Scholarly Communication and Peer Review: The Current Landscape and Future Trends

wellcomeA report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust focusing on the present state and the future of peer review was published last month. The goal of the report was “to examine the current landscape of peer review for research publications, including recent innovations and how they have worked in practice; and to gather and appraise the views of publishers and others as to how systems and processes may change over the next four to five years.” The report focused on six key areas of likely development in the near future:

  • Acknowledgement of the need to have greater transparency and openness in the review process;
  • Agreement on the desirability of greater interaction between editors, reviewers and authors;
  • Utilization by publishers of more innovative article-level metrics, such as Altmetric, Plum Analytics, and Impact Story;
  • Increasing interest in the provision of rewards in the form of scholarly credit and recognition for reviewers;
  • Desirability to improve guidance, training and feedback for reviewers;
  • Growing interest in distinguishing between the different purposes of peer review.

The full report.

Importance of Open Data to Developing Countries

UNA recent post in Civil Service World, a UK publication, analyzes the importance of open data to  the development of the forthcoming United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

It’s already becoming clear that open data holds particular resonance for international development. By 2013, 12 of the 41 available national platforms for accessing open data had been created by developing countries. And with the African Development Bank becoming the first pan-African entity to provide regional information through a central platform, it is increasingly likely that open data will form a central part of the plans for the SDG framework.

The timing is certainly significant. Driven by a push for greater aid effectiveness and accountability from development programmes, there has been an increasing need to measure results using reliable, transparent data as evidence. But its potential is not just limited to tracking aid effectiveness.

Open data can also be used to inform evidence-based policy-making and the design of government services by providing a source of information to identify wasteful spending, better target resources and design more responsive services. By opening up data sets typically on a central portal, government departments can share information easily and prevent silos from emerging. Evidence suggests that where governments have introduced open data portals, a large proportion of the views or downloads are from civil servants in other departments.

Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Higher Education Environment

The swiftly increasing cost of academic resources, especially student textbooks and other required course readings, is a well-publicized problem for students at college and university (see the BC Library guide Open Access and Scholarly Publishing: Open Educational Resources).

In an article in this month’s issue of C&RL News, “Open educational resources and the higher education environment: A leadership opportunity for libraries“, co-authors Kristi Jensen and Quill West provide interesting insights into open educational resources (OER). For example, West makes the very pertinent point that OERs are beneficial for more than just saving students money on textbooks:

Open education is a philosophy, a pedagogical shift, and a movement that works to improve educational experiences through adopting learning materials that aren’t locked down by restrictive copyright laws. In a lot of ways open education is about saving students money on textbooks, which helps institutions to meet equity of access missions. However, open education is also about increasing student achievement, inspiring passion among faculty, and building better connections between students and the materials that they use to meet their educational goals.

For the full article.

New Guide to Getting Rights Back

life insurance companies

The Authors Alliance just published a free guide:  Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why, & How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available.

When a book has been out for a while and is no longer selling well, the authors of this guide found that publishers may be willing to let rights revert back to the author. This presents great opportunities for getting new digital readership.

Today’s technologies offer tremendous opportunities for authors to make their out-of-print or otherwise unavailable books more widely available. Some authors want to revive their books by creating e-books, while others may want to use print-on-demand technology or deposit their books in openly accessible repositories. We hope that the guide empowers authors to advocate on their own behalf to make their works more widely available, and we believe that many authors can work with their publishers to increase their books’ availability by following the strategies articulated in the guide: Be Reasonable, Be Flexible, Be Persistent, and Be Creative.  More

The Boston College Libraries have experienced this firsthand. We send many out-of-copyright books to the Internet Archive to be reproduced as Kindle and ePub versions. A few years ago, Prof. David Northrup regained copyright to a book he had published in 1995 with Cambridge University Press, Indentured labor in the age of imperialism, 1834-1922. According to WorldCat the book is held by some 520 libraries worldwide.

With Prof. Northrup’s permission, we sent it to be digitized as part of the Boston College Collection. In the slightly more than two years it has been available through the Internet Archive and HathiTrust, it has been viewed 6698 times.

Faculty authors interested in making older work available may want to consult this guide or talk to their subject liaison librarian about our digitization program.


Hybrid journal article fees

All that glitters

“A review of the United Kingdom’s progress towards ‘gold’ open-access research is instructive — for funders, publishers and scientists both at home and abroad.”

This Nature editorial from April 7, cites a startling statistic about hybrid journal publishing fees:

And then there are costs. All experiments should be encouraged in the evolving gold open-access market, but academics should know that fees for papers published in fully open-access journals are lower than those of ‘hybrid’ subscription journals that allow an open-access option. The Wellcome Trust says that the average fee levied by hybrid journals is 64% higher than that charged by fully open-access titles. British funders are now pondering steering the market by dissuading researchers from publishing in hybrid journals, as other countries have done.

It’s hard to see how the higher fees could be justified, since hybrid journals are typically collecting subscription fees as well. The fully OA journals are not, and often the article processing fee is the only source of revenue, unless, as is the case with many OA journals, their support comes from institutional subventions.

DOAJ: Twelve New Developments

doaj_logo_newThere are currently 10,397 journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). 6,223 of the journals are searchable at the article level. There are 1,868,130 articles in toto.

DOAJ is making strenuous efforts to ensure that only high quality journals are included in its Directory. As reported by SPARC, DOAJ “recently implemented a rigorous new vetting process that aims to raise the bar of quality for the journals it lists and filters out publications that are tarnishing the image of Open Access.” This process includes an enhanced application form that must be completed by the publisher.

In a news release issued today DOAJ announced twelve new developments that aim to improve the Directory as well help to ameliorate the overall quality of OA publishing. The specific goals of this project are to

  • improve the visibility of individual articles, both locally in DOAJ and outside in
    external search engines
  • improve overall discoverability in, and linking from, external databases
  • improve metadata extraction for re-use
  • give visibility to new datasets from the information we are collecting in the new application form with a level of granularity we’ve never had before
  • update the UI and add better browsing
  • add a much needed visualisation for existing continuations and ultimately, the management of new ones
  • reduce DOAJ’s overall response times

The full press release.

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.”