Monday, August 6, 2018

The Future of Academic publishing

Lots of discussion is going on in the academic world about the organisation of the scholarly communication: digitisation, open science and funding play an important role.
A small piece of the discussion follows: 
Last week on July 26, the results of the first half year of Elsevier, our biggest academic publisher were published:
Highlights Underlying revenue growth +4%; H1 reported total £3,653m/€4,164m
Our Scientific, Technical & Medical (STM) primary research content, like that of most of our competitors, is sold largely on a paid subscription basis. There is continued debate in government, academic and library communities, which are the principal customers for our STM content, regarding to what extent such content should be funded instead through fees charged to authors or authors’ funders and/or made freely available in some form after a period following publication. Some of these methods, if widely adopted, could adversely affect our STM revenue from paid subscriptions. ( from p.14 2018 Interim press release RELX-Group).
So what could these methods be that could potential adversely affect Elsevier’s revenue?
Last year Francis Dodd had an opinion piece in the journal Learned Publishing : “The future of academic publishing: Revolution or evolution?”
One of his key points is the declining budgets of the publisher’s customers.
"Two key trends behind concerns over book and journal models are pressures on funding and the emergence of open access."
The two key trends he mentioned, funding and open access, are essential for the future of publishing, even Elsevier acknowledges that. The funding that is threatening the publishers is the lack of funding for the APC’s from the research funders, and the decreasing budgets for libraries to prolonged the ‘big deals’ of subscription journals. The discussion about funding and open access has been going on for some decades now, but “the academic publishing sector has proved remarkably  resilient”.
One of the problems with the money flow is the fact that some large academic societies, those that own high-ranking journals, receive a sizable amount of income by licensing their journals to major publishers. “As their activities have been largely dependent on publication income, most scholarly associations have a vested interest in maintaining the current subscription model. Moving away from the current model risks costing them their financial return.” (from “ Scholarly communications revisited : journal publishing, open access, and digital-age Journals” by Masahiro Okada, IDE Discussion Paper, 2018.).
Dodd notices : “A rising trend noted by many observers is the move towards greater collaboration between researchers, most obviously seen in scholarly collaboration networks (SCNs) such as, Mendeley and ResearchGate”. This also means a more positive attitude towards freely sharing of research results.  Although individual researchers tend to submit their paper to the established subscription –based journals because of the journal reputation, impactfactor, quality peer review and audience.
As Dodd concludes: “The market is caught in the paradox of researchers still wanting to submit articles to established journals but also wanting the right to share and access versions of their and colleagues’ work across the traditional boundaries set by subscription models.”

But what are the alternatives?

Alternatives can be in the scholarly collaboration networks (SCNs), the academic societies going back to their roots (see: ”Future challenges and opportunities in academic publishing, by Kyle Siler).  Or via the emerging trend of establishing ‘open research platforms’ (or open access platforms) as described in the LSE blog post on the European Open Access Platform.
LSE also gave space to Mattias Bjӧrnmalm who suggested a new business model for academic publishers: ‘Knowledge as a service’ opposing the traditional ‘Knowledge as a product’.
If the (pre-)20th century challenge was distribution of new findings, the grand challenge for the 21stcentury has become retrieval of important and relevant information from the ongoing deluge of knowledge generated. …
A first step could be to expand on what some journals already do today, such as providing commentaries, analysis, and summaries of current, relevant research. “

So there is enough to read:

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Preprint dilemma

According to Wikipedia a preprint is:
"In academic publishing a preprint is a version of a scholarly scientific paper that precedes publication in a peer-reviewed  or scholarly scientific journal
A peer review of a manuscript is what, in general, is seen as a quality control.
Other scientist, preferably with the same competence and from the same field as the author,  review a manuscript to check the quality of the manuscript: they  check for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures, and if appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

Publication of manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal often takes weeks, months or even years from the time of initial submission, owing to the time required by editors and reviewers to evaluate and critique manuscripts, and the time required by authors to address critiques.

The longest time to have a manuscript published, here at NIOO,  was a manuscript submitted on November 20, 2015 that was published in the March 2018 issue of a journal.

That is why publishing preprints and preprint server gain more and more attention.
[See: Preprints growth rate ten times higher than journal articles]

Publishing a preprint can speed up the process of communicating your research and can help the author to incorporate feedback and thus improve the article.
There are several preprint servers that can be used, like Preprint.org a multidisciplinary preprint platform or BioRxiv: the preprint server for biology.
[See the list of preprint servers]

And there can even be a link between the preprint server and the journal like the link between the Plos journals and bioRxiv.

In the development and appraisal of open science preprints became more and more appreciated. And some funcers even allow preprints to be cited in proposals.

