27 Aug 2008

Defining Open Access: Gratis vs Libre

Peter Suber and Steven Harnad have introduced two new terms into the Open Access lexicon: gratis and libre.

I'll let Peter explain:

"When the Bethesda and Berlin statements came out (June and October 2003) they followed the Budapest statement in calling for the removal of both price and permission barriers. As a result, all three components of the Budapest-Bethesda-Berlin (BBB) definition of OA now call for both sorts of free online access.

But unfortunately we still don't have widely accepted terms for the two sorts of free online access: (1) the kind which removes price barriers alone and (2) the kind which removes price barriers and at least some permission barriers. This gap in our vocabulary has caused confusion and conflicts, not least because it created pressure to use the term "open access" for each. For now, my choice is to use "gratis" and "libre". They are accurate, neutral, and descriptive. In the neighboring domain of free and open source software, they exactly express the distinction I have in mind".
Gratis is cost free
It means free to read.

Libre is cost free & permission free

It means free to use.

Heather Morrison is a fan of these new terms, and I think they are going to catch on (although some are confused). I do still think that 'real' open access is more than just giving it away for free - permission barriers matter, and others like Jim Till agree. That the initial suggestions for gratis and libre were 'weak OA' and 'strong OA' speaks volumes.

A short post about Bentham Open

I've had my eye on Bentham Open since before various bloggers, Peter Suber and Richard Poynder raised concerns about their email marketing and the recruitment of their editorial boards.

When they launched they copied some of their instructions for authors verbatim from the BMC-series journals
, but the below really took the biscuit. Spot the difference. They stopped using that logo pretty sharpish; I think someone put a shot across their bows...

20 Aug 2008

My view of Scientific Journals International

Richard Poynder, Gunther Eysenbach and others have been investigating the practices of some of the new Open Access publishers, such as Bentham Open, Libertas Academica and Scientific Journals International (SJI). The fear is that an unscrupulous publisher might look on Open Access as a way to make a fast buck (in a "Gold Rush"), hoping to take advantage of the goodwill that many researchers have towards Open Access journals. There's a fine line between being a respectable Open Access publisher and a vanity publisher, and that line is held by rigorous peer review and good editorial processes. Quite rightly, a spotlight is being shone on the way that publishers are marketing themselves, recruiting editorial board members and conducting peer review. BioMed Central has faced similar scrutiny, and has weathered it.

Richard Poynder is a well-respected freelance journalist with an interest in the Open Access movement. He is known for his incisive interviews, and he has recently been asking whether anyone knows about SJI. His questions were prompted by researchers wondering about SJI:

"What kind of quality can I expect from a journal titled “Journal of Electronic Book”? Not to be too harsh, but it might be grouped with another journal such as “Journal of Gooder Grammar”."

"Nowhere on the website could I find any indication of who is actually behind these journals"

"SJI sometimes speaks of itself as a publisher of journals (plural) and sometimes of one multi-disciplinary journal (singular)."

"The fact that some of the lead authors of articles are using lycos and aol as email addresses really raises alarms"

In response, Zinath Rehana, co-founder of SJI, sent a lengthy post to the SPARC Open Access Forum, threatening to sue Richard Poynder and others for libel. This response is not very measured.
"Dr. Niaz [the founder of SJI] is also well aware of the realities of prejudice and racism, and knows how to deal with them with legal actions"

"Why is there such hostility toward an Asian American immigrant of 25 years?".
To bring the issue of race into this as Zinath Rehana has done is uncalled for. Dr Niaz's institution, St. Cloud State University, may have problems with racism but that does not mean that it is lurking around every corner. I see no reason to believe that Richard Poynder is motivated by racism. The further implication that Richard Poynder is in some way anti-Open Access is simply incorrect. I believe that Zinath Rehana was mistaken if she was hoping to garner support in the Open Access movement with her post to SOAF. Dorothea Salo isn't impressed, for starters. I think that it is best to answer legitimate concerns with openness rather than threats of legal action.

Zinath Rehana calls on other Open Access publishers for help against unfair criticism, but then goes on to criticise BioMed Central and PLoS for being unsustainable and profligate. The picture she paints of BioMed Central is not one I recognise - we're getting more submissions than ever, and rumour has it that we're 'in the black'.
SJI claims that article processing charges are not scalable, when that's exactly what they are. Zinath Rehana also neglects to mention the waiver schemes operated by PLoS and BioMed Central for authors who have difficulty paying. I don't think that criticising PLoS and BioMed Central is the best way to make friends in the Open Access movement.

While biomedical publishing is edging towards being open, SJI may be going the other way.
"We employ an innovative quadruple-blind review system, where the referees, authors and editors remain anonymous throughout the peer-review process. Names of the chief editor or associate editors are not published on SJI Web site. Authors or reviewers cannot contact the editors to influence the review process deliberately or unintentionally"
Quadruple blind? Does this mean that there is no editorial accountability? I believe that it is essential that people know who runs a journal, but authors and readers seem to have to take the editorial processes at SJI on trust.

