Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ScienceOnline'09: Open Access Publishing

After a fantastic Friday afternoon behind-the-scenes tour of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh, ScienceOnline'09 kicked off to a great start Saturday morning with a session on the present and future state of Open Access (OA) publishing, led by Bill Hooker and Bjoern Brembs. Although I (obviously) didn't live blog this year's conference, I took copious notes and will share them as is (well, with erroneous spellings corrected...).

  • Peter Suber gave up tenure to promote OA full-time; defines OA literature as "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions"
  • online makes OA possible
  • fewer than half of OA journals charge fees but because of BMC and PLoS, that is the model most people know
  • OA archives can be searched as one virtual archive using OAIster
  • ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories) is a list of the green road to OA; place to go to find repository to put your work in
  • benefits [of repositories? OA? notes unclear - sorry]: maximizes research efficiency; assessment, monitoring & management; scalability; return on (public) investment
  • OA citation advantage is a little controversial, but evidence is mounting
  • part of the overlooked argument is scalability: untapped potential of text mining
  • iHOP (Information Hyperlinked Over Proteins): pulls sentences out of literature and builds long paragraph of disconnected statements to reorder into brief summary of field; only has PubMed abstracts to mine, not full text
  • we have an overwhelming amount of information available
  • you can't read 35,000+ papers or even 3800+ reviews but your computer can; it is possible for it to pull out info and aggregate
  • GenBank is a great example of what public, open data can do; there now exists a community-wide expectation of openness around gene sequencing
  • librarian salaries are keeping pace with CPI but not journal prices
  • median annual serials expenditures in 2006: $3m-$12m
  • earliest name for OA was Free Online Scholarship
  • Bjoern couldn't get access to his own article because his institution's library didn't subscribe to the journal
  • food for thought: if overnight the journal publishing industry collapsed, how would you restructure? if you were king for the day, how would you redo the system?
  • if the system is faulty, why are so many TA journals (traditional, subscription-based) being created by existing publishers? PROFIT
  • societies are also proliferating TA journals; want to serve members, but TA journals rob members of work and money; must acknowledge that while some membership dues include journal subscription, libraries are still required to purchase
  • journal quality (i.e., impact factor) proxy for article quality simply does not work [I was amazed at how many people in the room did not seem to realize this; quite worrisome]
  • two problems researchers face: 1) how to get research out and used?, and 2) how to assess quality of research?
  • right now we are trying to do this together, but ideally in the future needs to be separate
  • everybody wants to publish and everybody has to find a place to publish even when it's bad because it is necessary to placate university/institutional demands
  • PLoS Biology was never designed to make money but to promote OA and prove that OA journals can be competitive; PLoS One is beginning to make money and subsidizes the other PLoS titles; standard publishing also relies on making money on some "work horse" journals to subsidize the costs of others
  • if Einstein can be wrong about quantum physics, we can certainly be wrong in our assessment of individual papers
  • people want to read their fields' top-level publications not others
  • scholarly enterprise of science doesn't make profit; someone else - often publishers - make profit
  • could pay peer-reviewers and archive publications in own libraries' archives/repositories, which makes them accessible to all
  • majority of Nobel-winning work rejected from top-tier journals (anecdotal)
  • when cost comparisons are made, which is the most efficient way to subsidize publishing: libraries paying subscriptions, or scientists paying OA costs...?
  • if a researcher has an annual grant of $250,000, likely not going to balk at paying $1600 to publish in BMC because his/her research would then be open and accessible
  • if there is a wash between subscription costs vs. OA charges, then why not shift to OA?
  • would shift to OA only force more grant-subsidized research and marginalize non-grant funded researchers? not necessarily because fees may be waived
  • what happens if OA publications go under; how is content accessed?; issue of OA publication going under no different than any other e-journal going under, as libraries don't own electronic content anyway; libraries have plans in place to prevent complete loss of access: LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, Portico; many OA journals/articles also archived in PubMed Central and other repositories

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