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

Funders Getting more Strict on OA Policies

A growing number of major research funding agencies have open access policies. Those of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. and the Wellcome Trust in the U.K. are perhaps the best known. However, a criticism of many of these policies has always been that they don’t have any “teeth.” This finally seems to be changing.

A recent news article in Nature reports that

“Wellcome Trust says that it has withheld grant payments on 63 occasions in the past year because papers resulting from the funding were not open access. And the NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, says that it has delayed some continuing grant awards since July 2013 because of non-compliance with open-access policies, although the agency does not know the exact numbers.”

I believe that many researchers support OA in principle but actually getting around to making their publications OA is just another cumbersome task that they simply don’t get around to. The last line of the Nature article quotes a researcher who makes this point:

 “Agreeing with open access is easy — making it happen, less so,” she says.

I actually disagree. Making OA happen is not really that hard. It just needs to be incorporated into the researchers’ usual workflow. Applying for grants and writing up the research is much more difficult. Researchers just need to follow through with that one last step. And now they may not get their next grant if they don’t!

New Reports Highlight Fast Growth of OA

Three new reports recently prepared for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation show that Open Access is growing at a rate faster than previously thought.

From the news release: “…around 50% of papers published in 2011 are now available online for free. This is nearly twice the level estimated in previous studies and confirms the global shift towards open access to research findings.”

The reports were prepared by Science-Metrix, an independent research evaluation firm based in Montreal.

Download the reports HERE.

ARL Webinar Series: Reshaping Scholarly Communication

4B: Broader Library Involvement in Building Programs—Librarian Training and Development

Tuesday October 19, 11am-12pm, Rm 102, Murray Library
Program 4B will focus specifically on the roles of librarians in education and outreach regarding scholarly communications issues. Presenters will discuss how to prepare librarians to take on this new challenge, providing them with the tools and training to speak confidently and answer questions about scholarly communications issues. How disciplinary differences factor into librarian education also will be discussed.
Scheduled Speakers
• Karen Williams, Associate University Librarian for Academic Programs, University of Minnesota Libraries
• Ellen Finnie Duranceau, Program Manager, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing, MIT Libraries
All are welcome!
Brought to you by
the Learning and Development Committee, University of Saskatchewan Library
Here is a poster to advertise the event: Download file
For more information on this series see:

2009 Sparky Awards

All the entries for the 2009 Sparky Awards are now in!
This is a contest organized by SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) to promote the open exchange of information. People create short videos on the value of sharing information and ideas.
A list of all of the entries for 2009 can be seen here:
There is a People’s Choice Award – so vote for your favourite by March 7, 2010!

GSA Provides Open Access to Haitian Earthquake Research

Here is an announcement just released from The Geological Society of America:
Boulder, CO, USA – In response to the 12 January 2010 earthquakes in Haiti, The Geological Society of America has compiled a list of open-access papers on the Caribbean plate and the Enriquillo-Plaintain fault line. These articles, from GSA Bulletin and the GSA Special Papers collection, span the years 2009 to 1954.
Access the literature at:
The following poster map providing information on the recent earthquake is also freely available from the United States Geological Survey (USGS):

PubMedCentral Canada now available for searching

PubMedCentral Canada is now up and available for searching, at:
PubMed Central Canada is a free digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed health and life sciences literature based on PubMed Central, the archive developed by the US National Library of Medicine. The search interface allows anyone to browse, search and download articles.
PMC Canada will launch a manuscript submission system later this year. It will support CIHR’s Policy on Access to Research Outputs, which requires CIHR grant recipients to make their peer-reviewed publications freely accessible online within six months of publication.
PMC Canada is a partnership between the National Research Council’s Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Public Domain Day 2010

Every January 1st is celebrated as Public Domain Day, the day when copyright terms expire and works enter the public domain. However, according to the Center for the Study of the Public Domain: “We have little reason to celebrate on Public Domain Day because our public domain has been shrinking, not growing”. See here for the full blog post from the Center with some interesting links.
To find out more about the public domain see James Boyle’s book: The Public Domain – which is available freely online (of course!). Boyle is a law professor at Duke University and the founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.