OA Journals & Peer Review

This week (Sept 28 – Oct 2) is the first ever Peer Review Week. A number of scholarly publishing organizations are collaborating to celebrate this important process and promote discussion of the new experiments in peer review regularly emerging. Since this is the Open Access @ UofS Library blog I thought I’d contribute to the week’s festivities by highlighting peer review as it relates to open access.

One of the most pernicious and persistent myths about OA journals is that they’re not peer reviewed. Or that the peer review is somehow less rigorous than in traditional subscription journals. I hear this from faculty pretty regularly (twice so far this month), and more than a decade into the OA movement it is a bit tiresome to keep responding to this. But here goes…

To quote Peter Suber: OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance.

Journals, whether subscription or OA, can be of varying quality/reputation/impact irrespective of their business or access models. Yes, there are unscrupulous scam artists out there that will take advantage of the “author pays” OA business model to make a quick dollar; but there are also traditional subscription publishers that retract papers because of unethical peer review practices or other failures in the system.

The most recent such example involved Springer:

“Springer confirms that 64 articles are being retracted from 10 Springer subscription journals, after editorial checks spotted fake email addresses, and subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports.” – Aug 18. 2015

(An aside: RetractionWatch is a great site to follow if you’re interested in this shady side of academia).

Some have suggested that traditional commercial publishers encourage this persistent myth. But in recent years these traditional publishers are finding new revenue streams in launching OA or hybrid options of their own. Let’s use Springer as an example again: see SpringerOpen for a traditional publisher’s OA and hybrid options. So… are all of Springer OA journals questionable simply because they are OA? Of course not.

Michael Eisen perhaps said it best:

“To suggest … that the problem with scientific publishing is that open access enables internet scamming is like saying that the problem with the international finance system is that it enables Nigerian wire transfer scams.”

Further reading:
Open access: six myths to put to rest
Assessing the scamminess of a purported open-access publisher

Does your Funder Require Open Access?

This month Nature Publishing Group (NPG) released the 2015 results of their annual survey of academic authors’ attitudes and behaviours around publishing: Author Insights 2015 (look at the Summary PDF file).

Section 8 caught my eye since it is closely related to my own research interests: Understanding of Funder Requirements. The survey found that 25% of authors did not know their funder’s requirements with respect to open access; and 40% of those that did claim to know about their funder’s requirements actually only had partial understanding or were misinformed.

Do you know what your funder’s policy is? If you are not sure there is a quick way to check! Search for your funder on the Sherpa/Juliet website, or browse by country. This directory will list the main requirements of each funder’s open access policy and also link out to the policy statement.

More and more funders are requiring that the published results of the research they fund be made publicly available (i.e. open access). The most recent example in Canada is the harmonized Tri-Agency Open Access Policy (CIHR, NSERC, & SSHRC). The University Library has made a simple Flowchart to help researchers in complying (based on the fantastic SFU Library one – thanks SFU!).

Further Reading:

This post was inspired by a recent Scholarly Kitchen blog post by David Crotty: Researchers Remain Unaware of Funding Agency Access Policies

And more on the Author Insights survey results from the Nature blog: What do author insights tell us?


FAQs on the New Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

The new Tri-Agency OA Policy is still very new but a number of questions have already come up on campus.

The University Library has put together an FAQ document to answer some of these questions (as well as others we anticipate will come!).

Also, the Tri-Agencies will host an information session (webinar) on Friday June 26:

Information session on the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) invite the Canadian research community to an information session on their recently announced Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. The session will be an opportunity for the research community to learn more about the policy and its impacts on agency-funded research publications. The information session will be delivered by webinar.

To join the session:


Complying with the new Tri-Agency OA Policy

It is May 1, 2015.

Today is the day that the new Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications comes into effect. This policy applies to all grants awarded from today and onward (exception: CIHR has had this policy in place since Jan 1, 2008).

The Details:

“Grant recipients are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication” (emphasis my own).

There are two routes to achieve this:

  1. Online Repositories (a.k.a. the “Green” route)
    Grant recipients can deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscript into an institutional or disciplinary repository that will make the manuscript freely accessible within 12 months of publication. It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to determine which publishers allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies.
  2. Journals (a.k.a. the “Gold” route)
    Grant recipients can publish in a journal that offers immediate open access or that offers open access on its website within 12 months. Some journals require authors to pay article processing charges (APCs) to make manuscripts freely available upon publication. The cost of publishing in open access journals  is an eligible expense under the Use of Grant Funds.

