May OpenCon Webcast: The facts behind OER

Open Educational Resources have always held the promise of saving students millions – if not billions – of dollars each year. But is cost savings the only advantage of OER?  A growing body of evidence suggests that OER produce learning outcomes that are as good or, in many cases, better than those of proprietary learning materials.

Our next OpenCon Community Webcast will delve into current research on the efficacy of Open Educational Resources and how they compare with traditional textbooks. John Hilton III, an Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University and leading expert on OER efficacy, will be joining us to address this issue. In his presentation, John will answer critical questions including if students using OER get better grades, how students and teachers perceive Open Educational Resources and what it takes for a professor to adopt an Open Textbook.

The webcast will be held on Tuesday, May 5th, at 1pm EDT / 6pm BST / 7pm CEST and last approximately 45 minutes. You can view the webcast at opencon2015.org/community/webcasts or by bookmarking the embedded YouTube link below. You can join the discussion and ask questions on Twitter with the hashtag #opencon. A recording of the presentation will be available online immediately following the webcast at the same URL.

This was originally posted at http://opencon2015.org/blog/may-opencon-webcast-facts-behind-oer# 

OpenCon 2015 Details Announced

For immediate release: April 7, 2015
Press Contact: Ranit Schmelzer: +1 202 538 1065, sparcmedia@arl.org

Broad Coalition Announces 2nd Conference for Students & Early Career Academic Professionals on Open Access, Open Education and Open Data 

OpenCon 2015 to Take Place November 14-16 in Brussels, Belgium

WASHINGTON, DC — Today 11 organizations representing the next generation of scholars, researchers, and academic professionals announced OpenCon 2015: Empowering the Next Generation to Advance Open Access, Open Education and Open Data. Slated for November 14-16 in Brussels, Belgium, the event will bring together students and early career academic professionals from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data.

Hosted by the Right to Research Coalition and SPARC, OpenCon 2015 builds on the success of the first-ever OpenCon meeting last year which convened 115 students and early career academic professionals from 39 countries in Washington, DC.  More than 80% of these participants received full travel scholarships, provided by sponsorships from leading organizations, including the Max Planck Society, eLife, PLOS, and more than 20 universities.

“OpenCon 2015 will expand on a proven formula of bringing together the brightest young leaders across the Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data movements and connecting them with established leaders in each community,” said Nick Shockey, founding Director of the Right to Research Coalition. “OpenCon is equal parts conference and community.  The meeting in Brussels will serve as the centerpiece of a much larger network to foster initiatives and collaboration among the next generation across OpenCon’s three issue areas.”

OpenCon 2015’s three day program will begin with two days of conference-style keynotes, panels, and interactive workshops, drawing both on the expertise of leaders in the Open Access, Open Education and Open Data movements and the experience of participants who have already led successful projects.  

The third day will take advantage of the location in Brussels by providing a half-day of advocacy training followed by the opportunity for in-person meetings with relevant policy makers, ranging from the European Parliament, European Commission, embassies, and key NGOs. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the conference’s three issue areas, stronger skills in organizing local and national projects, and connections with policymakers and prominent leaders across the three issue areas.

Speakers at OpenCon 2014 included the Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States for Legislative Affairs, the Chief Commons Officer of Sage Bionetworks, the Associate Director for Data Science for the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and more than 15 students and early career academic professionals leading successful initiatives. OpenCon 2015 will again feature leading experts.  Patrick Brown and Michael Eisen, two of the co-founders of PLOS, are confirmed for a joint keynote at the 2015 meeting.

“For the ‘open’ movements to succeed, we must invest in capacity building for the next generation of librarians, researchers, scholars, and educators,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). “OpenCon is dedicated to creating and empowering a global network of young leaders across these issues, and we are eager to partner with others in the community to support and catalyze these efforts.”

OpenCon seeks to convene the most effective student and early career academic professional advocates—regardless of their ability to pay for travel costs. The majority of participants will receive full travel scholarships. Because of this, attendance is by application only, though limited sponsorship opportunities are available to guarantee a fully funded place at the conference.  Applications will open on June 1, 2015.

In 2014, more than 1,700 individuals from 125 countries applied to attend the inaugural OpenCon.

“As an organization that represents more than 11 million students across 39 European countries, the European Students’ Union is committed to advancing openness in research and education,” said Erin Nordal, Vice-Chairperson of the European Students’ Union (ESU). “ESU is excited to help organize OpenCon 2015 and ensure the next generation is at the forefront of the conversation around Open Access, Open Education and Open Data—in Europe and beyond.”  

This year, an expanded emphasis will be placed on building the community around OpenCon and on satellite events. OpenCon satellite events are independently hosted meetings that mix content from the main conference with live presenters to localize the discussion and bring the energy of an in-person OpenCon event to a larger audience.  In 2014, OpenCon satellite events reached hundreds of students and early career academic professionals in nine countries across five continents.  A call for partners to host satellite events has now opened and is available at http://www.opencon2015.org/satellite.

OpenCon 2015 is organized by the Right to Research Coalition, SPARC, and a committee of student and early career researcher organizations from around the world. A variety of sponsorship opportunities are available and will be critical to ensuring that dedicated students and early career academic professionals across the globe are able to attend. For more information, see www.opencon2015.org/sponsor.

Applications for OpenCon 2015 will open on June 1st. For more information about the conference and to sign up for updates, visit www.opencon2015.org/updates.  You can follow OpenCon on Twitter at @Open_Con or using the hashtag #opencon.

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The Right to Research Coalition is an international alliance of graduate and undergraduate student organizations, which collectively represent nearly 7 million students in over 100 countries around the world, that advocate for and educate students about open methods of scholarly publishing.  The Right to Research Coalition is a project of SPARC.

SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.  Developed by the Association of Research Libraries, SPARC has become a catalyst for change.  Its pragmatic focus is to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries.  More information can be found at www.sparc.arl.org and on Twitter @SPARC_NA.


Contact Information for Organizing Committee Members

Belgian Medical Students’ Association
Koen Demaegd, National Officer on Research Exchange
nore [at] belgianmsa [dot] com

EuroScience
Slobodan Radicev, governing board member
slobodan.radicev [at] euroscience [dot] org

The European Students’ Union
Erin Nordal, Vice-Chairperson
Erin [at] esu-online [dot] org

The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA)
Ivana Di Salvo, Liaison officer for
Research and Medical Associations [at] ifmsa [dot] org

IFMSA-Pakistan
Arslan Inayat, National President IFMSA Pakistan*
arslan201 [at] hotmail [dot] com

Max Planck PhDnet
Prateek Mahalwar, Spokesperson
prateek.mahalwar [at] tuebingen.mpg.de

The Open Access Button
Joseph McArthur, Co-lead
Joe [at] righttoresearch [dot] com

Open Knowledge
Jonathan Gray, Director of Policy and Research
jonathan [dot] gray [at] okfn [dot] org

Open Library of Humanities
Martin Paul Eve, Co-Director
martin [dot] eve [at] openlibhums [dot] org

National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS)
Kristofferson Culmer, President & CEO
president [at] nagps [dot] org

Siyavula Education
Megan Beckett, Instructional Designer and Open Education Advocate
megan [at] siyavula [dot] com

Meredith Niles
Post-doctoral research fellow, Harvard University*
Assistant Professor, University of Vermont (August 2015)*
meredith_niles [at] hks [dot] harvard [edu]

Iara Vidal Pereira de Souza
PhD student, Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro*
iaravidalps [at] gmail [dot] com

Erin McKiernan
Postdoctoral fellow, Wilfrid Laurier University*
emck31 [at] gmail [dot] com

* Institutions are for affiliation purposes only

Open Access and the Humanities: An Interview with Dr. Martin Paul Eve

Interviewer: Scott Richard St. Louis

Interviewer’s Note: Dr. Eve’s responses represent his own opinion; he is not speaking on behalf of his employer. Visitors to this page are encouraged to consult Dr. Eve’s newest book, Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which may be read freely online.

1. Tell us about yourself. Where, when, and how did you first learn about open-access publishing and the Open Access movement? How did your talents, passions, educational experience, and professional interests lead you to a lasting interest in Open Access? What do you consider to be the most important experiences of yours with regard to open-access scholarship and Open Access advocacy?

I am a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Lincoln in the UK. Within my own discipline, I specialize in contemporary American fiction, with a particular emphasis on the legacies of postmodern literature. As you note, though, I also have an enduring interest in scholarly communication and, within that field, in open access. Finally, before and during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies I worked as a computer programmer, so I also have a degree of technical competence.

When I learned that academics gave their work to publishers for free but then it was locked away behind paywalls, with the consequence that we can’t afford all the work we need to effectively teach and research, I was perplexed.

I first became aware of open access during my Ph.D. research. A group of colleagues wanted to establish an interdisciplinary postgraduate journal and, as I had previously worked as a programmer and wanted to be involved, I ended up sorting out the technology. In the course of my research into journal software, I encountered PKP’s Open Journal Systems software. I was already familiar with the free and open software paradigms but it didn’t take me long to realize that the “open” here referred to openness in more than one way. It wasn’t just the computer code but also the content that was designed to be “open.” This was an eye-opener in some respects. Although I knew it at a fundamental level, the fact that research work was paid for by libraries was not something that had ever troubled me. When I learned that academics gave their work to publishers for free but then it was locked away behind paywalls, with the consequence that we can’t afford all the work we need to effectively teach and research, I was perplexed. A combination of technological and economic thinking led me to the conclusion that something was radically wrong with the way in which we disseminate work that I felt should be for the public good. Indeed, I think it’s important to stress that OA isn’t applicable everywhere – cultural producers who need to sell their outputs are not so well placed to give work away – but academics employed at universities are usually different; they are paid a salary and can afford to give their work away and the incentive is to be read, not to sell.

In terms of my most important OA experience, I think that I most enjoyed being called to give evidence to the UK government’s Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Inquiry into Open Access in 2013. While, if I was asked again, I would have now a different and better answer to the question about alternative business models for open access, I was particularly pleased to bring the issue of non-disclosure agreements as a potentially anti-competitive practice to the committee’s attention.

As a closing remark for this first question, though, I’ll just add a little on my orientation. I am vigorously in favor of open access, but I remain pessimistic. Changing elements of academic social practice can take decades to achieve and although we have reached various tipping points of awareness, the future is not set. To this end, I work tirelessly to push OA but also recognize that pragmatic compromise is often more likely to secure the goal and incrementally bring the research community on board. Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

2. Would you mind sharing some information on the Open Library of Humanities (OLH)? Specifically, when and how did you and Dr. Caroline Edwards decide to launch the project? How does the OLH model differ from open-access publishing initiatives in other disciplines, such as the Public Library of Science? How does the OLH model reflect the unique concerns of humanists regarding open-access publishing? What are these concerns? What are your biggest hopes for the future of the OLH?

The OLH project was first proposed at the beginning of 2013 after a Twitter conversation involving many people. I put up a website called “PLOHSS” – a clear and perhaps cheeky reference to the Public Library of Science – in which I called for those who wanted to build a Public Library of Humanities and Social Sciences to get in touch. Within a few hours I had received several hundred email replies from interested parties.

It’s important to stress that our initial thinking over those first few months was naïve. We wanted to operate on an article-processing-charge basis. We had only plans for a new megajournal. We didn’t know what the economics would look like. We radically underestimated timescales. This didn’t matter, though. We went ahead with planning an idea that wasn’t fully formulated and people became excited. We gathered prominent academics and librarians onto our committees and posed them a series of questionnaires. Over the next year, we reformulated the idea and came to what we have now.

The OLH as it exists today, and which should fully launch this summer, is a gold open access, peer-reviewed, internationally-supported, academic-led, not-for-profit, mega-journal, multi-journal and books platform for the humanities. It is funded by an international library consortium and so has no author-facing charges.

As I’m sure your readers are aware, open access refers to peer-reviewed academic research that is available freely to read and re-use online. Gold open access, in particular, means that this service is provided by publishers. This usually means that a new business model is needed as if the material is free to read, it cannot be sold as a subscription. Many publishers are implementing this through article and book processing charges (APCs and BPCs). These, though, are often unaffordable in humanities disciplines. This is because research work in our disciplines is far less often supported by grant funding and because APCs concentrate costs.

To understand this, consider the subscription model. In this mode of operation, many libraries pay a relatively modest amount (per publication) so that the publisher has enough revenue to cover the labor of publishing and to create a surplus (or, often, profit). This is, in other words, a cost pool. APCs are different. APCs concentrate costs, making single institutions bear the total cost of publication. If we were able to switch to this system tomorrow, it might be OK. After all, there is enough money in circulation for publishers to exist and for some to do very well indeed. In transition, though, this model creates problems that are more acutely felt in disciplines with less funding.

Open Access and the Humanities

Martin Eve’s new book, Open Access and the Humanities, is free to read online but a paper edition can be purchased.

The OLH works differently, with a small contribution from a large number of libraries covering the costs of publication, essentially re-creating a cost pool. The OLH thereby offers an extremely cost-effective solution for open access that means that no single institution bears a disproportionate cost. Participating libraries not only invest in a community-shared service that would not otherwise be feasible, but are also given a governance stake in the project.

So, that’s the first important difference: we have an innovative economic model that is better suited to the humanities disciplines. The second difference is that we are not just launching new journals. The “multi-journal” component of the description that I gave above refers to the fact that existing publications can come on board our model if they pass the scrutiny of our academic and library committees. In this way, we have the potential to convert existing journals to gold open access, with no APCs. This is perhaps my largest display of pessimistic-optimism. I do not believe there will be enough goodwill from the academic community to publish solely in new OA venues. The counter-incentives are too strong. I also do not believe that hybrid options from existing publishers on APC models will do the trick. If we want OA, then, we need to do it pragmatically. If we can convert existing venues that are believed to be prestigious in the eyes of researchers and simply make them OA, then we don’t need to wait on researchers to change their practices (the decade-long cultural shift that I referred to above). In this way I can be pessimistic about changing the minds of every researcher while being optimistic that we can still achieve open access.

3. In your book, you discuss some of the major differences that exist in research publication between the humanities and the natural sciences. Would you care to highlight some of these briefly? Is it feasible for scholars of these two disciplinary groups to work together on certain issues related to scholarly communication, whether this would lead to greater support for open-access publishing or not? If so, where does the capability for collaboration exist? What concerns are better left to the practitioners of each discipline exclusively?

I think the division between the natural sciences and the humanities is, in general, a false one that is encouraged as though it were healthy competition by those who hold the purse strings. It is not. It fosters division where none need exist. After all, historically, much scientific practice derived from an empirical turn in philosophy. The humanities today provide routes to understanding histories, phenomena, artifacts and cultures. The sciences do likewise. These disciplines have respectively different paradigms within which they conduct their practices and often very different methodologies. I am strongly opposed, though, to the idea that we should celebrate science while merely justifying the humanities, but also, conversely, to the often false claims that the humanities hold some key, privileged insight into life. It is only through a collaboration of the diverse practices that thrive in the contemporary university that we will achieve the maximum potential of the institution.

I have yet to see any compelling argument, aside from pragmatic economics (an argument made frequently by learned societies with vested interests), for why the humanities should not follow the sciences with respect to OA.

Scholarly communication is one of the areas, though, where I think the differences in practice are distinctly overemphasized. Yes, the humanities publish more slowly and the publications remain relevant for a far longer period. Likewise, the humanities often publish research at book (monograph) length. Both of these factors alter the economics of research publication.

However, fundamentally, academic humanists and scientists share the same goal: to be read by the widest audience of peers and the public. Across both spheres, this predominantly takes the form of the dissemination of words, images, tables, graphs, equations and, in some cases, data. The internet is the obvious candidate medium through which to achieve this goal in the twenty-first century. I see no reason why, in some cases, collaboration on this shouldn’t be possible between the humanities and the sciences.

Where I think there may be more ground for caution, however, is when a specific discipline tries to take the moral high ground and tells another how to do its thing. For instance, I think that Patrick Dunleavy presents an overly simplistic vision for how research should look across all disciplines, without consideration of what the communication is supposed to achieve in each area. Let’s not pretend that the humanities always work on the same methodological hypothesis-driven basis as the sciences. But just because the measurement systems for science don’t then value the cultural knowledge that the humanities bestow, often in niche areas, let’s also not pretend that this is the fault of the humanities, rather than the measurement.

Likewise, though, I do find myself in a state of frustration when this type of argument (“don’t tell us how to do our job”) is thrust back against open access from the humanities. Many say: “it’s suited for science, but not for us”. I have yet to see any compelling argument, aside from pragmatic economics (an argument made frequently by learned societies with vested interests), for why the humanities should not follow the sciences with respect to OA.

4. You write that “as more researchers produce material in the ever more competitive quest for jobs, the need and desire to publish in top journals is increased. Because these journals will then have a continual supply of high-quality material, it is imperative that libraries subscribe to them. As this material overflows through rejection and cascades down to the next level of ‘mid-range’ publications, libraries find that there are also far more venues to which they must subscribe” (page 15). You also mention that the “print runs for academic monographs in the humanities … are extremely low: around 200-250 is the figure that is usually cited. This means that presses often have returns on volumes and the margins are far lower than in scientific journal publishing” (page 15). What are the consequences of these facts for the relationship between libraries and humanistic researchers in the academy? If libraries are indeed compelled to hold onto influential scientific journals, no matter their expense, won’t academic monographs in the humanities become increasingly vulnerable to cutbacks as journal subscription expenses increase far above the rate of growth in library budgets? In short, do academic humanists stand to lose influence – both in the public sphere and within the broader academy itself – if traditional publishing models dominate the humanities research landscape?

Open access seems to me to be a logical way out of the extinction that the humanities face in an era of austerity and financial cuts, as well as potentially contributing so much to the public good.

The short answer to these questions is: yes. Library budgets at institutions are holistic and expenditure in the humanities is conditioned by the total environment, including serials purchasing that has risen at hyperinflationary rates for several decades now.

That said, opinions on what constitute the “crisis” for the monograph, if there is one, vary from person to person. Geoff Crossick recently wrote a report for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which I would recommend that everyone read; it is a judicious, cautious but future-oriented approach to OA for books. More interestingly, perhaps, though, is the fact that Crossick questioned the rhetoric of crisis far more than many before him. Consider, for instance, the following question: when we say there is a “crisis” of the monograph, do we mean that we can’t read them? Or do we mean that researchers, who need them for their jobs, can’t publish them? Or maybe, we mean that they are not financially sustainable for for-profit publishers in their current form? In any case, this is not a single crisis. One form is a demand-side economic crisis of access, the other is a supply-side crisis of accreditation (hiring/tenure etc.). Both are economic problems, but they can be fixed with the book enduring in between. It’s when we try to fix the dissemination problem and the accreditation problem at the same time that transition becomes hard.

Martin Eve

Martin Eve regularly speaks internationally on Open Access. Image licensed CC-BY by Martin Eve

With respect to a final answer on the question of influence, this depends upon whom you ask. Many defend the prestige of conventional presses on the grounds that they are trusted and read by the peers that they value. Fair enough. I think, though, that the crisis of the humanities is a crisis of public exposure; I think the humanities must be public and visible. This isn’t to say that it has to dumb down. It just needs to be clear what value it can add and make that visible. Open access seems to me to be a logical way out of the extinction that the humanities face in an era of austerity and financial cuts, as well as potentially contributing so much to the public good.

5. Having earned your doctorate in 2012, what would you consider the role of early-career researchers to be in creating a more sustainable – and, perhaps, more open – system of scholarly communication?

First off, and with no disrespect to the question, I don’t much like the term “early-career researcher” (ECR). It’s often a nominative falsehood used to justify contingent labor, as careers are so hard to come by in the academy and job competition is so fierce. It’s then used, internally, to delineate more senior staff from their junior colleagues and works against a collegiate atmosphere. That said, I know what you mean.
ECRs have both the most to gain and the most to lose from being at the forefront of changes to scholarly communications. They have the most to gain because they have their entire careers ahead of them and will have to work within any new paradigm. It’s an exciting time to be thinking about how we communicate our ideas. Sometimes, but not always, ECRs can be more idealistic than those who have climbed the full length of the academic ladder. Again, this is a positive area in which active engagement can bring about real, tangible change. At the same time, though, ECRs are at the sharp end of the accreditation spectrum, often being judged by senior staff who are sometimes, but again, not always, more conservative. The pressure to publish in conventional, recognized (and non-OA) venues, therefore, can be debilitating. My advice is: do both. Be radical and idealistic but pragmatic and conservative. Work to change things. At the same time, of course, don’t compromise yourself. The basis of all freedom in our society comes from the underlying economic security of work. If you need an academic job, as I did, then do what the hiring panel will want. Just remember, when you’ve made it and have that security, not to pull up the ladder and lose the desire to change things for the better.

Dr. Martin Paul Eve is a lecturer in English at the University of Lincoln. He is the author of two books, Pynchon and Philosophy (2014) and Open Access and the Humanities (2014), and editor of the open-access journal of Pynchon scholarship, Orbit. Dr. Eve has appeared as an expert witness before the UK House of Commons Select Committee BIS Inquiry into Open Access, and has also served as a steering-group member of the OAPEN-UK project and as a member of the HEFCE Open Access Monographs Expert Reference Panel. Alongside Dr. Caroline Edwards, he is Co-Founder of the Open Library of Humanities.

Scott Richard St. Louis is a member of the North American Coordinating Committee of the Right to Research Coalition and is an intern for SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. He also serves on the Early-Career Researchers’ Forum of the Open Library of Humanities. 

This article reflects the views of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Right to Research Coalition or SPARC.

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New OpenCon webcast series and March OpenCon Community Call

This month, due to downtime on the OpenCon website we’re posting this announcement here. Normally you can find details at OpenCon2014.org/community/webcasts and OpenCon2014.org/community/calls

Announcing OpenCon Community Webcasts!

We’re excited to announce our new OpenCon Community Webcast series, which aims to inform and engage the growing OpenCon community by showcasing an individual, project, or success story each month. Ranging between 30 minutes and an hour, these webcasts will provide a regular opportunity for the OpenCon community to hear from those leading the charge for Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data.

To kick the series off, we’ve invited Titus Brown (website, blog, twitter) to join us and share his story of gaining tenure as an open researcher! Titus is a an Associate Professor at the University of California Davis Genome Center and recently wrote a blog post that will be of interest to many in the OpenCon community entitled “On gaining tenure as an open scientist”. In October 2014, Titus was one of 14 researchers selected for the new Moore Investigators in Data-Driven Discovery award .

The webcast will be held on Friday, April 3rd, at 12pm EDT / 5pm BST / 6pm CEST, and last approximately 45 minutes. A recording of the presentation will be available online immediately after the webcast. You can view the webcast at this URL or by bookmarking the embedded YouTube link below.



March OpenCon Community Call

Beginning in February, we’ve begun hosting OpenCon community calls each month for those in the OpenCon network to hear the latest updates on open policy, share updates on one another’s projects, and have an open discussion of important topics. Approximately 20 people joined our first call, and we’re hoping to see many more join future discussions. Those surveyed said the first call was extremely useful and plan to join again in the future.

Join our next community call on Wednesday, March 25th, at 12pm EDT / 4pm GMT / 5pm CET.

If you’re planning to join this month’s community call, you can sign up to give an update and see last month’s minutes at http://bit.ly/communitycallmarch

Don’t miss out on the discussion! Join the OpenCon community email list.
 
Finally, make sure you’re not missing out on the lively discussion on our OpenCon community email list, which is also where you can get the latest updates on OpenCon. You can subscribe through the form below.





Join the OpenCon Discussion List

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European Student Access to Literature Study

If we are to set the default to open when it comes to research, one of the main stakeholder groups that will have to make it’s voice heard is the students. Already students around the world are doing just that – talking to librarians, policy-makers, researchers, university staff, publishers etc. – in order to push for Open Access to research. To ensure their success they should be equipped with the best tools. One particularly effective tool that they are sorely lacking right now is hard data. This is something which will be particularly useful in conversations with policy-makers. As things stand, students at various universities have different levels of access to research – some universities provide more access, some less, and no university provides access to all. However, no research has been done to ascertain what the actual differences might be and what contributes to these differences. This is where our study comes in.

To our knowledge, this study will be the first to investigate the level of access students at different universities across Europe have to scientific articles.

It involves a short questionnaire which asks for some demographic data and whether you are able to access a set of 11 journal articles representative of the sort of articles students search for day in, day out. This is a strong objective measure of literature access already validated by our pilot data. This data also shows both a general lack of access and a huge difference between countries. However, we need more data in order to make our analyses reliable and generalisable. With this data, we will be able to show the nature of the differences in access both within and between countries and what may be causing these differences. It is very important to reach students from as many different universities as possible, so we ask you to both participate and forward this call.

We intend to publish the results of this study as an article in an Open Access journal and make the data and methodology publicly available so that Open Access advocates around the world can make use of them. The bigger the sample we get, the stronger an argument we can make so we hope you will support us by promoting our study as much as you can! We really appreciate your help with this promotion. Without your help this study is just an idea, but with your help it’s a significant contribution to the debate on access to literature and one that is completely student-driven from design to promotion to participation.

At this point in the project, the focus is solely on Europe and articles produced in the field of psychology. However, if we can complete this study successfully it is possible for us to expand both in disciplinary and geographical focus with the aim of providing even better tools for advocacy. Its success will depend on the kindness of those willing to participate.

Participate in the study, it only takes ten minutes at http://tinyurl.com/litaccess

Authors: Ivan Flis (PhD Candidate at Utrecht University), Jonas Haslbeck (MSc student at Utrecht University), Chris Noone (PhD Candidate at NUI Galway)

Student bottom-up mobilisation for open science in Poland

Open Access brings benefits for academic community and society at large, but it is often introduced through official top-down policies with pressure from scientists. What can students do to accelerate the process of opening science?

Studentsinvolved

                                      [CC BY 4.0 – Inicjatywa Otwieracz]

Poland is often being cited as ‘the green island’ unaffected by the world financial crisis, role model for countries in transition, a ‘European tiger’. Nonetheless, economic growth does not seem to trickle down sufficiently enough to reform and strengthen our academic sector. Renowned Polish universities are positioned fourth hundred in world university rankings while a conservative approach to research and teaching still prevails in academic circles. Older generations of scientists dominate the young, digital technology is not widely used either in research or teaching practices and most scholars tend to have a rigid idea of the copyright law. A group of final year students at the University of Warsaw did not want to give up without an impact and decided to conduct a revolution at their faculty.

Mission impossible

Starting at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences, we founded the first student association to be devoted solely to the promotion of Open Access initiatives and research of academic practices at the University of Warsaw – we were pioneering in the country. Under the name ‘Inicjatywa Otwieracz’ (‘Opener Initiative’), we aimed at creating positive turmoil and demonstrating what benefits Open Access can bring to each individual scholar, to the Institute as a distinct research entity as well as to students, who can enrich their own learning and researching processes and increase their scientific impact even if they are not professional academics per se.

Our objectives were challenging from the very start – bridging the gap between science and digital technology. Raising awareness of new methods of spreading research results is easier said than done, especially in a community which is not particularly used to considering the student voice as purveyor of valuable expertise. Open Access as a concept is hardly a recognisable brand, especially amongst students, so we ventured to challenge the existing ideas of conducting research and publishing results without much bottom-up support. Yet we quickly managed to produce a database of Polish Open Access journals dedicated to social sciences and a list of online scientific repositories, which we made available to the public. We received positive feedback from many scholars, associated not only with our Institute.

Talksgivenduringtheproject

                                      [CC BY 4.0 – Inicjatywa Otwieracz]

Internal evaluation

Our opus magnum turned out to be a major research project focused on new technologies and copyright law in the academic context. In order to be more persuasive and effectively overcome inevitable opposition to Open Access in our Institute, we looked for diagnosis of the most popular myths and anxieties related to technology and copyright law. We asked about beliefs and knowledge related to open publishing and digital technology, as well as about the practices of using new technological means in scientific and teaching processes.

