Archive for the 'Tactics' category

Promoted comment: Lost opportunities

Dec 03 2010 Published by under Tactics

(This comment by George Duimovich to Beth's post on ACS pricing changes was so good that I wanted to see it get more play. Our thanks to George for permission to promote the comment to a post!)

Related note: I’ve often wondered whether this space (“subscription agencies”) was ready for a reverse-takeover of some kind. The service is useful, namely consolidated purchasing, and apparently the margins are supposed to be small, so it looks to many like the model should remain intact and it’s a healthy ‘win-win’ relationship.

But I see this as yet another bungled library opportunity. We created a market (“subscription agencies”) but let our passive approach let the market run against our better interests and healthier engagement. Here’s some summary points I would argue:

  • We didn’t clearly scope and demand our interests in metadata management, leaving these subscription agencies with valuable metadata that we pay them to ‘manage’ so that they can in turn sell it back to us via A-Z, link-resolver and related add-ons. This was IMHO a big missed opportunity for us to more directly control the related services ourselves. So instead, we are becoming bit-players (aka “consumers”) in the goldrush to turn metadata into dependent services that we have to pay for. Our role should be more of “investors” rather than “consumers” in this game, helping us reduce costs and have more opportunity for our clients.
  • This situation is reinforced by our bungling of the ILS space, namely, allowing the market to move towards extreme vendor lock-in, and overly segmented product offerings (where functionality has been doled out in a dysfunctional ‘pay per use’ model, rather than more organically). For example, how many “serials modules” are dysfunctional with respect to ERM, because of all the add-ons that have to be purchased to make it all work. But yet we still pay for support & maintenance on this “serials module” and can’t afford the add-ons. We allowed our ILS vendors to position managing and acquiring electronic resources as “something extra special” (and thus the plethora of add-ons to manage core business functions etc.) We can see this at play in how many of us actually manage A-Z outside of our ILS. Ditto for the “acquisitions module” too.
  • We’ve missed opportunities to be better organized on consortial purchasing, pricing activism, and stronger leadership towards open access. Again, these have factored into to how the marketplace has left us in a weakened position imho.

E-contracts and licensing figure prominently in our budgets. For many, it even matches or surpasses our entire HR salary budget. We need to be more creative and aggressively engage ourselves in testing alternative configurations in this marketplace.

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Library contracts and journals 101

Dec 01 2010 Published by under How Libraries Work, Tactics

Libraries sign a lot of contracts to get access to content. A LOT. Think of your household and multiply by it by a thousand or more. The bigger the library the more contracts they sign.

Because we do this with so many publishers, organizations, societies, etc. there are other companies set up to manage all these subscriptions, standing orders of book series, and the like. We call them "subscription agents." These agents are so important that they usually give the biggest parties at the largest library conferences. And we all know that's  the true barometer of clout in a profession.

The American Chemical Society, or ACS (there they are again) recently sent out information on next year's journal subsciption costs to libraries. Now, you may have guessed from earlier posts of mine that the ACS can be a little conservative with regards to publishing. Well, they are conservative with respect to ownership of content, copyright, and open access, but with repsect to licenses and pricing they seem to be quite different.

One good example of this is our library agreement with ACS journals. We pay annual costs for both the new content (called the ACS web editions) and the archive (the Legacy Archive.) This two-tier pricing scheme has been in effect for some time. There are other societies that have access to journals set-up differently (one price for all content, or no archive is available) but most commercial publishers have a similar two-tier system in place.  One example of this is JSTOR in the humanities and social sciences.

Another option publishers have is to bundle journals together into packages. Since ACS journals are in high demand, most larger academic libraries have an all titles (or All Publications) package. This is convenient because when a new title is released you don't have to start a new individual subcription.

All well and good - these systems have been in place for some time and usually eliminate unncessary paperwork in renewing subscriptions. Long story short is our state-wide agreement with the ACS ended, and we had to negotiate with them to renew our subscriptions. In our case, the price increase was manageable (maybe 5%). Some of the possible reasons for the price increase, which were explained to me from our ACS rep, are as follows:

1)     Many places received an early payment discount in the past, which was not factored into the base price for next year. So the base price was raised. While this is odd, it wouldn't surprise me if ACS was in fact doing this and/or it wasn't clear on the invoice. I would recommend libraries check their previous invoices to see if this is reason for part of their increase.

2)     ACS added two new titles to the web editions package, so this subsciption was raised accordingly. This seems to fair to me and in line with previous increases.

3)     The ACS legacy archives costs increased for many schools, and in some cases the cost doubled.  In our case this didn't happen but if a school was in a consortial arrangement this may be the reason why the bill is so much higher.

So there you have it. I don't think this is an evil plan from the ACS but rather an opportunistic way to redefine the parameters of the contract without breaking them. When you sign a contract, as long as the terms are obeyed there's little recourse.

I have seen so many confusing pricing deals from the ACS that after this renewal was settled I moved on. I didn't realize until later that some libraries are seeing very large increases, 20% or more. There's more discussion of this on friendfeed.

I predict we will see more of this pricing instability, especially as newer publishing models develop and mature.  Unfortunately this is an area, as we've seen with the Nature situation earlier this year, where information it's not possible to openly  share this information. So speak up, tell your stories, and make some noise when there's a big price increase.  Tell faculty why journals are being cancelled.  In most cases it's not because of content but other reasons. I predict this increase will cause some libraries to cancel some ACS subscriptions, because the increases will be too large for them to sustain and the increase is coming late in the year, when it's harder to absorb a larger hit.

12 responses so far

Followup on Attributor

Nov 08 2010 Published by under Tactics

So the same faculty member who forwarded me the email about a journal publisher's use of the Attributor DMCA-takedown service sent them an email asking them what the deal was. To be clear, the faculty member put the unredacted email on her own weblog; the paragraph below related to that isn't about Book of Trogool.

Again redacted, here is the publisher's response:

Many thanks for your email to my colleague {name redacted}. I am writing to explain further {Publisher}'s work with Attributor.As I am sure you are aware,publishers are finding increased online piracy. Trying to tackle this on an individual basis is very time consuming. Attributor's service helps to eliminate this aspect. When {Publisher} first signed up to, their searches were limited to the top 25 cyberlocker sites such as Rapidshare, Megaupload etc. As {Publisher}'s policy does not allow for its branded content to be hosted on these sites, working with Attributor has this made the "take-down" process much more efficient.

Attributor, are now expanding their services to include an Internet wide search functionality. This raised concerns that take down notices may be sent out to {Publisher} authors who have followed {Publisher}'s policies (and being a RoMEO Green Publisher) of allowing authors to upload their article either pre or post print (i.e. it can have all of the Editorial changes, but must not have the {Publisher} branding or logos etc). By requesting authors to provide {Publisher} with the locations of their own versions, we can ensure that when Attributor's search engines pick up the articles (Attributor's service works on a word association basis currently), a take down notice is not sent.

The Attributor service is currently being used by a number of publishers including Wiley, Macmillan and Pearson to name a few.

One of the other reasons we decided to use the Attributor service is because it could help us detect if an {Publisher} article/chapter has been copied but does not have the full attribution it should have. If this does happen then {Publisher} is in a position to be able to make contact and ensure that the full corrections are made. While {Publisher} does request that copyright is signed over, we still want to protect and support our authors as much as possible, both in terms of disseminating it (lawfully) to as wide an audience as possible and to ensure that authors' works are used correctly.

Subscribers to {Publisher}'s journals include more than 3,000 university libraries worldwide. We have a liberal author charter ({URL redacted}), as well as being RoMeo Green. We have various awards and grants that we offer to authors to help them fund their research and support and further their careers. In addition we encourage global scholarship through partnerships and research awards with CLADEA (Latin America), IAABD (Africa), CEEMAN (Central and Eastern Europe), BMDA (Baltic region), AACSB (Americas) and the Global Foundation for Management Education (GFME).

I was disappointed to learn that you had placed a copy of the original email and made comment on this before receiving a reply from {Publisher} clarifying the matter. On this point I would request that you remove {name}'s contact details from your post so that she is not unduly targeted.

I hope that this has explained our position and intentions behind working with Attributor, if I can be of any further assistance in clarifying further, please do let me know.

Kind regards,
{name redacted}
Rights Manager

So there you have it. Feel any better? ’Cos I don't. Reads just like the RIAA to me.

3 responses so far

Protecting whose copyright?

Nov 02 2010 Published by under Tactics

A faculty friend of mine forwarded me the email following. I have redacted it to remove publisher-identifying information. You can read about the service if you like, though. (I'm not connected with the said service in any way. I think its use in this context borders on the obscene.)

As a [publisher] author, you will know that [publisher] is dedicated to protecting the copyright of your work. For this reason, we use the Attributor service. Attributor automatically searches cyberlockers for unauthorized copies of works or illegal hosting and then issues legally-binding takedown notices. We are increasing Attributor's searches to the full breadth of the internet, to ensure maximum copyright protection.

For this to run as smoothly and efficiently, we are asking that you provide us with (if applicable):

  1. your personal website address
  2. your institutional website address
  3. the website address of your company

This is so we can exclude these sites from the Attributor searches, whilst protecting your copyright. Upon provision of this information, we will of course ensure full data protection.

We look forwards to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

(name redacted)
Rights Assistant

How very carefully this is phrased. The copyright of your work. Why, if one didn't know better, one might think that one actually owned the copyright in one's work, instead of the publisher owning it. And one might think that protecting the publisher's copyright by reinforcing access barriers benefited one, instead of reducing one's readership and reuse.

And how very carefully this little DMCA-hunt (which is what "legally-binding takedown notices" suggests to me this is) is being managed. They don't want to issue takedown notices to authors, because that risks major backlash. This publisher doesn't want authors to realize that they don't own their own work, you see. The above missive suggests that they'll even let rogue Internet-available copies with an author as the bootleg source slide, rather than annoy an author.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out. (If anybody sees anything about response rate on such an email campaign, I'd love to know about it.) I can't imagine they're going to be wholly successful in avoiding authors if they really try RIAA-style blanket takedown tactics. I also can't imagine that they won't cause consternation in a good many college and university legal offices, which will trickle down to faculty with a quickness.

I don't imagine they're that stupid or that desperate, so I'm guessing this is either a fishing expedition to see what kind of response rate they get (and perhaps estimate how many rogue copies of their articles are out there because of authors?) or cover for a campaign targeted mostly at academic samizdat on non-academic-owned websites such as web BBSes and perhaps Mendeley-like sites.

If it's samizdat they're after, I hope they don't think they'll avoid faculty backlash...

17 responses so far

I am the program

Oct 19 2010 Published by under Open Access, Praxis, Tactics

I'm a little chagrined that I have zero activities planned for our university campus this week for Open Access. I know - this is the time! Act now! The enthusiasm seems larger this year than I remember from previous OA week/day events. I'm missing the boat!

So after I got over it I realized: I am the Program.

This week I'll be giving two talks - one was on Monday afternoon to our University Graduate Council on a new software product, SciVal Spotlight, that tracks research performance and helps predict research strengths and emphases. It is Open Access. No, it's a subscription database, and one that is pretty expensive. But it's unique, it builds on librarian expertise supporting the research mission, and should strengthen our relationship with other campus units. There's a short demo if it here if you want to see more. Note that I didn't include any detailed local data in the talk but Elsevier has several whitepapers available that discuss aspects of the software, which are Open Access.

I'll also be giving a guest lecture this Thursday to Jean-Claude Bradley's Chemical Information Retrieval class at Drevel University over the internet. I'll be giving an overview of web 0.0/1.0/2.0/3.0 applications and scholarly communications issues in chemistry. Since it's Open Access week I'll cover this along with publishing, copyright, identity and library issues. This lecture was fun to prepare and thanks to Jean-Claude for asking me to offer my perspective on this.

I was also planning to talk to my reference colleagues this week about reference management tools, specifically comparing established licensed products like Refworks and EndNote with newer, freely available versions like Zotero and Mendeley. This talk is being pushed back to early next month. While this may seem like a odd topic for Open Access week, I've believed for some time these tools are going to become increasingly important channels for scholarly communications and information sharing. I also believe that researchers will need to use multiple reference management tools over the course of their career, and become facile in converting files and moving between products as their research and personal networks expand and change.   

While it's great to promote Open Access, there are a bunch of other issues tied up with it: copyright, author rights and archives and funding mandates for researchers to deposit results. There are many ways to reach faculty, staff, and administrators and make them aware of the deeper issues lurking underneath the concept of Open Access and how the library can help them.

As a program planner the most difficult part of my job in scholarly communications is creating programming that faculty in all areas (humanities, social science and science) can relate to. Invariably a program emphasis that excites scientists will be inappropriate or of little interest to humanities and some social science faculty. So programming can be effective but also limiting in some ways.

So talk to faculty about how they are publishing their research, especially if there is new journal being formed or moved from another campus, a new research initiative that needs to know more about library collections, a student or faculty member that needs more information about publishers and editors for their work.  Tell the administration about new tools to better identify campus research strengths, and mandates from funding agencies that affect research activity and support, and how the libraries can support these efforts. I can't guarantee that all of these conversations will be successful, or that everyone who hears what you have to say will be excited about it. You may have to build supporters one faculty member, one program one person at a time. What may work on a large research campus may not be effective for a small college or specialized technical school.  The important thing is to start a conversation.

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Penny wise, systemically foolish

Sep 02 2010 Published by under Open Access, Tactics

On the Twitter-river this morning, a tidbit bobbed by about an academic library told to earn revenue by renting out its meeting spaces to campus constituencies. (I decline to name the library lest the tidbit-teller land in difficulties.)

Bluntly: the just-mentioned suggestion is stunningly myopic and does not heed mission. For the record: among the mission-driven tasks of the library is the equalization of resources among its patrons, the strong resistance to creating means tests for access. That goes as much for meeting space as for any other resource.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick commented, "The entire university system has become a demented revenue generation machine, with one branch being extorted by another and looking for ways to pass those charges on." I think that is just exactly right. What the accountants who often make this bizarrerie happen don't ever seem to consider (nor does anybody in authority ever lay at their door) is the overhead costs, the friction created. Is the added effort of shuffling money around internally really creating more money, or anything else of value, for the institution? Whom does it block from the action? Wouldn't the whole system run better, cheaper, and more fairly with less money-shuffling friction?

This gives me to think seriously about some of the trends in open-access-space. Barbara Fister crystallized some of my internal disquiet in her discussion of markets versus missions, and I recommend that post (at the risk of self-aggrandizement; it links back here) as a complement to this one.

By way of example, consider the arXiv. In contrast to nearly all voluntary green open-access efforts, it's wildly successful. (In fact, I would say that inappropriate generalization from the arXiv community has been one of green open access's worst bêtes noires. For all the "physics envy" noise, faculty generally won't do things just because the physicists do.) It's a feather in Cornell's libraries' cap.

But prestige and success aren't enough to guarantee underwriting from its host institution. The arXiv is now asking for support from other libraries. To give credit where it's due, many other libraries are ponying up. (Gee, I don't see you on the list, Yale University Libraries. Got no physicists, mathematicians, or computer scientists? No, no, no, I know you're just open-access slackers… and I for one will continue to call you out on it until you stop slacking.)

To me, this is the library-space-rental problem writ large. It's undoubtedly cheaper overall if Cornell pays for arXiv and its peer libraries make analogous investments in complementary services. It costs real money in overhead to create the kind of "sustainability" envisioned by many experts, in which services like arXiv constantly have to run on the fundraising hamster wheel, and libraries have to budget not for one service that they offer, but for tiny bits of many services that they contribute to.

Moreover, I see more incentive for cost-containment in the closely-owned services model than in the hamster-wheel model. Let us postulate a Cornell University Libraries that suddenly discovers that they can bring in external money for the arXiv. Why contain costs? Why not just raise membership fees? Whereas if the money comes from inside, efficiency is a much greater consideration. To be sure, efficiency becomes service-starvation when taken too far, but from an overall-system perspective, isn't efficiency what we want?

Closely-owned services are an even harder question for smaller libraries than for research libraries, of course. Their consortia likely have to be part of the answer, and we may have to consider hybrid sustainability programs, in which small bugs pay into a fund that the big bugs with the staff to run programs can draw some support from.

Maybe I'm mad, maybe I'm naïve, but I have to hope—have to believe—we can find better paths, more system-aware and less myopic paths, to open-access sustainability than the everlasting hamster wheel of fundraising and friction-heavy money-shuffling. And I do still believe that part of the answer is assessing investment and calling out slackers (YALE).

One response so far

Open access, open data... open discourse

Aug 26 2010 Published by under Metablogging, Open Access, Tactics

At the end of "Who Owns Our Work?" I pointed out that content vendors no longer own the discourse about their products and about scholarly communication generally. (It didn't fit the article very well—I swear it made more sense in the presentation—but it struck me as important enough to shoehorn in anyway.)

JSTOR found this out in a big way yesterday, as it got egg on its interface (points to Inside Higher Ed for that wonderful headline) and got called on it in public, promptly and bluntly, on Meredith Farkas's blog and elsewhere.

Now, here's a dirty little library secret for you: we librarians complain about software and vendors all the time among ourselves. Constantly. Most of the time, all that complaining doesn't amount to a hill of beans, even when it's smart and cogent. Vendors rarely hear it, and when they do hear it, they don't feel any particular pressure to respond. It's not as though libraries can walk away from them, and it's not as though our grousing makes them lose face.

Except now it does. At least a few library bloggers and groups of librarians among the online public have enough weight to make a difference.

Consider also California vs. Nature Publishing Group. The probably inevitable conclusion has been reached: the parties are going back into a smoke-filled back room to hack out an agreement. Even so, words have been said that cannot be unsaid. California yanked the curtain away from the Wizard of Nature's corner, and quite a few people saw and heeded. This, too, is a shift in discourse.

Making the open-access case to researchers usually means trying to induce a specific lightbulb moment: the moment when they realize that the agreements they sign with publishers mean that they can't do what they thought they could, what they think they should be able to do—whether it's accessing an article they want or putting it on electronic reserve; republishing an article they wrote in a book or putting it on the Web. I get a sense that the lightbulb's gone off for quite a few more people lately. Look at the second comment here, if you will. Sure, it gets a couple of material facts about the JSTOR situation wrong. Still. I didn't think I'd live to see the day when an emeritus professor of European literature, for heaven's sake, would froth at the mouth about scholarly publishing and access!

On the data side of things, Climategate and the Marc Hauser case are leading to calls for open, or at least opener, data. And with regard to peer review, many eyes make bugs shallow, even in the humanities. The discourse shifts even a little more… it's not where we want it to be, but it's moving in good directions.

So what should we do, we librarians, we folk of all stripes working toward open access and open data? How about a third leg on the stool, open discourse? Let's throw open our smoke-filled rooms, the way California did. Let's duel in press releases as well as at negotiating tables. Let's take the ARL's excellent advice and stop signing NDAs. Let's throw our acquisitions numbers out there for all to see (and yes, this means consortia too, reluctant though they may well be to disclose). Let's slug all this out. Openly. On the web. Because we can already see it makes a difference. Really, what do we librarians, the original advocates of freely-available information in a civic cause, have to hide?

Recognizing my own significant bias in this matter, I do still want to suggest also that the library profession recognize good library bloggers and social-media adopters as a strategic asset. Today JSTOR, tomorrow the world? More lightbulbs, more places? This course of action is not without risk to balance reward, of course; good library bloggers turn their laser eyes on their own profession as well as on vendors, because good bloggers are generally honest even when honesty hurts. On balance, though, aren't good bloggers worth protecting? Certainly from vendors, but how about from their own workplaces too? ARL, ALA, this is for you. Library blogs are shutting down and going underground, and as my own blogging history demonstrates, library employers themselves are often the proximate cause. If you want to keep this strategic asset, you need to help protect it.

(All of this is also true of good academic bloggers; adjuncts and those with young careers could particularly do with some protection. I just don't happen to have any particular leverage to exert in that realm.)

For my part, I'm trying to walk my own talk. In Book of Trogool's short history, I've come within an inch of going dark two or three times. Book of Trogool is harder to keep up than Caveat Lector was, because its subject matter is much more circumscribed (which taxes my powers of invention some days) and because I'm eternally, unhappily aware that BoT is being watched with suspicion and distrust from within my own circles.

Even so. I saw a lightbulb flicker on here on this very blog in the comments the other day. I connect researchers with their librarians pretty regularly on FriendFeed and Twitter. I'm reaching the circle of scientists on Scientopia by being an active part of that circle—and no, I don't proselytize open access behind the scenes, of course I don't, but I build credibility for it as I build credibility for myself. None of this is part of my job, but it's part of my work, if you catch the distinction.

So scarred and bruised though I am, afraid though I am, I keep working, working toward open access, open data… and open discourse.

7 responses so far

Where are libraries in data curation?

Aug 12 2010 Published by under How Libraries Work, Tactics

The Association for Research Libraries has a pretty good report out (I consider it JISC-quality, which is saying something for me) on where its member libraries are on e-science, cyberinfrastructure, data curation, whatever you want to call it.

I already knew most of what was in the report proper owing to having read the preliminary report (what, me, obsessed?), so the good stuff for me was in the case studies. I loved this blunt assessment from UCSD (paragraphing and emphasis mine):

At present, there are three primary pressure points related to e-science/e-research support at UCSD: turf, money, and interest. In reverse order, with the exception of a few very high-end data generators amongst the faculty, e-science/research lifecycle management is not high on the list of faculty concerns.

  • The NSF’s best efforts notwithstanding, most researchers, at least locally, have been slow to wake to the data challenge. They seem to think, to the extent they think about it at all, that they’ve already got it covered or that they lack the funds to cover it and, therefore, it should be somebody else’s problem.
  • As a consequence, this campus at least, has committed funds for providing the infrastructure and services necessary to curate data for the long-term, in the hope, frankly, that sufficient faculty (and students, but mostly faculty) will avail themselves of both to make the enterprise self-sustaining. That’s the good news; the bad news is that it has committed only those funds and only with the understanding that the enterprise will become self-sustaining. Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen of course.
  • Finally, there is an awfully large number of parties interested in what remains a still-ill-defined problem space. The associated ‘jostling’ makes calculating the right mix of those parties in the solution space doubly challenging.

What I hear through the grapevine suggests that the above is true at many more places than UCSD.

I would add to this that "self-sustaining" is an incidence of the "them that has the gold gets the services" anti-pattern. Grant-funded research does not produce all data worthy of note. I'm all in favor of earmarks from grants, don't mistake me—I just worry quite a lot that data services will exclude all but the well-funded.

As I read through the case studies, what struck me was that these are stories of pioneering individuals given lots of freedom and enough support to use it. I applaud those individuals (indeed, I know several of them personally), and I love what they're doing. I just—well, I'm a worrywart. I worry about them too. They're heroes, and just as in programming, one can't sustain an enterprise indefinitely on heroes. (We tried that, as I am rather tired of saying, with IRs and their maverick managers. It didn't work, unless by "work" you mean "burn out good people uselessly.")

So when do we move past the hero model of data curation? When will it be mainstreamed? I genuinely wonder.

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Disrupting with data

Aug 12 2010 Published by under Tactics

Fellow Scientopian DrugMonkey exults at the downfall of "supplemental materials" in a favorite journal. Also-fellow-Scientopian Christina wonders if that's an outlier or a trend harbinger.

Let's sit back and think about this. (What, you thought I was going to panic? Or go all spittle-flecked Data Are The Future How Dare They rabid? Nah, I'm good.)

One conclusion that jumps out at me is that the journal in question discovered that its processes didn't handle data well. This doesn't surprise me; handling data well is rather difficult, especially in these wild-west standardsless days. Rather than learn how, the journal bailed on it altogether. As a librarian with a strong interest in data management, that cheers me up remarkably, and I dearly hope more journals follow suit. As a librarian with a strong interest in Clayton-Christensen-disrupting the current journal universe, it cheers me even more.

See, one of the lesser-known bits of Christensen's market-disruption pattern is that the disrupting force needs to start out by "competing against nonconsumption." You can't take on the incumbent on its own turf; the incumbent will eat your lunch and you for dessert. (What's the lesson for institutional repositories here? Starting with peer-reviewed journal articles was a doomed strategy, that's what. Those are the crown jewels. The incumbents own those.) You have to find something else to work with, something unused or underserved that the incumbents turn up their august noses at—a low-end market, a different raw material—establish a market beachhead there, and expand your beachhead over time.

Well, isn't it interesting that a journal just turned up its nose at research data. Why, yes. Yes, it is. And now perhaps you see why I think that was a strategic mistake by the journal. Short-term, sure, it'll make their lives easier. Long-term, it gives us disruptive librarians an in, if we've got the will to take it.

Another interesting tidbit is how researchers were using supplemental materials to bolster their arguments. They weren't reluctantly turning this stuff over to the journal because the journal or their funder insisted. They thought their data helped their case—even, as DrugMonkey darkly hints, if only by snowing reviewers under with hard-to-interpret evidence. Are they going to stop thinking this suddenly? I wonder.

The paradigm case for data citation standards is giving credit to third parties for data they produced that you used. I wonder if that's the wrong case, large though it looms in the minds of nervous researchers who don't want to be scooped. Surely what's more likely at first is researchers wanting to cite their own data in a publication, wherever those data happen to be housed. That's how one gets around the stunt this journal just pulled, if one truly believes in one's data.

And this, Peter Murray-Rust, is partly why I believe institutions are not out of the data picture yet. The quickest, lowest-friction data-management service may well reside at one's institution. It's not to be found at a picky, red-tape-encumbered, heavily quality-controlled disciplinary data service on the ICPSR model, which is the model most disciplinary services I know of use. It's certainly possible, even likely, that data will migrate through institutions to disciplinary services over time, and I have no problem with that whatever—but when the pressure is on to publish, I suspect researchers will come to a local laissez-faire service before they'll put in the work to burnish up what they've got for the big dogs. (Can institutional data services disrupt the big-dog disciplinary data services? Interesting question. I don't know. I think a lot depends on how loosely-coupled datasets can be. Loose coupling works better for some than others.)

Finally, of course, we have further indication that the peer-review system is breaking down under load. (Professor In Training has an amusing growl that is yet further indication.) I haven't anything to say about that that Christina isn't better-placed to talk about; I'm just pointing to yet more evidence.

6 responses so far

Assessing libraries and open access

Jun 29 2010 Published by under Open Access, Tactics

Much is murky in open access, but this at least is clear: academic libraries have committed different amounts of money and staff toward an open-access future, from a flat zero up to hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth.

It's the zeroes and near-zeroes that concern me (why, hello there, Yale, and hello again, Yale), though I also believe quite strongly that libraries that have made significant investments of money, staff, and/or political capital should be recognized and praised for it.

The difficulty here is that it isn't just the scale of open-access investment that varies. The nature of investment varies as well. Some libraries pour resources into their institutional repositories, while others have one but don't support it well (or indeed even adequately), and still others don't have one at all. Some libraries have flourishing open-access publishing programs. Some libraries have a plethora of memberships with open-access publishers, while others have a few strategic ones, and still others none whatever. Some libraries have dedicated staff to questions of scholarly communication, at various heights in the hierarchy; others have not. A few libraries have open-access author-fee funds.

At this early date, I don't think it wise to constrain experimentation and local decision-making by assessing only certain sorts of open-access investment. (I am aware I differ in this from other open-access advocates, and that bothers me not in the slightest.) Institutional repositories make more sense at some institutions than others, as do author-fee funds and almost any other intervention one could name. Likewise, we want to encourage new kinds of open-access advocacy, such as collaborations between libraries and university presses to make more work open access, or work toward campus-wide mandates; nailing down a laundry list of interventions too soon might damage library incentive to innovate.

I do think it's time and past that academic libraries should be evaluated on the scale of their open-access investment, however. Because all academic libraries benefit when library resources are usefully reallocated to open access, it behooves academic libraries as a group to discourage freeloading. Naming freeloaders in a nationwide assessment context should do beautifully, because like it or not, libraries pay significant attention to their position in such rankings. It would also be useful for academic-library decisionmakers to have a general sense of how libraries are allocating open-access resources, so that they can gauge their own commitments and shift them as seems appropriate.

In the United States, two organizations dominate nationwide academic-library assessment: the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and and Research Libraries division of ALA. It has sometimes been noted, and not favorably, that the criteria these organizations use to assess libraries are mired in last-century practices. I suggest that assessing commitment of resources to open access is an important way to shift that perception usefully, while helping academic libraries to make smart choices about their own open-access investments, and employing judicious peer pressure to increase the size of everyone's open-access pie.

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