Monday, December 17, 2012

Openness, Value, and Scholarly Societies: The Modern Language Association Model

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Scholarly Communication for the Modern Language Association, discusses the evolving relationship of scholarly societies, their publications and open access, in her article "Openness, Value, and Scholarly Societies: The Modern Language Association Model" in the current issue of College & Research Library News.

. . . .So if the value of a society to its membership no longer lies in access to its otherwise revenue-producing publications—if, in fact, many members want scholarship to be distributed in a way that will greatly reduce if not eliminate its ability to produce revenue—and if the other crucial work of the society supported by that revenue is often too invisible to constitute a new locus of value that will keep scholars renewing their memberships year after year, where might a new value proposition lie for scholarly societies? 
. . . . MLA has chosen two first steps toward ensuring public access to the work published by the organization. First, we have recently revised all of our author agreements to make them gold open access friendly, and, second, we are developing a platform through which members can share their work as openly as they might like, allowing that work to reach not only their colleagues but also interested members of the public. 
Our revised author agreements no longer require scholars to sign over copyright to the association; copyright instead remains with the author, who grants the association a license to publish their work (as well as to perform a range of related tasks with it). This license is exclusive for one year after the date of publication, after which period the author is free to republish or distribute the work in any form or manner desired. Moreover, these contracts explicitly grant authors the right to post a draft version of their work on a personal or departmental Web site prior to publication, and to post their final manuscript on such a Web site, or to deposit it in an institutional repository immediately upon acceptance. In this way, we hope to allow our journals to remain vital, scrupulously reviewed and carefully edited publications, while simultaneously helping our authors get their work into the broadest possible circulation. . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Butler reviews 2012 copyright issues and looks ahead

Publishers Weekly published an interesting interview with Brandon Butler, wrapping up the year 2012 in library copyright issues, including the GSU case, the HathiTrust case and the defeat of SOPA. He also talks about upcoming challenges for 2013, including the pending Kirtsaeng v. Wiley case, testing the first sale doctrine, and the possibility of orphan works legislation.
The full interview: Overruled: PW Talks to ARL’s Brandon Butler: ALA Preview 2013.

For a fuller discussion of how Kirtsaeng may affect libraries, see Butler's earlier article, coauthored with Jonathan Band.

And, for a lighter take and an indication that copyright law is of mainstream importance, watch Stephen Colbert's segment on Kirtsaeng.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Open Access to Scientific Research Can Save Lives

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education Peter Suber and Darius Cuplinskas argue that open access to research can be very advantageous to medical progress, can in fact save lives.

. . . . The movement for open access has overcome efforts by publishers to protect their cash machine. Today huge amounts of scholarly research, including more than 8,000 peer-reviewed open-access journals, are available to everyone with the flick of a cursor. Open access is a component of international debates about scholarly communications. It is taught in colleges. It is debated by parliaments. And more than 300 research funders and institutions, including the world's largest source of funds for research, the National Institutes of Health, now require authors to make their peer-reviewed manuscripts open access. 
The economic benefits of open access are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The decision to place the results of the Human Genome Project in the public domain without delay, for example, helped ensure that scientists everywhere can use the data. The $3.8-billion investment in the project has had an estimated economic impact of $796-billion. 
But significant work needs to be done in the next 10 years to allow open access to benefit many more scholars and scientists, more people with cancer who want to understand the science on the diseases afflicting them, more doctors struggling to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa. 
Simply put, open access should become the default method in every country for distributing new peer-reviewed research in every field. In order to make that happen, universities and funding agencies must develop effective open-access policies 
Every institution of higher learning should ensure that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles by its faculty members are made open-access through a designated repository that captures the institution's intellectual output. 
All public and private agencies that support scientific research should have policies assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all scholarly articles arising from research they have paid for be made accessible through a suitable archive. 
When a given publisher will not allow access on an agency's terms, the funder should require grantees to look for another publisher. Funders should treat publication costs as research costs and should help grantees pay reasonable publication fees at fee-based open-access journals.
Research institutions, including funders, should support the development and maintenance of the tools, directories, and resources essential to the progress and sustainability of open access. . . . 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On the Open Access Debate within Humanities

In Giving it Away: Sharing and the Future of Scholarly Communication, Planned Obsolescence author Kathleen Fitzpatrick writes about the open access debate within the humanities.  

According to Fitzpatrick this debate has, so far, been bogged down by a focus on the financial difficulties involved in switching to an author-pays model of publishing, due to the relatively low levels of funding received by humanities scholars.  While acknowledging the reality of these concerns, Fitzpatrick argues that the seemingly insurmountable nature of them is leading to a lack of movement on the topic.  She argues that a shift in focus away from these financial concerns, toward a focus on how open access aligns with the core values of scholarship, would help to move the conversation forward.

One key value, well-aligned with open access for Fitzpatrick, (borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous), is the value of “giving it away.”  

What I want to argue is that this sense of “giving it away,” of paying forward knowledge that one likewise received as a gift, functions well as a description of what should be the best ethical practices of scholars and educators.  We teach, as we were taught; we publish, as we learned from the publications of others. We cannot pay back those who came before us, but can only give to those who come after.  Our participation in an ethical, voluntary scholarly community is grounded in the obligation we owe to one another, an obligation that derives from what we have received.  [End of Excerpt].

More than a simple duty this “giving it away,” Fitzpatrick notes, is something that serves the larger public good. For example, as humanities scholars make their work freely accessible to the general public, they increase the chances that the larger society might benefit from their knowledge.  

As to the viability of giving it away, Fitzpatrick, acknowledges that clever innovation would be needed to turn open access into a sustainable publishing model for humanities scholars.  However, she notes that the current system might be closer to that solution than one might first assume given the “engine of generosity” that already exists with authors, editors, peer-reviewers, and publishers all contributing to the scholarly publishing endeavor without direct remuneration.   

Fitzpatrick also sees a number of ways open access would benefit the humanities, in particular by increasing scholars’ impact and decreasing “public apathy” toward the field.  In light of these benefits and the alignment with scholarship’s core values, Fitzpatrick argues, open access may well be a worthwhile goal for humanities.  In fact, she argues, it may be time to move beyond the question of whether to pursue open access, to the question of how open access might be accomplished sustainably.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Interview with Stuart Shieber

In his blog Open and Shut? Richard Poynder includes regular interviews with open access pioneers.
Today's interview with Stuart Shieber is valuable not only for the interview itself but also for the excellent primer on the open access movement that prefaces the interview. Prof. Shieber is Director of Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication and chief architect of the Harvard Open Access  Policy.
As an example of the depth and clarity of explanation in the article, here is an excerpt on the advantages of open access journals charging article processing fees:

...[W]e need to revisit the question of why subscription publishing is so expensive. The reason for this, says Shieber, is that it is not the users of subscription journals that pay for them, but intermediaries. This disconnect creates a moral hazard, because the users will have no interest in how much journals cost. As such, there is no market mechanism to control prices.
Explaining the problem in PLoS Biology in 2009, Shieber put it this way, “The ‘consumers’ of scholarly articles (the readers, typically faculty, students, and researchers at universities and other research institutions) are insulated from the cost of reading, that is, from the subscription fees paid by the institutions' research libraries. The expected result — inelasticity of demand and hyperinflation — can be amply seen in the statistics of serials costs paid by research libraries. As subscription fees hyperinflate, libraries with budgets that at best merely match inflation must inevitably drop subscriptions, reducing access to the scholarly literature.”
In other words, the disconnect between the purchaser and the user creates an affordability problem, which in turn creates an accessibility problem.
Gold OA differs, argues Shieber, because it takes the buying decision away from the librarian and gives it to the author, who now acts on his or her own behalf (by paying to publish). Since authors will now care about the cost, the moral hazard characteristic of subscription publishing is avoided. In other words, the person buying the product (which is now a publishing service) will become sensitive to pricing (assuming the publication charges come from their own budget), and so shop around.
Full interview.