Open Access to Survey of 30,000 Authors by Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan

In Spring 2014 the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and Palgrave Macmillan conducted an Author Insights survey. A couple of days ago they made the survey’s data publicly available “in order to achieve greater understanding between authors, funders and publishers, particularly with regard to open access.” 30,466 researchers participated in the survey.

From the press release:

The survey reveals authors’ views on a diverse range of topics, including how authors make publishing decisions, funding availability and reasons for choosing open access as a publishing route. It is available to view and download via a CC BY license on figshare, along with a short summary pulling out the highlights.

Sam Burridge, Managing Director Open Research NPG/Palgrave Macmillan said: “To celebrate Open Access Week, we’re releasing our internal dataset via figshare for anyone to view, download and analyse. As far as we know, this is the first time that a publisher has made the detailed results of a survey of this size and scope completely open.

“It’s vital that decision-making in the academic publishing community is evidence-based, which is why we’re making this data open access. We believe it will contribute to an increased understanding of the real issues in academic publishing, and we encourage researchers to dig into this data and use it to help inform our community.”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 1 in 5 (20%) science authors and 1 in 10 (12%) HSS authors do not know if their main funder requires them to publish open access
  • A significant number of authors are unaware of the requirements of even the largest OA funders with long-established mandates.
  • For example, 17% of Wellcome Trust and 25% of NIH-funded authors do not know if their funders have OA requirements
  • 40% of science authors and 54% of HSS authors who have not published open access say that ‘I am concerned about perceptions of the quality of OA publications’

Three Experts on Open Access, Open Educational Resources and Open Data

In this month’s College & Research Libraries News Peter Binfield, Nicole Allen and Carly Strasser provide a snapshot of recent developments in different aspects of scholarly communication. Binfield discusses Open access, Allen Open Educational Resources (OER), and Strasser Open Data and Data Management.

Allen’s prediction regarding the development of OER over the next 12 months is particularly interesting as well as promising:

Over the next 12 months there will be a flood of OER coming out into the marketplace. The largest wave will come from the first round of the Department of Labor’s $2 billion workforce training grant program, which requires all participating grantees to release educational materials under a Creative Commons Attribution license. We are also going to see a number of high-impact open textbooks from publishing projects at Rice University, Oregon State University, and SUNY. I think this influx of content will drive conversations about how to better organize and share content. My hope is that it will also help people see the potential of OER beyond just cutting costs, as a new infrastructure that can support innovative teaching and learning practices that are only possible in an open environment.

For the complete article.

The Economist on Open Access

This week’s Economist provides a good overview of recent developments in Open Access. The article’s author, impressed by Nature’s recent announcement that its prestigious journal Nature Communication is now fully OA, argues that though much still remains to be accomplished the OA movement “now looks unstoppable”. This is very clearly the case in the U.K.:

All seven of Britain’s research councils, for example, now require that the results of the work they pay for are open-access in some way. So does the Wellcome Trust, a British charity whose medical-research budget exceeds that of many scientifically successful countries. And by 2016 every penny of public money given to British universities by the government will carry the same requirement.

And, the article states, the progress of OA is also very evident in the U.S. and other countries.

However, the article also contends that a continuing significant stumbling block to OA is that many scholars still prefer to publish in non-OA journals believing that this route is better for their promotion and tenure prospects. Only when this attitude changes, the article continues, will OA be truly victorious:

This could happen either by new open-access journals acquiring the necessary kudos, or by old ones, seeing the game is up, becoming open access themselves. Though Nature Communications is a successful and well-regarded publication, it is not NPG’s top product. And Royal Society Open Science is untested. At the moment, then, both the Royal Society and NPG seem to be hedging their bets. When the society’s Proceedings, and NPG’s eponymous flagship, Nature, are both free for anyone to read, then open access’s partisans really will be able to declare victory and go home.

For the complete article.

Dissertation Embargoes


Bouquinistesseine1CC BY-SA 3.0 Jebulon

The City University of New York recently posted audio clips from an informative presentation on the Embargo Question: “Share It Now or Save It For Later: Making Choices about Dissertations and Publishing,” an event that tackled the question of whether making a dissertation open access affects the author’s ability to publish the work as a book. Particularly interesting are the clips from:

Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Director of Scholarly Communication, Modern Language Association) who discusses the difficulty of deciding what to do with a dissertation at “a moment of peak anxiety” but argued that “the thing that’s deposited might get somebody started being interested in the question that you’re working on, but it doesn’t detract from the desirability of that final, really polished well-thought-through project.”