Tips and Tools for Complying:

Green/Repository Route:

  • You do not need to publish in an OA journal – just make sure that the journal you want to publish in complies with the Tri-Agency OA Policy. This means the journal/publisher must allow you to post a copy of the manuscript in a repository within 12 months of publication (often known as the “embargo period”).
    • Check Sherpa/Romeo for publisher’s policies.
    • Carefully read your Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) when publishing; negotiate with the publisher to keep the rights you need to post a copy (use an addendum tool).
    • Make sure you post the proper version of the article. Most publishers permit posting of the “post-print” or “author’s accepted version” (the final copy of the manuscript after peer-review and after final revisions have been made). Sherpa/Romeo and your CTA will tell you which version is acceptable to post by your publisher.
  • Currently the U of S does not have an institutional repository, but there are a growing number of disciplinary repositories that you can post to. Search the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).
  • Posting on your own website is not enough. You must also post in an institutional or disciplinary repository. Although the Tri-Agency has not clearly stated this, it is likely that posting in a social network site like ResearchGate is also not an acceptable route to compliance.

Gold/Open Access Journals Route:

The Green and Gold routes are not mutually exclusive. If you publish in an OA journal, you can still post a copy to a repository. In fact this is encouraged! Why not have your article available in more than one location? It will increase discoverability, accessibility, and ultimately readership and citations!

All of these resources (and more!) are listed on the University Library’s Open Access Guide.

The Scholarly Communications Needs of Faculty @ USask

I’ve been working on this research for the past two years. I’ve presented results at two conferences and shared the data with my library administrators and colleagues here at the U of S (you can see these items here). And finally now the peer-reviewed paper is out today!

The Scholarly Communications Needs of Faculty: An Evidence-Based Foundation for the Development of Library Services





Open Access Week 2014: Oct 20-26

This year marks the eighth annual Open Access Week – an international advocacy event that seeks to promote and raise awareness about open access (OA) and several closely related areas such as open education and open data.

So… what is open access?

“Open Access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder” (from Peter Suber’s A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access).

The OA movement developed as a response to the unsustainable, higher-than-inflation, journal subscription increases experienced by libraries over the last few decades (and continuing to this day). Library budgets have not kept pace, resulting in journal cancellations and less money for book purchases.

Increasingly, researchers cannot access the articles they need – and sometimes they cannot even access the articles they wrote themselves! Removing barriers on access to information will ultimately enhance the speed of scientific progress.

There are other, ethical, reasons for making research OA too. A large amount of research in Canada is funded by taxpayers through the three federal funding agencies: NSERC, SSHRC, & CIHR (“Tri-Agency”). Shouldn’t taxpayers be able to access the results of research they funded without having to pay again? Indeed, the Tri-Agency will soon require that the results of funded research be made openly available.

Researchers can make their articles OA by publishing in an open access journal (“gold” OA) or by self-archiving a copy of their manuscript in an open repository (“green” OA). There are many benefits to doing this. In particular, researchers will increase their visibility and readership… ultimately leading to more citations. This is known as the OA Citation Effect and has been demonstrated in many bibliometric studies now.

In this blog post I have focused on open access to research articles, but many researchers are now also making their data and teaching objects open too. Find out more about these quickly growing areas during Open Access Week!

OA Week 2014 Events at the University Library:

All events are free to attend and open to all! No registration required. More details on the Events tab of the Open Access Week website.

Mon Oct 20 – Open Access Week 2014 Kick Off Event at the World Bank: Generation Open (Live-Streaming Webcast from Washington D.C.)
1-2pm, Collaborative Learning Lab (Rm 145), Murray Library

Tues Oct 21 – Open Data *for Scholars*
12-1pm, Collaborative Learning Lab (Rm 145), Murray Library

Thurs Oct 23 – Finding and Using Open Resources for Teaching and Research
12-1pm, Collaborative Learning Lab (Rm 145), Murray Library

For more information and resources related to open access topics see the Open Access Research Guide.

This was originally posted in the Educatus blog of the GMCTE. I have made minor edits to this version.

Librarians need to “Walk the Talk” on OA Publishing

This post discusses a recent article in In the Library with the Lead Pipe:

Librarian, Heal Thyself: A Scholarly Communication Analysis of LIS Journals by Micah Vandegrift & Chealsye Bowley

Librarians are at the forefront of many discussions and actions related to advancing the open access movement. We often talk about the need to change the culture of researchers in academia. Researchers need to understand the importance of the issues and their rights as authors – then put this into action by changing their scholarly communications practices. It is the researchers that have the real power to create change in academic publishing. By “researchers” though we’re usually referring to the disciplinary faculty we support… but what about researching librarians?

Increasingly, librarians are publishing researchers in their own right. Indeed, it is a job requirement of many academic librarians. So why isn’t there a stronger movement within our own community of scholars to change our scholarly communications systems, and culture, to be more open? Even though we preach to other researchers at our institutions about the benefits of publishing in gold OA journals, or archiving copies of manuscripts in repositories, we have a dismal track record of following through on this ourselves.

Vandegrift and Bowley review the literature in this area and conclude:

“Taken together, the research could lead one to think that academic librarians are invested in changes to the scholarly publishing system about as little as disciplinary faculty and are just as cautious about evolving their own publishing habits.”

So, there is a problem – but what is the solution? The authors of this paper hope to ignite this discussion among librarians with their analysis of the openness of the main Library and Information Science (LIS) journals in our field. They adapt the “How Open Is It?” scale produced by SPARC/PLOS to propose a new measure: the “Journal Openness Index” (J.O.I.). And proceed to code 111 LIS journals according to this criteria, then apply the J.O.I. Factor to 11 “prestige” LIS journals (as identified by Nixon, 2013).

Information Technology and Libraries, published by Library and Information Technology Association/ALA, comes out on top with another ALA publication, College & Research Libraries (C&RL), close behind (see Table 2). Unsurprisingly, commercial publishers land at the bottom of the list. An aside: In the Library with the Lead Pipe runs on a blog-style format which allows comments and discussion at the end of the article. There is an interesting back and forth in the Comments between the current editor of C&RL and Vandegrift.

The authors intend that this application of the J.O.I. Factor serves as a “proof of concept”, and encourage others to use their coded data on the 111 journals (posted as a Google doc and in FigShare). They end the article with this:

“It is our hope that this article prompts furious and fair debate, but mostly that it produces real, substantive evolution within our profession, how we research, how we assign value to scholarship, and how we share the products of our intellectual work.”

The article did receive a flurry of attention back in April 2014 when first posted (see some of the trackbacks in the Comments section), but this has now died down. I share the authors’ desire for furious and fair debate in this arena. However, I am continually surprised, and disappointed, by the apparent apathy of many librarians on scholarly communications topics – especially related to their own research output. How can we account for this?

Our C-EBLIP Journal Club met today to discuss this article and also the topic of librarian values regarding their own research/publishing activities. We had a wide-ranging and compelling discussion… but kept arriving back at the distorted importance placed on various metrics like the impact factor. We need to satisfy our tenure and promotion committees just as any other faculty member. So, long-standing traditional proxies for “quality” are slow to change.

We did not solve all the problems of the [academic] world at Journal Club today, but I think we came a little closer to some understanding of what some of those problems are.

Bowley, C., & Vandegrift, M. (2014). Librarian, Heal Thyself: A Scholarly Communication Analysis of LIS Journals. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/healthyself/

Consultation Results: Draft Tri-Agency OA Policy

Recently NSERC & SSHRC announced the results of their consultation on the draft OA Policy. From the 201 submissions received the responses were strongly supportive of the policy. A few common themes in the responses were:

  • Many respondents commented that the policy could influence where they publish and subsequently, could have an impact on their research careers.
  • The majority of researchers commented that the policy would impact their grant funds if they would be required to pay for publishing in open access journals.
  • Depending on respondents’ discipline or sector, some felt that the 12-month embargo period was too short while others felt it was too long.
  • Respondents commented that the policy could have implications for the sustainability of journals and scholarly associations.
  • Some respondents suggested expanding the policy’s scope to include other types of research results such as research data and monographs.
  • Several respondents mentioned the importance of optimizing repository systems to ensure that papers are easily searchable and accessible.
  • A few respondents questioned how compliance with the policy would be monitored.

Nothing new here it seems.

The final version of the policy is still set to be released in the fall of this year (2014).

OA is the way of the future

More indications recently that Open Access is the way of the future:

Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) both recently announced OA policies.

From the CAS Press Release:

“CAS said it will require its researchers and graduate students to deposit final, peer-reviewed manuscripts of research articles into the open access repositories of their respective institutes within 12 months of their official publication in academic journals. CAS will also encourage researchers to deposit previously published articles into their respective institutional repositories as well.”

This is important news because China is a growing powerhouse for scientific research output. And CAS & NSFC are two of the major funders in China. An article in Chemistry World today summarizes this well:

“In 2012, Chinese scientists published 186,577 papers in journals indexed by Thomson Reuters Science Citation Index (SCI) database, accounting for 13.9% of the world’s scientific output. More than 100,000 of these were funded by the NSFC. CAS scientists published 18,000 SCI papers in 2012.” [emphasis is mine]

The other indication of which I speak:

The annual meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) is currently underway in Beijing (coincidence? I think not…). GRC is comprised of the heads of science and engineering funding agencies from around the world. They have just endorsed a ‘state of play’ report on Open Access to publications [more details here].

The OA tipping point was reached long ago perhaps, but academic culture is slow to change. I am coming to believe that mandates, especially from funding agencies, are the only mechanism to compel significant change at a reasonable rate…


OpenCon 2014: November 15-17, 2014

The Right to Research Coalition and SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) have just announced a new conference: OpenCon 2014.

From the Press Release:

“Slated for November 15-17 in Washington, DC, the event will bring together students and early career researchers from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data.”