Elsevier to Acquire Interfolio – The Scholarly Kitchen

“On Thursday, Elsevier announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Interfolio. Interfolio has a series of products that fall into two related categories, one of which I call researcher career management and the other of which is the more familiar, impact assessment. While the price being paid was not revealed, Interfolio was acquired by a private equity firm in 2018 for a reported investment of $110 million (prior to adding several additional services into the Interfolio portfolio). Elsevier’s acquisition, if it succeeds, will further strengthen it as a provider of platforms and services to the university provost’s office and office of research, as well as research funders, an important consideration as it seeks to diversify its academic segment revenue basis beyond libraries. Ultimately, this acquisition would further increase the disparity in services in the increasingly direct competition between Elsevier and the new Clarivate, particularly if Elsevier can integrate it effectively. …

 So, for Elsevier, Interfolio’s faculty activity reporting, tenure and promotion, faculty search, and dossier management services should integrate very well with its already strong PURE platform. …

Interfolio’s products and services contain substantial data that already contribute to assessment and impact analysis. These are held in the aforementioned faculty career management services, on a proprietary basis for individual and institutional customers, in ways that could intriguingly be integrated into various analytical tools and services. And, at least in the UK, the oddly-named ResearchFish, acquired several years ago by Interfolio, is used by funding agencies to track the work of their funded researchers (attracting a bit of controversy lately for its unexpected approach to social media). Notwithstanding data protections in place, there could easily emerge additional opt-in opportunities for data from Interfolio services to populate other Elsevier platforms and analytics over the course of time. …

One thing is for sure — Elsevier is bringing together a premier researcher career management offering with its highly competitive research information management system — and that can make a compelling combination. Clarivate has an even higher mountain to climb now as it works to create a competitive research information management offering, working to combine Converis, which has not captured meaningful market share since Clarivate acquired it, and the more nascent Esploro, a category-bending service which it gained through the ProQuest acquisition. …

The most disappointing part of this reaction is the surprise that many librarians and other community advocates express about an acquisition of one company by another company. This should not be a surprise, as I wrote years ago when Elsevier bought bepress. Universities for whom this is a substantial concern should not outsource strategically sensitive services to commercial firms, or alternatively should ensure their contracts are structured to protect their interests in the face of the most outrageous acquisition they can imagine. …”

Biosecurity in an age of open science

Abstract:  The risk of accidental or deliberate misuse of biological research is increasing as biotechnology advances. As open science becomes widespread, we must consider its impact on those risks and develop solutions that ensure security while facilitating scientific progress. Here, we examine the interaction between open science practices and biosecurity and biosafety to identify risks and opportunities for risk mitigation. Increasing the availability of computational tools, datasets, and protocols could increase risks from research with misuse potential. For instance, in the context of viral engineering, open code, data, and materials may increase the risk of release of enhanced pathogens. For this dangerous subset of research, both open science and biosecurity goals may be achieved by using access-controlled repositories or application programming interfaces. While preprints accelerate dissemination of findings, their increased use could challenge strategies for risk mitigation at the publication stage. This highlights the importance of oversight earlier in the research lifecycle. Preregistration of research, a practice promoted by the open science community, provides an opportunity for achieving biosecurity risk assessment at the conception of research. Open science and biosecurity experts have an important role to play in enabling responsible research with maximal societal benefit.

 

Making Science More Open Is Good for Research—but Bad for Security

But a new paper in the journal PLoS Biology argues that, while the swell of the open science movement is on the whole a good thing, it isn’t without risks. 

 

Though the speed of open-access publishing means important research gets out more quickly, it also means the checks required to ensure that risky science isn’t being tossed online are less meticulous. In particular, the field of synthetic biology—which involves the engineering of new organisms or the reengineering of existing organisms to have new abilities—faces what is called a dual-use dilemma: that while quickly released research may be used for the good of society, it could also be co-opted by bad actors to conduct biowarfare or bioterrorism. It also could increase the potential for an accidental release of a dangerous pathogen if, for example, someone inexperienced were able to easily get their hands on a how-to guide for designing a virus. “There is a risk that bad things are going to be shared,” says James Smith, a coauthor on the paper and a researcher at the University of Oxford. “And there’s not really processes in place at the moment to address it.”

 

Biosecurity in an age of open science

Abstract:  The risk of accidental or deliberate misuse of biological research is increasing as biotechnology advances. As open science becomes widespread, we must consider its impact on those risks and develop solutions that ensure security while facilitating scientific progress. Here, we examine the interaction between open science practices and biosecurity and biosafety to identify risks and opportunities for risk mitigation. Increasing the availability of computational tools, datasets, and protocols could increase risks from research with misuse potential. For instance, in the context of viral engineering, open code, data, and materials may increase the risk of release of enhanced pathogens. For this dangerous subset of research, both open science and biosecurity goals may be achieved by using access-controlled repositories or application programming interfaces. While preprints accelerate dissemination of findings, their increased use could challenge strategies for risk mitigation at the publication stage. This highlights the importance of oversight earlier in the research lifecycle. Preregistration of research, a practice promoted by the open science community, provides an opportunity for achieving biosecurity risk assessment at the conception of research. Open science and biosecurity experts have an important role to play in enabling responsible research with maximal societal benefit.

 

bjoern.brembs.blog » Scholarship has no time to waste

“A second front was opened about ten years ago now from an entirely different and mostly unanticipated direction. More than just flush with funds, but this time financed by academia herself, academic publishers started (escalated?) their own attack on science by gobbling up and developing digital surveillance technologies. To expand the sources of user data, these corporations bought digital tools covering all aspects of academic life, from literature search, data analysis, writing, citing or outreach, all the way to citation analysis for research assessment. These corporations formerly known as publishers are using their expanded digital surveillance network to accomplish two separate goals. First, a copy of the data is aggregated with private data from scholarly users and sold, either to advertisers, to law enforcement agencies not allowed to collect such intrusive data themselves, or to any authoritarian government interested in identifying potential opposition intelligentsia. The second goal is to expand the monopolies they enjoy on scholarly content, to a monopoly on all scholarly services, i.e., the mother of all vendor lock-ins. Packaging all the different tools in a single bundle and selling it to institutions akin to subscription “Big Deals”, would make it impossible for any institution buying such a package to ever switch to a different provider again. An analogy outside of academia would be a merger of Microsoft, SAP, Google and Facebook. There are two corporations so far that are standing ready to deploy such bundles, RELX (parent of Elsevier) and Holtzbrinck (SpringerNature, Digital Science). A related data analytics corporation specializing on scholarly data is Clarivate (Web of Science, ProQuest)….”

OSC 2022: “Mitigating risks of cumulative advantage in the transition to Open Science … ” – YouTube

“This talk will summarise work done within the EC Horizon2020 project ON-MERRIT (2019-2022, https://on-merrit.eu/) to investigate risks of cumulative advantage in the transition to Open Science. Open Science holds the promise to make scientific endeavours more inclusive, participatory, understandable, accessible, and re-usable for large audiences. However, making processes open will not per se drive wide re-use or participation unless also accompanied by the capacity (in terms of knowledge, skills, financial resources, technological readiness and motivation) to do so. These capacities vary considerably across regions, institutions and demographics. Those advantaged by such factors will remain potentially privileged, putting Open Science’s agenda of inclusivity at risk of propagating conditions of “cumulative advantage”. Since 2019, the EC Horizon2020 project ON-MERRIT has been investigating these issues using scientometric, sociological and other approaches to examine how these factor influence the ways in which Open Science is taken up (and by whom). As ON-MERRIT concludes, this talk will showcase diverse findings across areas including OA publishing, rewards and incentives and participatory methods. I then concludes by presenting recommendations to mitigate threats co-created with the Open Science community.”

Full article: Accepting Free Content during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Assessment

Abstract:  Deciding what risks are worth taking amidst a global pandemic poses quite specific challenges for Acquisitions librarians. For example, given that virtually all colleges and universities now offer classes electronically, demand for electronic library content has increased sharply. This challenging situation is magnified at smaller campuses, due to their smaller Acquisitions budgets and having to retain substantial print content. In response, vendors are offering free content to those affected and, given the usual limits on library funding, librarians may find such offers almost irresistible. But while there can be advantages to accepting such content, it can be a double-edged sword. In this paper, we examine how crisis situations, such as the current pandemic, affect librarian decision-making, in particular concerning accepting free content from vendors. How do we best navigate these new territories without losing our bearings amidst a pandemic? And how might these decisions and situations affect our patrons? We focus our research on three important issues, with both practical and ethical implications. First, the issue of patron privacy rights. The free content being offered by vendors poses substantial privacy risks for libraries and patrons, because it is not licensed and thus not governed by privacy agreements. Second, we examine the problem of ensuring accessibility for all users and the extent to which accessibility can be guaranteed with non-licensed content. Finally, we look at the likely impact on faculty-librarian relationships when free content will have to be relinquished and libraries cannot afford the same content. Such changes will likely cause tension between faculty and librarians and be especially frustrating for students. While vendors coming to the aid of the libraries during this time is potentially a generous gesture, it also implies pitfalls and negative impacts in its aftermath.

