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

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.”

More Elsevier Bad Press

You may have caught wind of the latest brouhaha developing online against Elsevier.

Yesterday, Cambridge mathematician Timothy Glowers released data collected from 19 UK universities under a freedom of information act request – the data are what they pay annually to Elsevier for the ScienceDirect journal bundle. Elsevier has always insisted on confidentiality clauses in these licenses. (BTW: Yes, this is the same Tim Glowers that initiated the Cost of Knowledge boycott in 2012).

It is a long, and carefully documented blog post – but well worth the read:

If you don’t have the time, this post nicely summarizes the main points:

And the Research Libraries UK (RLUK) has already released a statement too:

I can’t say I was very surprised or shocked by any of these numbers, but the point is to make these data more transparent to academics who are often blissfully unaware (not to mention the tax-paying public who ultimately fund much of this system).

It will be interesting to see how Elsevier tries to put out this fire.

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!

Open Access in Action: ASAP Award Winners

Accelerating Impact

“View exceptional real-world applications of Open Access research. Video features six teams of scientists whose innovative reuse of existing research enabled important advances in medical treatment and detection, ecology and science education. These examples demonstrate how the reuse of Open Access research can accelerate scientific progress and benefit society as a whole. Includes comments from Open Access advocates from publishing, academia and industry and features finalists, winners and sponsors from the Accelerating Science Awards Program (ASAP).”

Guide to Making Your Publications OA

I have done two in-person workshops on this topic in the last year and thought that a brief little guide to the main resources would be helpful.

Sooo, here it is:

Making your publications open access: Resources to assist researchers and librarians

From the introduction:

“It has now been more than a decade since the Budapest Open Access Initiative coined the term open access (OA) and united a movement to free scholarly literature from access barriers. Incredible progress has been made in this time with the launching of thousands of OA journals, open repositories, and mandates from institutions, funders, and various levels of government in countries around the world. The momentum only seems to be increasing in recent years. OA is now considered to be inevitable, with one prediction estimating that it will be the dominant model for scholarly literature in the next decade.1

This guide is intended to be a practical tool to help busy researchers, and the librarians who support them, make the transition to OA. The focus herein is on freely available online resources that will assist in making research publications OA; the closely associated, and rapidly growing, area of research data is beyond the scope of this column.”

Access the full article HERE.

I also maintain a tab on the online guide for the workshop series HERE.

Upcoming Consultation on Tri-Agency OA Policy


It looks like the long awaited harmonized Tri-Agency Open Access Policy is imminent. This brief announcement was posted on the NSERC website recently:

Upcoming Consultation on the Draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and NSERC are developing a harmonized policy on access to research publications. From October 15 to December 13, 2013, NSERC and SSHRC will consult with a wide range of stakeholders in the research community on the draft consultation document, Tri-Agency Open Access Policy. The harmonized draft policy is modeled after the  CIHR Open Access Policy, which remains unchanged and continues to be mandatory. For more information, please contact

Hat tip to Ian for alerting me to this exciting news!

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.