Open Access Week at SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo celebrated Open Access Week for the time this year.  It was a modest series of events, just one guest speaker from a local University and a small panel of faculty members from Geneseo talking about their experiences with open access.

The events were not very well attended for a variety of reasons, but those who attended were able to see some wonderful presentations.

Charles Lyons, Scholarly Communications Officer and Business Librarian at the University of Buffalo gave a presentation at our first event.  Charles provided a great overview of open access, with a particular emphasis on the motivations for scholars to consider open access options.  The traditional argument (from the library perspective anyway) tends to focus on the Serials Crisis – the steady higher-than-inflation increase in journal costs over the last 30 years.  But scholars are rarely thinking about the costs associated with institutional  journal subscriptions.

Instead, Charles focused on two primary concerns of scholars.  The first is the idea of sharing scholarship for the greater good.  Scholars don’t publish to make money (because they don’t make money).  They publish because they want to share their findings.  Making scholarship open access (either green or gold) can work toward the greater good by providing greater access to that scholarship.

The second main motivator towards open access is the idea of being a part of current innovations in scholarly publishing.  The basic journal article has been around for 350 years.  Peer review (distinct from editorial review) came into vogue in the middle of the 20th century.  Open Access is one of many innovations in scholarly publishing, and scholarly publishing needs to move forward if scholarship will move forward.

Our second event was a panel discussion featuring Geneseo faculty who have been involved in open access:

The format of the panel allowed these scholars to talk about their experiences and some of the issues associated with open access: how do most faculty perceive the label “open access”?  What are the disciplinary differences in this perception?  How do open access journal differ (or not) from subscription journals?  What was the review process like?

I really enjoyed this conversation, and learned a lot from the faculty panelists. My goal is that this is just the beginning of a campus wide discussion about open access and the future of scholarship.  We’ll see.


A small collection of resources about the University of California ‘negotiation’ with Nature Publishing Group

This week, the University of California announced a possible boycott by faculty and researchers of Nature Publishing Group.  UC felt they had to act after NPG was proposing a 400% increase in the UC site license subscription cost.  The proposal is for faculty to stop submitting articles to the journal, stop reviewing articles, resign from editorial boards, etc., in addition to canceling subscriptions to NPG journals.

Open Access - one solution to exorbitate journal prices

Official resources about the ongoing issue:

A small selection of commentary by people smarter than me:

Is this the start of something?  I emailed the Chronicle of Higher Education article to the faculty listserv at my institution, and one person actually responded saying ‘thank you’ for sending along the article.  The library is just now formulating plans for an Open Access Week event on Campus – could this raise faculty awareness of some of these issues?

Is this what was needed to bring the problems with the scholarly research and publication economy to light?  Or will all of this be forgotten by the time the fall semester starts?

I guess we’ll find out.

Faculty workshops, discussions and library initiatives: My big ideas and plans

In addition to my normal stuff (library instruction, reference, web design, committees) I’m been thinking about various discussions/workshops/plans for the future I’d like to pursue over the next few months:

lightbulb. Courtesy of Flickr user Tim Cummins
  • A faculty workshop about managing research and teaching information.  Most faculty are overwhelmed with information for their scholarly activities.  Some of them are familiar with citation managers (Endnote, Zotero, etc.) but not all.  I’d like to offer a workshop to discuss various free and not-free citation and document managers, as well as bookmarking tools like Connotea, CiteULike, delicious and Diigo.  I’ve explored many of these tools.  Some work for me, some don’t.  Faculty may appreciate being introduced to some of them.
  • A faculty workshop about creating assignments that effectively teach students literature research skills.  Some faculty aren’t interested in having a librarian come to their class and teach an information literacy session.  Would they be interested in how to make their assignments a bit better?  I recently chatted with a faculty member and gave him some feedback on a library assignment that he regularly gave his students – it hadn’t been updated in years, nor had he ever received feedback.  I was able to tell him what questions we were seeing at the reference desk.  He was thankful for the feedback.  I’m not sure that faculty would respond to a workshop like this, but it may be worth trying.
  • A series of campus-wide discussions.  The new “Scholarly Communication” group at my library is starting to think about ways to engage the college faculty and what role the library (and librarians) play in promoting/assisting/recognizing faculty scholarship.  We are talking about hosting (with the teaching and learning center) a discussion on open access.  Perhaps there could be a series of discussions about trends in Scholarly Communication:  digital humanities, sharing data, discovery of research via social networking, unusual new publications (incorporating video, for example).
  • Preserving student scholarship.  Each Spring, SUNY Geneseo hosts Great Day: “a college-wide symposium celebrating the creative and scholarly endeavors of our students.”  After Great Day, some of the posters are displayed for a year or two in the library or other academic buildings, but many are lost.  What if the library tried to preserve digital versions of these posters and presentations in an institutional repository?  What would be involved (organizationally)?  How do we deal with copyright?  What options do we offer students? Creative commons? Transfer copyright to Geneseo?  Maintain copyright?  Access?
  • Should I try to convince library staff to adopt an open access policy for their publications?  Gold?  Green?  (See Peter Suber’s excellent introduction to OA for definitions.)  Would folks object to such a policy?
  • I would love to have a discussion with library staff about the future of librarianship.  Recent discussions at the ScienceOnline2010 conference, friendfeed discussions, blog posts and other items make me think about where my profession is headed.  I would love to sit down with my colleagues to chat about it.  Trying to find a time when more than two or three of us can get together?  That’s the challenge.

There’s the list that I thought of this afternoon.  Nothing groundbreaking, but it should keep me busy for a little while.

Institutional repositories and small institutions

On Friday morning I attended an excellent pre-conference workshop at ScienceOnline2010 lead by Dorthea Salo.  You should read her very interesting article about repositories called “Innkeeper at the Roach Motel“.  The workshop was mainly a discussion with librarians and researchers about the uses, possibilities and problems with institutional repositories.  Most of the participants were from larger universities – those with graduate students and larger faculties than the institution I work at.

For a small institution like mine, having our own institutional repository might not make sense.  We probably don’t have the library staff to run it well.  So what are our options?

Well, first there is a SUNY-wide institutional repository.  Each SUNY campus has some space on it – and each campus seems to be using it for very different purposes – some are using it for archiving documents, some are using it for internal communications.  At the moment SUNY Geneseo isn’t even listed.

Other options include disciplinary repositories.  The most well known is for physics, math and other related fields.  Some of our faculty have deposited pre-prints here.  For our faculty with NIH grants, PubMed Central can be the repository of choice.

But for many of our faculty, their only way of archiving their papers may be to post them on their own personal website, where they might not be as easy to find.

How much does this matter?  How vital are institutional repositories to public access to scientific information?  As publishers grant open access to journal archives and more high quality open access publications become available, will repositories have a function in the future?  I don’t know the answers, but I’ll be paying attention to folks like Dorthea to see how this might work out.

ScienceOnline 2010

This weekend I am in the Raleigh-Durham area for the Science Online 2010 conference.ScienceOnline2010 Logo

The ScienceOnline 2010 conference is a collection of science writers, bloggers and researchers gathered to discuss the dissemination of scientific information in all its forms online.  Of course, I think one could make the argument that almost all scientific communication is now online.  How many scientific publications aren’t available online?  None come to mind.

More specifically, topics at the conference relate to some of the new forms of communicating science (to the public and among scientists) – blogs, twitter, new forms of scientific journals, software applications and more.

I spend a large part of my time at work teaching undergraduate students about how scientists communicate with each other – teaching them to tell the difference between news stories aimed at the general public and scientific articles, teaching them how a review article is different than a primary research article.

One of the things I struggle with is how we teach students to deal with the new and exciting changes that are developing in science communication.  How can students evaluate a comment on a journal article over at PLoS ONE?  How can they locate a journal article that is available free in an institutional repository but not on the publishers web site?  Where does a blog post about a primary research article (like those at fit in with news articles, primary research articles or review articles?

So far I have only attended one workshop and the opening keynote address, both of which have been excellent.  This conference is a great opportunity to discuss some of these issues with other folks who are thinking about the same things – I’m really looking forward to the sessions over the weekend.

Librarians and Open Access – What are we Actually Doing?

The librarians I’ve met at workshops, at conferences, and on the web, are generally strong supporters of open access. My impression has always been that our professional philosophy of providing information to our users free of charge (to them) fits very nicely with the philosophy of the open access movement.

Recently, I’ve started to wonder if our actions with regard to open access have any correlation with our professed opinions.

A recent article in the (subscription only) journal College and Research Libraries seems to support the idea that while we talk the talk, we aren’t very good at walking the walk, so to speak.

Kristi L. Palmer, Emily Dill, & Charlene Christie (2009). Where There’s a Will There’s a Way?: Survey of Academic Librarian Attitudes about Open Access College and Research Libraries, 70 (4), 315-335 Issue TOC

In this study, the authors surveyed academic librarians about their attitudes and certain actions regarding open access.

The authors conclude that while librarians believe that libraries should be educating users about open access and encouraging faculty to publish in open-access journals, they aren’t actually engaging in conversations about these activities. Librarians are also hesitant about devoting library resources to support open access.

One significant problem with this study was the failure to examine the publishing actions of librarians.  The actions discussed in the article mainly involved reading about open access and talking about open access with colleagues and faculty.  I was disappointed when reading the article, because to me, publishing in open access journals is one of the highest profile actions a librarian can take in support of open access.

In fact, if librarians are to have any credibility with others when we encourage them to explore open access publishing options, shouldn’t we be publishing in open access journals ourselves?

Symptomatic of the problem seems to be the lack of high-impact open access journals in library and information studies.  Open access journals in librarianship exist – there are 96 listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals website – but many of these service particular countries, specialties or publish infrequently.

This is something that librarians can change – publish in an open access journal, then talk about the experience with your colleagues and the faculty at your institution.  Support your beliefs with measurable action.

UPDATE – A College and Research Libraries Pre-print was posted this morning – The Open Access Availability of Library and Information Science Literature (PDF) – indicating that 27.5% of articles from the top 20 library journals could be found in open access full text online (either on the publishers website or in an institutional repository). So we aren’t publishing in OA journals, and we aren’t self-archiving most of the time either.

What impact is the impact factor measuring?

I recently read a very interesting article in PLoS ONE examining various measures of the scientific importance of particular journals:

Bollen, J., Van de Sompel, H., Hagberg, A., & Chute, R. (2009). A Principal Component Analysis of 39 Scientific Impact Measures PLoS ONE, 4 (6) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006022

The article isn’t breaking new ground in its criticism of the impact factor, calculated by Thomson Scientific.  However, the statistical analysis comparing multiple measures of importance sheds new light on the relationship between the various measures.

The authors analyzed 39 different impact measures that fall into two main groups: those that look at citation counts and those that look at online usage data (page views and downloads).  A few additional measures that take account of online social networks were also included.

Schematic representation of PCA analysis
Schematic representation of PCA analysis. JIF is the normal Journal Impact Factor from Thompson Scientific

In general, the usage measurements cluster more closely together than the citation measurements – they are measuring approximately the same thing.

As a result of this analysis, they were able to differentiate measures that looked at immediate (“rapid”) use vs. longer term use (“delayed”), and to distinguish measures that look at how popular a resource is vs. how prestigious a resource is.

All of this leads us to repeat the problem posited by the authors:  we don’t have an accepted definition of what “impact” really is.

Publications, institutions, and tenure committees all have different needs and requirements.  For example, the faculty at one large research institution may be more concerned about prestige, while another may need to market their programs and examine their popularity.  I think this analysis shows that folks can and should be a bit more choosy when selecting the measure they use to judge their competitors, their research, and their colleagues.

Scholarly Communication 101

Open Access
Open Access

Today I attended one of the ACRL Scholarly Communication 101 workshops, held at the Uniersity at Buffalo.  It was an excellent workshop and met my expectations perfectly.

I have presented information about new forms of scholarly communication in the past, including Nature Network and, but I was missing some basic information, and this workshop filled in the gaps nicely.

Some interesting factoids about scholarly publishing

  • STM publications make up 84% of the $19.1 billion industry
  • 91% of the dollars spent on journals go to the for-profit publishers
  • Papers in the for-profit publications only account for 38% of citations

The business model of publishing scientific papers isn’t really working, and right now everyone is trying to figure out what to do about it.  Publishers are clinging to traditional business practices (getting content from scholars for free, charging libraries a lot of money for access).  Library budgets are shrinking, and we can’t afford to purchase access to everything.

One possible solution:  open access models of publication.

I am a big advocate of open access, and this workshop explored some of the advantages of the model.

One example that struck home with me was the story of a faculty member approaching the library and asking that his publications be archived in their institutional repository.  The library had to tell him that unfortunately, this wasn’t possible:  the faculty member hadn’t retained the right to his publications.  Typical author agreements normally assign copyright to the publisher.  The publisher occasionally grants certain rights back to the author, but not always.

Open access publication would allow a researcher to do what he or she wants with the results of their research.

The educational mission of universities encourages us to encourage open access publication.  Open access allows more readers to learn from the research conducted by scholars.

Libraries and librarians should do everything they can to encourage their faculty to publish in open access journals, or at least retain the copyright to their work.  Some libraries are assisting authors in paying author fees in open access publications.  Other libraries are publishing open access journals.  Some libraries are supporting consortia that encourage open access publication.  At the least, librarians can help inform their faculty about opportunities for open access publication, and educate them about the benefits to themselves, their colleagues, and their students.