The payment model of SJI is unusual. They charge article processing charges, but ask for more money the more authors there are. Articles do not cost more to process if they have more authors. This payment model might lead to authors being unfairly left off papers to save a group money. If authors do pay the fee it may be a canny move by SJI because the number of authors on scientific articles increases year by year.

There is an impressively long list of journals, but many are "Coming soon..." when you follow the links. How many active journals are there? There is an Editorial Board, but this spans across all the journals.
The journals have no scopes to my knowledge, no information on indexing, and I can find no information on the license under which the articles are published.

Importantly, there is no official information available on how peer review is conducted: who selects reviewers, who makes editorial decisions, how many reviewers are used, what are the editorial policies and standards? The only information we have about the peer review at SJI is from an anonymous comment on the Open Access blog. I hope that this is not an accurate or representative depiction. If it is, I would advise those running SJI to read and adopt the policies of the World Association of Medical Editors.

We need answers, not legal action.

This post is my opinion, and not that of BioMed Central

[Post edited 22/8/08 - I had not realised that Zinath Rehana is female]

Scientific Journals International on the attack

The message below was sent to the SPARC Open Access Forum by Scientific Journals International, who Richard Poynder has been investigating.


Someone has posted false rumors and misinformation about SJI on your forum. We contacted Dr. Suber and he advised us to send our response to you. We would truly appreciate it if you kindly post the attached response on your forum. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Best regards.

Zinath A. Rehana (Zinia)
Co-founder of SJI

Lies, fear and smear campaigns against SJI and other OA journals

It has come to our attention that a couple of individuals and organizations are propagating libelous, deceptive, misleading and false information and rumors about SJI (as well as other open-access journals) via emails and blogs. We are taking legal actions against such fraudulent and libelous activities.

The email campaign is being carried out by an individual by the name of Megan Voss. We need your help in identifying any other individuals or
organizations who may be involved in such fraudulent and libelous activities. If you receive any fraudulent and suspicious emails or reports,
please forward them to us so that we can collect additional evidence for our legal actions.

We are also collecting evidence of libelous propaganda carried out by Richard Poynder. He has posted false and distorted information about SJI and other open-access publishers on several blogs. He is not affiliated with any reputable news media. We could not find any information about his academic background or professional media experience other than a few "freelance stories" he has written.

This individual has been harassing our staff and Board members with ridiculous and pointless questions, intimidation, and "bullying" tactics.
He scared away one of our new Board members from Yale University by posing false rumors and misleading questions to him. Consequently, he has withdrawn from our Advisory Board.

When Mr. Poynder contacted us for the first time, our founder had asked him about his affiliation. He said he was not affiliated with any news media. His approach came out to be arrogant, ignorant, disrespectful, and hostile.

Our founder Dr. Niaz is a very busy man. He is a Senior Fulbright Scholar who now serves as the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Mass Communications at Saint Cloud State University. He is currently working on several book projects simultaneously. His university Web site is located at http://web.stcloudstate.edu/nahmed/. He does not have time to deal with such an arrogant individual. Moreover, when Mr. Poynder called him from U.K. the connection was not very clear and Dr. Niaz was about to go to an important meeting. So, he asked him to send his questions via email and later referred him to SJI Web site and his university Web site as many of the questions have already been answered there.

Dr. Niaz is accustomed to dealing with polite, respectful and legitimate journalists. In connection to his other online initiative (Idea Trade
Network www.newideatrade.com), Dr. Niaz had been interviewed by CNN, CBS, MarketWatch, Washington Post, Star Tribune and other leading news media from around the world (www.newideatrade.com/mediacoverage.htm). SJI is still in its initial phase and we have not had the time to carry out any publicity campaigns. We are only beginning to get coverage in the news media about SJI.

Dr. Niaz is also well aware of the realities of prejudice and racism, and knows how to deal with them with legal actions. As a US citizen, he knows
his rights and has the courage to fight for his rights. Nonetheless, when Mr. Poynder approached him with an arrogant and disrespectful manner, he just did not have the time to put up with such unprofessional conduct and asked the staff to respond to his questions.

Mr. Poynder then asked a number of idiotic questions that made it clear to us that he was neither knowledgeable nor had a deeper understanding of the innovative ideas and approaches that are being developed in the open-access publishing world. In fact, he did not seem to be interested in anything other than a few false rumors that have been circulated on the Internet. At one point, he demanded that we give him the names of three authors whose papers had been rejected. Our staff found this to be very childish and ludicrous. They told him that hundreds of papers are being accepted or rejected on a regular basis. If he wants to write a story based on false rumors that open-access journals do not conduct peer-reviews then he can ask the sources of these rumors (or anyone else) to verify this by submitting their own papers to see if they go through a peer-review process. One can also become a reviewer for an open-access journal to see if he or she is asked to review any manuscripts. Our staff also told him that he can contact hundreds of authors whose papers have been published to see if they were peer-reviewed. Each article that is published on SJI includes the author's email address. We have records of all email exchanges between SJI and Mr. Poynder and will produce the same in the Court of Law if needed. In his blog postings, Mr. Poynder has misrepresented the facts and suppressed the truth. He conveniently omitted the fact that our staff had told him to contact hundreds of SJI authors who have had peer-reviewed articles published. He also distorted the facts about his email exchange with some of the Advisory Board members. It is clearly stated on our Web site, that the Advisory Board members are responsible for providing advice and guidance for the ongoing development of SJI, and that it is the Review Board members (more than 3,000 and growing) who are asked to serve as peer reviewers. Surprisingly Mr. Poynder disregarded this fact and began to harass our Advisory Board members with misleading emails, and then posted false and distorted information on several blogs.

We are also appalled by the level of his disrespect, arrogance, and hostility toward our founder Dr. Niaz. In several blogs he stated that Dr. Niaz "described himself as the director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Mass Communications at Saint Cloud State University." Any respectable professional whether he or she is a journalist, a scholar or anyone else can easily verify this fact by contacting the university or by
checking the university Web site. In fact, even though he was referred to the university Web site, he never mentioned any of the facts about Dr. Niaz that can be verified in five minutes. He never mentioned that Dr. Niaz is a Senior Fulbright Scholar, and a tenured full professor at a major state university in Minnesota where he has served for the past 17 years. Instead, he states that Dr. Niaz "described himself as the director of Graduate Studies.."

Mr. Poynder calls himself a "freelance journalist." Sadly, it is not journalism he is practicing. It is trash, it is distortion, it is fear-mongering, it is smear campaign. It is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.

One can only wonder about the motivations for such distrust, hatred and disrespect toward someone (he has never seen or met). Why is there such hostility toward an Asian American immigrant of 25 years who has made only positive contributions to this country like millions of other immigrants whose creativity and innovations have made this nation great?

Anyone with an average level of intelligence and knowledge about the history of this country knows the fact that this is a land of immigrants. In terms of innovations, just look around and see what is happening in the world of new media and Web commerce. Google, Amazon.com, YouTube.com, Hotmail.com and hundreds of other new technologies, products and services have been developed by recent immigrants who came to this country for some of the same reasons the early immigrants came-for better opportunities where they could utilize their creativity and inventiveness. It is this great diversity of people and their innovations that have made this country great. Unfortunately, out of millions of good hearted and open minded people, there are a few who do not know their own history, nor do they allow their prejudiced minds to open up to the true realities that could alter their misperceptions. In the end, they harm a lot of well-intentioned law-abiding hard-working citizens whose creativity and innovations could benefit not only the institution or corporation they work for but also all citizens including the prejudiced and the fear-mongers.

Aside from prejudice and hatred, we are also aware of the professional jealousy and hostility that exist in every domain of human endeavors. The scholarly publishing world is no different.

Opposition to open access

Opposition to open access has largely been from traditional subscription-based journal publishers, whose business model depends upon
providing access to research only to those who will pay for journal subscriptions. Many conventional publishers actively oppose open access,
because it will cut into their profitability.

Some organizations representing subscription-based traditional publishers in the United States are currently lobbying the government against open-access publishing. These organizations include, The Association of American Publishers and its lobbying organization PRISM. In fact, soon after the launch of the European petition for open access, the well-known traditional journal Nature reported that subscription-based publishers were preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to counter open-access support.

According to news reports, some traditional publishers and a few of their misguided allies in the academia as well as a few spin-doctors in the media are engaged in misinformation campaigns against open access journals. Disinformation and distortions are also being propagated by a few bloggers who have no journalistic background and have no knowledge about the ethics or social responsibility of the media in contemporary society. These individuals have never worked for a reputable media outlet, nor do they have any academic training in journalism. Nonetheless, they are engaged in deceptive campaigns of fear and smear. Some traditional publishers are also actively trying to thwart the open access movement and are lobbying to delay or dilute government policies regarding open access.

The Association of Research Libraries has responded recently by stating, "This effort is clearly aimed at preserving established publishing
conventions and the revenues of established publishers" (source http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/crlnews/backissues2008/may08/librarybud
getsscholcomm.cfm). These lobbyists and their spin-doctors try to capitalize on the fact that some people will accept spin or misinformation without checking to see if there is any factual information to back it up. For example, some of these organizations and their spin doctors are
spreading misinformation that open access journals do not conduct peer-reviews of articles. One of the leading advocates of open access
publishing Peter Suber states ".they are using.the 'sky is falling on peer review' as a fear tactic....this is like Microsoft campaigning to make
Google go away...(source http://www.earlham.edu/%7Epeters/fos/2007_09_30_fosblogarchive.html).

Many top university presses such as MIT Press, Columbia University Press, and Oxford University Press are now dissociating themselves with these
lobbying organizations of the traditional publishers. Cambridge University Press and Rockefeller University Press have recently publicly criticized
PRISM and its activities (source http://www.earlham.edu/%7Epeters/fos/2007/10/mit-press-dissociates-itself-from-prism.html).

