Beyond Beall’s List: Better Understanding Predatory Publishers

In the March 2015 issue of College & Research Libraries News Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella published the article: Beyond Beall’s List: Better understanding predatory publishers. It’s an excellent nuanced overview of the relationships between open access, predatory publishing and low-quality publishing. The authors critique Jeffrey Beall who curates an influential blacklist of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory open access publishers and journals. Though rightfully praising many aspects of Beall’s blacklist and the criteria he uses for evaluating “predatory journals”, the authors take issue with a number of his views on open access and what they regard might be a lack of “a broader perspective on scholarly communication.”

Berger and Cirasella tend to prefer a whitelist to a blacklist of journals: “Given the fuzziness between low-quality and predatory publishers, whitelisting, or listing publishers and journals that have been vetted and verified as satisfying certain standards, may be a better solution than blacklisting.” They point to the revamped Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) as a good example of a valuable whitelist. However, they stress that blacklists and whitelists can only do so much and that authors should do their homework and thoroughly evaluate journals in which they’d like to publish.

Note: BC Libraries have a useful guide: Assessing Journal Quality.

NSF Plan for Public Access

128px-Neon_Open_Sign (1)In response to last year’s call for public access to funded research from the White House OSTP, the NSF has released their plan.

From the press release:

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF), announced its continued commitment to expand public access to the results of its funded research through the publication of its public access plan, Today’s Data, Tomorrow’s Discoveries. NSF’s public access is intended to accelerate the dissemination of fundamental research results that will advance the frontiers of knowledge and help ensure the nation’s future prosperity.

“Scientific progress depends on the responsible communication of research findings,” said NSF Director France A. Córdova. “NSF’s public access plan is another effort we have undertaken to emphasize the agency’s central mission to promote the progress of science.”

NSF will require that articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions be deposited in a public access compliant repository and be available for download, reading and analysis within one year of publication.

Image attribution: By Aaron Pruzaniec (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Fair Use “Ripped from the Headlines”

Pont_Neuf,_Paris_July_2014Laura Quilter, Copyright and Information Policy Librarian at UMass, Amherst posted a fascinating analysis of a recent fair use case that involved paraphrasing Faulkner in a Woody Allen film. She had used the example in a quiz and about a quarter of respondents did not think the case was a fair use. Her analysis is thorough and fun to read. Like getting your history from historical novels, except more accurate.

Paraphrasing a famous quote from a novelist, in a commercially released film.

Almost a quarter of respondents thought this should be licensed. The Faulkner estate agreed, actually, and sued Sony Pictures for the paraphrase of William Faulkner’s quote in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”.  Eriq Gardner for the Hollywood Reporter covered the case, which resulted in a finding of fair use in July, 2013.

The quote in the movie goes like this:

“The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner, and he was right. I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”

And the original quote, in Requiem for a Nun, is certainly one of Faulkner’s more memorable quotes:

“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”

This brings up my first point, which is that reasonable people can disagree about fair use.


Photo By Frédérik Vuille (quai de paris soiree lune_) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

New Open Access Policy for Research in Canada

The three major federal funding agencies in Canada have issued a new open access policy, the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, that requires that all peer reviewed publications resulting from funding by the three agencies be made open access accessible within twelve months. The agencies are the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). “The policy will require NSERC and SSHRC funded researchers to comply with the policy for all grants awarded May 1, 2015 and onward. The policy will not change current compliance requirements for CIHR funded researchers since a similar policy with the same requirements has been in effect since 2008.”

In announcing the policy Ed Holder, Canada’s Minister of State (Science and Technology), stated that “[M]aking research results as widely available and accessible as possible is an essential part of advancing knowledge and maximizing the impact of publicly-funded research for Canadians. Increased access to the results of publicly-funded research can spur scientific discovery, enable better international collaboration and coordination of research, enhance the engagement of society and support the economy.”

Political Science: “Will Open Access Get Me Cited?”

In a recent article in PS: Political Science & Politics, “Will Open Access Get Me Cited? An Analysis of the Efficacy of Open Access Publishing in Political Science”, Amy Atchison and Jonathan Bull conclude “that OA publication results in a clear citation advantage in political science publishing.”