To gather all the information, we designed a survey combined of three parts, related to:

  1. research and teaching practices in relation to digital technology (e.g. data and literature search, compiling and sharing teaching materials with students, use of new software in research/studying process);
  2. competencies in new technology;
  3. knowledge of copyright law and attitude to Open Access principles.

All the questions were directed to academic teachers, PhD candidates and regular students of the Institute of Applied Social Sciences, as we intended to compare groups with potentially different benefits from Open Access and contrasting levels of digital competencies. We conducted 47 Pencil-and-Paper interviews with academics, 24 PAPI interviews with PhD candidates and 263 surveys with students.

Practices and fears

With our findings, we mapped out the most important patterns of technology use, competencies and beliefs among our community. The Internet has become the major source of scientific information, such as literature, research reports and raw data. Informal file-sharing platforms enjoy large popularity, especially among students, which have a high demand for easy accessible online materials. At the same time, the digital form of academic texts has not replaced traditional paper form, despite increasing use of mobile devices in academic and/or scientific practice. Even though the internet seems to be the air we breathe, only a small proportion of both staff and students publishes their scientific work online, creates blogs or discussion groups related to science.

Researchreport

                                      The cover of the research report “New technologies and copyright in the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at University of Warsaw” by Opener Initiative (“Inicjatywa Otwieracz”). [CC BY 4.0 -  Jakub Kiewicz]

Our respondents declared that publishing online can spur scientific development, at the same time being wary of the risks. 75% of academic staff worries that sharing their scientific work online will increase the odds of plagiarism and fraud. In fact, our community demonstrated a more restrictive understanding of copyright law than it in reality is (the questionnaire was based on the evaluation of certain behaviour as legal or criminal). On the other hand, 82% of all respondents declare that making their work available online would contribute to scientific progress and popularisation of research while 93% notice the potential for citation growth when published in Open Access mode. 76% disagree with a claim that free online access to one’s work is a form of theft.

Next steps

The results can serve to tailor a more effective message responding to popular anxieties and increase the impact of Open Access principles in everyday practices in our Institute. During our research process we found out that many scholars do not negotiate their publishing licences in order to facilitate open publishing. We want to raise awareness about this crucial issue, practically and legally help scholars to make scientific work available, but also show students that they as well can profit from popularisation of research results and open journals. We hope that our Institute will become an example for the rest of the University of Warsaw.

We published our report in Open Access along with questionnaires, as we believe in openness, clarity and complementarity of research processes. All the resources are available in Polish under the following link: http://bit.ly/1L0APE1

We invite anyone inspired by our story, looking for more information or interested in collaboration to contact us at inicjatywa.otwieracz@gmail.com

The author, Marta Sienkiewicz, is currently pursuing her Master’s studies in Urban Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. Formerly she was vice-chair of Opener Initiative (Inicjatywa Otwieracz) at University of Warsaw, whose efforts she still actively supports.

Assessing the commitment of UK universities to Open Access

Just over a week ago, student groups and Right to Research Coalition Members Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and Medsin-UK launched the first UK University Global Health Research League Table at the Houses of Parliament. The league table ranks the UK’s 25 top-funded universities according to their commitment to global health research, neglected disease research, and to making their research outputs accessible to all. The league table assessed research accessibility by examining the adoption and use of socially responsible policies when patenting and licensing medical technologies (for more on this important issue, check out this), as well as university commitment to Open Access publishing by researchers.

 

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This commitment to Open Access was assessed using two different metrics. First, two student researchers working independently systematically examined university webpages devoted to Open Access, and awarded points to those webpages that took the strongest actions to encourage faculty to make their research freely available online. Universities that received maximum points for this metric have both a fund for paying article processing fees, as well as an institutional Open Access policy (see the table below). It is worth noting that any official University policy which encourages (and does not necessarily mandate) Open Access publishing received points for this metric. A closer examination of the exact text of these policies and assessment of their strength will be an important additional metric for future iterations of the League Table.

 

Does the university make an effort to promote and facilitate public-access publication by researchers?

Strength of evidence

Criteria

Points awarded

Strong

The University has both an access fund for paying article processing fees and an institutional Open Access policy

5

The university has EITHER an Open Access fund for paying article processing fees OR an institutional Open Access policy, but NOT both

4

The website provides BOTH Open Access publishing guidelines for common research funding sources AND a description of Green and Gold Open Access

3

The website provides Open Access publishing guidelines for common research funding sources OR offers explanations of Green and Gold Open Access

2

Weak

The university website provides brief and limited statements regarding Open Access publishing.

1

 

All of the universities we assessed had a webpage devoted to Open Access that encouraged Open Access publishing. All websites also provided additional resources to researchers, such as pathways to Open Access publication for common research funding sources. Most also highlighted funds that were available to researchers to pay article processing fees. The availability of these funds is largely a result of the block grant funds provided to universities by the Research Councils UK starting in April of 2013. Fewer universities have a policy mandating Open Access publication, suggesting this is an important area for continued advocacy and implementation efforts.

 

For the second metric, we calculated the percentage of biomedical and health-related research published by researchers at each university that was made freely available online within one year of publication. We did this by comparing the journal article citations affiliated with each university in PubMed (which may or may not to link to free, full-text articles) to the same number in PubMed Central (which have free, full-text articles linked to each citation). We divided the number of PubMed Central papers by the number of PubMed-indexed citations to arrive at a percentage of research output for each University that could be considered freely available online. On average, 82% of research output across the universities could be classified as free-access.  Some universities had outputs as low as 60%, while the top score of 5 points was awarded to five universities that had between 99% and 100% free-access research output. There are a number of slight differences in the types of literature that are included in PubMed and PubMed Central; advanced search functions are also slightly different between the two. This means that the raw percentage values may contain artifacts which we could not control for. Finally, given that our analysis controlled for a 1-year embargo period on articles, this metric will be especially important to monitor over time as universities make continued efforts to facilitate free-access publication.

