Tag Archives: copyright

Book Review: Scholarly Communication – what everyone needs to know®

As we wind down towards the last days of 2018, thoughts go to gifts for family and friends. Here, as our last minute gift idea to you, is a book that should be under the tree of every scholarly communication aficionado.

The following book review appeared in Research Fortnight on 15th September 2018 with the title ‘New readers start here‘. It was edited by John Whitfield and is reproduced here with permission.

Book Review

It is odd to be reviewing a book that stresses the importance of “positive reviews in…prestigious publications” to potential sales and publishers’ reputations. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that Scholarly Communication: What everyone needs to know, by Rick Anderson, is excellent.

Scholarly communication is a complex and fast-growing area. Even those working in it find keeping up to date a challenge. The challenge is much greater for those working more widely in research and academia, let alone the general public. The market is ripe for an understandable, generalist overview that explains what scholarly communication is and why anyone should care.

To address the latter point, Anderson notes in his introduction that “there are issues related to scholarly communication about which it would make sense for all of us to know something”. His argument is that decisions made worldwide on health, environment, economics and so on are all underpinned by academic research, reported through the scholarly communication system.

Anderson does a masterful job of distilling the stakeholders, issues and facts into an understandable whole. The discussions about open access and controversies and problems are handled sensitively; a challenge given the wide range of perspectives in this area.

The chapter on copyright is particularly helpful. This is a fundamental aspect of almost all scholarly communication and an area where many people are unsure. In clear language, Anderson explains fair use and fair dealing, licensing, the Creative Commons licences used in open-access publication, orphan works and patents. To do so without overwhelming or boring the reader is something of an achievement.

Anderson’s writing is eloquent and his explanations are clear and precise. Other highlights include discussions of how researchers use e-books, the projects from Google and the HathiTrust repository to digitise books, and an excellent description of how digitisation is allowing libraries to share their special and rare collections with a wider audience.

The book is structured as a series of questions with short answers of one to five pages. This format invites readers to dip in and out of the sections they are interested in. Mostly this approach is successful, although it does result in some repetition.

Anderson is also a victim, in a small way, of the very dynamism that he aims to capture. The volatility of scholarly communication means that most of the specialist discussion tends to occur in outlets that publish quickly, such as mega journals and blogs. The timescale for a regular journal article, which can take a couple of years to get from submission to publication, is too long and risks the contents losing relevance. Books have similarly long lead times; coupled with the dynamic nature of scholarly communication, this makes some out-of-dateness inevitable.

For example, in his chapter on metrics Anderson notes that “the universe of altmetrics is a highly dynamic one, and products and services…seem to be born and die nearly every month”. This is evidenced within that very chapter: among the companies offering research metrics, it mentions Thomson Reuters (whose intellectual property and science business was sold to private equity and changed its name to Clarivate Analytics in October 2016), Delicious (bought by Pinboard in June 2017) and Plum Analytics, which has kept its name but was bought by Elsevier in February 2017.

As the associate dean for collections and scholarly communication at the University of Utah, Anderson makes for a well-qualified author, although the text does reflect his North American perspective. Generally this is not a problem, although a statement such as “There is a professional organisation for university press publishing: the American Association of University Presses” implies, inaccurately, that the rest of the world lacks such organisations.

This is a vast topic, and clearly decisions needed to be made over what to include and omit. Some omissions are easier to justify than others. I would have liked a deeper exploration of the commercial academic publishing market, as this drives much of the activity in the open-access space. The lack of this might reflect the level of disagreement over even basic definitions in scholarly communication, something Anderson acknowledges.

But that’s a minor quibble. Given the need for a book such as this, it would not be surprising if it became compulsory reading for training courses in scholarly communication.

Published 18 December 2018
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License

Relax everyone, Plan S is just the beginning of the discussion

If you are working (or even vaguely interested) in the scholarly communication space then you will not have failed to hear about the release of ‘Plan S’ last week. There has been a slew of reports and commentary (at the end of the sister blog “Most Plan S principles are not contentious”). Here’s another (hopefully useful) addition to the mix.

The document identifies the key target as being: After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.” There are 10 supporting principles to this statement.

The plan is specifically engineered to force the hand of publishers and academics to really embrace (begrudgingly adopt?) change. Personally I welcome a bit of disruption. It will be no surprise to anyone that I consider the policies that arose from Finch to have failed. But this new development has, understandably, given a few people the jitters.

First up, and if this is all you read remember this, Plan S is a statement of principle. Until we see the actual policies for our funding bodies everything is speculation. And while UKRI is one of the 11 13* funding bodies that has signed up to Plan S, it has said that the report from the review of the OA policy is unlikely to appear before the second half of next year.

[*changed on 14 October]

The reassuring part

So the first thing to say is – don’t panic. We have some time. The second is that fully half of the 10 principles are not contentious – see the sister blog. A further two may have some implications for institutional administration and possibly for managing budgets, but are again fairly non contentious from an academic, and mostly even from an institutional, perspective.

And then there were three

So we are down to three principles that need a little more unpacking. They relate to the retention of copyright and the ability choose where to publish. It is worth looking at these in more detail, and consider the information contained in the accompanying document “cOAlition S: Making Open Access a Reality by 2020: A Declaration of Commitment by Public Research Funders”. As it happens, we are already well on our way with many of these principles in the UK anyway. Let’s take a closer look.

Retaining copyright

Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin declaration.

With my OA advocacy hat on I agree with this statement. There is no need for a publisher to hold full copyright over a work. They are able to operate in a commercial environment with a first publication right. Currently the system means that researchers must apply for permission to reuse work of their own if writing a new piece of work. There is a significant side income stream for publishers in relation to copyright ‘management’. Publishers claim they need copyright so they can protect author’s rights, but there appear to be few examples of a publisher protecting, say the integrity of an author’s work rather than the income stream from the work.

And this is not the first statement of this kind. The University of California released on 21 June their Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication which states as one of the principles: “No copyright transfers. Our authors shall be allowed to retain copyright in their work and grant a Creative Commons Attribution license of their choosing”.

However as a person responsible for implementing policy within a large research institution I can see some issues that will need to be managed.

For a start, currently, in the vast majority of cases, while researchers own the copyright of their work, they sign it over to the publisher of their articles. As it happens the retention of copyright is a fundamental principle of the UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL) which allows institutions to provide a REF compliant green OA route while allowing authors to retain their rights.

The alternative is to negotiate (as the sector) with the publishing industry to ensure that the publishing agreements that each researcher signs retains the author’s copyright. This would also require a huge advocacy and education programme amongst our community. For an excellent analysis of why there remains such a high level of confusion and misunderstanding about copyright amongst our academic community, I strongly recommend Dr Lizzie Gadd’s guest post to the Scholarly Kitchen Academics and Copyright Ownership: Ignorant, Confused or Misled?

The requirement for an open license is also potentially an issue for some disciplines. While many science based disciplines are not concerned with a requirement to publish under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence, there are members of our Arts, Humanities and Social Science communities who only feel comfortable with a CC-BY-NC-ND license. It is the Non Derivative aspect of the license that is of greatest concern and has been the subject of considerable discussion.

Restriction on ability to publish in a hybrid journal

The “hybrid” model of publishing is not compliant with the above requirements.

The nuclear interpretation of this statement is that funders won’t pay for hybrid at all. There are several precedents for this. Several UK institutions have stopped supporting payment for hybrid. London School of Tropical Diseases and Medicine are now restricted to fully open access journals only. University of St Andrews will no longer be able to pay APCs for articles via the ‘gold’ route in hybrid (subscriptions-based) journals. Their normal criteria is if the journal is listed in DOAJ. A 2016 analysis showed this is a common position.

I have written extensively about hybrid mostly arguing against it. But I do support the position that we need to walk carefully here. In our analysis at Cambridge on what might be seen as a ‘progressive’ publisher we noted there is an extremely long tail of society and smaller journals that we don’t publish in much but that collectively are a not insignificant number of papers. Let’s just say that learned societies have some way to go on their open access journey. But if we were to prevent our researchers from being able to publish in these journals this could well deeply affect the learned societies.

That’s why I welcome the statement in the preamble document that ‘transformative’ type of agreements which include offsetting arrangements will be acceptable under certain circumstances. The interpretation of this statement by UKRI into their policy will determine which publishers will be acceptable or otherwise.

Restriction on choice of publication outlet

In case such high quality Open Access Platforms or journals do not yet exist, the Funders will jointly provide incentives and support to establish these.

This one is potentially problematic because of the perception there will be a restriction on choice of publication options. But that is not necessarily the case.

The publishing sector adopted the language of ‘a threat to academic freedom’ this year in relation to the question of funders refusing to pay for hybrid open access. Academic freedom refers to freedom of expression not freedom of choice of publication outlet. This language is again being used by  the publishing sector in light of Plan S.

This language is now also being used by the academic sector. In an impassioned post European scientists state that Plan S means researchers are “forbidden to publish in subscription journals, including in hybrid ones, where OA option is available at an extra cost.” This is simply not the case. As described above, not all hybrid is necessarily off the table.

The other point that seems to be missed is under Plan S, authors can publish wherever they choose if they deposit the Author’s Accepted Manuscript in an institutional repository under a CC-BY license with a zero month embargo. We are halfway there already in the UK where authors generally are already depositing their work to an institutional repository for REF compliance. The part that requires attention then goes back to the question of the authors retaining copyright over their own work.

The question of access to open access publishing options is more complicated. There are many disciplines in which there are very few open access journals at all. These will need specific support especially initially in relation to these policies. Even then this is going to be tricky because establishing a new journal takes time. There are a few precedents, the Wellcome Trust launched Wellcome Open Research in 2016 based on the F1000 platform, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation followed suit using the same platform in 2017. But these are unlikely to reassure many of our researchers.

The elephant in the room

There are some serious concerns with Plan S which relate to the equity issue of moving to a pay to publish ecosystem. These are valid and need to be discussed in the broader context of the open research debate. But that is not the theme of the majority of concerns from the academic sector. Those worries about freedom of choice to publish point to the real problem – what is attached to publication.

The problem is not Plan S, or open access per se. Publishing in specific journals or with specific publishers is primarily an issue of career prospects rather than of disseminating the work, and has been for a long time. When researchers say that the right to publish in an outlet of their choosing threatens ‘academic freedom’ they are referring to their ability to subsequently succeed in future job applications, promotions and grant applications. It is the academic reward system in which everyone is trapped.

Indeed the Plan S preamble refers to a “misdirected reward system which puts emphasis on the wrong indicators (e.g. journal impact factor)”. It commits to “fundamentally revise the incentive and reward system of science” and suggests that the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) as a starting point.

This is the real conversation we need to be having. It is not an easy one to address, but for those who have been arguing for the need to have a serious, international, sector wide conversation about this, Plan S offers a welcome shot in the arm.

Published 12 September 2018
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License

Scare campaigns, we have seen a few

In a sister post, I identified the latest scare offensive in the ongoing discussions around open access as: ‘restricting choice of publication’. In this, there is an implied threat from editorial boards and publishers that if the UK Scholarly Communication Licence (UKSCL) were to be in place, then these journals would refuse to publish articles from affected researchers.

In this post I want to look at other threats that have been or are lurking in the shadows in the open access debate. The first is tied fairly closely to the ‘restricting choice of publication’ threat.

The new scare – threats to ‘Academic Freedom’

The term ‘Academic Freedom’ comes up a fair bit in discussions about open access. In his tweet sent during  the Researcher to Reader conference*, one of my Advisory Board colleagues Rick Anderson tweeted this comment:

“Most startling thing said to me in conversation at the #R2RConf:
“I wonder how much longer academic freedom will be tolerated in IHEs.” (Specific context: authors being allowed to choose where they publish.)

In this blog I’d like to pick up on the ‘Academic Freedom’ part of the comment (which is not Rick’s, he was quoting).

Academic Freedom, according to a summary in the Times Higher Education is  primarily that “Academic freedom means that both faculty members and students can engage in intellectual debate without fear of censorship or retaliation”.

This definition was based on the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Statement on Academic Freedom which includes, quite specifically, “full freedom in research and in the publication of results”.

Personally I read that as meaning academics should be allowed to publish, not that they have full freedom in choosing where.

Rick has since contacted the AAUP to ask for clarification on this topic. Last Friday, he tweeted that the AAUP has declined to revisit the 1940 statement to clarify the ‘freedom in publication’ statement in light of evolution of scholarly communication since 1940.

The reason why the Academic Freedom/ ‘restricting choice of publication’ threat(s) is so concerning to the research community has changed over time. In the past it was essential to be able to publish in specific outlets because colleagues would only read certain publications. Those publications were effectively the academic ‘voice’. However today, with online publication and search engines this argument no longer holds.

What does matter however is the publication in certain journals is necessary because of the way people are valued and rewarded. The problem is not open access, the problem is the reward system to which we are beholden. And the commercial publishing industry is fully aware of this.

So let’s be clear. Academic Freedom is about freedom of expression rather than freedom of publication outlet and ties into Robert Merton’s 1942 norms of science which are:

  • “communalism”: all scientists should have common ownership of scientific goods (intellectual property), to promote collective collaboration; secrecy is the opposite of this norm.
  • universalism: scientific validity is independent of the sociopolitical status/personal attributes of its participants
  • disinterestedness: scientific institutions act for the benefit of a common scientific enterprise, rather than for the personal gain of individuals within them
  • organized scepticism: scientific claims should be exposed to critical scrutiny before being accepted: both in methodology and institutional codes of conduct.

If a publisher is preventing a researcher from publishing in a journal based on their funding or institutional policy rather than the content of the work being submitted then this is entirely in contravention of all of Robert Merton’s norms of science. But the publisher is not, as it happens, threatening the Academic Freedom of that author.

While we are here, let’s have a quick look at some of the other threats to researchers invoked in the last few years.

Historic scare 1 – Embargoes are necessary for sustainability

In the past the publishing industry has tried to claim research on half-life usage of research articles as ‘evidence’ for the “green open access = cancellations” argument. This sounds plausible except for the lack of any causal link between green open access policies and library subscriptions. The argument here is that embargoes are necessary for the ‘sustainability’ (read profit) of commercial publishers.

We should note the British Academy’s own 2014 finding that “libraries for the most part thought that embargoes for author-accepted manuscripts had little effect on their acquisition policies” and that any real cancellation issue was “the rising cost of journals at a time of budgetary constraint for libraries. If that continues, journals will be cancelled anyway, whether posted manuscripts are available or not.”

My debunking of this claim dates back to 2015 although it did raise its head again loudly in 2017 during discussions around the UKSCL. It is not uncommon for a researcher to express concern about their chosen journal’s viability because of open access. The message has been successfully pushed through to the research community.

Historic scare 2 – The need for full copyright

Copyright is supposed to protect the content creator. The argument I hear repeatedly about why publishers need authors to sign their copyright over to publishers is so they can ‘protect the author’s rights’. But when people sign their copyright away to another entity, copyright becomes a purely economic tool for financial exploitation by that entity.

There is no doubt publishers protect their own copyright. Indeed owning it allows maximum freedom to make money from the content (and prevent anyone else from doing so). But strangely whenever I have asked for examples of publishers stepping in to protect an author’s rights as the result of a copyright transfer agreement, there has been no response.

However it is not uncommon for a researcher to tell you that this is one of the protections that publishers offer them. I defer to Lizzie Gadd here who has published thoughts around the distinctions between copyright culture and scholarly culture. She notes how many academics have been led by publishers to believe that the current copyright culture supports scholarly culture to a far greater extent than it actually does.

Historic scare 3 – Press embargoes

The HEFCE open access policy requires the collection and deposit of work within three months of acceptance (although the first two years of the policy pushed this timeline out to three months from publication).  This means that work is deposited into repositories, and the metadata that exists – the title, the authors, the intended journal and the abstract – is made available before publication. The work itself (and we are talking about the Author’s Accepted Manuscript, not the final Version of Record) is under an infinite embargo which will be set when the work is published. This process has its own problems, discussed elsewhere.

In 2016 there was a blow up about the metadata about an article being in the public domain before publication. Our office received multiple concerned calls by researchers asking us to remove records from the repository until publication because of fear that having that metadata available was in contravention of the embargo rules. They were concerned the journal would refuse to publish their paper. When we investigated, not only was this not publisher policy but if anyone had been threatened in this manner the publishers we contacted requested we forward the information so they could follow up.

It demonstrates how spooked academics can be by their editors/journals/publishers.

Exhausting

This latest ‘restricting choice of publication’ threat is just another in a long line of implied threats that the scholarly communication community is having to manage. Each time a new one looms we need to identify the source, develop evidence and information to counter the threat and try and work with our research community to reassure them.

Between this, and the huge amount of time we have to spend identifying dates of publication or managing publisher and funder policies or keeping track of the funds that are being spent in this space, we are exhausted.

But perhaps that’s the point?

Published 15 March 2018
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License

* Note: In the past two years I have written a precis up about the Researcher to Reader event with summaries, see: ‘It is all a bit of a mess’ Observations from Researcher to Reader conference and ‘Be nice to each other’ – the second Researcher to Reader conference. Time pressure means I may not be able to do that this year, but see the Twitter hashtag for the event.