The digital revolution has made it easier for political scientists to share and access high-quality research online. However, many articles are stored in proprietary databases that some institutions cannot afford. High-quality, peer-reviewed, top-tier journal articles that have been made open access (OA) (i.e., freely available online) theoretically should be accessed and cited more easily than articles of similar quality that are available only to paying customers. Research into the efficacy of OA publishing thus far has focused mainly on the natural sciences, and the results have been mixed. Because OA has not been as widely adopted in the social sciences, disciplines such as political science have received little attention in the OA research. In this article, we seek to determine the efficacy of OA in political science. Our primary hypothesis is that OA articles will be cited at higher rates than articles that are toll access (TA), which means available only to paying customers. We test this hypothesis by analyzing the mean citation rates of OA and TA articles from eight top-ranked political science journals. We find that OA publication results in a clear citation advantage in political science publishing.

The full article.


Best Practices in Fair Use

copyrightThe Center for Media and Social Impact has released two important new statements of best practices in fair use. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries has, since its release in 2012, become an important guide for use of copyrighted materials by libraries. The new statements deal with Fair Use of Orphan Works by Libraries and Archives and Fair Use for the Visual Arts.

The statement on Orphan Works frames the issue:

Memory institution professionals commonly manage collections containing materials that are, practically speaking, impossible to identify and seek copyright permission for, item by item. If they fail to address copyright clearance issues, they could compromise their institutions’ public missions. Nevertheless, faithful representation of a collection in its entirety could be critical to fulfilling an institution’s missions to preserve the past and to make research materials available, including online.

These documents provide expert, well-reasoned guidance. They are also important in recording and establishing the consensus of practitioners in their fields.

“One Republic of Learning: Digitizing the Humanities”

In today’s New York Times Armand Marie Leroi, a professor of evolutionary developmental biology at Imperial College, London, published a a very interesting and provocative op-ed entitled “One Republic of Learning: Digitizing the Humanities.” A primary argument of the piece is that the promise of digitization is more than better websites. Rather, it is the transformation of humanities into science.

By “science” I mean using numbers to test hypotheses. Numbers are the signature of science; they allow us to describe patterns and relationships with a precision that words do not. The quantification of the humanities is driven by an inexorable logic: Digitization breeds numbers; numbers demand statistics. The new breed of digital humanists is mining and visualizing data with the facility that bioinformaticians analyze genomes and cosmologists classify galaxies. All of them could, if they cared to, understand each others’ results perfectly well.

The complete op-ed.

OER a key trend in the 2015 Horizon Report

OER2From the 2015 Horizon Report:

Proliferation of Open Educational Resources Mid-Term Trend: Driving Ed Tech adoption in higher education for three to five years.

Open textbooks are being considered as a viable means for cutting excess costs with the goal of making education more affordable for students. According to a 2014 study by US PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs, of 2,039 students surveyed, 65% said
that they had not bought a textbook due to its high price. Open textbooks are open-source e-books that are freely available with nonrestrictive licenses, and have been popularized by projects such as Rice University’s Open Stax College and College Open Textbooks, a
non-profit collaborative of over 200 universities and 29 organizations.

Library Publishing in Context

escholarship_homepageimagePaul Royster’s article, A Library Publishing Manifesto, provides an excellent overview of the current state of scholarly publishing. He recaps the commercial publishers’ practices that have let us down and the challenges faced by the university presses. Read with  The “Wild West” of Academic Publishing: The troubled present and promising future of scholarly communication, cited in the previous post, the two articles provide a good primer on the scholarly publishing landscape.
He makes a strong case for the role that library publishing can fill.
I believe the academy has room for both library and university press publishing. I believe this because each has a radically different role and mission. I do not think that either one has the solution to the other’s problems. I don’t see library publishing initiatives as opposed to the university presses, but I think they are better off independent of them. I want library publishers to “come out of Babylon” (as Bob Marley might say) — to leave behind the ownership-based, property-accumulating, copyright-hoarding, commercially-driven publishing model practiced by the corporate giants and imitated to various degrees by academic presses struggling for self-sufficiency.
All of us have a chance to do more and do better. In fact, the universe of publishable materials has never been more exciting and energizing. There is more than enough to go around. To those who would say “that’s not real publishing” or “not good publishing,” I can only say: it’s not a contest. We are all seeking to serve the communication needs of scholars and researchers. The Copyright Office defines publishing as “offering copies for distribution,” and that’s enough for me. We can all get judgmental, or we can each take advantage of the opportunities that the new technology has handed us.