But there are some thoughts about giving non reviewed manuscripts open for everyone to read.
Jocelyn Kaiser in Sience about the preprint dilemma: "Many biologists remain wary, however. Some worry that competitors will steal their data or ideas, or rush to publish similar work. Others predict that preprint servers will become a time sink, as scientists spend hours trying to sift through an immense mishmash of papers of various quality. And some researchers fear that easy, rapid publication could foster preprint wars—in which the findings in one preprint are quickly attacked in another, sometimes within hours. Such online squabbles could leave the public bewildered and erode trust in scientists." She wrote her article as a 'survival guide': "Biologists are posting unreviewed papers in record numbers. Here's a survival guide"

Tom Sheldon writes an essay on his blog 'Science Media centre' entitles:
The preprint dilemma: good for science, bad for the public? A discussion paper for the scientific community about the confusion it may create for science journalist who present science to a broader public. . In nature news he explained his concerns: 'The scientific community must take measures to keep preprints from distorting the public’s understanding of science, says Tom Sheldon'.

The question whether or not to use preprint is open for discussion.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Flip to open access

The EU is much in favor for open access and wants all publications to be open access by 2020.
But to be able to comply with these wishes and mandates there have to be agreements with the publishers.
Universities negotiate with the big publishers in order to make the transition to open access = scientific publications freely available for everyone.
In The Netherlands the negotiaters came to an agreement with most of the big publishers - Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Sage, ACS and they had a very small agreement with Elsevier.
Read the special e-zine the VSNU published "Greater impact with open acces".

"The basic point, .. is that the really hard parts — the writing of papers, and the peer review and selection of the ones to publish — are done voluntarily by academics, and modern technology makes things like typesetting and dissemination extremely cheap. And yet publishers are making more money than ever before. They do this by insisting that we give them ownership of the content we produce, and by bundling their journals together so that libraries are forced into an all-or-nothing decision."
From Gowers "Another journal flips"; see also The cost of publication by VSNU  and the petition The cost of knowledge.

"The deals for access to Elseviers journals have collaps in Germany, Peru, Taiwan, Finland and are under discussion in UK.  Thousands of scientists in Germany, Peru and Taiwan are preparing for a new year without online access to journals from the Dutch publishing giant Elsevier. Contract negotiations in both Germany and Taiwan broke down in December, while Peru’s government has cut off funding for a licence.”  
From Nature News and read about the German Projekt DEAL
 The German breakup of the negotiations is called a 'major push to the furture of scholarly publishing' in Science magazine.
"What Elsevier's OA policies are attempting to do is to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, in order to sustain subscription revenue for as long as possible, by embargoing OA. Fine. There is a fundamental conflict of interest here, between what is best for the publishing industry and what is best for the research community, its institutions, its funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders. OA embargoes impede research. It's as simple as that. But they also sustain subscription revenue. So publishers are simply impeding research in order to sustain subscription revenue."  
From Open Access Archivangelism about the update from Elsevier of its article-sharing policies (= extend post-print embargo).
   * A last reading tip:
“Big Publishers, Bigger Profits: How the Scholarly Community Lost the Control of its Journals”

“Despite holding the potential to liberate scholarly information, the digital era has, to the contrary, increased the control of a few for-profit publishers. While most journals in the print era were owned by academic institutions and scientific societies, the majority of scientific papers are currently published by five for-profit publishers, which often exhibit profit margins between 30%-40%. This paper documents the evolution of this consolidation over the last 40 years, discusses the peculiar economics of scholarly publishing, and reflects upon the role of publishers in today’s academe”

Monday, July 3, 2017

Modern history of scholarly publishing

St Andrews School of History is engaged in a research project concerning scholarly publishing: "
Publishing the Philosophical Transactions The Economic, Social and Cultural History of a Learned Journal, 1665-2015"
Since it was 350 years ago in 2015 that the first scientific journal - Philosophical Transactions - published the concept of a scientific journal more or less stayed the same.

Bur especially after World War II things started to change in the commerical and publishing practices of scientific journals.
You can read about it in a report "Untangling AcademicPublishing: A history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research" by Dr Aileen Fyfe.

Until then most of the scientific papers were published by scientific societies, but after the war commercial publishers start taking over and made scientific publishing a highly profitable business.

In a long read in The Guardian you can read about the role of Robert Maxwell and Pergamon publishers in making publishing profitable. "Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientificpublishing bad for science?"
The concept of peer review emerged and the impact factor made scientific publishing into a winning business. Pergamon became Elsevier and the profits raised to 40%.

Business seemed to flaw a bit with the digitization, but Elsevier invented the 'big deals' to make this profitable business payable for the university libraries.
With the rise of the Open Access movement there came more  discussion on the organisation of scholarly publishing. Unfortunately mainly between libraries and publishers.
The general argument of the report is that it is time to look again at whether learned societies should be taking more of a role in research dissemination and maybe financially supporting it, with particular criticism of those learned societies who contract out production of their publications to commercial publishers and do not pay attention to those publishers’ policies and behaviour.