Philip Leventhal (Editor for Literary Studies, Journalism, and U.S. History, Columbia University Press) who talks about the process by which dissertations are evaluated when seeking to publish a first book. He discusses the difference between the first book and the dissertation..

Digital Treasures from the National Library of Scotland

JamesVIJust hours after the result of the historic referendum where a majority of Scots voted to retain the union with the United Kingdom, it might be opportune to consider one of Scotland’s great institutions, its national library. The National Library of Scotland is the country’s largest library. In addition to over 15 million printed items, it contains seven million manuscripts, two million maps, over 32,000 films, and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles. It also has an outstanding number of digital projects which cover a broad variety of subject areas. Brief mention may be made of Jacobite Prints and Broadsides, a collection of portraits of people and illustrations of events relating to the Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland in 1715 and 1745-1746. Gazetteers of Scotland, 1803-1901 is a digitized collection of 20 volumes of the most popular descriptive gazetteers of 19th-century Scotland, covering towns, counties, parishes, glens and more. The Word on the Street is a collection of about 1,800 broadsides that informed and entertained Scots between 1650 and 1910. There is an Early Gaelic Book Collection of several hundred books in Gaelic and other Celtic languages, plus works about the Gaels, their languages, literature, culture and history. There is also a digitized copy of the very rare Gutenberg Bible, the first book to be printed with moveable type. Especially interesting perhaps, on this day after the referendum, is the website James VI and the Union of the Crowns which explores the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603.  Numerous other fascinating projects are available on the National Library of Scotland’s Digital Gallery page.

Nature’s Citation Analysis

Nature Communications has published a complicated statistical analysis that shows a very slight citation advantage for OA journals. Interesting, however, is the huge effect of open access on downloads and views — which the Nature analysis mentions, but barely.

Overall, articles published OA appear to show a higher number of citations, though the effect is small, and the data provided does not allow us to control for possible confounding effects such as the posting of articles in repositories, the number and location of authors, and the possibility that authors are selecting their ‘best’ papers to publish on OA terms. Similarly, any effect of OA on the timing of citations appears to be small, and we have not been able to control for possible changes such as increased awareness of the journal on the part of both readers and authors. But although the impact on citations is small, the impact of open access publication on HTML views and PDF downloads is large and significant, suggesting increased visibility for the open access papers.

The citation effect found here is much smaller than results of other studies. To keep this in perspective, it is helpful to be aware of Nature’s recent actions with regard to the demand for authors to waive their institutions OA policy mandates.

Thanks to Kate Benning for bringing this to my attention.


The 2012-13 Survey of Humanities Departments at Four-Year Institutions

The latest survey on the state of the humanities in higher education was released today by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: The 2012-13 Survey of
Humanities Departments at Four-Year Institutions
. Particularly interesting are the findings regarding “digital humanities”. Though the latter has been increasingly in the news in recent years, “the survey found fairly limited engagement at the departmental level.”

A key finding respecting “digital humanities” included:

Among humanities departments, 24% had a center or lab dedicated to digital humanities research on campus, while 15% of departments offered at least one seminar or course that focused on digital methods for research or teaching during the academic year, and 12% had guidelines for evaluating digital publications for tenure and promotion.

These statistics are certainly underwhelming and especially so for the numbers of institutions with guidelines for evaluating digital publications for tenure and promotion. 12% seems very low though the figure is a little higher at 18% for institutions with a Carnegie classification of “Primarily Research”.

One may also access a brief Overview of Findings from the 2012–13 Humanities Departmental Survey.


Are Scientists Selfish?

In a recent article in Techonomy “Are Scientists Selfish?” (republished in Forbes) Meredith Salisbury considers why many scientists are reluctant to publish their scholarly articles in open access journals. She denies that they are selfish asserting that the situation is complicated. Rather, she blames “[t]he institutional inertia of the established scientific community [that] strongly favors researchers who go along with the data-hoarding norms.” Salisbury paints a convincing picture of the stereotypical scientist whose work is locked into a publish/get funding/publish again cycle that lasts throughout his/her career. This work cycle simply does not reward scientists who publish in OA journals. Salisbury proffers a couple of potential solutions:

What’s really needed is system-wide change. Some funding agencies have begun to require grant winners to ensure their publications become publicly accessible after a certain period of time, but those requirements need to be strengthened and should take effect immediately upon publication rather than six months or a year later. More importantly, the science community needs a better way to evaluate journals—one that doesn’t put such a premium on history—so that open-access publications and outlets with more open-minded approaches to data sharing are finally on an even playing field with traditional journals.