Archive for the 'Open Access' category

Link, don't pass around files

Jan 25 2011 Published by under Open Access, Praxis

So I heard an interesting question the other day, one that's worth thinking out loud about. Someone asked whether it was legal, copyrightly-speaking, to post a legally open-access article to a public server or service (such as Facebook or FriendFeed), or if one should link instead.

The answer, as with most copyright questions, is "it depends." The other answer is "I am not a lawyer; if you have a copyright question, go ask a lawyer." But in my estimation, even when reposting is probably safe, I think it's better to link, and I'll try to explain why I think that.

First, there's a pragmatic argument: it's usually just plain easier to drop in a link than to download and reupload (and if it isn't easier, the hosting archive is broken). I'm all in favor of easy.

Second, in many cases, reposting articles publicly may well infringe copyright. If there's a CC-BY license on the article, I would guess public reposting with credit to be an acceptable reuse. If there's a CC non-commercial or share-alike license, I'd personally think twice. If there's no CC license at all, which is the usual case? By reposting, you're making a copy, and yes, an author or copyright-owning publisher could bring a lawsuit over that. Would they have much of a case? Who knows? I don't. But who needs the hassle?

Can I, as a digital-archive manager, give you permission to repost items from the archive I run? Actually, no, I usually can't (the few CC-BY items in the archive aside). The license that archive depositors give the archive lets the archive disseminate materials via its own website. That license emphatically does not let the archive give other people permission to disseminate (except perhaps under the specific circumstance of the archive shutting down and transferring the entirety of its assets elsewhere). It's a subtle point, but important.

Third, there's an impact question to consider. As alternative impact metrics take hold in journal publishing, view and download numbers take on new importance for authors. If you repost an article instead of linking to it, are you going to count views and downloads? Probably not. Publishers and archives, though, they're counting and reporting. So anybody who downloads your copy robs the author of a countable download. Maybe that doesn't matter much today… but it might matter a lot tomorrow.

Fourth, authors aren't the only folks counting views and downloads. Digital archives aren't magically free to run, and we digital archivists don't work entirely out of the goodness of our hearts. One of the ways we justify our work and our archives' existence is through view-and-download counts. When you repost, you dilute the impact that we can report to our funders. Speaking as one whose service has been threatened with closure—any impact dilution can be a true threat.

Link, don't repost, even when reposting is legal. The author you benefit may be your colleague, or even yourself. The open-access archive or publisher you benefit is fighting against the paywall-bounded darkness.

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Derk Haank interview, translated into English

Jan 17 2011 Published by under Open Access

"The Big Deal, a problem? C'maaaaaaaan! There's no problem! I'm getting big fat checks; where's the problem?"

Interview here, if you'd like to check my interpretation.

I can't even manage to get angry at this. Events will overtake it. I stand pat on my current set of predictions: in 2011–2013, even the few remaining wealthy libraries will go over the cliff. (Why will it take three years? Because most Big Deal contracts are multi-year. It's hard to know when precisely the renewal demand will come in that shatters the camel's back.)

Haank is even right about one thing: if libraries could just kick the Big Deal can down the road a little further, they would. It's an utterly dysfunctional short-termist way to behave, but it's worked this far.

Think of Haank as a realtor in 2005. Real-estate market looked great from a realtor's perspective! That it was structurally unsound, and the cracks couldn't be spackled over any more, wasn't something he was prepared to admit, or even acknowledge.

I could be wrong. I don't think I am, though. Then again, neither does he.

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PLoS One envy

Jan 07 2011 Published by under Open Access

PLoS One has done well. Very well. Well enough that it is spawning imitators.

I was ready to write a Huge Bloggy Screed about the importance of Nature Publishing Group going in this direction with the launch of Scientific Reports, but Cameron Neylon scooped me in grand fashion. I endorse his analysis in its entirety—including, for once, its optimism! (For the record: I've done a tiny bit of unpaid consulting—really just referrals—for PLoS, and I think Peter Binfield bought me a drink while we were both in Edinburgh last year at UKSG. That's the extent of my possible bias.)

So who are these other would-be Ones, and what are their prospects?

In this corner we have AIP Advances. I have no strong opinion on this either way. It might fly, it might not. A lot depends on the prestige and energy of the editorial board, on which I have no inside information, or indeed any information whatever.

In that corner we have SAGE Open, which wants to be PLoS One for the social sciences and humanities. I know you can't see me right now, but what I am doing is holding the big thumb-and-forefinger L-for-loser in front of my forehead. This journal is not going to fly, not at this point in history.

It's a logical enough idea; I can well imagine what the thinking was. "PLoS and NPG have the hard sciences sewn up… so let's try all those other disciplines!" The logic fails, though, because all those other disciplines either aren't remotely ready, or they use the green road to open access. I defy SAGE to find enough humanities scholars who don't think open access is a commie plot (or worse, a veneer over pure vanity publishing) to fill an appreciable number of pages or pixels. I double-dog-defy them to find enough humanities scholars who don't think open access is a commie plot and have money to pay author-side charges. Don't talk to me about subventions; no humanities scholar worth his salt will use a subvention on anything but a book.

As for the social sciences, the quals seem to hang out over at SSRN these days. What's the value proposition of SAGE Open over SSRN plus an established (and free-to-publish-in) journal? You got me. That leaves the quants; I don't really know where they hang out online, or even if they do—but even if they're SAGE Open's dream crowd, will they be enough, and do they bring enough money to the table? I doubt it.

If they'd waited five years to launch this? Ten years? Maybe it could eke out an existence. Not now, though. Not yet. The only halfway-feasible business model I can imagine would be a partnership with SSRN to cherrypick and slap an imprimatur on good stuff that isn't otherwise claimed. Or maybe they could try to offer a home to the better shoestring open-access journals out there, though for a lot of those I would think "you'll now have to hold up your authors for cash" is a complete non-starter.

So what does this mean for libraries? Maybe some hope, if Cameron and I are right that a lot of lower-tier STM journals are about to be garroted and dumped in oubliettes! It may also mean increased demand on library and institutional author-fee funds. If we're really lucky and if libraries are paying attention, it might even breathe more life into the comatose COPE.

Good times. Good times, for once! As much as I've lambasted NPG here over their hamhanded treatment of California (and the rest of us libraries suffering badly from budget cuts), I'm pleased about this new venture of theirs, and wish it all the best.

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Empty gestures?

Jan 05 2011 Published by under Open Access

I wanted to blog about EBSCO's latest jerk move, but I utterly despair of explaining comprehensibly why it matters to anyone but librarians. Suffice to say that in a market where journal Big Deals are in serious budget trouble, EBSCO is doing its level best to position its resources as uncancellable. Time will tell whether they succeed.

So I'll blog about something else instead: the ARL's new language on author rights in library journal-subscription contracts. The idea here is that libraries have leverage over journal publishers and aggregators at exactly one time: when subscriptions, and therefore currency in large denominations, are in play. So as good little open-access advocates, one thing librarians can do while we have leverage is insert contract language that protects our institutions' authors from copyright lawsuits from their own publishers when they reuse and circulate articles they write.

It's a nice idea. I like it. As often happens with good open-access ideas, this one comes out of California, which successfully inserted such provisions into contracts with big shots such as Elsevier. (For California's next trick, I'd really like to see them try this with ACS. I'd pay good money to watch the ensuing apoplexy attack. And hey, if a library or consortium that isn't California wants to try this, good on you.) One clear benefit to faculty is less negotiation with publishers when funder open-access mandates such as the NIH's are in play. That alone is enough to make this negotiation worth doing for most research libraries, I believe.

I don't think, though, that license language all by itself is enough to make appreciably more material open-access, especially through most institutional repositories. If increased open access, above and beyond that created by funder mandates, is your goal, these negotiations may be nice, or even necessary—but they are laughably insufficient.

I'll give you two real-world examples by way of explaining why. One example: author addenda, and faculty-senate resolutions in support of same. (What's an author's addendum? A bit of boilerplate legalese that article authors append to their contract with the journal publisher, ensuring they retain some basic intellectual-property rights over the article.) There are quite a few such local addenda and resolutions out there. Pretty much the entire Big Ten (okay, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, but it's basically the same thing) rallied in support of one such. So, has there been a tremendous efflorescence of open-access literature from Big Ten schools?

Er. Not so much. (Because I must: yes, I work for a Big Ten/CIC school.) I can't be more specific than that, because there has been as best I can tell absolutely zero attempt to assess the real-world impact of the addendum. We don't know who's tried to use it. We don't know who succeeded and who failed. We don't know what those who succeeded ultimately did with their retained rights. All we can really measure—self-archiving rates in Big Ten/CIC institutional repositories—paints a seriously discouraging picture: these addenda and resolutions did not appear to accomplish anything whatever by way of more open access to the journal literature.

So why not? That leads me to my other example: a lovely interview by Mary Minow of Harvard Law School Library's Michelle Pearse. In case you didn't know, Harvard Law School has an open-access policy; its faculty have agreed that they will either give Harvard a copy of their journal articles for archival and open dissemination, or seek a policy waiver for each individual article they don't want to (or can't) let Harvard have. This is the current open-access Holy Grail: faculty imposing an open-access requirement on themselves!

But all by itself, such a policy doesn't guarantee smooth sailing:

We are still in the process of reaching out to and educating the faculty, trying to get them to understand the policy and get it into their personal workflows… It can be challenging implementing such a policy.

A brief digression. Some years ago, Alma Swan published a faculty survey in which faculty overwhelmingly said yes, if they were subject to an open-access requirement, they'd comply (p. 56). I was skeptical at the time; I didn't think this meant faculty were willing to do one jot more than tick a tickybox on a survey.

Harvard, Minho, and other institutions with on-the-ground open-access mandate experience are tending to validate my skepticism. Faculty think open access is a nifty idea. Many deluded faculty think they already have it, because they don't know the difference between open access and library-mediated online subscriptions. Faculty are happy to tick tickyboxen and make resolutions.

When the rubber hits the road, though, faculty can't be arsed. Won't lift a finger. This is hardly (ObSelfCitation) a new or unexpressed problem! But it's why just negotiating an opportunity for open access isn't going to create much (if any) more open access. A library that wants its faculty's stuff to be made open-access actually has to go out there and get that stuff.

I've ripped on Harvard in the past, sometimes unfairly, so I'm extra-happy to say now that Harvard is implementing its open-access collection absolutely, positively, 100% right. They have a whole staffed office whose job is to go out there and get articles that are covered under the various Harvard open-access policies. Is more Harvard journal literature going to become open-access because of what Harvard is doing? Absolutely. You'd better believe it.

(I can't resist one little jab, though: Having DSpace issues, are you, Harvard? I told you that you would. Shoulda gone with—almost anything else, really, but EPrints would have been an improvement. Today, I'd say Islandora, because even schmucks like me can hack Drupal, whereas it takes a major-league propellerhead to hack DSpace.)

The lesson for libraries looking at the ARL language is this: if author-rights negotiation with publishers is to be more than an empty gesture, you'd better have an active, not passive, open-access collection-development program. With staff both professional and para-. With resources. With sufficient administrative will behind it. Nothing else will work.

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Looking toward 2011

Dec 30 2010 Published by under Open Access, Research Data

Before I get to crystal-ball-gazing, I have to point out my track record, because it's really quite bad. Not only am I on record with a major prediction that didn't come true ("IRs in the US will fold"), I quite failed to predict a number of things that did, from Harvard's OA policy to California telling Nature Publishing Group to go suck eggs.

My brain looks at systems. That means I consistently miss outliers, game-changers. I also don't always calibrate my guesses on the durability of systems right.

So with that said, here are some things that wouldn't surprise me a bit in 2011.

  • SCOAP3 eeks through; COPE backpedals or folds. What the open-access movement is facing in 2011 is a world where most of the low-hanging fruit has been plucked. Progress isn't easy or obvious any more (if it ever was), and it can't be made by the pioneers, entrepreneurs, and other earliest-of-early adopters. IRs are no longer fashionable (in the States, I add for my international readers). Gold-OA funds have to contend with the ever-widening maw of Big Deal renewals. My sense of attitudes among research-library administrators, as well as rank-and-file selectors, does not favor COPE's success or even survival.
  • Academic samizdat sees a real copyright lawsuit. Those creeps over at Attributor may well be the instigators. If they're smart, they won't actually sue a university, much less a library; they'll go after Mendeley or something RapidShare-ish, to keep the slumbering faculty behemoth safely abed. It's not out of the question, however, that some tiny school somewhere with grossly inadequate or nonexistent "electronic reserves" protections (and I've seen such schools firsthand; the culprit, aside from faculty themselves, is generally a boundlessly clueless IT shop) will be the target.
  • The initial campus NSF flurry will sputter. I'm worried about this myself. I encourage libraries and IT shops building data-management services on the strength of the NSF's plan requirement to diversify, and that quickly. Find non-NSF people to help. Do a survey or focus-group study to demonstrate non-NSF-related data-management needs. Pay some attention to the digital humanities. Do not plan to rely on a flood of NSF applicants; that flood is highly unlikely to materialize. There's plenty of work to do, don't get me wrong; most of the work just doesn't happen to be NSF work.
  • FRPAA won't make it this time either. Sorry. Maybe next time. Or maybe the NSF won't wait for Congressional cover, though I emphasize the "maybe" on that one.
  • Some chemistry department somewhere will drop ACS accreditation because the institution can't afford ACS journals. I have to admit, I have a little inside info on this one. But it's only logical, really.
  • A bare handful of Big Deal renewals will blow up, à la California and NPG. This is likely to happen in the full glare of the public eye, despite publisher wishes and publisher NDAs, because Big Deals are just that big and that noticeable. Don't be gleeful about this, libraries, because…
  • Faculty will start a lot of "why don't those damn librarians…" grumbling. If you'd like to hear some, pre-2011, have a listen to Amanda French and Tom Scheinfeldt in this episode of the Digital Campus podcast. Those damn librarians. Why don't they just fix this? Where's their damn spine?
  • An IR's gonna fold. Yes, all right, I was wrong when I said this the first time, and I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong again. But I'll say it nonetheless. I see too many libraries who opened IRs on a wing and a prayer without adequate planning or even a sensible collection-development policy. Let's face it, folks: in the absence of mandates, the OA-via-IRs experiment failed. Let's also face that libraries can't run (much less re-run) expensive experiments these days. Result? Some IR somewhere will face a big budget ax. (Disclaimer: those who know me professionally know that the IR I run is getting merged out of existence. That doesn't count for purposes of this prediction; that would be cheating.)
  • We'll see a bare handful more campus or patchwork mandates. I don't think we've quite seen the end of the post-Harvard wave. I do think we're close to that end—and there won't be a second wave, not without a lot more work and evangelism than the open-access movement is currently mustering. There just haven't been enough mandates quickly enough to start up an academic fashion.
  • Another major university press will merge with its library or fold. I haven't a clue which one, but given the continued bumbling confusion among provosts about scholarly publishing being able to cover its nut (hint: it can't), and the continued denial among the humanities that the economics of monographs no longer hold water (hint: go all-digital, perhaps plus POD, or die), this is all but an inevitability. We'll see a few more small scholarly presses fold as well.
  • Crowdsourced data-analysis projects will increase, and pick up more good press. GalaxyZoo alone practically guarantees this one, but the humanities are charging forward with some great transcription projects as well.

It'll be a challenging year, no doubt about it. Let's meet it with fortitude.

8 responses so far

Oh, Chicago? Your Freudian slip is showing.

Dec 28 2010 Published by under Open Access

When I was a young and ambitious librarian, as opposed to the cynical crone I am now, I read a number of librarian career manuals. I honestly don't recall which one it was that mentioned open-access journals only with loathing, discouraging any academic librarian serious about her career from publishing in one.

You know, never mind that in digital librarianship then as now, D-Lib Magazine is one of the major prestige outlets. (So much for peer review, incidentally. D-Lib isn't. Doesn't seem to stop them publishing brilliant articles from the best people in the business—and no, I've never managed to land an article there, so I am not being self-serving.) But that book was weak on digital librarianship to begin with.

Be that as it may, as a new institutional-repository manager reading that book, I felt betrayed by my own profession. How was I supposed to cheerlead for open access (gold as well as green) within my library and my institution if my profession took this "do as I say, not as I do" attitude? The rest is history, really; that was only one of many times librarians and librarianship have despised and undermined open-access work, my own as well as that of colleagues at other libraries in other institutions.

So I'm saddened but not shocked to see that the Chicago Manual of Style is similarly undercutting the many scholars actively participating in the open-access movement, as Stuart Shieber ably recounts. Not shocked, but a little surprised, I must say; I always respected and appreciated the Manual for its "if you really believe it's fair use, don't ask permission, because among other things, by doing so you weaken your fair-use case" stance.

That is sound advice, advice that strengthens the cultural commons. What the latest Manual says about open access is nakedly selfish and a tremendous lurch backward. Whoever wrote that segment should be ashamed. Whoever greenlighted it should be ashamed. Whoever demanded that segment be written? Shame isn't enough, frankly. Maybe a severance package?

The conversation on Twitter has noted that Chicago has a bit of a left-hand-right-hand problem here. If their fair-use advice isn't enough evidence of liberality, the University of Chicago Press has one of the most enlightened green-OA policies out there (ignore the color designation and read the text; "yellow" is wholly unfair). So the Manual editors aren't just stabbing Shieber and other OA-friendly faculty in the back; they're gutting their own colleagues over in the journal division. Nice of them.

I don't entirely know what to do about these situations. Voice and protest, yes, certainly. I've exercised voice. Dr. Shieber obviously does. Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick has as well, quite skillfully. The fact remains, though, that the academy's print fetish gives that librarian career manual and certainly the Chicago Manual of Style an awful lot more weight than a few blogs can muster—and as we're seeing, the suppliers of the academy's print fetish tend to be quite a bit behinder-hand than even the academy itself.

I wasn't entirely kidding about the severance-package idea. I don't even mean it to be punitive. I'm just not sure how far forward we move (pace wonderful people like Mike Rossner and the Rockefeller crew) given current scholarly-press notions of leadership.

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Zero-sum journal publishing game

Dec 02 2010 Published by under Open Access

Not to toot my own horn or anything—okay, okay, I admit, I like it as much as anyone when my sad excuse for a crystal ball works—but the rumblings about the economic underpinnings of toll-access journal publishing coming unmoored are getting louder.

I said:

Toll-access journal publishing will become a zero-sum game, if it isn’t already. Every dollar of additional profit for the Elseviers and Informas of this world will be ripped from the pockets of other journals and journal publishers, including scholarly societies that haven’t already signed deals with one devil or another.

And so what do I see in my feedreader today? (JUST TODAY. And I read my feedreader several times daily, so this is not buildup.)

Hate to be a Chicken Little, but that sky is looking mighty precariously balanced just now.

So what does this mean for you, O Scientist? You, O Humanist?

Well, if your libraries have successfully insulated you from serials shock heretofore, expect that happy situation to end, abruptly and horribly. (How do you know if you are well-insulated by your library? If "I have all the access I need" or "I know everybody who matters can read what I publish" have ever passed your lips, you are well-insulated. Also poorly-informed, but that is a common symptom of well-insulatedness.) Chances are good you're going to lose access to some core literature in the next year or three, and it could be a lot if a Big Deal suddenly evaporates. Interlibrary loan will not help you. Academic samizdat is chancy (and I wouldn't be surprised to see more attempted crackdowns on it, even lawsuits). Nobody's going to throw more money at libraries. There is no more money.

We'll also see more protests of the California-versus-Nature-Publishing-Group ilk, and maybe some more transparency about library budgets. Not nearly enough more; libraries are both naturally timorous and politically embroiled. But more. Consider participating in the protests, researchers. Publishers listen to you in a way they don't listen to us.

I also said:

No one seems to agree with me on this, but I grow more confident by the day: small, low-subscriber-base journals at Big Deal publishers are in deep trouble as well. They add overhead but no especial additional profit, so they are obvious cost-cutting targets. Perhaps a journal massacre won’t happen right away; EBSCO particularly still seems to be on an acquisitions spree. I do believe it will happen, though—and when it does, some of those journals will re-form as gold-OA, while most of the rest will simply fold, publisher-hopping not being an option.

And I still believe this, even if no one else does. Your favorite publishing outlet may not be long for this world. Better look for some backups. I don't actually consider this necessarily a bad thing. I'm not fond of the idea that any article can get published somewhere, because frankly, a lot that is published shouldn't be (this is based on my own professional reading, but I hear it's the same in other fields). I also think there's way too much overhead involved in duplicative journals and repetitive article-submission patterns. We might come out of this mess with a more rational and streamlined system; I sure wouldn't complain.