Read also the blog by Robert Harrington in Scholarly Kitchen to urge learned societies to be more critical to commercial publishers and even to move toward an open access publisher.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sharing your article

Next to the emerging trend of open access publishing, publishers are working on ways  of improved scholarly sharing.

Scholarly sharing started with the academic social networks like ResearchGate, Academia.Edu, Mendeley. These academic social networks - or so called 'scholarly collaborating networks' try to connect researchers and have them exchange their research.
They all offer the opportunity to share and exchange publications.

The International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers, created the “How Can I Share It site to advise scientists on sharing within the existing guidelines.
There you can read what is allowed for what king of publication version and on what kind of network.

Most articles can be shared using the preprint version, using for example a preprint server. Check out the list of preprint servers, most famous of course arXiv, but also important bioRxiv, PeerJ Preprint and F1000Research.

For the general publication permissions you can check the Sherpa Romeo site. This is a JISC -service (British service to support higher education). It gives information on publishers copyright policies and self-archiving.

Springer Nature now has it "SharedIt", so that authors can share links to view-only versions of their articles. 

Please also read about the ways to find open access versions of the research article you are looking for. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

How to find scientific papers including the green open access ones?

Not all scientific papers are readily available. Traditional publishers are still publishing the majority of their articles behind paywalls (= restricting access to Internet content via a paid subscription).
Since the emerging of the Open Access Movement it has become more common for universities and other parties to publish the text of scientific articles in their repositories for free = so called green open access (= self-archiving). These are usually the manuscript versions (.i.e. the version that is not lay outed yet by the publisher).
It is not always easy to find especially these green open access versions, if the publisher’s version is paywalled.

However, there are some initiatives to make it easier for you to find these papers.

BASE : Bielefeld Academic Search Engine. 

We are indexing the metadata of all kinds of academically relevant resources - journals, institutional repositories, digital collections etc. -, which provide an OAI interface and use OAI-PMH for providing their contents.
Unpaywall add-on for Chrome and Firefox
Millions of researchers are currently uploading their own fulltext PDFs to preprint servers and institutional repositories worldwide, making them free for anyone to read.
The people of Impactstory have created a browser extension that suggest you to find an unpaywalled version of your article. Next to the journal appears a small icon, if it is green you can click on it and find the free version. 

OAdoi: Leap over tall paywalls in a single bound.
Go to the website and paste in a doi: An oaDOI link is like a DOI, with a useful difference: if there's an open access version of the article, the oaDOI URL will send you there, instead of the paywalled article landing page.
These are all legal uploads made available via  green open access.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New impact factor for journals: Citescore

Elsevier launched a new metric to measure a journal's impact.PuzzlePieces_850x425.jpgCiteScore

CiteScore is powered by SCOPUS and calculateds the citations from documents from the previous 3 years.
In the subject area of Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics the list is headed by Systematic Biology followed by Annual Review of Entomology. These are not in the JCR-index of Ecology journals.
But on the third place in both lists is” Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics”. The CitesScore is 11.86 en de JIF is 17.547. The highest in JCR in the subject category “Ecology” is “Trends in Ecology and Evolution”(30,421) and this journal has a CiteScore of (11,11).  In both indexes followed by “Ecology Letters”( 25,887 resp. 10,86)  and ISME Journal (13,569 resp.  9.64).
In Nature a preliminary comparison was made and they concluded:
“When it comes to their underlying formulae, CiteScore and JIF are near-doppelgängers. To score any journal in any given year, both tot up the citations received to documents that were published in previous years, and divide that by the total number of documents. The most popular version of the JIF looks at research articles published in the previous two years, whereas CiteScore stretches back to the previous three.  But one significant difference leads some high-JIF journals, such as Nature, Science and The Lancet, to do worse in CiteScore. The new metric counts all documents as potentially citable, including editorials, letters to the editor, corrections and news items. These are less cited by scholars, so they drag down the average. “

Scholars from the University of Washington at also performed some comparison and wrote about it in their blog: “Comparing Impact Factor and Scopus CiteScore”.

One of the things they found is that CiteScore does give a better result for the Elsevier journals than for other journals.

Their conclusion: 
If our preliminary analyis is correct, it means that Scopus has chosen a metric that quite strongly favors the portfolio of journals held by its parent company Elsevier. To be clear, we are not arguing that Scopus has cooked the numbers in any nefarious way. That strikes us as very unlikely. What they may have done, it appears at this early stage, is to cleverly employ the many degrees of freedom that one has when designing a metric, so as make the Elsevier journals look very good.”
Analysis will continue.

The additional benefits of the CiteScore impact factor are listed by Elsevier in a table: