The lawsuit is really a rather local affair; an action brought by Louisiana State University against Elsevier alleging breach of contract. But the facts raise significant questions for all Elsevier customers, and especially for public universities that do business with the publishing giant (which is to say, all of us). Even more significant, I think, is what the specific circumstances, and some of the comments made about the lawsuit, tell us about the future of scholarly communications. In my mind, we have reached the “enough is enough” point with Elsevier.
Recently there has been a spate of comment expressing frustration about the allegedly slow progress of open access, and especially Green open access. It is hard to disagree with some of this sentiment, but it is important that frustration not lead us into trying to solve a problem with a worse solution. The key, I believe, to making real advances in open access is to walk away from the commercial publishers who have dominated the market for scholarship. Only if we do that can libraries free up money from our collection budgets to do truly new things. A new business model with the same old players, even if it were possible, would be a mistake.
Last month, I attended the Charlotte Initiative Open Conference. This Mellon-funded project brought together publishers, librarians, and technology providers to explore a reconsideration of the transactional models between publishers and libraries for eBooks. To quote the initiative, “Our starting premise is that permanent acquisitions of eBooks requires these licensing terms:
- Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
- Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
- Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.”
I was invited to be on the project’s advisory board two years ago and I’ll admit the premise seemed like quite a stretch at that time. In a climate where the rhetoric of accountability is paired with market-optimizing tools like DDA and EBA, the idea that libraries will only buy our most successful books and then insist on broad usage terms like the Charlotte Principles just felt like a non-starter. As John Unsworth mentioned in his conference keynote, publishers operate in the world of risk and libraries have historically helped academic publishers mitigate risk by building deep monograph collections. Predatory publishers figured out how to game this system, forcing libraries to use “accountability” as a reason to reduce monograph purchases despite the arrival of digital platforms making them less expensive and more accessible than ever. As a director at a public university press, I can attest to the acute pain that strategy has had on mission-driven non-profit publishers and on the humanities and social science disciplines we support. More on that in a moment.
It might be necessary to remind readers that the copyright lawsuit brought by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Sage Publishing against Georgia State University is still going on. It began in 2008, and after losing all of their major points at every level of the litigation, it would be easy and sensible to conclude that the publishers had walked away, as most sensible plaintiffs would have done. But these are not sensible plaintiffs; they, or the folks who call the shots and pay the bills for them, are fanatically determined to push their alternate view of copyright law ever up the hill, no matter how often it rolls back on them.
On March 15, founding editors Stacy Konkiel and Lily Troia, both of Altmetric, and Nicky Agate of the Modern Language Association, will officially launch The Idealis, a portal for connecting to curated open access library and information science scholarship. Operating on the WordPress plugin Press Forward, The Idealis will include annotated lists of open access scholarship written by, for, or of interest to information professionals. Curation will be done by volunteer editors with expertise in the field. Each editor will serve on two-week rotations during which they will nominate pieces for inclusion in The Idealis platform using the Press Forward plugin. Initially, the collection will consist entirely of works focused on scholarly communication, but the hope is that The Idealis will soon grow to include scholarly work from a wide-range of library interests, including critical librarianship, public librarianship, school librarianship, and more.
I have a conflicted relationship with the idea of moral rights in copyrighted works. Because I saw my work as a scholarly communications librarian as focused on helping academic authors understand their rights and use them to further their own goals and the goals of scholarship writ large, I have often been sensitive to the lack of a real attribution right in U.S. law. I even wrote an article in 2010, in which I suggested such a right as a potential improvement of our law. Nevertheless, the difficulties associated with incorporating moral rights into U.S. copyright are substantial, so this topic has remained unresolved in my own mind.newrambler.net/ramblings/wp-content/uploads/essay
The Electrochemical Society, a small nonprofit scholarly society founded in 1902, has an important message for all of us who are concerned about access to science. Mary Yess, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Content Officer and Publisher, could not be clearer about the increased urgency of ECS’ path: “We have got to move towards an open science environment. It has never been more important – especially in light of the recently announced ‘gag orders’ on several US government agencies– to actively promote the principles of open science.” What they committed to in 2013 as an important open access initiative has become, against the current political backdrop, truly a quest to “free the science.”
This is the Conference Report from the Symposium on Open Access : Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs that was held at the University of Kansas last fall. The symposium generated international attention and some great conversations. This report was written by Robert Kieft, Ada Emmett, Josh Bolick, and Rebecca Kennison.
On November 17-18, 2016, the University of Kansas Libraries (KU), Open Access Network (OAN), Allen Press, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sponsored an international symposium, Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. The symposium brought together a group of 18 panelists and 9 respondents and offered a first session livestreamed for a worldwide audience. The remainder of the meeting was structured as an “unconference” focused on key ideas raised by participants’ statements and the ensuing discussion during the opening event. The symposium asked the participants to consider current models available for achieving an expansive, inclusive, and balanced global open publishing ecosystem, one that does not depend on the payment of article- or book- processing charges (APCs or BPCs) for publication.
Last month I was invited to participate in a panel on Open Access at the annual American Historical Association meeting in Denver. One of my colleagues led their presentation with the astute comment that the way most historians react to OA is with apathy. After all, the economics of traditional monograph publishing work pretty well in history and the book is still the coin of the realm in this field. If OA is a solution to an economic crisis, then history should be the last place we need it, right?
This quote is from a 1996 letter written by then-Register of Copyright Marybeth Peters to Senator Orrin Hatch of the Senate Judiciary Committee about why the Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress:
Put simply, copyright differs from industrial property in fundamental respects. Most other countries, like the United States, have recognized this difference, handling copyright issues in their ministries of culture or education, and patent and trademark issues in their ministries of commerce or trade. While copyright, like industrial property, has important commercial value, it also has a unique influence on culture, education, and the dissemination of knowledge. It is this influence that logically connects copyright to the Library of Congress in contributing to the development of our nation’s culture.
This post is co-written by Michael Elliott (Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University), Christopher Long (Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Michigan State University), Mark Saunders (Director, University of Virginia Press), and Charles Watkinson (Director, University of Michigan Press).
As part of an initiative to explore the potential benefits of open access modes for disseminating academic monographs, we have found ourselves returning to basic questions about how we want to measure and understand what it is we do when we send a monograph out into the world. Every book is created from our basic scholarly impulse to enrich some aspect of the complex world we share. Yet when we seek to tell the story of its impact, we too often rely on narrow, dull, and/or inadequate measures — citation counts; print runs; downloads.
Nature announced on December 8 that Elsevier has launched a new journal quality index, called CiteScore, which will be based on Elsevier’s Scopus citation database and will compete with the longstanding and influential Journal Impact Factor (IF).
Conflict of Interest
One can hardly fault Elsevier for producing this metric, which is well positioned to compete with the Impact Factor. But for researchers and librarians, there are serious concerns about CiteScore. Having a for-profit entity that is also a journal publisher in charge of a journal publication metric creates a conflict of interest, and is inherently problematic. The eigenfactor team Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West have done some early analysis of how Elsevier journals tend to rank via CiteScore versus the Impact Factor, and conclude that “Elsevier journals are getting just over a 25% boost relative to what we would expect given their Impact Factor scores.” Looking at journals other than Nature journals – which take quite a hit under the CiteScore because of what Phil Davis refers to as Citescore’s “overt biases against journals that publish a lot of front-matter” — Elsevier journals still get a boost (15%) in comparison with Impact Factor.
This is a guest post written by Devin Soper, Paolo Mangiafico, and Kevin Smith. The letter was originally submitted to Science, which declined to publish it.
In a recent letter to the editor of Science, Ilya Kapovich states that “unsustainable ethical and legal burdens are placed on faculty in schools with Harvard-style open-access policies.” While it is true that the terms of open access (OA) policies are sometimes inconsistent with those of standard publishing contracts, this legal complexity is the result of the unnecessarily restrictive and complicated language used in such contracts, which typically require authors to assign their copyright to a publisher, and which thereby work against the interests of authors, other researchers, and the public. In contrast, Harvard-style OA policies simplify this situation for authors, making it clear that they and their home institutions retain rights in the works they create, and thereby providing a means of redressing the systemic problems caused by restrictive copyright transfer practices. In this sense, and in addition to making thousands of articles available to those who otherwise would not have access, OA policies are designed to give faculty choices, allowing them to retain more rights in their work than they would under standard publishing contracts, giving them access to a range of tools and services to help them make their work OA — and yet also giving them the option to waive application of the policy with no questions asked.
Sci-Hub has received a lot of attention in 2016. From multiple articles in Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education to Sci-Hub focused sessions at professional meetings, lots of folks have weighed in on the pros and cons of Sci-Hub and its undeniable impact on scholarly communication. Over the past six months I’ve attended programs on Sci-Hub at the ALA annual conference, the fall ARL membership meeting, and one here at the University of Arizona during Open Access Week. In reflecting on these experiences I’m struck by how Sci-Hub illustrates the apparent disconnect between authors’ permissive attitudes toward sharing copyrighted materials and their willingness to sign publishing agreements that often make that sharing illegal.
Last week, I attended a symposium on “Publishing Art History Digitally: The Present and Future” that was sponsored in part by the NYU Institute of Fine Arts. One of the symposium organizers is a Ph.D. student with whom I’ve worked to navigate some sticky intellectual property issues related to an international collaborative digital art history project. She asked me to attend the symposium and come back the next day for an invitation-only workshop with several other symposium participants. The main focus of both the symposium and the workshop was to look at the ways art history journals are going digital and stepping into new modes of publishing and scholarship.
Anytime that academic authors sue each other over a journal article, it is worth attention in this space. A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled in such a case, and the ruling raises some interesting points to consider for those of us involved in working with scholarly publications.
Note first that this is a very fact-specific case and a decision by a district court, so it is not a control precedent for anyone other than the parties. A decision would have more weight if this ruling were appealed, but, because the motive behind the lawsuit seems to have been more wrath than reason, I think that is unlikely.
Note to readers: This is the second post in our new series “Building Open” where we interview those who are building tools and services to support scholarship in the open.
In terms of the future, I think we still have a long way to go in determining sustainable models. APCs aren’t it, especially outside of big science and North America and Europe. Our research into open access publishing cooperatives, which brings together the major stakeholders — researchers, societies, journals, libraries, funders — is showing that this can be an important alternative model.
Project MUSE announced over the summer a $938,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to integrate OA university press (UP) monographs into their platform. *
Digital aggregations of UP books are becoming a key discoverability mechanism. The possibility of using linked data tools to discover content within a much larger body of humanities and social science scholarship is one of the few very clear and bright developments for UPs. After years of our printed books being relegated to the ever-dustier library stacks, our digital content is now feeding a significant corpus of highly usable humanities research and being made available in a growing number of library collections. With this grant, MUSE wants to ensure that OA content is seamlessly discoverable within these collections, rather than isolated in some segregated position.
A few years ago, I was asked by the U.S. State Department to give a presentation on copyright for librarians in India. I spoke via web conferencing to a group of Indian librarians gathered in an auditorium at the U.S. Embassy, and the session was moderated by an IP professor from Delhi University. This moderator began the session by asking me a very challenging question; pointing out that the standard textbook that he would like to use for his class in trademark law cost more than a month’s salary for the average Indian, he asked me how the copyright balance between rights holders and the public could be calibrated in such economic conditions. I don’t think I provided a very good answer at the time, but last week the High Court in Delhi took on that question and offered an amazing response.
This is a guest post written by Jennifer Chan of UCLA
On June 1, 2016, UCLA’s Westwood campus was suddenly thrust into the media spotlight across the world when a shooter entered a campus building and fatally shot one of our engineering faculty. I was just days shy of my one-month anniversary as UCLA Library’s Scholarly Communication Librarian. What I knew, and what most of us on campus knew that June morning, was that “police activity” had been reported at the other end of campus. Far, but not far enough. Soon, the details began trickling in.