Legal action

SJI is now collecting evidence for its legal action against individuals and organizations who are propagating libelous, deceptive, misleading and false information and rumors about SJI (as well as other open-access journals). We are also issuing a "fraud alert" to more than 3,000 scholars who are involved with SJI to monitor and report to SJI of any libelous and misinformation campaigns against SJI and other open-access publishers. We urge other open-access publishers to do the same. Since some of the traditional journal publishers, their spin doctors, bloggers, and a few misguided allies in the academia, are carrying out organized campaigns of lies, distortions, fear and smear, the open-access publishers must organize themselves to expose these activities and take legal actions using libel laws to stop such campaigns of lies and distortions.

As with Mr. Poynder's misinformation campaigns, we would like to give him one opportunity to issue an apology and a retraction on the blogs where he posted his libelous statements. If he complies, we would not pursue legal actions against him and we will be glad to talk to him about SJI. Had Mr. Poynder approached us with an open mind and in a collegial manner, we could have shared a lot of information about our experience in developing SJI into a sustainable open-access publisher that is profitable and at the same time affordable for authors and their funding agencies. Such information could be valuable to other open-access publishers that are struggling to sustain their operation.

Unsolved issues in the open-access publishing model

Many open-access publishers have been unable to come up with economically sustainable business models. They have not been able to use a business model that is efficient and profitable for the publisher and at the same time affordable for the authors and their funding sources. Most of the open-access journals are sustained by grants and endowments as well as subsidies from universities, foundations, government agencies, and
professional societies or associations. A handful of large open-access publishers have sustained their operation without reaching profitability by
continuing to raise the article processing fee which is their primary source of revenues. For example, Biomed Central now charges $1,700-$1,900 per article while PLoS charges $2,100-$2,750 per article (source http://pln.palinet.org/wiki/index.php/Open_access_controversies).

Critics have argued that the escalating processing fees of these open-access journals are becoming a barrier that may destroy what it originally wanted to foster. In very few disciplines (other than medical and life sciences) do scholars have sufficient funds from grants and other sources to pay such high article processing fees. In many fields, funding at the university, foundation, or government agency level is scattered, uncommon or rare. Even in medical and life sciences, many researchers and scholars in less funded institutions as well as independent researchers are unable to pay such high article processing fees. In fields such as Social Sciences and Humanities, many authors are engaged in significant research without grants, and therefore, may not have the funds to pay for the prohibitive article processing fees.

One of the reasons why the major open-access journals have experienced difficulty in reaching profitability is that they maintain a very high cost
structure of operation which carries extremely high overhead and administrative costs. These include a plethora of big-expense offices and a
stable of high salaried professional editors, executives, programmers, and database administrators.

For a major traditional journal, the average cost of producing an article is approximately $2750. For open-access publishing, the cost is in the range of $500-$2500 per article (source http://library.queensu.ca/webir/planning/e-journal_publishing_support.htm). These expenses are split among editorial costs, electronic composition and production, journal information system, manuscript management system, electronic archiving, overhead expenses, and administrative costs. The publication fee or article processing fee must cover the costs of publishing the accepted article plus the cost of reviewing the number of articles the journal rejects for each accepted article. Since costs per accepted paper rise with the rejection rate of papers, the fee usually rises as the rejection rate goes up and acceptance rate goes down.

Such high cost structure demands sizeable revenue streams to offset it. However, the major open-access journals have not explored all possible
streams of revenues. Instead, they have relied heavily on article processing fees and institutional memberships that pay the processing fees
for university faculty and researchers. However, as they continued to raise their fees, it has become unaffordable for many authors and institutions.

There is also a serious problem with the fee structure of major open-access journals. Their article processing fee or institutional membership fee is not scalable. They charge a flat article processing fee for publishing each article no matter how many authors collaborate in writing the article. If an article is written by one author, he or she pays the same high processing fee as an article that has five authors (Biomed Central charges $1,700-$1,900 per article while PLoS charges $2,100-$2,750 per article). This fee structure is not fair or affordable for an individual author whose research may not have been supported by a grant and therefore, he or she has to pay the processing fee out of pocket.

The major open-access journals also charge a flat fee for their institutional membership. Such membership fees have also been rising at a
rapid pace. For example, in 2005, BioMed Central charged libraries up to $4,658 per year. The cost then jumped to $31,625 in 2006. These charges have continued to soar in 2007 and 2008. Many institutions have begun to cancel their memberships. The scientific and medical library at Yale University recently announced that it would cease its BioMed Central institutional membership (source http://www2.library.yale.edu/movabletype/scilib/archive/2007/08/library_drops_b_1.html). The Yale library noted that it paid $31,625 to cover the cost of publication in BioMed Central's journals by their authors in 2006.

The major open-access publishers expected academic institutions to support author fees with massive reallocations from library acquisitions budgets. However, relying too heavily on article processing fees puts open-access journals at a disadvantage compared to traditional journals, which are supported centrally through library budgets. Many universities have pointed out that libraries cannot simply transfer their acquisitions budget from subscriptions to open access overnight, since access to the subscription-only journals is important for their researchers.

What can other open-access journals learn from the experience of SJI? SJI combines the open-access model with innovative approaches to address the problems in the current scholarly publishing system at the worldwide level. SJI is still in its development phase. We are learning and trying new ideas and approaches on an ongoing basis. That is the key to achieving success in any online venture. As we provide high quality services at lesser cost, SJI continues to thrive and our base of support grows stronger every day, while other open-access journals struggle to merely sustain their operations with the help of grants and institutional subsidies.

SJI operates using a lean publishing model. While other major open-access publishers spend millions in big-expense offices and high salaried
professional editors, executives, and programmers, SJI gets by, operating from a tiny 150 sq ft office with several part-time staff. Instead of
hiring high salaried professional editors, executives, and programmers, SJI has built a devoted community of more than 3,000 scholars, researchers, programmers, management and marketing faculty and professionals who serve SJI as volunteer advisors, reviewers, editors, and technical experts. The fee structure of SJI is scalable and fair to the authors. For newer journals, SJI charges $99 per article with $99 for each additional author. For the older journals, the fee is $199 per article with $99 for each additional author. The experience of SJI clearly indicates that researchers and their host institutions and funding agencies are willing to pay reasonable and affordable article processing fees for the sake of faster and fairer access and greater exposure of their work.

SJI is also able to reduce costs of publishing by requiring the authors to perform the final formatting of their articles for publication. The authors
are also asked to seek professional editing services if SJI reviewers and editors have recommended such revisions.

SJI is in the process of employing open-source software to automate many tasks including early assessment of papers to identify possible duplicate submissions or repurposing material from other papers. This automation will further reduce our administrative costs.

SJI has developed several alternative models of sustainability and profitability and is using innovative ways to generate revenues that are missing from other journals. We have found numerous creative ways and a wide range of revenue streams that allow us to share and distribute the costs of open-access publishing across all interested stakeholders-not just article processing fees from authors. Such alternative streams of revenues help us keep our article processing fees low enough to attract thousands of authors and researchers who do not have sponsors or grants, and consequently, cannot afford to pay the high processing fees of other major publishers.

SJI has also realized that every kind of digital content can be made available through open access publishing--from texts and data to audio,
video and multi-media contents. SJI is probably the only open-access publisher that publishes peer-reviewed creative work (poetry, paintings,
music, films, novels, video and multimedia) on its Journal of Creative Work. Moreover, our standard scientific journals are complemented by several unique and innovative journals such as Journal of Dissertations, Journal of Patents & Trademarks, Journal of Reviews, Journal of Electronic Books, Journal of Biography & Autobiography, Journal of Current Events & Issues, Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Research, Journal of Research Data, Journal of Bibliographies, Journal of Monographs, and Journal of Research Abstracts.

Any scholar or any organization planning to launch an open-access journal can feel free to contact us for helpful advice and suggestions. Existing open-access journals that are struggling to survive can also contact us for more information on how to become sustainable and profitable, and affordable at the same time. We never stop learning. But, one has to start somewhere.

3 Aug 2008

Journalology round-ups return!

My, doesn't time fly, etc. etc.

Open access

Gaining impact, readers and authors through fee-less-free dissemination: an experiment with open access. "Most journals in India and other developing countries face the challenges of shortage of quality articles, poor international recognition, maintaining publication schedule and managing the finances. Many of these problems are inter-linked and are related to the journal’s visibility. Most of these journals have limited circulation beyond their own country. The limited visibility and accessibility of the journals leads to poor citation and impact factor, which in turn repel the authors and subscribers. Free online access to the journal’s content has to potential to solve this long standing problem of journals from the developing world".

Hidden cost of open access
. An stunningly ill-informed commentary on open access. "Disseminating research via the web is appealing, but it lacks journals' peer-review quality filter, says Philip Altbach. The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences recently joined the "open-access" movement, urging its professors to post their research on a freely accessible website. In so doing, it aligned itself with those critics of the traditional journal publishing system who assert that knowledge should be free to everyone and not the preserve of increasingly monopolistic and predatory multinational journal publishers. For Harvard University, the decision is relatively cost free. Its institutional prestige and the prominence of many of its faculty will ensure that scholars gravitate to its website. But in most cases, open access simply places material on the internet to join the exponentially expanding universe of information. The problem is one of selection. How does a user of research select the best and most relevant material from the vast array of information available?"

Open Access 2.0: Access to Scholarly Publications Moves to a New Phase. "What publishing does well-traditional publishing, that is, where you pay for what you read, whether in print or online-is command attention. This is not a trivial matter in a world that seemingly generates more and more information effortlessly, but still has the poor reader stuck with something close to the Biblical lifespan of three score and ten and a clock that stubbornly insists that a day is 24 hours and no more. Attention is the scarce commodity; any service that makes those 24 hours more productive is welcome. A service that winnows through the huge outpouring of information and says (with authority), Pay attention to this; pay less attention to that; and as for that other thing, ignore it entirely-such a service is well worth paying for. The name of that service is publishing".

Get More from Your Academic Research. "In the age of the Internet, the ways you share and use academic research results are changing - rapidly, fundamentally, irreversibly. There’s great potential in change. After all, faster and wider sharing of journal articles, research data, simulations, syntheses, analyses, and other findings fuels the advance of knowledge. It’s a two-way street - sharing research benefits you and others. But will the promise of digital scholarship be fully realized? How will yesterday’s norms adapt to tomorrow’s possibilities? This website will help you understand the changing landscape and how it affects you and your research. It also offers practical ways to look out for your own interests as a researcher. A scholarly revolution is underway. It enables you to get a greater return from your research. All you have to do is share it".

Is apathy the main barrier to Open Access? "Why is the adoption of Open Access not proceeding even faster than its already heady pace? Perhaps from my side of the fence, where all things Open Access appear logical and highly desirable, I simply can’t comprehend why others might not agree. Part of me wonders, though, if apathy doesn’t play a part".

Open Access: Doing the numbersrs. "One question that has been repeatedly (and heatedly) debated since 1994 - when Open Access (OA) advocate Stevan Harnad first posted his "Subversive Proposal" - is the questions of costs. That is, what are the essential costs of publishing a scholarly paper? To date no one appears to have come up with an adequate answer".

Also see Scholarly Publishing Re-invented: Real Costs and Real Freedoms.

New YouTube channel for Open Access

Science Dissemination using Open Access
. A compendium of selected literature on Open Access (a 200+ page PDF book!).

Open access myths
. There are real issues and controversies related to open access--but there are also myths, arguments that have been refuted but that keep showing up time and time again.

Open Science recommendations from Science Commons

Open Access cards from SPARC. "Eye-catching and inexpensive to distribute, our new Open Access teaser cards are designed to grab student attention where they roam. Order copies or print your own, tear apart, and place this guerrilla piece strategically around campus - in library carrels, around the coffee shop, or around the department. Phrases like “The article you couldn’t read might have earned your paper an A+, but you’ll never know” point readers directly to the problem of research access and invite them to check the righttoresearch.org web site to learn more".

Open Access Doesn’t Drive Citations
. "Davis and colleagues at Cornell University have just published in BMJ a very interesting and well-designed study addressing the question of whether open access drives citations".

ORLY? Gunther Eysenbach and Stevan Harnad point out flaws in the study, including the killer fact that the follow-up was only 1 year, while citations don't accrue until after a year...

PLoS ONE: Take Two. "Declan Butler's article about PLoS financials in this week's Nature has provoked a predictable - and many ways understandable - backlash from open access fans". My opinion - the Nature piece was a clumsy hatchet job, deliberately smearing PLoS and PLoS ONE and seeking out OA opponents for sound bites. Declan should be ashamed of himself, and he should write an apology for doing such shoddy reporting.

Publication ethics

Men still hold the power in biomedical publishing. "Between 1970 and 2005, 16 of the most influential medical journals had 118 editors in chief. A study of sex equality in biomedical publishing found that only eight of them were women. The same journals had 3237 editorial board members, 371 of whom were women. Equality has improved over the years-16% of editorial board members were female in 2005 up from 1.4% in 1970-but men still hold the lion’s share of the power. Eleven of the 16 journals studied, including the BMJ, had no female editors during the 35 year study period. The authors found that general medical journals from the UK and Canada appointed significantly more women to their editorial boards (29/107; 27%) than similar journals from the US (6/50; 12%), although these figures are just a snapshot of five journals in the year 2000, so they should be treated with caution. Does it matter if senior positions at biomedical journals are top heavy with men? At least one prominent female editor thinks so. Sex biased editorial boards means sex biased journal content, she writes in a linked editorial, and a skewed influence on the wider community. Journals should start by encouraging women reviewers and making sure they are considered alongside men for a place on the editorial board. Alison Tonk, BMJ. Arch Intern Med 2008;168:544-8". BioMed Central is clearly bucking this trend with our in-house staff - for example, all four of the editors who work on Journal of Biology are female! We still have some work to do on our editorial boards, and we are definitely working on it.

GMC suspends Raj Persaud for plagiarism. "The celebrity psychiatrist Raj Persaud was suspended from practising for three months today for passing off other scholars' work as his own".

A tale of two articles. An interesting 'history of science' tale of competing research and publishing in genetics. "In 1974, two articles regarding meiotic recombination in fungi were submitted for publication: one to the proceedings of a meeting held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Mortimer and Fogel 1974), and the other, which remained unpublished for 4 years, to (Kitani 1978). The two articles dealt with relationships among gene conversion, crossing over, and crossover interference, and they appeared to flatly contradict each other. Mortimer and Fogel claimed that crossovers accompanied by conversion interfered with additional, nearby crossing over; Kitani claimed that such crossovers did not interfere. Mortimer and Fogel's (1974) article was based on data from the ARG4 and HIS1 loci of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae); Kitani's was based on data from the g locus of Sordaria fimicola. Was one of them wrong, or is recombination in Sordaria truly so different from that in yeast? And why did it take 4 years to move Kitani's article through the GeneticsGenetics editorial process?".

Caution needed in using plagiarism detection software
. "From this brief exercise, it is clear that although Errami and Garner have made progress in a worthwhile cause, their efforts have not achieved their intended purpose, and despite their words of caution regarding the utility of their database, the surprisingly high number of false positives is alarming. Although the availability of such a database could act as a deterrent to undesirable and unethical behavior, the misuse and misinterpretation of information from Déjà vu could have damaging consequences to the reputations and careers of honest scientists. Incorrect entries in the Déjà vu database could lead to false accusations of scientific misconduct. Our exercise shows that a large number of authors may have to defend themselves to free their names from such unfounded allegations. There is no doubt that Errami and Garner’s undertaking is challenging and daunting, but one cannot help but wonder whether the publication of "A Tale of Two Citations" was premature. Safeguarding the integrity of biomedical research is essential, but one must also remember that the first rule in medicine is, "First, do no harm.""

Bias in the Design, Interpretation, and Publication of Industry-Sponsored Clinical Research. "Physicians have an obligation to be skeptical consumers of research, especially as they make care decisions based on the findings".

Todai researchers lied in medical articles. "University of Tokyo researchers lied about gaining the approval of an ethics review board and conducted studies without donors' consent for several articles published in medical journals, officials admitted Friday".

Research reporting

The EQUATOR Network launch meeting. Achieving Transparency in Reporting Health Research.

Publication bias was not a good reason to discourage trials with low power. "The objective was to investigate whether it is justified to discourage trials with less than 80% power. Trials with low power are unlikely to produce conclusive results, but their findings can be used by pooling then in a meta-analysis. However, such an analysis may be biased, because trials with low power are likely to have a nonsignificant result and are less likely to be published than trials with a statistically significant outcome... The impact of publication bias does not warrant the exclusion of trials with 50% power".

Graphical presentation of diagnostic information. "Graphical displays of results allow researchers to summarise and communicate the key findings of their study. Diagnostic information should be presented in an easily interpretable way, which conveys both test characteristics (diagnostic accuracy) and the potential for use in clinical practice (predictive value)... Graphical displays are currently underused in primary diagnostic accuracy studies and systematic reviews of such studies. Work is required to improve graphical displays, to better communicate the utility of a test in clinical practice and the implications of test results for individual patients".

The Fixing Proteomics Campaign
is bringing together the people in proteomics who want to tackle the growing frustration and unfair perception that proteomics hasn't delivered.

In the media, science is about absolute truth statements from arbitrary authority figures in white coats. "Even academics are influenced by media coverage: a seminal paper from the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991 said that if a study was covered by The New York Times it was significantly more likely to be cited by other academic papers. But for three months large parts of the NYT went on strike. The journalists wrote stories about academic research which never saw the light of day. The research saw no increase in citations. People read newspapers. Despite everything we think we know, their contents seep in, we believe them to be true, and we act upon them".

Free Microsoft tools for scholarly communication
. The following tools are freely available now:
* Add-ins. The Article Authoring Add-in for Word 2007 enables metadata to be captured at the authoring stage to preserve document structure and semantic information throughout the publishing process, which is essential for enabling search, discovery and analysis in subsequent stages of the life cycle. The Creative Commons Add-in for Office 2007 allows authors to embed Creative Commons licenses directly into an Office document (Word, Excel or PowerPoint) by linking to the Creative Commons site via a Web service.
* The Microsoft e-Journal Service [alpha version]. This offering provides a hosted, full-service solution that facilitates easy self-publishing of online-only journals to facilitate the availability of conference proceedings and small and medium-sized journals.
* Research Output Repository Platform [slides, forum, about]. This platform helps capture and leverage semantic relationships among academic objects - such as papers, lectures, presentations and video - to greatly facilitate access to these items in exciting new ways.
* The Research Information Centre [forthcoming]. In close partnership with the British Library, this collaborative workspace will be hosted via Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and will allow researchers to collaborate throughout the entire research project workflow, from seeking research funding to searching and collecting information, as well as managing data, papers and other research objects throughout the research process....

Peer review

Big bucks for peer review? "The NIH's $1 billion plan to improve peer review also includes compensation for reviewers: Grant reviewers will be compensated $250,000 for six years of service, if they qualify, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. This surpasses the current $200 per day compensation".

The effectiveness of the peer review process
: inter-referee agreement and predictive validity of manuscript refereeing at Angewandte Chemie.

Sample Size and Precision in NIH Peer Review
. NIH should adjust their peer review system to account for the number of reviewers needed to provide adequate precision in their evaluations.

Evaluative Criteria for Qualitative Research in Health Care: Controversies and Recommendations. Seven criteria for good qualitative research emerged: (1) carrying out ethical research; (2) importance of the research; (3) clarity and coherence of the research report; (4) use of appropriate and rigorous methods; (5) importance of reflexivity or attending to researcher bias; (6) importance of establishing validity or credibility; and (7) importance of verification or reliability.

Tackling peer review bias. "New statistical analyses of the National Institutes of Health's peer review process suggest that the current system may be missing the mark on funding the right proposals. Reviews of as many as 25% of all proposals are biased, according to a study led by Valen Johnson, from MD Anderson Cancer Center published July 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences".

Post-publication paper assessment
. "There has been an interesting discussion going on at the message board for editors of PLoS One".

Knol - thinking about authority. "A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic.
So by its own assertion, right at the top of the Knol page, Knols are about authority. But they've made an interesting choice, which is to attach authority to authorship. This is a model that we understand quite well, since it is the classic Britannica model. So if you want to organise knowledge this way, it's quite easy, you get Learned Persons to write articles in their areas of expertise. There are, however, multiple problems with this approach... So Google has created an odd hybrid system. It's seeded with some articles mostly from medicine, but it's open to anyone. A system that claims authoritativeness, with no mechanism to verify this, other than a weak name-verification procedure".


The use and misuse of bibliometric indices in evaluating scholarly performance. "Quantifying the relative performance of individual scholars, groups of scholars, departments, institutions, provinces/states/regions and countries has become an integral part of decision-making over research policy, funding allocations, awarding of grants, faculty hirings, and claims for promotion and tenure. Bibliometric indices (based mainly upon citation counts), such as the h-index and the journal impact factor, are heavily relied upon in such assessments. There is a growing consensus, and a deep concern, that these indices - more-and-more often used as a replacement for the informed judgement of peers - are misunderstood and are, therefore, often misinterpreted and misused. The articles in this ESEP Theme Section present a range of perspectives on these issues. Alternative approaches, tools and metrics that will hopefully lead to a more balanced role for these instruments are presented".

Citation Statistics. A report from the International Mathematical Union. "The idea that research assessment must be done using "simple and objective" methods is increasingly prevalent today. The "simple and objective" methods are broadly interpreted as bibliometrics, that is, citation data and the statistics derived from them. There is a belief that citation statistics are inherently more accurate because they substitute simple numbers for complex judgments, and hence overcome the possible subjectivity of peer review. But this belief is unfounded".

Standard identifier could mobilize data and free time
. "The rise of bioinformatics has focused attention on the growing depth and scope of database content. However, it is difficult or impossible given the existing citation metrics system to identify who originally created or added value to a datum. Without a system to reward, we shall continue to rely on the good will or spare time of researchers to mobilize data into the public domain".

More articles, fewer citations
. "As more journal articles go online, only more recent articles tend to be cited, according to a study published in Science. In addition, only a small group of journals and articles are being cited, the study found".

And finally....

No sh*t, Sherlock. "editors value an original, rigorously designed manuscript with valid methodology and appropriate conclusions".

It is alive. "They're at it again. Armed with another new idea from the Discovery Institute, that bastion of ignorance, right-wing political ideology, and pseudo-scientific claptrap, the creationist movement has mounted yet another assault on science. This time it comes in two flavors: propaganda and legislative".

In search of cases of "falling in love"
. Richard Smith sends an unusual call for papers! "We are very interested at Cases Journal with problems that may be severe but which people don't usually take to doctors. partly for that reason but mainly because it's fascinating we are looking for cases of "falling in love." Have you fallen in love yourself recently enough to remember the experience? Did your pulse rate rise? Did you stop sleeping well and obsess all the time about the person you loved? Did you stop eating well and perhaps start smoking? Was your thinking deranged? Could you work well? Was your case perhaps complicated by jealousy? Did you suffer long term consequences? Please find us cases".

Having an impact (factor)
. The entrance to The Pearly Gates. There are fluffy clouds everywhere. In the center is a podium with an enormous open book. A tall figure in white robes with white hair and beard stands at the podium. Approaching is a thin, middle-aged man with glasses and a bewildered expression. He is the soul of a recently deceased genome biologist.
GB: Hey, I'm not worried. I was a good scientist, a good citizen, a good family man, I think, too. I never...
St Peter: Yes, yes, I'm sure, but you see, none of that matters. The only thing that matters is your IF.
St Peter: Your impact factor. That's all we use now. If your IF is above 10, then you enter here. If it's lower, well...

Bioinformation Journal: making sure "open access" means open access

When looking at the journal Bioinformation, I spotted the tagline

"It is free to publish, open access and online immediately upon acceptance"
This is wrong, as like the BioMed Central journals this journal usually charges an article processing charge. This got me digging a bit further.

They state on the published articles that
"This is an open-access article, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited"
OK, although a non-commercial license isn't great, as Peter Murray-Rust has explained. Yet when I tried to right click on the page, a notice popped up:
"Sorry! Copying of these contents for potential editing and reproduction is not permitted. However, you have access to read, know and print contents for non-commercial processes".
This is not consistent with open access; it is a restriction of reuse. It also prevents 'fair use'.

The journal states that
"The authors of published articles in Bioinformation automatically transfer the copyright to the publisher upon formal acceptance. However, the authors reserve right to use the information contained in the article for non commercial purposes"
It is usual among open access journals that the authors retain copyright, and a Creative Commons Attribution license is applied. As the Budapest Statement on Open Access put it "The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited".

I emailed the editors and received a brief reply from Prof Kangueane. Now, a couple of weeks later, the tagline reads
"It is open access and online immediately upon acceptance"
Excellent. The right-click restriction also appears to be gone. I will leave it up to their authors and editors to lobby them to change from a CC-BY-NC to a CC-BY license, but it seems that Biomedical Informatics Publishing Group and Bioinformation are now doing things right.