We can do better than the Impact Factor

doralogo-smallIn an Open Access Q&A earlier this week, Peter Suber made the case that the Impact Factor is not a good way to assess research quality, particularly in the context of tenure and promotion decision making. He argued for those in the discipline to actually read the articles.
The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment includes a good explanation of the IF flaws and suggests abandonment of it as a measure of scholarship quality.

The Journal Impact Factor is frequently used as the primary parameter with which to compare the scientific output of individuals and institutions. The Journal Impact Factor, as calculated by Thomson Reuters, was originally created as a tool to help librarians identify journals to purchase, not as a measure of the scientific quality of research in an article. With that in mind, it is critical to understand that the Journal Impact Factor has a number of well-documented deficiencies as a tool for research assessment. These limitations include: A) citation distributions within journals are highly skewed [1–3]; B) the properties of the Journal Impact Factor are field-specific: it is a composite of multiple, highly diverse article types, including primary research papers and reviews [1, 4]; C) Journal Impact Factors can be manipulated (or “gamed”) by editorial policy [5]; and D) data used to calculate the Journal Impact Factors are neither transparent nor openly available to the public [4, 6, 7].


A number of themes run through these recommendations:

  • The need to eliminate the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations;

  • The need to assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published; and

  • The need to capitalize on the opportunities provided by online publication (such as relaxing unnecessary limits on the number of words, figures, and references in articles, and exploring new indicators of significance and impact).


ACRL Updates The Scholarly Communication Toolkit

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and the ACRL Research and Scholarly Environment Committee have released a revised and updated version of their Scholarly Communication Toolkit. Undertaken on behalf of ACRL by Christine Fruin, the scholarly communications librarian at the University of Florida, this new version not only updates and revises the information and resources in the Toolkit, but also represents a complete migration to the LibGuides platform.

Screenshot of the ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit

Included in the Toolkit are resources on a range of scholarly communications topics, including publishing, Open Access, Open Educational Resources, copyright, repositories, digital humanities, data management, and accessibility. For each, there is a brief introduction to the topic that is perfect for those who are new to the topic or those with some limited exposure. In addition, the Toolkit includes a range of resources on each topic from model language to suggested publications and beyond. Overall, this is a great resource for anyone interested in or working in scholarly communications.

RI Launches Open Textbook Initiative

riOn September 27th 2016, Governor Gina Raimondo announced a statewide Open Textbook Initiative during a press conference at Rhode Island College (RIC).
The initiative challenged Rhode Island’s higher education institutions to reduce college costs by saving students $5 million over five years using open licensed textbooks. Seven higher education institutions have pledged to support the Governor’s challenge by working with faculty to identify open licensed textbooks that would fit their classes.

FTC takes on predatory journals

Inside Higher Ed reports that the FTC has filed a complaint against the OMICS Group, publisher of over 700 open access journals.

Ioana Rusu, a staff attorney with the FTC, said in an interview that the commission is responding to a growing number of calls from people in academe for some sort of action to be taken against publishers that take advantage of scholars wishing to publish in open-access journals.

OMICS, the commission alleges, does not adequately disclose that authors have to pay a publication fee, falsely claims that its journals are frequently cited and lists academic experts with no connection to the journals as editors.

Rusu stressed that the FTC is not passing judgment on open-access publishing in general. “We take no sides between the traditional subscription model and the open-access model,” she said. “We believe both of them can be done in a fair, open, clear and lawful way. What we have a problem with here is people who are trying to benefit from the open-access model to scam people.”

Opening the Textbook: new report

OER2A new research report on faculty awareness, use and attitudes toward open textbooks is now available. Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in Higher Education, 2015-2016.

Among other findings:

Most higher education faculty are unaware of open educational resources (OER) – but they are interested and some are willing to give it a try. Survey results, using
responses of over 3,000 U.S. faculty, show that OER is not a driving force in the selection of materials – with the most significant barrier being the effort required to find and evaluate such materials. Use of open resources is low overall, but somewhat higher for large enrollment introductory-level courses. …
The most common factor cited by faculty when selecting educational resources was the cost to the students. After cost, the next most common was the comprehensiveness of the resource, followed by how easy it was to find.
There is a serious disconnect between how many faculty include a factor in selecting educational resources and how satisfied they are with the state of that factor. For example, faculty are least satisfied with the cost of textbooks, yet that is the most commonly listed factor for resource selections.


New SocArXiv



Richard Poynder has a very informative post about the recent takeover of SSRN by Elsevier and the timely, concurrent launch of a new preprint server for the social sciences, SocArXiv. The new service is built on the Open Science Framework platform.

So what is SocArXiv? As the name suggests, it is modelled on the physics preprint server arXiv, and describes itself as a free, open access, open source archive for social science research. Authors are able to upload their preprints to the service and make them freely available to all. The papers will be provided with permanent identifiers to allow them to be linked to the latest version, or to versions published elsewhere. They can also be made available under Creative Commons licences, and analytics data will be provided to show how often papers have been accessed.

Learn more on SocOpen, the SocArXiv blog.

What does Brexit mean for OA?

eu Among the many questions about the impact of Brexit: What will this mean for OA in the UK and what will the UK’s exit mean for OA in the EU?

Both the EU and the UK have been leaders in the Open Access shift for some time. In April the EU, currently led by the Netherlands, published a very ambitious plan (the Amsterdam Call to Action for Open Science) to shift all scientific publications to OA by 2020 and to make all publicly funded research data openly available.

Two blog posts look at the possible effects on OA progress of the budget pressures and the structural changes the Brexit will cause:
Open Access and Brexit
Brexit: Risks to the Knowledge Economy and the Money Scrum

Knowledge Unlatched Usage

In its successful pilot phase, Knowledge Unlatched worked to secure pledges from at least 200 libraries in order to unlatch (that is, make freely and openly available) a collection of 28 front-list titles from recognized scholarly publishers. 297 libraries from 24 countries pledged, including the Boston College University Libraries.
Usage stats are now available for this collection and the breadth of use and numbers  of downloads (80,000!) make the Boston College investment seem very worthwhile. We have also contributed to unlatch the next round of publications. This is an interesting alternative publishing model to watch.

Elsevier Purchases SSRN

Today Elsevier announced that it has acquired SSRN (Social Science Research Network), a site that is used to share preprints and working papers, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Much like Elsevier’s earlier acquisition, Mendeley, SSRN works as a network for scholars and researchers to share their work online, which has led some, such as Scholarly Kitchen, to see this as an indication of “Elsevier’s interest in the open access repository space.” However, as noted by the Financial Times, “news of the deal met with an angry reaction from some academics, who expressed concern that the world’s largest journal publisher might restrict access to papers.” It will be interesting to see what form Elsevier’s interest in open access takes and how the scholarly community reacts to the purchase over the next weeks and months.

VP Biden calls for Open Access

oa_or_front-3~s600x600Heather Joseph reports that, in a speech to the American Association for Cancer Research, Vice President Joe Biden calls for more Open Access to research results in order to speed up the development of new cancer treatments and cures:

Noting that “we should measure progress by improving patient outcomes, not just publications,” the Vice President addressed the need for not only making open access the norm in cancer research, but also rewarding researchers for making their papers openly available.

He continued: “What you propose and how it affects patients, it seems to me, should be the basis of whether you continue to get the grant. And scores of your colleagues — scores — said make publications more readily available.”

“Right now, you work for years to come up with a significant breakthrough, and if you do, you get to publish a paper in one of the top journals,” the Vice President said. “For anyone to get access to that publication, they have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to subscribe to a single journal. And here’s the kicker—the journal owns the data for a year. Your outfit does this.“

“And by the way, the taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.”