#scholrev: Revolutionising Scholarship: HackYourPhD and shape and practice of the #scholrev community

Following our determination to create new ways of scholarship for the benefit of the world (http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2013/03/21/scholrev-why-are-we-doing-this-and-immediate-thoughts-on-how-to-proceed/ ) let’s explore possible approaches. I stress that this is NOT PMR directing where to go, but giving a possible lead.

This sort of desire to change or widen scholarship is happening in many places, not just #scholrev. Today I learnt of a French group (https://hackyourphd.wordpress.com/about-2/comment-page-1/ ) “Hack Your PhD”. They have tapped into the same spring of discontent and opportunity:

The HackYourPhD community was born out of an acknowledgement that current ways of performing research frequently generate frustration, conflits, and isolation. The crisis in research is sometimes covered in the media: job insecurity, rush to publication creating pressure and dishonest practices, privatization of knowledge through the grip of scientific publishing houses. This is a vision from the inside – that of research practitioners. This lack of trust is amplified by the numerous scandals that have occurred in the world of research, for instance through connections with private corporations whose goal is to generate profit, creating conflicts of interest.

HackYourPhD brings together students, young researchers, engaged citizens, hacktivists, tinkerers from all horizons, entrepreneurs, and everyone who is interested in the production and the sharing of knowledge in the wider sense. This collective aims to bring concrete solutions to complex issues and to build much-needed collaborative relationships between those involved in knowledge production. This is required for collective intelligence to come into existence and bring answers to urgent issues of society.

We believe that in an era of democratization of the tools of research, whether it be technical instruments for the natural sciences, or the exponential simplification of data access, research must be accessible to everyone.

We believe it is important to show that new ways of doing reseasrch exist, and can only benefit research itself as well as the relationship between science and society. We do not seek to revolutionize research, but rather question how it works and add complementary bricks so that it may adapt better to today’s world and respond in a well-adapted fashion to the scientific and human issues of tomorrow.


This is wonderfully compelling and echoes my own thoughts and I am sure those who gathered in Amsterdam 2 days ago. We are also getting mails and tweets of other groups – it’s almost overwhelming.

A natural reaction would be to try to integrate all these efforts. I think that would be wrong because each has its own freedom of action and directions of exploration. And in any case w don’t know precisely where we are going or who will join us or what barriers will be erected.

What I think we need is a communal meeting place to build the future. I think we need to look to successful communities over the centuries. Yesterday I learned a new work: “tietotalkoot” (http://p2pfoundation.net/Rural_Cooperation_and_the_Online_Swarm ) – which I think is a volunteer self-help community which builds things for the good of the community (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talkoot ). I like the “Online Swarm” metaphor. I also like concepts such as “Commons”, “Marketplace”, “Bazaar”, “Cooperative”.

“Decentralisation with communication” also encapsulates it. We already have suggested subgroups and subtasks. They should just go ahead and create their artefacts – hacking – but make sure we know what’s happening so we won’t duplicate unnecessarily and so we’ll build on each other. And identify critical areas where we need something. Decentralisation means there is no limit to the number involved and no loss of identity.

In the internet era these things are excitingly possible. I’ll post later about my own experiences but I’m also very happy to learn of others.


General Assembly 2013

Register | Details | Schedule & Agenda | Logistics


Registration for the General Assembly is now open! Registration is required to attend the GA, and you can register by visiting our registration page.


The Right to Research Coalition will host its second General Assembly this summer from August 2nd through 4th in Budapest at the European Youth Centre. The meeting will convene leaders of student organizations from around the world to chart the future of student efforts promoting Open Access.

Date and location: August 2nd through the 4th at the European Youth Center in Budapest, Hungary. Participants are encouraged to arrive at the venue by 1:00pm on the 2nd as the meeting will begin in the early afternoon of that day. Likewise, participants should try to depart Budapest in the late afternoon of the 4th (after 3:00pm) as there will be morning sessions on the last day.

Who should attend?  All Right to Research Coalition members are encouraged to send one to two delegates to the General Assembly; however, a number of additional slots will likely be available for organizations interested in sending more delegates. Please contact nick [at] arl [dot] org if your organization is interested in sending more delegates and hasn’t already made arrangements to do so.

Cost: The suggested participation fee is $145 (approximately €110) and will cover full room and board. If your organization cannot cover the fee on your behalf, there is an option to waive the fee at registration. We don’t expect individual participants to cover this fee out of pocket.

Funding assistance: Attendees are asked to cover as much of their own expenses as possible (including travel costs and the participation fee); however, we don’t want cost to discourage members from attending the GA, so the Right to Research Coalition will have funding available as a supplement for those who require it. To request funding assistance, please get in contact with us by sending an email to nick [at] arl [dot] org.

Program and speakers: The program and speakers will be confirmed over the coming weeks. Sessions will cover topics such as national and international Open Access advocacy, campus advocacy, best practices on engagement and peer-to-peer education, working with professional societies, Open Access Week 2013, and more. After you’ve registered, you will receive an email once the program is announced.

Format: Our goal at the General Assembly is to foster discussion among the coalition members, share success stories and ideas, and build a vision for the future role of students in making Open Access a reality. As such, most of the sessions will be discussion-based with a panel seeding the conversation. Also, the meeting will be limited to a smaller number of participants to allow for more effective discussion, so expect to know everyone by the end of the GA!

Schedule & Agenda

The schedule and agenda for the General Assembly will be decided by a small programming committee of R2RC members.  Once confirmed, the program for the GA will be posted here and emailed to all the participants. To propose workshops or topics to be covered, email nick [at] arl [dot] org.


Venue: The meeting and accommodations will be at the European Youth Centre Budapest, located at 1024 Budapest, Zivatar utca 1-3. Hungary.

View The Right to Research Coalition General Assembly 2012 in a larger map

Travel to and from the European Youth Centre: you can find directions for how to get to and from the GA conference venue on the Europe Youth Centre’s website. You will have to arrange your own travel to and from the meeting; however, the EYC is centrally located and easily accessible by public transportation.

Emergency Contact: If you have any urgent problems, you can reach the coalition’s director and meeting organizer at any time at +1 615 400 1449.  For less urgent matters, he can be reached at nick [at] arl [dot] org.

#scholrev; Why are we doing this and immediate thoughts on how to proceed

We have all been delighted with the immediate reaction and offers of help for the Scholarly Revolution http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2013/03/20/btpdf2-scholrev-planning-the-scholarly-revolution/ . We chose the word “revolution” in a neutral sense – this can be the Digital Scholarship revolution in the same sense of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution. On the other hand determined efforts to main the status quo as the best of all possible ways of research and communication will almost certainly lead to elements of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution .

We are in the middle of the struggle for our digitally enlightened or digitally darkened future. You, reader, must realise the seriousness of the present and fight for Openness or you will awake and find yourself trapped with no means to free yourself. Scholarship is but one axis, but it’s a critical one since knowledge and communication break down ignorance and oppression.

At #btpdf2 Eve Gray reiterated the simple fact that Closed knowledge leads to deaths. She speaks with the passion of living in South Africa where values are necessarily very different.


Every time you publish in a closed access manner or fail to publish data, the lack of knowledge kills people. Tweaking the system won’t help. I’ve spent three years trying to get permissions out of Elsevier and been met with prevarication. In Europe Ross Mounce has represented us in demanding that content-mining be available to anyone who has a document. “The right to read is the right to mine”. And we are met with opulent publisher lobbies convincing Europe that it should remark a dark continent for digital knowledge.

Accept as fact that closing knowledge is as harmful as chopping down the rain forest or running gas-guzzlers.

I asked again yesterday – would Elsevier sue us if we created an Open Scholarly Search Engine. We have no assurance. Search and distribution is in the hands of rich unaccountable monopolists. They create wealth and they create anti-wealth.

So we need to be radically different. I’m suggesting we start from some principles and evolve over the next 2-3 days or however long it takes. No idea is out of court, but we favour constructive action, often through creating tools, communities and resources. I’ll start by suggesting a mantra:


Mantras are valuable as they help to refocus when we go astray. In the Blue Obelisk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Obelisk ) we set up a collaborative community to create and promote Open computing and information in chemistry. It has had zero funding, no business meetings, but is inexorably growing and slowly (because change in chemistry is very slow) slowly replacing traditional closed source and closed information. Not because it’s cheaper (though that helps). But because it’s better, and better suited to the modern informatics world. I’ll blog later, but it’s one model for how we might take #scholrev forward.

The mantra says a great deal.

  • OPEN as in http://opendefinition.org/ . “A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.”. Most scholarship is NOT Open. That must be changed.
  • SCHOLARSHIP. The practice and output of scholars. And EVERYONE can be a scholar.
  • OF THE WORLD. We can all create it and it’s about anything.
  • FOR THE WORLD. The world needs scholarship or it will die physically, biologically, culturally.

More later.

New Open Access Case Reports Journal across all of Health Sciences – Open for submissions

CCR coverWiley are pleased to announce that Clinical Case Reports is now open for submissions. Through collaboration with Wiley’s extensive portfolio of journals, Clinical Case Reports will provide a place to publish and to read clinical case histories from every clinical discipline including Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, and Veterinary Science. The new journal will be fully open access and articles will be free to read, download and share on Wiley Online Library and deposited in PubMed Central.

 Dr. Charles Young has been appointed Editor-in-Chief for Clinical Case Reports. Dr. Young, who is a practicing emergency physician at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, is Vice President for clinical solutions at Wiley, and is a former Editor-in-Chief of the BMJ Evidence Centre as well as a former Executive Editor of The Lancet.

 ”Clinical Case Reports’ vision is to directly improve global health outcomes by identifying and disseminating examples of best clinical practice,” said Dr. Young. “The journal will be different to other case report journals by publishing common as well as uncommon clinical scenarios with a particular focus on those reports which illustrate the clinical use of important guidelines and systematic reviews.”

 Dr. Young will be supported by a Strategic Advisory Board who will provide authoritative development advice for the journal as well as Associate Editors who are specialists in their fields to oversee peer-review of the material submitted to the journal.

“Clinical case reports are highly valuable to healthcare professionals” says Rachel Burley, VP and Director, Open Access. “This important journal will benefit doctors, nurses, dentists and vets looking for place to publish their case reports.  The open access model will enable those communities, as well as society at large, to access peer-reviewed case histories to advance knowledge and understanding and ultimately, improve health.”

Submit your case report to the journal via the online submission site >

Attitudes and values regarding research communication

Following are my comments on the attitudes and values regarding research communication section from the Taylor and Francis survey (p. 7). For my overall comments, see this post. To avoid creating an extremely long blog post, I’ll divide up responses into more readable bits.


The most telling piece of data on this page is support for the access problem. 38% disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “Researchers already have access to most of the articles they need”. This is strong support for the existence of a problem with access to scholarly articles for researchers, particularly coming from a survey of authors associated with a for-profit traditional publisher. To illustrate the bias inherent in some of the statements concerning money and whether publishers are essential to research communication process, consider one statement about money and research communication that was not asked:  Researcher salaries are more important than excessive publisher profits.

The statement that “publishers are an essential part of the research communication process” likely reflects both social desirability response bias (our responses are shaped by what we think people want to hear) and question bias (there is no way to state that publishers are disposable, or important or valuable rather than essential).

Responses to statements about the money involved in research communication may reflect the fact that researchers are usually not involved in the money aspect. For the commercial publisher, this is a multi-billion dollar a year business, but for the researchers themselves, this still looks and feels like a primarily gift economy. Responses to the statement about re-use of research result contradict results presented on the next page, and may be interpreted as a desire to facilitate re-use combined with a concern to ensure that re-use is appropriate and to the benefit of researchers and their works, supporting arguments that I make in my Creative Commons and Open Access critique series. Finally, the question about the importance of research data is too flawed to be meaningful. For example, there is no way of knowing how many researchers saw free access to research data as less important than free access to articles are working in disciplines or sub-disciplines that do not use research data.

Detailed comments

Three of the questions deal with money in various ways. The prominence of these questions may illustrate the publisher’s bias. If researchers were designing questions about their colleague’s attitudes and values regarding research communication, would questions about how this gets paid for be as close to top of mind as it would be at a for-profit company? The responses to these questions suggest not. One interpretation of these responses is that the majority of researchers seem to be in agreement with keeping money out of the picture for both authors and readers. This may reflect that this multi-billion dollar highly profitable business for a very few commercial scholarly publishers continues to function as a gift economy for the researchers themselves. They give away their work as authors and peer reviewers for free. Subscriptions and purchases are almost entirely paid for by the institution through the library, not the researchers themselves. They don’t see the money trail, and they don’t want to see it. This is healthy, from my perspective, but one should keep in mind when asking these questions that the respondents may be largely unaware of how the funding of this system works.

These are the statements I am referring to:

Publication of research should not be limited by ability to pay (86% agree or strongly agree)

All research outputs should be free for everyone to read online (66% agree or strongly agree)

The dissemination of research is a common good and should not be monetized in any way (67% agree or strongly agree).

The statement “Publishers are an essential part of the research communication bias” likely reflects two sources of bias. First, the question bias – respondents are led to consider whether publishers are essential – not whether they are disposable, and not even whether they are valuable or important but perhaps not essential. Second, social desirability response bias. This is a survey sent by a publishing company. We have a tendency to respond in the way people want us to respond, and this tendency might be higher among those who choose to respond to a publisher’s survey. The 77% agree or strongly agree response has to be taken with a grain of salt. For a brief description of social desirability response bias and the related effect of acquiescence (yes-saying) bias, see Bowling, A. (2005).

To illustrate the bias inherent in both this statement and the statement concerning money, consider one statement about money and research communication that was not asked:  Research salaries are more important than publisher profits. 

Responses to the statement “There should be no restrictions on reuse of research outputs” contradict responses to the statements about dissemination on the next page. 82% agree or strongly agree that there should be no restrictions, but on the next page only 40% agree that their work should be reused in any way. Only 32% agree or strongly agree that it is acceptable…without my prior knowledge or permission…for “others to use my work for commercial gain”. I argue that the fine points of understanding the consequences of various approaches to licensing for re-use are currently not fully known in my series Creative Commons and Open Access Critique. Taking the two contradictory responses together, one might suggest that there is a desire to facilitate re-use but that researchers would like careful thought to go into the terms and conditions, to ensure that there are no negative consequences for researchers. In other words, this contradiction supports my arguments on this topic.

The low positive response rate to the statement “Researchers already have access to most of the articles they need” – only 37% agree or strongly agree – may be the most telling of the questions on this page. This low positive response rate contrasts with what appears to be an overall tendency towards highly positive responses to the other questions on this page. Whether researchers have access to the articles they need or not is clearly within the authority of respondents to answer, unlike the other questions on this page. Responses to this question strongly support the need for open access. 38% of researchers either disagree or strongly disagree that researchers already have access to most of the articles they need.

The final statement “Free access to data matters more to me than free access to research articles” had a low positive response rate – only 23% agree or strongly agree. However, this is a highly problematic question. For example, much research in the humanities and social sciences is not data-driven, and for research that is data-driven, in HSS there are often complex issues around privacy that would need to be addressed before data sharing can happen. Because this question was not linked to a question about research data use in the researcher’s discipline, it is highly likely that lack of interest in free access to data is conflated with lack of interest in data, period, and recognition of the problematic nature of data sharing. Then there is question bias. Even a strong free access to data advocate might not agree that this is more important than free access to research articles.


Bowling, A. (2005).  Mode of questionnaire administration can have serious effects on data quality J Public Health (September 2005) 27(3): 281291 first published online May 3, 2005 doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdi031http://intl-jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/3/281.full

This post is part of the Taylor and Francis Open Access critique survey series

#scholrev: Contribution from @openscience

Exciting comment on this blog: I’ve copied it whole as I want to keep discussion very active. I’ll read in detail in the morning. In #scholrev there is no centre, certainly *I* am not running things. We couldn’t possibly get all ideas collected in a 40-minute session and it’s great to have contributions by blog.

I strongly support the metaphor of a commons for #scholrev. I don’t see it as a cathedral, but a bazaar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cathedral_and_the_Bazaar ). I’ll blog later about the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Obelisk model which has a very bazaar-like structure. I’ll only add that #scholrev is absolutely not limited to science but that may not be relevant to this offer.

This comment has been cowritten from an IRC chat in the wake of #scholrev. We are part of the collective who tweet @openscience and admin web infrastructure for OSF and related groups, such as OKFN and PLOS, but neither we nor these suggestions represent anyone officially.

We would like to see #scholrev start by using Commons In A Box @CBOX — @kfitz had discussed CBOX at #btpdf2 — with which we also have experience. We have contributed to BuddyPress and WordPress for science since 2008 and for example, Mark’s Science 3.0, from which grew @figshare, used a precursor of CBOX https://plus.google.com/117417705451874519785/posts/EyxbLSe8uhD Together, we have built a few dozen networks like these, extending them with federation, integrating science relevant bits such as Zotero for reference management, and such.

PMR would be familiar with the OKFN network, a WordPress implementation with 95 sites, including e.g. that for Panton Principles. A couple of us are admins there. From a quick look, it is probably not CBOX compatible in terms of some of the live sites, while it could be eventually. Federating with the network is doable but probably on the scale of “in 2013.” Otherwise, we should suggest starting #scholrev within OKFN’s network; federating with OKFN in the longer term is regardless a generally desirable technical and organizational goal.

For @openscience the organization, we run a couple federations, comprised of similar networks — one for student scientists and the other for everyone else (per privacy, safety, school policies, etc.). For example, see http://futurescienceleaders.org/ which is federated with networks including http://studentbioexpo.org/ and http://u20science.org/ Not entirely different to the purpose of OKFN’s open science training in early career or for grad students, except for an even younger set who are also mentored, in those examples.

Our role is sometimes design, development, tech support; in all cases we are hosting and maintaining the stack below WordPress and its scripts, and most often we are also maintaining at the WP level. In the examples listed so far, our work and the hosting are volunteered and donated. Unless Sloan or some other angel wants to swoop in, or an existing org had room to foot the hosting bill, we would assume our services and work for #scholrev to also be pro bono and donated. We are not averse to being compensated individually but are not for profit in our work.

Federation in these cases means shared web services, codebase, and also shared users and authentication. It can mean more integration, at the option of participating blogs, sites, networks, or the fact of federation can be invisible. About our code: it is in the WordPress or otherwise appropriate repositories, but making federation work is rather involved and onerous to document properly. A better, still longer term goal both for us and CBOX itself is fully decentralized, distributed social networking and publishing, such that we could easily federate with implementations like OKFN’s and without wizardry by the network admin. Federation should eventually be managed through the CBOX code and with a UI. We have also contributed to attempts such as Social River to do this including but not requiring WordPress; those are longer roads. We can at least do something open and federated for #scholrev now, if not yet decentralized.

If #scholrev is to grow from a commons: ScholarlyCommons.org, .com, and kin are available. If it is not too domain specific to science, ScienceCommons.org is unused — archived content, redirected URLs aside — as is @sciencecommons on Twitter since 2010. We believe this is the proper brand to represent the intent and to pin the online hub of #scholrev. Creative Commons have a new science advisory, which includes Peter. We are glad to see it! but short of Science Commons being resurrected as it was, let it spring again from the grassroots. Let’s renew ScienceCommons.org and @sciencecommons as a functioning commons for science.

What are you in the mood for?: Emotional trends in 20th century books

Literary trends come and go; one year’s vampire is another year’s zombie. According to new research published today in PLOS ONE, certain moods also experience trends in literature. Which moods, or emotions, do you think were popular in the literature of the 20th century?

To find out, researchers created six categories of words to express anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise. These terms were pared down to word stems and then entered into Google’s Ngram Viewer, an immense and interactive database of over 5 million books. The researchers looked at all English language books in Google’s database that were published between 1900 and 2000. Three additional datasets were created to analyze the use of mood words in English fiction (i.e., all books written in British and American English, excluding all works of non-fiction), British English books, and American English books.

Their data indicates that the use of mood words generally decreased in books published in the 20th century. Curiously, the use of words relating to disgust declined the most. The use of fear-related words similarly decreased until the 1970s, when the trend took a sharp turn upwards (and continued to climb for the next three decades). When they plotted the frequency of words relating to joy and sadness, the trend of happy and sad words correlated to major historical events such as World War II and the Great Depression.

In their comparison of books written in British and American English, researchers noted that the frequency of mood words in American English books increased relative to British English books beginning in the 1960s. This trend continued throughout the latter portion of the century, even as the use of mood words generally decreased.

For students of cultural and linguistic evolution, these massive, text-based datasets may present a new way of analyzing trends over a great period of time. For others, they can simply provide a fresh perspective on the previous century!

To learn more and share your thoughts about the study, click here to read the full article. If you are interested in similar studies, click here to read the authors’ research on word usage in climate change science and and here for the accompanying New York Times op-ed.



Acerbi A, Lampos V, Garnett P, Bentley RA (2013) The Expression of Emotions in 20th Century Books. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59030. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059030


books is power, by the second fiddle

The graph comes from Figure 2 of the manuscript.

New SPARC Open Data Resource for Research Funders

By Greg Tananbaum

Today, SPARC released a new community resource for research funders entitled, “Implementing an Open Data Policy”.  This primer addresses key issues that these organizations encounter when considering the adoption and implementation of an open data policy.  The guide covers big-picture topics such as how to decide on the range of activities an open data policy should cover.

New SPARC Open Data Resource for Research Funders

By Greg Tananbaum

Today, SPARC released a new community resource for research funders entitled, “Implementing an Open Data Policy”.  This primer addresses key issues that these organizations encounter when considering the adoption and implementation of an open data policy.  The guide covers big-picture topics such as how to decide on the range of activities an open data policy should cover.

Latest institutions to open Wiley Open Access Accounts: University of Leeds, University of York, University of Southampton

Presentation1We are pleased to announce that the University of Leeds, the University of York, and the University of Southampton have signed up for Wiley Open Access Accounts and now pay for their researchers to publish an open access article with Wiley. Authors affiliated with these Universities can publish research articles in Wiley Open Access journals and/or OnlineOpen, without directly paying any publication charges. The University of Leeds, University of York, and University of Southampton become the latest funders to open a Wiley Open Access Account.

Browse our growing list of institutions / funders who have an account or partnership with Wiley Open Access.

For further information, pricing and discounts please contact: escheer@wiley.com

#btpdf2 #scholrev: Planning the scholarly revolution

At Beyond the PDF2 www.force11.org/beyondthepdf2 a number of us felt that we needed a radical approach to scholarship and its communication. This wasn’t planned, but 25 of us met at lunch and decide we wanted to DO something different. There are very few ground rules but the basics include:

  • It must be Open (source, data, content, processes, mentality)
  • It must be universal and inclusive
  • It must address problems of the human race
  • It must be part of modern culture and practice
  • It must be protected from going down the stale processes of the last umpteen years

And more – this post must be short

So we grabbed our lunch and moved the chairs and tried to get everyone a chance to contribute but also with the real promise of getting something done by the end of 40 minutes. So far we have:

  • A hashtag “#scholrev” (this seems to be fairly free) under which we can group.
  • About 6 concrete realisable subprojects. Ranges from an collection of Open metadata (2 variants) to platforms, to textbooks.
  • A commons.
  • A communications platform, offered by @onelaboratory.com. Thanks. But you must remain open.
  • A list of initial members.
  • Ideas for how to spend 1K from #btpdf
  • Plans to meet AND HACK at #eswc European Semantic Web Conference at Montpelier this summer.
  • Invite people that we know would be interested.

I know how hard it is to keep this excitement going. But it’s critically important. So at the very least I am going to blog under this hashtag.

The challenge is to build something as world-changing as Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap. It can be done. And it involves everyone.

#btpdf2: #okfn Lets’ have OPEN hackathons to build new scholarship

I’m at “Beyond the PDF2″ http://www.force11.org/beyondthepdf2 – which is meant to redesign scholarly publication. I am getting increasingly restless. (I am a “retired” academic – working as hard as ever – but I have an increasingly unhappy view of academia). I compare these two days with #okfest last year and the contrast is immense. Then we had people from all sectors – cities, banks, health, makers, creative … and a real sense we could change the world. At #btdpf2 we have mainly heard minor tweaks to the current system.

The current academic system is broken.

It’s out of touch with the world and the C21. It promotes inequality and injustice.

Whenever an innovative venture occurs then it’s in great danger of being stifled. Or worse being bought and controlled by commercial interests. And used to control us further. The metric tools and repositories and authoring and reading tools will end up in non-transparent and non-accountable publishing houses.

We must have an OPEN alternative.

And Wikipedia and Open Streetmap have shown that it can be done outside academia. And it doesn’t take huge resources to start.

Last Saturday the OKF crowdcrafting hackfest was sparked by two young people from Paris. They didn’t know how to start. They didn’t have tools. But they had a great idea – to use flickr to investigate the role of women in science.

Within SIX hours we – as a community had the start of a vibrant, meaningful research project.

Almost zero funding. (The free lunch was VERY GOOD).

So if #BTPDF has any meaning for me in the future it must run OPEN HACKATHONS.

And build and Openly control scholarship for the WORLD, not “just academia”

#btpdf2: My first day impressions: academia is sick and getting worse

I am at the potentially exciting Beyond the PDF2 in Amsterdam. Because the Wifi is intermittent (at best) I’ll blog – not linearly or systematically.

Because I spend much of my time with the Open Knowledge Foundation #okfn I see an exciting creative bottom-up justice-driven meritocratic maker do-er open vision for the 21st century. Coming to #btpdf2 I find almost none of this. The immediate impression is academics talking to academics with almost no recognition of the world outside. We see countless diagrams of the “data management cycle”, “academic cycle” etc. where the players are academics, publishers, funders. The primary purpose of academia seems to be to create publications. The primary motivation for articles is to promote individuals and institutions. On none of these diagrams were citizens mentioned. Occasionally “consumers”, as if academic output could “trickle down ” to the unwashed masses.

No realisation that many of the people outside academia are doing a far more better job than academics. Those people who are using data to manage their cities. That’s science, scholarship and relevant. That writing and criticism can be done by everyone. That high schools can be research laboratories. It’s just not in the ivory towers.

People are dying because scholarly information is behind firewalls. That should make us angry. I’d like to meet with people who want to create an OPEN alternative to scholarship. Maybe at lunch.

Taylor & Francis Open Access Survey: Critique

Taylor & Francis have just released early results of a survey of 14,700 of their authors on opinions relating to open access.

Kudos to Taylor & Francis for releasing early results before they complete analysis. Following are some preliminary thoughts on the first few pages of the survey.

First, while this survey is somewhat useful, this kind of research should be led by academics, not publishers. It is unfortunate that the survey questions were developed by the publishing companies’ staff, who despite what might be the best of intentions bring a certain perspective and bias to this research.

For example, the following 3 questions reflect a strong bias against open access (p. 6 of the survey).  T&F questions are bolded.

Open access journals are lower quality than subscription journals“.

This is a leading question; it’s inviting the respondent to think of open access journals as lower quality. Consider for example other possible questions, such as:

“Open access journals and subscription journals are about the same quality”.


“Open access journals are the same or better quality than subscription journals”.

The same can be said about the next two questions:

Open access journals have lower Production standards (copyediting and typesetting) than subscription journals.

Consider this possible alternative:

“Open access journals have the same or better Production standards (copyediting and typesetting) than subscription journals”.


There are no fundamental benefits to open access publication“.

Possible alternative:

“There are fundamental benefits to open access publication”. 

Comment: if you’re going to ask tens of thousands of scholars to respond to a survey, you should take the time to get the questions right. It would have been appropriate to have the questions developed, or at least reviewed, by academics trained in social bias analysis, and preferably without an attachment either to toll access publishing or to Taylor & Francis per se.

Update March 18 – further comments in response to a comment by Thomas Pfeiffer on Richard Poynder’s Google G+ post which alerted me to this study.

Thomas Pfeiffer:

Even though I do still agree that such politically sensitive surveys should be conducted by neutral organizations, I don’t really agree with your analysis of the survey. To me, the questions on page 6 of the survey merely reflect common prejudices about OA, both positive and negative, and checks how widespread they are. It is usual in social science surveys to use questions framed both positively and negatively for the same construct, which is what they are doing here.
If they reframed the negative items, they’d also have to reframe the positive ones like “Open access offers higher visibility than publication in a
subscription journal” and “Open access journals are cited more heavily than subscription journals”. In fact, question 1 has six “pro OA” items and only three “anti-OA” items. I don’t see how that is supposed to set an anti-OA frame.

[Disclosure: I am a scholar as well and doing this kind of research has been central to my undergrad studies as well as my current career]?

My comments

In one sense I agree, Thomas. This is 9 misleading or biased questions, with more biased in favour of open access than against. This is actually useful evidence – moreso, to me, in the sense that “a large publisher is choosing to including more questions in their survey biased towards open access than against it” than in terms of making the results meaningful.

If the aim is to get at researcher’s attitudes, then this is the set of questions to ask with respect to quality – strongly agree to disagree:

Open access journals are lower quality than subscription journals.
Open access journals are the same quality as subscription journals
Open access journals are higher quality than subscription journals.

Even here, there is a strong probability of order bias in the questions. If you’re doing a survey that based on a 19% response rate must have been sent to a hundred thousand researchers, you should control for this (for example, by changing the order of the responses on different survey forms).

Thanks for raising this, though, I’ll add this to my post.

Meet Vectidraco, a European pterosaur the size of a crow

Fossil records show that pterosaurs of all sizes and shapes flew through the skies of China and Central Asia about 145 to 66 million years ago. A new species of small pterosaurs described in a PLOS ONE paper reveals that western Europe may have had a similar diversity of these ancient animals. Author Darren Naish discusses the importance of the new species, named Vectidraco.

How did you begin studying dinosaurs (or pterosaurs in particular)?

Most of my research is and has been based on the Lower Cretaceous fossils that come from the Isle of Wight and elsewhere  in southern England. The rocks here are famous for their dinosaurs, but fossil crocodilians, marine reptiles like plesiosaurs and rare pterosaurs are found here too. I’ve always been interested in pterosaurs and for several years have had a special research interest in a highly peculiar pterosaur group called the azhdarchoids – I’ve been working continuously on this group since 2007 or so and have been especially interested in their ecology, functional anatomy and evolutionary relationships. The finding of a new azhdarchoid in the Lower Cretaceous rocks of the Isle of Wight thus combined several of my special interests.

Where and how did you find the new fossil described in your study?

Most Cretaceous Isle of Wight fossils come from a rock unit termed the Wealden Supergroup. The new specimen – we’ve called it Vectidraco – is from a different, younger unit called the Atherfield Clay Formation, and as such it’s (so far as we know) only the second pterosaur reported from this unit.

I should say that the discovery of Vectidraco itself is interesting in that the find was made by a young girl, Daisy Morris (aged just 5 at the time!), while she was on holiday with her family. Daisy’s family wanted this fossil to be studied and cared for properly, so they did what I and many of my colleagues would say is “the right thing” and donated it to The Natural History Museum in London. So, we only know of Vectidraco thanks to Daisy: for this reason we named it in her honour. It’s full name is Vectidraco daisymorrisae.

What was previously known about this group of flying reptiles, the azhdarchoid pterosaurs?

So far as we know right now, azhdarchoids are unique to the Cretaceous period (that is, they were alive between about 145 and 66 million years ago) and all were toothless. They’re actually a pretty diverse group of pterosaurs, with some – like the tapejarids – being relatively small, withwingspans of about 3 feet or slightly less and others – namely the azhdarchids – being gigantic, withwingspans of more than 32 feet.

Tapejarids have short, deep snouts while azhdarchids have incredibly long, pointed jaws, and other kinds of azhdarchoid were intermediate between these two groups. Particularly good azhdarchoid fossils are known from South and North America and China, but their remains have been found right across Europe, Asia and Africa too.

Working out what azhdarchoids did when they were alive has been one of the great questions about the group, but it seems that they were mostly omnivores or carnivores that lived in terrestrial environments.

The paper describes the new fossil as “small-bodied”. How much larger are other known pterosaurs of this kind usually?

Azhdarchoids span a diversity of species that range from ‘small-bodied’ all the way up to gigantic. The biggest kinds –  like the famous Quetzalcoatlus from Texas – were something like 10 feettall at the shoulder and over 450 pounds heavy while small ones, and Vectidraco is one of them, had wingspans of just 30 inches or so and would have been similar in size to crows or gulls. I would say that Vectidraco belonged to an azhdarchoid group where small size was normal and widespread, with large and even giant size evolving in other azhdarchoid lineages.

How did you determine that the new fossil belonged to the same group as these other specimens?

Vectidraco is known only from its pelvis, but even with only a pelvis to go on, we could see several features of the new specimen that made it especially azhdarchoid-like, mostly to do with the weird anatomy of the big, T-shaped bony structure that projects upwards and backwards from the rear part of the pelvis. In an effort to better test the idea that Vectidraco is an azhdarchoid, we included it in a few different phylogenetic analyses and it came out as an azhdarchoid in these too. It also has several unique features, not seen in any other pterosaurs, and for these reasons we were able to name it as a new species.

How does this discovery change what we know about this group of pterosaurs?

We’ve known for a while that small-bodied azhdarchoids lived in western Europe during the Early Cretaceous: a new species called Europejara olcadesorum was described in PLOS ONE last year. Now we’ve found that Vectidraco lived in the same region during the same period, so we’re seeing a pattern: small-bodied azhdarchoids were living alongside longer-snouted, small-bodied pterosaurs and also alongside large, toothy kinds called ornithocheiroids.

This is essentially the same kind of pterosaur community that we  see in Chinese rocks of the same age – the great difference is that the Chinese fossils are relatively numerous, and frequently preserved as complete or near-complete skeletons. In fact, one of the things that we comment on in our paper is the fact that western Europe’s pterosaur assemblage looks far less rich than that of China due to differences in the way these fossils were preserved. Chinese pterosaur and small dinosaur fossils were buried rapidly by volcanic ash and hence preserved whole, while those of western Europe were usually broken apart on floodplains, extensively scavenged, and eventually preserved in fragmentary form.

The western European and Chinese assemblages might actually have contained similar sorts of species, but the conditions local to both places meant that their fossil records ended up being very different.

Read more about this exciting new fossil at Darren Naish’s own blog, Tetrapod Zoology.

Citation: Naish D, Simpson M, Dyke G (2013) A New Small-Bodied Azhdarchoid Pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of England and Its Implications for
Pterosaur Anatomy, Diversity and Phylogeny. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58451. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058451

Vullo R, Marugán-Lobón J, Kellner AWA, Buscalioni AD, Gomez B, et al. (2012) A New Crested Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Spain: The First European Tapejarid (Pterodactyloidea: Azhdarchoidea). PLoS ONE 7(7): e38900. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038900

Images: Specimen and speculative reconstruction of Vectidraco from 10.1371/journal.pone.0058451, Life restoration of the head of Europejara from 10.1371/journal.pone.0038900