

The most important thing is a reminder that the deadline for submission of feedback on the Plan S proposals is February 8th 2019, which is this Friday so please get your finger out and submit feedback.

I haven’t written my feedback yet, but when I do I will post it here.

The nice people at the arXiv have already sent in their feedback, and have released it publicly here. There’s a lot of good sense in their comments, which I encourage you to read.

In particular I agree with their comment that the reference XML should be removed. I agree very much with the principle underlying the decision by CoalitionS to include this, I don’t think mandating XML is a sensible way forward. For one thing, it is not a useful format when a paper contains lots of figures and mathematical equations. It’s not that it is particularly difficult to do, just that it’s a waste of time for mathematical disciplines. We could implement a fix to make XML versions of papers available on the Open Journal of Astrophysics, but I’m not going to do it unless and until it’s made obligatory (which I hope it isn’t).

Finally, let me just point out that Scholastica have chosen the latest publication in the Open Journal of Astrophysics as an article highlight!

Plan S Briefing Presentations

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

I thought it might be useful for the research community in Ireland and beyond to share the slides for the presentations used on Tuesday’s Briefing on Plan S for Open Access

Here are the five main presentations (shared here with permission from the Royal Irish Academy):

 

 

 

Don’t forget that the deadline for submission of feedback on the Plan S proposals is February 8th 2019!

Plan S Open Access Briefing

Posted in Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2019 by telescoper

This morning I found myself in the centre of Dublin to attend an event at the Royal Irish Academy, in Dawson Street. Coincidentally this is just a few yards from the Mansion House, scene of the meeting of the First Dáil on 21st January 1919 (which I blogged about here) and also scene of the commemorations of its centenary yesterday. I’m guessing that the removals van was taking away some of the paraphernalia used for yesterday’s event.

Anyway, the event at the Royal Irish Academy organized by the National Open Research Forum (NORF) was intended to disseminate information about Plan S – a European initiative for Open Access publishing.

I have blogged about Plan S and some of the reactions to it before (e.g. here and here).

The main point is that comprehensive technical guidance on how to comply with Plan S and you can also submit feedback on the guidance here until the deadline of February 8th 2019. Full implementation is expected by January 2020. Things are moving relatively quickly, which is a very good thing. Some people thing this deadline is unrealistic, but I think it was a smart move to make it close so as to galvanize researchers into action.

I learnt a particularly interesting fact during the talk by Maynooth’s own Cathal McCauley, namely that the global revenues of the academic publishing industry amount to about, €22 billion per annum. This exceeds the global revenues of the recorded music industry. Profit margins for these publishers are much larger (up to 45%) than Apple, Google and BMW. The research community is being fleeced, and the worst offenders are the `Big Four’: Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor & Francis.

One of the main concerns expressed in the discussion session was the extent that move away from traditional journals might have a negative effect on early career researchers, as those responsible for hiring postdocs and new faculty members often concentrate on the journal in which their work is published rather than the work itself. The obvious way to address this problem to use article-level information rather than journal-level metrics, which is entirely feasible to do, but it is true that we need a change of culture across the board to make this work for the benefit of science as whole. I am optimistic about this, largely because I recall very well how rapidly the culture in astrophysics adapted to the existence of the arXiv. With regard to open access publishing the way forward is to disrupt the existing Academic Journal Racket by developing alternative modes publication which demonstrate benefits in cost, reach and simplicity, combined with pressure from funding agencies imposing mandates on publications arising from their grants.

There is no question in my mind that in just a few years, when Open Access is the overwhelmingly dominant mode of publication, researchers will look back and wonder why we ever put up with the absurd system we have at present.

As a final comment I’ll mention that the Open Journal of Astrophysics got a few mentions during the session. I’m hoping to make some exciting announcements about this journal very soon indeed. Before that, however, I have to go to Belfast to give a talk…