 

Full article: A Librarian’s Perspective on Sci-Hub’s Impact on Users and the Library

Abstract:  On December 19, 2019, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the founder and operator of Sci-Hub Alexandra Elbakyan on suspicion of working with Russian intelligence to steal U.S. military secrets from defense contractors. The article further discusses Sci-Hub’s methods for acquiring the login credentials of university students and faculty “to pilfer vast amounts of academic literature.” This has long been public knowledge. But the confirmation of Sci-Hub potentially working with Russian intelligence was major news. Both fronts of the Sci-Hub assault on stealing intellectual property are concerning. Since many academic researchers and their employers routinely receive defense contracts to perform sensitive research, the article helped posit that offering free access to academic research articles is perhaps a Trojan Horse strategy for Sci-Hub. To add to The Washington Post’s report, we sought out individuals at universities with a vantage point on Sci-Hub’s activities to see if there is independent evidence to support the report. We spoke to Dr. Jason Ensor who at the time of this interview was Manager, Engagement Strategy and Scholarly Communication, Library Systems at Western Sydney University Library in Australia. Ensor holds four degrees in related critical thinking fields and is an experienced business professional in software development, data scholarship and print publishing. He is also a distinguished speaker on digital humanities and linked fields, presenting regularly in national and international forums.

 

Assessing risk when sharing data: a guide – The ODI

“From optimising supply chains and supporting innovation, to addressing sector challenges and delivering public services, we have seen that sharing data can generate benefits for companies, the economy, society and the environment.

However, a common concern for organisations looking to share data is in providing assurance to senior leaders that sharing a particular set of data will not generate negative impacts on reputation; compromise legal compliance or negatively affect their place in the market; or cause harm to society, the economy or the environment.

With this in mind, we’ve created this guide to help organisations identify, assess and manage risks related to sharing data that they hold.

This guide seeks to provide early steps – prior to seeking legal counsel (if that is required) – to consider real and perceived risks in sharing data to identify suitable mitigating actions. We include typical risk categories, key questions to consider and suggestions on how to minimise harm….”

The reuse of public datasets in the life sciences: potential risks and rewards [PeerJ]

Abstract:  The ‘big data’ revolution has enabled novel types of analyses in the life sciences, facilitated by public sharing and reuse of datasets. Here, we review the prodigious potential of reusing publicly available datasets and the associated challenges, limitations and risks. Possible solutions to issues and research integrity considerations are also discussed. Due to the prominence, abundance and wide distribution of sequencing data, we focus on the reuse of publicly available sequence datasets. We define ‘successful reuse’ as the use of previously published data to enable novel scientific findings. By using selected examples of successful reuse from different disciplines, we illustrate the enormous potential of the practice, while acknowledging the respective limitations and risks. A checklist to determine the reuse value and potential of a particular dataset is also provided. The open discussion of data reuse and the establishment of this practice as a norm has the potential to benefit all stakeholders in the life sciences.

 

Beetham et al. (2022) Surveillance Practices, Risks and Responses in the Post Pandemic University

Written by:
Helen Beetham, University of Wolverhampton
Amy Collier, Middlebury College
Laura Czerniewicz, University of Cape Town
Brian Lamb, Thompson Rivers University
Yuwei Lin, University of Roehampton
Jen Ross, University of Edinburgh
Anne-Marie Scott, Athabasca University
Anna Wilson, University of Stirling

Abstract: This paper describes and critiques how surveillance is situated and evolving in higher education settings, with a focus on the surveillance of teaching and learning. It argues that intensifying practices of datafication and monitoring in universities echo those in broader society, and that the Covid-19 global pandemic has both exacerbated these practices and made them more visible. Surveillance brings risks to learning relationships, academic and work practices, as well as reinforcing economic models of extraction and inequalities in education and society. Responses to surveillance practices include resistance, advocacy, education, regulation and investment, and a number of these responses are examined here. Drawing on scholarship and practice, the paper provides an in-depth overview of this topic for people in university settings including those in leadership positions, learning technology roles, educators and students. The authors are part of an international network of researchers, educators and university leaders who are working together to develop new approaches to surveillance futures for higher education: https://aftersurveillance.net/. Authors are based in Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, and this paper reflects those specific contexts.

COVID-19 and the Research Community: It is time for open access in clinical care | eLife

Abstract:  A healthcare center widely sharing its internal guidelines on how to treat COVID-19 patients “just wasn’t done.” As the pandemic raged at a Boston hospital, the next generation of clinical leaders pushed for change.

From the body of the paper: “Around mid-March, our hospital had put together its first internal guidelines to treat COVID-19 patients. We were about to upload them as a PDF to our hospital’s internal server for our staff to download and print them, when the next generation of clinical leaders spoke up. As pulmonary fellow-in-training Dr C Lee Cohen pointed out, how could paper printouts possibly keep up with the rapidly evolving data on COVID-19? Just as importantly, she and others suggested that we had a responsibility to share our findings with the world, not just with our staff. In anticipation, Cohen built the website COVIDprotocols.org to host our guidelines: this platform was web and mobile-based, searchable and could be continually updated. Evolving recommendations, accessible on our smartphones? That idea was an instant hit. Sharing them outside our hospital was not. What if we were wrong and misled professionals around the globe? Making internal guidelines widely public just wasn’t done. I hesitated. As the individual who had put together the interdisciplinary team working on our COVID-19 protocols, I felt ultimately responsible for any negative fallout. But the pandemic was too massive, and the global confusion too overwhelming; it wasn’t perfect, but it just had to be done. Despite our doubts, on March 20, 2020, we launched the website Cohen had built, and released our first set of guidelines to the public.

Evolving recommendations, accessible on our smartphones? That idea was an instant hit. Sharing them outside our hospital was not. What if we were wrong and misled professionals around the globe? Making internal guidelines widely public just wasn’t done. I hesitated. …”

 

Dudley | The Changing Landscape of Open Access Publishing: Can Open Access Publishing Make the Scholarly World More Equitable and Productive? | Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication

Abstract:  Almost 50% of scholarly articles are now open access in some form. This greatly benefits scholars at most institutions and is especially helpful to independent scholars and those without access to libraries. It also furthers the long-standing idea of knowledge as a public good. The changing dynamics of open access (OA) threaten this positive development by solidifying the pay-to-publish OA model which further marginalizes peripheral scholars and incentivizes the development of  sub-standard and predatory journals. Causal loop diagrams (CLDs) are used to illustrate these interactions.

 

Preprint servers and patent prior art

“Preprint publications are often “prior art” that render later-filed patent applications either lacking in novelty or an inventive step both of which are primary requirements under the patent laws. Prior to their dispersion on the Internet, preprints were only considered primary art if they were “available to the public”, which was not always the case for preprints distributed in closely held conferences. Internet preprint servers, however, change that calculus, making any research results available to everyone, everywhere. This tension between Internet preprints and patents may have nega tive effects on the research enterprise, including encouraging researchers to manufacture a delay in putting their preprints online-a perverse effect of preprint servers’ openness and accessi bility. Researchers should therefore be deliber ate in their choices about placing preliminary research results on preprint servers and, in particular, should investigate whether patents are necessary to achieve their research’s commercial ends, if any.”

On informed consent and open licensing | Martin Paul Eve | Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing

“I gave my final talk of the year, today, at the University of Leeds, on open access in the humanities disciplines. Perhaps predictably, all of the Q&A centred on open licensing and the concerns from humanists around the misuse of their work.

My basic line on all this has shifted over time, but I am more cautious now than I used to be and feel better about somewhat more restrictive CC licenses. Specifically, I do not want a situation where a colleague experiments with open access for the first time and ends up on the receiving end of a bad practice that they had not anticipated.

This comes down, to some degree, to “informed consent”. I am quite happy to take risks with my work and open licensing. I think that by being a “pioneer” I might be able to show that the risks are overblown. However, I am in no doubt as to what the risks are and what potential remedies are available. Other people in the humanities who do not know much about copyright law and also do not have the time or inclination to read and understand open licenses, are not in the same position.

I worry, though, that a lot of the advice we give around open licenses might be not providing an optimal level of informed consent. …”