 

It is worth noting that both metrics (especially the second) reward universities that facilitate ‘free-access’ or ‘public-access’ publication, and not necessarily true Open Access publication. We are exploring simple ways to address this in future iterations of the project.

 

 

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At the launch of the League Table, deputy editor of PLOS Medicine Dr. Paul Simpson noted that open publication of research is a key step towards tackling global health inequity. Ultimately, we aim for the League Table to motivate action by students, researchers, and Universities to make the research system that we all participate in more fair and equitable. We are already beginning to see renewed commitment to these ideals. In response to the League Table, the University of Sussex highlighted its multidisciplinary global health efforts while expressing the importance of making its global health research openly available online. Meanwhile, Imperial College London stressed the importance of universities across the UK taking greater strides in global health research in order to improve health worldwide.

 

 

Finally, the two metrics discussed here were developed in collaboration with Joe McArthur and Nick Shockey of R2RC, highlighting the importance of collaboration between advocacy organizations and the value of sharing expertise.

 

 


 

 

 

Chris Counts led the Access section of the Global Health Research League Table while completing an MSc in Global Health and Development at UCL as a Marshall Scholar. Passionate about combining multidisciplinary approaches to global health challenges, he will pursue an MD at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine this fall.

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Open Access South Africa: Starting a Student Network

Uvania Naidoo and I attended OpenCon 2014 in Washington DC this November. The conference brought 175 students and early-stage researchers involved in Open Access, Open Data and Open Education together. The Open Movement is driven by the belief that access to scholarly research, educational and medical resources should be freely accessible, reusable and easily distributed. A number of student-led open access projects from Nigeria, Kenya and Nepal were highlighted during the conference. There is currently no South African network, meaning that student advocates like myself and Uvania have felt isolated and have had no real means of connecting with other students with similar interests.

Accordingly, we propose to set up a nation-wide co-ordination network in South Africa: Open Access South Africa. Any students, at any institution in the country, interested in promoting or finding out more about Open Access, Open Data and Open Educational Resources are more than welcome to get in touch, which will enable us as students to co-ordinate action and support each other across campuses and institutions throughout South Africa. Once we have established said network, we hope to approach the Department of Education to discuss nationwide OA policy.

This blog post originally appeared here on 27/11/2014 and has been reposted on the request of the author

 

Pre-OpenCon 2014 Webcasts Roundup

In the run up to OpenCon 2014 we wanted to ensure everyone attending already had a basic, if not very good understanding Open Access, Education and Data.

To make these easier to watch, and compile all the resources associated we’ve combined them all into a bumper blog filled with all the bios, video, slides and more.

Open Access 101

Open Education 101

Open Data 101

Digital Humanities and Open Access: An Interview with Brett Bobley of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Interviewer: Scott Richard St. Louis
(Interviewer’s Note: Mr. Bobley’s responses, lightly edited by the interviewer, constitute his own opinion; he is not speaking on behalf of his employer.)

1. Tell us about yourself. How did your talents, passions, educational experience, and professional interests lead you to a career at the intersection of the humanities and public service? 

Thanks for asking!

I think public service is important. Everybody complains at one time or another about how the government could do a better job at this or that. I decided to go into public service because I wanted to see if I could make a real difference, at least in some small but significant way.

My BA is in the humanities (philosophy) and my MS is in computer science. I spent the early part of my career working for a big tech firm and, later, for the US Coast Guard. In 1997, I moved over to the National Endowment for the Humanities, giving me an opportunity to focus on two things I really enjoy: the humanities and technology. 

In my work at the NEH, my biggest focus is to try to openly engage with our customers – the American people in a general sense, but in a narrower sense, with the scholars, scientists, librarians, publishers, museum officials, and others who work in the humanities. I try to show them that we’re not faceless bureaucrats but real people who are quite keen to support their amazing work.
 

2. How would you define “digital humanities” in a sentence or two?

Oh, man, I won’t even try to define it!  OK, that’s not fair, but I think I’ll note that there is no single definition of digital humanities that everyone can agree on. Of course, I’d say the same thing about “humanities”; it isn’t a term I’d want to narrowly define. I’ve often said that digital humanities (or DH for short) is just an umbrella term – a term of convenience –that refers to a whole bunch of activities happening where the humanities interacts with technology. It might be philosophers studying technology ethics, archaeologists learning how to use aerial photography to scan dig sites, computational linguists developing data analysis techniques to study old newspapers, media scholars studying video games, or any number of other activities.
  

3. Could you provide us with some information about the status of the digital humanities as a frontier for humanistic scholarship? What are the convictions, values, and methods of its practitioners? Where do the opinions and findings of digital humanists converge in these areas? Where do controversies and/or a lack of clarity exist?

When we first started the Office of Digital Humanities (ODH) at the NEH, I could probably count on two hands all the university centers or labs that focused on that kind of work. When we spoke to practitioners in the field, the message we received over and over was that it was really difficult to get funding for digital humanities projects. Now, I read about new centers forming all the time. I think that by launching ODH (and watching other funders around the world also support DH), we’ve been able to give the field a boost. Funding is still quite tight, of course, and digital humanities is a fairly small part of the NEH’s overall funding portfolio. But I do think that scholars and others working in the digital humanities have more opportunities not only for funding, but for publishing venues and general acceptance of their work. 

There are definitely no shared convictions, values, or methods across the digital humanities as it is such an incredibly diverse group. When you come to one of our ODH project directors’ meetings, you quickly see this; we might have a very senior person in archaeology speaking, followed by a technologist from a non-profit, followed by a graduate student in history. Just so much diversity in what they do and how they do it, which is a good thing.
 

4. Digital humanities scholarship attracts researchers from a diverse array of traditional academic fields. Even so, are there any skills that all digital humanists need to develop in order to be taken seriously?

Certainly, to be successful in any field, you need to be knowledgeable in certain areas and develop certain methods and skills. This is definitely the case in digital humanities, but, of course, those skills and knowledge areas are quite different depending on your work. Just like a film professor, for example, would want to become knowledgeable about the technology used to make movies, an historian who uses, say, topic modeling software to study old documents would want to become familiar with the statistical models that the software is using. Or if you are building a database of images for art historians to study, you would need to learn about database design and metadata and the other technical topics critical to making a good database.

Perhaps one skill that most (but not all) scholars may find helpful is the ability to work collaboratively. The vast majority of the DH grants we make are to teams of people from different disciplines working together.
 

5. Where, when, and how did you first learn about Open Access?

That’s a really interesting question! I’m not sure I can put a finger on when I first heard the term – I’d guess in the early 2000’s or so. Maybe around the time of the Berlin Declaration? But here at the NEH we’ve long thought about “access.” In fact, we have an entire division called Preservation & Access. So the concept of making humanities materials more accessible has long been part of the NEH’s mission, even before the term “Open Access” came about. 
 

6. Tell us about the Office of Digital Humanities at the NEH. How and when did it get started? How do the mission and function of your office relate to Open Access?

We are the newest and smallest office at the NEH, having started around 2006. We try to promote scholarship that studies technology from a humanistic perspective or uses computational techniques for humanities research, education, and public programming.

I see part of our job as engaging with the community on important issues surrounding technology and scholarly communications. The ability to distribute scholarship via the Internet is one of the drivers toward making scholarship more widely available, so we’ve been trying to stay on top of the many conversations in this area. For example, we worked with SPARC to co-sponsor the Berlin 9 conference on Open Access – specifically a panel that focused on that topic for the humanities. We’ve also been active in open data, funding projects like Open Context, the Perseus Digital Library, and the Digital Humanities Data Curation Institute. And many, many others. 
 

7. How does the extent and scope of Open Access currently differ across disciplines? Must the nature of Open Access advocacy and implementation be different for the humanities than for the natural and/or social sciences? If so, why is this the case? What has to be different, if anything?

Sometimes when you hear people talk about open access in the humanities, they’ll say “open access is completely different in the humanities than in the sciences.” But I think this argument is painting with too broad a stroke. If you talk to scientists, you learn there are very different scholarly communications practices even within the sciences; high energy physicists don’t necessarily publish in the same way as zoologists or computer scientists.  There may be more similarities between some scientific and some humanities disciplines than you might think.

That said, probably the biggest obvious difference is that in many scientific disciplines, shorter papers are the norm, whereas in many humanities disciplines, the monograph (a big book!) is more common. Of course, many scientists write books and many humanities professors write articles, but overall, it is fair to say that books are more commonly written on a regular basis by humanities folks and are quite important for their career advancement.
 

8. In your opinion, what does the future of Open Access in the humanities look like?

Well, I wouldn’t capitalize “open access” in this context. I think we are moving to a future of increased access in many different ways. For example, we’re seeing more Internet-based humanities resources, databases, scholarly editions, and digital libraries that make incredible resources available for free. I think we’ll also see an increase in free e-books, articles, blog posts, and other materials as we move forward.

Some of these changes may be due to mandates (like public access policies by funders). Others may simply be due to changing attitudes about what humanities scholarship looks like. For example, traditionally, junior scholars are expected to publish a hardcover book to get tenure. But these books generally don’t sell very well and scholarly presses are in quite a bind trying to produce them. But, of course, great scholarship can come in many different formats. At the end of the day, it really should be about quality, impact and reach. I suspect we’ll start to see more and more humanities departments becoming comfortable with professors publishing in electronic, public-access venues. We may also see new business models for presses, perhaps involving subvention from libraries, universities, and funders.
 

9. What do scholars, taxpayers, and society as a whole stand to gain if scholarly communication systems in the humanities are made more open? What, if anything, do we stand to lose?

Humanities scholars study people and our histories and culture. What could be more important than that? Scholars produce amazing stuff and we should do what we can to help them reach a broad audience for their work. I frequently hear from independent scholars and scholars at less-resourced institutions. They tell me they can’t get ready access to the scholarship they need for their research. And interested members of the public are often unaware of scholarly books, articles, and other media. Most scholars I talk to are very enthusiastic about making their own work more widely available, but they’re not always sure how. So I think we should continue to strive for ways to make research outputs broadly accessible.
 

10. Are there any potential liabilities or challenges associated with the advent of Open Access in the humanities? If so, how might these be confronted, and what group(s) in our society can help us to overcome them?

Sure, there are many challenges! We’re seeing declining books sales coupled with declining library budgets, yet most humanities scholars are required to publish monographs to get tenure. That’s a big challenge (or several of them) right there. But most of the actors involved want to see scholarship flourish and we need to work together to come up with new scholarly communications practices that are best for the field and best for the public.
 

11. Are there any books, articles, or webpages that aspiring digital humanists and/or Open Access advocates should read?

Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy provides a terrific overview of many of these issues.
 

Brett Bobley is Director of the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Scott Richard St. Louis is a member of the North American Coordinating Committee of the Right to Research Coalition and an intern for SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.