Humanists, I don't actually expect much more plundering of monograph budgets. Mind you, if it would help, it'd probably happen, but the amounts left for monographs are a drop in the bucket compared to what serials publishers want to bleed us for. I do expect more university-press closures and more presses becoming part of libraries.

Librarians, I expect that we will be under the gun. We know from Ithaka that our most-prized service is access facilitation, meaning that faculty see us primarily as wallets. When we can't do that any more—yes, even though that's fundamentally not our fault—we can expect many more faculty to wonder why the hell we exist. We'd better damn well have an answer. Or three. Or ten. More answers is good. What we must not do is rest on our collection laurels. Those laurels are about to be stomped flat and dumped in the gutter. Get ready.

This year feels to me the way 2005 felt in the housing market. Big stupid money was still rampant, but the foundation-cracks were evident to some wise souls. Lots of happytalk and problem-denial all over the place. And then everything went off the cliff. I don't know if this will turn out to be an apt comparison, nor am I entirely sure what the cliff-drop will look like. I do think it's coming, though. I do think that.

2 responses so far

In-tech and Lazinica at it again

Dec 01 2010 Published by under Open Access, Praxis

This is by way of a public-service warning.


Lazinica has the dubious distinction of being the only (as far as I know, anyway) publisher to be told by OASPA to take their logo off his site. Looking through the current In-tech offerings, one is bombarded with nonexistent copyediting and appalling typesetting. I can only guess acquisitions and review standards are equally low or lower, especially the way the outfit goes around trawling for authors.

This is not an outfit that will do your academic career any good. Stay away. Can I interest you in a nice PLoS or BMC instead?

Last I checked, In-tech's journals were still listed in the DOAJ. If I were DOAJ, I'd rectify that problem, but I'm not. And other than OASPA telling Lazinica he can't use their logo, they've been silent on the subject.

So I do what I can to spread the word. Somebody should.

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The idea of open

Nov 24 2010 Published by under Open Access

This last day of Scientopian gratitude is to be focused on an idea we're grateful for. No surprises. You all know what my obvious, slam-dunk, off-the-cuff, top-of-my-head answer is, right?

Right. The idea of open. All the ideas of open. How mindblowingly amazing are these notions? That we can cut through the barrier of briars, legal and social and organizational, that bar knowledge-seekers from the castle of information. That we can give each other knowledge like hundred-year kisses. That knowledge work doesn't have to disappear into lonely glass towers.

Now, obviously, I owe my career to date to a couple-three open ideas. Open access, of course. But also open source; I've been running DSpace and Open Journal Systems as long as I've been in this game. And open data, which is where I think all this NSF fuss will eventually wind up. And free culture, to which I owe a tremendous amount of the impact I've been able to make with my speaking. There's a selfish aspect to my gratitude, for eyes that want to see selfishness.

But hell's bells, if I didn't love the idea of open with all my wizened little heart I'd have jumped ship quite some time ago. The idea of open is brilliant and wonderful, but the work of open is exhausting, slow, and often thankless.

Still I am grateful to live in a world where the idea of open is taking root.

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A person I'm grateful for: Heather Joseph

Nov 23 2010 Published by under Miscellanea, Open Access

It's day two of Scientopia's gratitude-fest; today is all about people we're grateful for.

I'm grateful for Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC.

See, it's well-known that I am not a politic person. Despite being a good presenter, despite knowing my stuff and communicating it well, I am not a good show horse for a cause or an idea; I say the blunt (though often correct) thing at the wrong time and make everybody unhappy. I have a certain enfant terrible reputation in open-access circles, and I straight-up earned it.

Heather Joseph never, ever, ever makes that mistake. She tells the straight story, don't get me wrong, but she's got the chops to tell it without leaving any holes in her professional armor for skeevy publishers or lazy libraries to evade her message. She never falters or admits defeat. (I do. Regularly.) She is smart, prepared, opportunistic, persistent, and unwavering.

She's the best friend open access has in libraryland. If she didn't exist, we'd have to invent her—and we'd never get it right.

So thank you, Heather Joseph. I'm grateful you fight the good fight.

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