The journals of unfunded research

Recently in the Liblicense list, the idea came up that publishers could simply refuse to publish works by authors covered by open access policies. Of course, this is their right!

Publishers who share such view might wish to get together and form a new association, to plan their futures together. Here is my suggestion for a title for the association: The Journals for Strictly Limited Dissemination of the Works of Unfunded and Unemployed Researchers. Since this title is rather long, I suspect the abbreviation The Journals of Unfunded Research could quickly become popular.

The membership list of this association could be most helpful to librarians, in these difficult financial times when we need really good information about what to cut. And frankly, if journals are refusing articles written by the likes of authors at Harvard, MIT, as well as a large and growing list of other institutions, or funded by a growing list of the world’s major research funders – it seems reasonable to ask what exactly they will be publishing in the near to medium term future.

For a list of the 220 open access mandate policies to date, see ROARMAP.

Roland Reuss Redux: Heidelberg Appellant Peals On

Corrigendum: False alarm. The Reuss article is not new. Peter Suber has since noted (May 23 2010):

“Though I tagged the Reuss article yesterday, thinking it was new, I removed the tag soon afterwards. I believe the article is the same one he published in February 2009, framed with a new advertisement and current date — apparently the newspaper’s way of highlighting stories from its archive…”

But the critiques still bear repeating till the “Heidelberg Appeal”‘s repealed and the author corrects its canards…

Roland Reuss “Eine heimliche technokratische Machtergreifung

Same old tune. Same false notes:

Green-OA/Gold-OA conflated.
Books/articles conflated.
Imaginary “authors’ rights violations” absurdly alleged.

Newspapers clearly have no peer review for either facts or logic…

See: “Heidelberg Appeal Peeled.”

Food for all: letter to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) urging open access

Indian open access advocate Subbiah Arunachalam (Arun) has sent a letter to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) urging that CGIAR require open access to CGIAR-funded research.

Following is the full text of the letter:

“Dear Dr Carlos Perez del Castillo/ Dr Kathy Sierra:

About a year ago, on 20 May 2009 to be precise, Dr William D Dar, Director General of ICRISAT sent a Memorandum on Launching of Open Access Model: Digital Access to ICRISAT Scientific Publications to all researchers and students in all locations of ICRISAT []. In the memorandum Dr Dar had said “Every ICRISAT scientist/author in all locations, laboratories and offices will send a PDF copy of the author’s final version of a paper immediately upon receipt of communication from the publisher about its acceptance. This is not the final published version that certain journals provide post-print, but normally the version that is submitted following all reviews and just prior to the page proof.”

ICRISAT is the only international agricultural research centre with an OA mandate, and is second among the research and education institutes operating from India, the first being the National Institute of Technology-Rourkela ( ICRISAT publishes a research journal ( which is also an open access journal.

Since then is growing fast and the portal now has virtually all the research papers published in recent times, and all the books and learning material produced by ICRISAT researchers.

We believe that it would be great if other CGIAR laboratories could also mandate open access to their research publications. Indeed, it would be a good idea to have a system wide Open Access mandate for CGIAR and to have interoperable OA repositories in each CGIAR laboratory. Such a development would provide a high level of visibility for the work of CGIAR and greatly advance agricultural research. Besides, journals published by CGIAR labs could also be made OA. There are more than 1,500 OA repositories (listed in ROAR and OpenDOAR) and about 5,000 journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Currently over 2050 journals are searchable at article level. Over 390,000 articles are included in the DOAJ service.

The world will soon be celebrating the International Open Access Week [18-24 October 2010] and you may wish to announce the CGIAR OA mandate before then.

As you may be aware, all seven Research Councils of the UK and the National Institutes of Health, USA, have such a mandate in place for research they fund and support. To see the full list of ~220 mandates worldwide, see ROARMAP.

We look forward to seeing an early implementation of open access in all CGIAR labs.

– Subbiah Arunachalam [Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Internet and Society,Bangalore, India]
– Remi Barre [Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers (CNAM), Paris, France]
– Leslie Chan [University of Toronto at Scarborough, Canada]
– Anriette Esterhuysen [Association for Progressive Communications, Johannesburg, South Africa]
– Jean-Claude Guédon [University of Montreal, Canada]
– Stevan Harnad [Universite du Quebec a Montreal and University of Southampton]
– Neil Jacobs [JISC, UK]
– Heather Joseph [Executive Director, SPARC, USA]
– Barbara Kirsop [Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, UK]
– Heather Morrison [Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada]
– Richard Poynder [Technology journalist, UK]
– T V Ramakrishnan, FRS [Banaras Hindu University and Indian Institute of Science; Former President of the Indian Academy of Sciences]
– Peter Suber [Berkman Fellow, Harvard University; Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College; Senior Researcher, SPARC; Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge]
– Alma Swan [Director, Key Perspectives, UK]
– John Wilbanks [Vice President for Science, Creative commons]
– John Willinsky [Stanford University and University of British Columbia]”

Comment: bravo to Arun, our tireless defender of open access around the world! Let us hope that CGIAR heeds this message. What could possibly be more fair than ensuring that those who cannot always be sure to be able to afford quality food supplies, at the very least have guaranteed free access to the very research that is meant to help them?

More on Potential Conflict of Interest with Open Data (OD) Mandates

SH: Benjamin Geer suggests [requiring OD] immediately upon publication (presumably the publication of a refereed journal article based on the data in question). But the first of the [data-] collector’s articles based on that collection or the last? How many are allowed with exclusivity? and how long?… What if [the data-collector has] gathered a lot of time-consuming data, amenable to a lot of time-consuming analysis?

BG:What if they’ve gathered enough data for a lifetime of analysis?  Should they have the right to hoard their data for the rest of their life?   Where do you draw the line?  Does it make any difference, ethically, whether they collected that data using public funds?

It’s not for me (or anyone) to draw the line uniformly, a-priori. The length of time researchers may need to embargo access to the data they have gathered is something that depends on the field and data, and hence OD needs to be negotiated with the funder, possibly on a case by case basis.

This is notably not the case with OA to published research, in which, without exception, research, researchers, their funders and their institutions all benefit most from OA being provided immediately upon acceptance for publication (and the only conflict of interest is with a 3rd-party service-provider: the publisher).

Benjamin Geer proposes, simply, that research data should be made OD immediately upon publication. I am pointing out the genuine complications that this is failing to take into account. I am not at all suggesting that OD, as soon as possible, is not a good and desirable thing. It is simply far from being as straightforward as OA, especially insofar as mandating (i.e., requiring) is concerned, because there is no conflict with the researcher’s interest in the case of OA, whereas there may well be considerable conflict with the researcher’s interest in the case of OD. And it is all about timing.

As a consequence, it is very important to keep OA and OD separate, especially as regards mandates. Because of the conflict of interest, this is not a matter to be settled by a-priori ideology or edict, but by realism, fairness and pragmatics.

(By way of an indication that I am fully cognizant of (and opposed to) authors sitting unnecessarily long on their database, there was in my own field a case in which a team of researchers had been funded to collect data worldwide for a global color perception database. There was considerable controversy and consternation in the field after the data-gathering because of delays in publication and release. Many researchers in the field felt that the delays in both had slowed rather than advanced research progress. Here was a case where an advance negotiation between the funders and the researchers on the permissible length of the access embargo would have been helpful, would probably have speeded the research, and would probably have resulted in greater research progress. But the punchline from such cases is certainly not that for all data the embargo should therefore be of length zero, either between data of collection and date of publication or between data of publication and date of data-release as OD. The punchline is that OD parameters need to be negotiated in advance, on a case by case basis, with an emphasis on publication as well as release as soon as fair and practicable. There is nothing like this with OA.)

In summary, unlike the case of open access to refereed research articles, the case of open access to data, like the case of open access to books, is not an open and shut one. OD mandates are desirable, and justifiable, but their parameters will have to be negotiated field by field, case by case. And the terrain will be much better prepared for the more complicated case of mandating OD once we have successfully reached the simpler (and more urgent) goal of universally mandating OA.

Stevan Harnad American Scientist Open Access Forum

Springer (owner of BMC) did NOT sign the anti-FRPAA letter

This correction to an earlier post bears repeating! According to Wim van der Stelt, Springer, EVP Business Development, Springer, owner of BioMedCentral, did NOT sign the anti-FRPAA letter of the AAP/PSP; Springer is currently not even a member! In fact, as reported in full here, Springer, owner of BMC, has quite an enlightened approach to open access.

It is my delight to profusely apologize to Springer (owner of BMC) for the mix-up.

On Not Conflating Open Data (OD) With Open Access (OA)

Anon: I hope you don?t mind my asking you for guidance ? I follow the IR list and you are obviously expert in this area. I am having a debate with a colleague who argues that forcing researchers to give up their data to archives and repositories breeches their autonomy and control over intellectual property.  He goes so far as to position the entire open access movement in the camp of the neoliberal agenda of commodifying knowledge for capitalist dominated state authority (at the expense of researchers ? often very junior team members ? who actually create the data).“.

It is important to distinguish OA (Open Access to refereed research journal articles) from Open Data (Open Access to research data, OD).

All researchers, without exception, want to maximise access to their refereed research findings as soon as they are accepted for publication by a refereed journal, in order to maximise their uptake, usage and impact. Otherwise they would not be providing access to them, by publishing them. The impact of their research findings is what their careers, as well as research progress, are all about.

But raw data are not research findings until they have been data-mined and analysed. Hence, by the same token (except in rare exceptions), researchers are not merely data-gatherers, collecting data so that others can go on to do the data-mining and analysis: In science especially, their data-collection is driven by their theories, and their attempts to test and validate them. In the humanities too, the intellectual contributions are rarely databases themselves; the scholarly contributions are the author’s analysis and interpretation of their data — and these are often reported in books (long in the writing), which are not part of OA’s primary target content, because books are definitely not all or mostly giveaway content, written solely to maximise their uptake, usage and impact (at least not yet). [See Figure, below.]

In short, with good reason, OD is not immediate, exception-free author give-away content, whereas OA is. It may be reasonable, when data-gathering is funded, that the funders stipulate how long the data may be held for exclusive data-analysis by the fundee, before it must be made openly accessible. But, in general, primary research data — just like books, software, audio, video, and unrefereed research — are not amenable to OA mandates because there may be good reasons why their creators do not wish to make them OA, at least not immediately. Indeed, that is the reason that all OA mandates, whether by funders or universities, are very specifically restricted to refereed research journal publications.

In the new world of OA mandates, which is merely a PostGutenberg successor to the Gutenberg world of “publish-or-perish” mandates, it is critically important to distinguish carefully what is required (and why) from what is merely recommended (and why).

Anon: I agree there is a risk of misuse and appropriation of the open access agenda, but that is true for any technology, or any social change more generally“.

Researchers’ unwillingness to make their laboriously gathered data immediately OA is not just out of fear of misuse and misappropriation. It is much closer to the reason that a sculptor does not do the hard work of mining rock for a sculpture only in order to put the raw rock on craigslist for anyone to buy and sculpt for themselves, let alone putting it on the street corner for anyone to take home and sculpt for themselves. That just isn’t what sculpture is about. And the same is true of research (apart from some rare exceptions, like the Human Genome Project, where the research itself is the data-gathering, and the research findings are the data).

Anon: And I believe researchers generally have more to gain than lose from sharing data but hard evidence on this point ? again for data, not outputs, is almost non-existent so far. If you can direct me to any articles or arguments, I would be grateful“.

There is no hard evidence on this because — except in exceptional cases — it is simply not true. The work of science and scholarship does not end with data-gathering, it begins with it, and motivates it. If funders and universities mandated away the motivation to gather the data, they would not be left with an obedient set of data-gatherers, duly continuing to gather data so that anyone and everyone could then go ahead and data-mine it immediately. They would simply be mandating away much of the incentive to gather the data in the first place.

To put it another way: The embargo on making refereed research articles immediately OA — the access delay that publishers seek in order to protect their revenue — is the tail wagging the dog: Research progress and researchers’ careers do not exist in the service of publishers’ revenues, but vice versa. In stark contrast to this, however, the “embargo” on making primary research data OD is necessary and justified (in most cases) if researchers are to have any incentive for gathering data (and doing research) at all.

The length of the embargo is another matter, and can and should be negotiated by research funders on a field by field or even a case by case basis.

So although it is crucial not to conflate OA and OD (thereby needlessly eliciting author resistance to OA when all they really want to resist is immediate OD), there is indeed a connection between OA and OD, and universal OA will undoubtedly encourage more OD to be provided, sooner, than the current status quo does.

Anon: An important point in addition is that the archives I work with, while aspiring to openness, cannot adopt full and unqualified open access.  Issues of sensitive and confidential data, and consent terms from human research subjects, have to be respected.  We strive to make data as open and free as possible, subject to these limits.  Typically, agreeing to a licence specifying legal and ethical use is all that is required.  So in fact, researchers do retain control, to some extent, over the terms and conditions of reuse when they deposit their data for sharing in data archives“.

Yes, of course even OD will need to have some access restrictions, but that is not the point, and that is not why researchers in general have good reason not be favorably disposed to immediate mandatory OD — whereas they have no reason at all not to be favorably disposed to immediate mandatory OA.

It is also important to bear in mind that the fundamental motivation for OA is research access and progress, not research archiving and preservation (although those are of course important too). Data must of course be archived and preserved as well, but that, again, is not OD. Closed Access data-archiving would serve that purpose — and to the extent that researchers store digital data in any form, closed access digital archiving is what all researchers do already. Proposing to help them with data-preservation is not the same thing as proposing that they make their data immediately OD.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum