Apply to Attend OpenCon2017!

OpenCon is more than a conference. It’s a platform for the next generation to learn about Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data, develop critical skills, and catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information—from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital research data..”

This year OpenCon is being held in Berlin, November 11-13, 2017. To attend you need to submit an application by Aug 1. The conference is directed at graduate students and early career researchers – two groups that often don’t have funding to travel to international conferences. Through the application process many attendees receive travel scholarships.

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) is also offering a scholarship to attend OpenCon2017! See here for more information. CARL will accept applications until Sept 1, but if you submit by Aug 1 then you can also be considered for the general OpenCon scholarships.

U15 Statement on Sustainable Publishing

The U15 is a group of 15 Canadian research intensive universities. University of Saskatchewan is a member. The group works for the common interests of all members in the areas of higher education and research policy and funding.

Yesterday, the U15 released a Statement on Sustainable Publishing.

The Statement acknowledges that for research to have the most reach and impact it must be as accessible as possible. The document lists 5 principles supporting a healthy and sustainable scholarly publishing ecosystem beginning with Open Access!


Information Privilege and the Undergraduate Student

[This was originally posted on the Brain-Work blog May 2, 2017]

by DeDe Dawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

Privilege seems to be one of those things that you don’t realize you have until you no longer have it. This is not the case for some types of privilege of course. Someone’s race or gender will, in most cases, not change during their lifetime so privileges associated with these traits may be difficult for many to recognize. But someone’s ability to access information is likely to change.

One of the most frequently asked reference questions at an academic library is actually from recent graduates: “Why can’t I access e-resources anymore?” Libraries work hard to make access to electronic journals and literature databases as seamless as possible… so much so that undergraduates often don’t realize that they are using articles paid for by the library. Not until they graduate and lose access that is.

A bright and enthusiastic undergraduate student was my guide recently for a tour of the Canadian Light Source on the University of Saskatchewan campus. She explained to our group that scientists don’t pay to use the beamlines since they are conducting academic research, whereas companies pay by the hour. The distinction, according to our guide, is that the company is conducting research for their own profit whereas the academic is going to share his research in scholarly journals that everyone can read! I might have thrown up a little at that moment. But I did not want to hijack the tour by climbing on my open access soapbox right then. Reality will come crashing in once she graduates. Or… she could continue on to grad school, and then maybe on to become a faculty member, at large, rich institutions in the Global North and remain oblivious to the information privilege she currently enjoys.

Luckily, there is a growing awareness of this privilege among academic library users:

My intention in sharing the anecdote of the tour guide is not to shame the student. I was no different as an undergraduate (actually she’s a lot brighter than I was!), and her misunderstanding is understandable. My intention is to highlight the importance of teaching undergraduates about the scholarly communication ecosystem… and all of its warts: including its financial unsustainability and inequity of access. The Information has Value frame of ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education can serve as a guide in this.

For years now I have incorporated such messages in my instruction sessions. I clearly tell students that we are lucky to be at a relatively wealthy university, so we have access to X number of journals, and X number of databases that the library pays for. Students and researchers at smaller institutions or in developing countries are not as lucky. Even members of our own community who are not affiliated with the university are not as lucky (including others on the tour with me that day).

When teaching database-searching I am hyper aware of the irony of it all. Sure, these database-specific skills of controlled vocabulary searching and refining of results lists will help students in completing that upcoming assignment – but what good are these non-translatable skills when they graduate and no longer have access to that expensive resource? Only a small portion of our students will go on to grad school and use that database again.

This is why I now include a brief discussion of Google Scholar in these classes as well: emphasizing that it is also a useful resource – and will likely be the only one they have access to once they graduate.

I am far from the first to recognize this problem: see Char Booth’s excellent blog post On Information Privilege in which she describes an information literacy session she taught:

…I opened by challenging the fallacy that information is free by diagramming the library’s multi-million dollar materials budget against the “open web,” then facilitated a discussion about the implications of a system in which significant areas of knowledge are available to a privileged few (e.g., them). This may seem like a counterintuitive approach, but among my students it was a literally jaw-dropping illustration of a paywall that none of them knew existed. Choice responses (mirrored in other classrooms where I’ve used this approach) included:

“Why in the world does it cost so much?”
“It doesn’t make sense!”
“You mean all libraries have to pay like this?”
“Why can’t we use this stuff after we graduate?”


I feel strongly that we librarians have contributed to this current dysfunctional scholarly publishing system by (well-meaningly) sheltering faculty and students from the costs. This has emboldened publishers to aggressively inflate their subscription fees beyond inflation (and beyond reason) because they know that the end users are blissfully unaware… and because they know that librarians have a strong service ethic and will bend over backward to provide our patrons with the resources they need.

Let’s pull back that curtain now. Undergraduates are our future researchers and our allies in advocating for a more sustainable and equitable system. Even if undergraduates don’t go on to become researchers they will be tax-paying members of society funding that research. They should understand the system that their money funds and demand change.

Advocating for Change in an Unsustainable and Inequitable Journal Publishing Market

[This was originally posted on the Brain-Work blog Feb 9, 2016]

by DeDe Dawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

I’ve been thinking a lot about how librarians can most effectively support researchers in their scholarly communications activities and bring about meaningful change in a largely dysfunctional academic journal market.

In a recent planning meeting at my library, the topic of advocacy for open access (OA) came up. It has always seemed to me to be a natural role for academic librarians. We know the underlying issues better than most, and have the professional responsibility to raise the awareness of these issues among our faculty colleagues on campus. Indeed, librarians at many institutions have led the way in advocating for OA for more than a decade now. And much progress has been made: OA is quickly becoming the default (for journal articles at least) and there is no going back – especially now that major national funders are mandating it.

So, do we really need more advocacy for OA?

OA now seems to have a life of its own. We no longer need to advocate for it so much as support the researchers at our institutions in complying with the mandates of their funders to make their research outputs (publications and data) openly available. There are many practical tools and resources that librarians can introduce researchers to that will help them in this. And of course there are still many persistent myths and misinformation about OA that need to be countered. Roles for librarians abound! So, awareness-raising and practical support for compliance – but what of advocacy?

Lately, I am coming to the conclusion that our advocacy efforts need to be redirected to pushing for more fundamental changes in the journal publishing market. Let me explain:

Academic librarians have always been some of the strongest proponents of OA simply because we can clearly see the unsustainability, and inequity, in the current commercial journal market better than our any of our campus colleagues.

The system is unsustainable:

Publishers have increased subscription fees beyond inflation for decades, and make “obscene” profits from selling research papers produced by faculty at our institutions back to us. Library budgets have not grown at the same rate as journal subscription increases. For many years librarians have been able to maintain these subscriptions by reducing expenses in other areas and cutting spending on monographs – but this can only go on for so long. To make an unsustainable system even worse, many commercial publishers are now co-opting OA for their own financial gain. With “hybrid” journals, publishers charge authors high article processing charges (APCs) to make their individual papers OA, and yet continue to charge libraries subscription fees to that same journal (i.e. “double-dipping”). Publishers have essentially found a lucrative additional revenue stream in OA – this is not the outcome that the original proponents of OA had in mind! Currently our low Canadian dollar makes this unsustainable system even worse (since most subscriptions are paid in U.S. dollars). Libraries are at the breaking point.

The system is inequitable:

This is also an ethical problem. Much of the research locked up behind commercial publisher paywalls is taxpayer funded, yet taxpayers cannot read the results without paying again. Taxpayers also largely fund the salaries of university faculty who peer-review and serve on editorial boards of these journals. The publishers generally do not pay these individuals for their services, nor do they pay the authors of the papers. To be blunt: commercial scholarly journal publishing is a racket. The tax paying public loses, practitioners and patients lose, independent researchers and journalists lose, academics in developing countries lose, scholars and students at poorer institutions lose, and now those at even the richest institutions are losing too. I could go on.

So, returning to the advocacy piece…

I believe we now need to advocate for more radical change in the entire scholarly publishing market. Imagine the millions of dollars per year that each institution could save if they could cancel all of these subscriptions. A portion of this money could be redirected to support innovative new OA publishing models, or simply support scholarly societies to take back their flagship journals from the commercial publishers (e.g. Cultural Anthropology). And the rest could be redirected to support research and student scholarships, or many other worthy needs on campus.

I’m not naïve. I realize this is not a straightforward task. But it is essential to the future of higher education and research institutions. And there are innovations already taking place (I list some below), but the key in this equation is outreach to researchers. They are the authors, the reviewers, the editors. They are the colleagues that sit on tenure and promotion committees. They are also often in administrative roles at universities. They have the real power to effect change. But, they are generally unaware of the full extent of the dysfunction in the system. Librarians have an opportunity, and a professional obligation, to raise their awareness on these issues, and advocate and support them in changing it to more sustainable and equitable OA models.

A few examples of innovative models of scholarly OA journal publishing:
Overlay journals
Open Library of the Humanities
Open Access Network

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.