Friday, May 25, 2012

Sign the White House Petition on Open Access to Research

A petition calling for Public Access to all Federally Funded Research was posted to the White House's "We the People" Website on 21 May. If the petition garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days, it will be reviewed by White House staff, and considered for action.

See: Sign the White House Petition on Open Access to Research Today!

Fo more information see

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Levantine Review
has published its first issue. The Levantine Review is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary open access e-journal that aims to reflect on the hybrid Levantine Near East. As Boston College's flagship Middle East Studies journal, it will be published twice a year by the Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages and Literatures and the Boston College Libraries. The Review is dedicated to a critical study of the Levant, aiming to restitute the term "Levant" as a valid historical, geographic, political, linguistic, and cultural concept, and reclaim it as a positive and legitimate parameter of identity.

The journal proposes a study of the Near East from a broad, diverse, and inclusive purview, with the hope of bringing into focus the larger conceptual, geographic, social, linguistic, and cultural settings of the region. In line with its commitment to an ecumenical approach, The Levantine Review welcomes new research in a variety of Near Eastern Studies sub-fields and disciplines examining narratives, histories, cultures, and  intellectual traditions often overlooked in traditional scholarship. The journal will deal with the Levant and the Mediterranean from the perspective of Middle Eastern Studies, History, Political Science, Religion, Philology, Anthropology, Linguistics, Literature, Security Studies, Women Studies, and other disciplines of the humanities and social science. The Levantine Review’s aim is to advance an inclusive, deep understanding of the Near East, and cast a broad look at the region beyond familiar settings, and prevalent dominant models. It is an aim that is expected to be enhanced by the Review's open access nature.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The GSU decision

A decision came down on Friday in the case brought by publishers against Georgia State University as a result of their e-reserves policies. Kevin Smith of Duke University posted a helpful analysis:
Overall there is good news for libraries in the decision issued late yesterday in the Georgia State University e-reserves copyright case. Most of the extreme positions advocated by the plaintiff publishers were rejected, and Judge Evans found copyright infringement in only five excerpts from among the 99 specific reading that had been challenged in the case. That means she found fair use, or, occasionally, some other justification, in 94 instances, or 95% of the time. But that does not make this an easy decision for libraries to deal with.
Here are some specifics that will make life difficult for libraries:
First, the Judge applies a strict standard for the amount of a work that is permissible under fair use in this situation. The percentage she selects is 10%, or a single chapter. In putting this percentage into practice, she bases the calculation on the total page count of a book (this was an issue at trial, with publishers arguing that only the actual text of the work should be counted), and rejects any distinction for books that are edited, in which each chapter has a different author (p. 88). This is a less flexible standard than many libraries would like, I think, and it seems too rigid to be a good fit with the overall structure of fair use.
Second, the Judge bases many of her analyses of the fourth fair use factor on the percentage of the overall revenue that publishers realize for a particular title that comes from permission fees. She criticizes the GSU policy for not providing sufficient guidance for making a determination about this kind of market impact, but immediately acknowledges that the standard she is applying “would likely be futile for prospective determinations (in advance of litigation)” (p. 337). This is simply an unhelpful approach, since libraries and faculty members must make such prospective determinations without knowing all the information that publishers provided, under court order, to the judge. Recognizing this, Judge Evans says that “the only practical way to deal with factor four in advance likely is to assume that it strongly favors the plaintiff-publisher (if licensed digital excerpts are available) (p. 338).
In addition to having to consider market impact prospectively, based on factors libraries cannot know, the judge also considered numbers of hits in determining market harm. Since the fair use analysis must be made before any hit counts are possible, this makes the decision more difficult for libraries. It can only be after the fact evidence that they made the right or wrong decision regarding likely market harm.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Economics of Open Access

A memo to Harvard faculty from the Harvard Libraries' Faculty Advisory Council has been widely publicized in recent weeks. The subject is the "untenable situation" created by journal pricing practices.
We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.

Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.
The story has been picked up by Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, The Atlantic and Time, among others.

The memo urges consideration of open access as a partial solution, urging faculty to deposit their own work in the institutional repository, consider publishing in open access journals, participate in moving prestige to open access, and using their influence on journal boards to convert the journals to open access and/or refrain from publishing with predatory price providers.

A recent UK report attempts to quantify the benefits of increasing open access to research articles for researchers in the public sector. The report is lengthy, with complicated analyses and assumptions, but this excerpt succinctly states the conclusions:

On the basis of the evidence we have been able to collect for this report, the main benefits of Open Access in the public sector are direct benefits: savings in time and money.

• Researchers lose time spent trying to locate copies of articles.

• They pay some PPV or ILL charges.

• Librarians also spend time trying to locate copies of articles

• ILL charges are borne by the library as well as users.

• Some libraries pay subscriptions for low-use journals

All of these can be ameliorated to some extent through increased availability of articles through either form of Open Access, and increased use of Open Access articles.

The total cost to the public sector of accessing journal papers is around £135 million per annum. The savings that accrue from the availability of Open Access articles (using both Green and Gold routes) amount to £28.6 million (£26 million in access fees and £2.6 million in time savings).

Extending the number or articles available through Open Access further increases the potential for savings. Each extra 5% of journal papers accessed via Open Access would save the public sector £1.7 million, even if no subscription fees were to be saved. Increasing the number of journal papers accessed through Open Access to 25% would save the public sector an extra £29 million.
[emphasis added]

Friday, May 4, 2012

MLA: Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media

The Modern Language Association (MLA) recently revised the Association's guidelines for evaluating digital scholarship. This revision (the first in twelve years), entitled Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media, addresses the swiftly evolving world of both the production and dissemination of scholarship in the digital humanities.

Excerpts from the Guidelines:
The following guidelines are designed to help departments and faculty members implement effective evaluation procedures for hiring, reappointment, tenure, and promotion. They apply to scholars working with digital media as their subject matter and to those who use digital methods or whose work takes digital form. . . .

While the use of computers in the modern languages is not a new phenomenon, the transformative adoption of digital information networks, coupled with the proliferation of advanced multimedia tools, has resulted in new literacies, new literary categories, new approaches to language instruction, and new fields of inquiry. Humanists are adopting new technologies and creating new critical and literary forms and interventions in scholarly communication. They also collaborate with technology experts in fields such as image processing, document encoding, and computer and information science. User-generated content produces a wealth of new critical publications, applied scholarship, pedagogical models, curricular innovations, and redefinitions of author, text, and reader. Academic work in digital media must be evaluated in the light of these rapidly changing technological, institutional, and professional contexts, and departments should recognize that many traditional notions of scholarship, teaching, and service are being redefined. . . .

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Open, free access to academic research? This will be a seismic shift

David Willetts, Conservative MP and minister of state for universities and science, discusses in the Guardian a new plan to make publicly financed research freely available. He states that "[g]iving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the forefront of open research."

Click here for the full text