Blog posts

A (publisher) problem shared is a problem halved… new community resource

The needs of the OA community have not and are not being met by established publishers, causing OA/SCM teams many headaches in their daily tasks. In a previous role I began to record the various problems I encountered, and I’ve been continuing this work with colleagues at Imperial. Our list currently contains 106 issues with 70 different publishers. Some publishers are only listed once in the document, whilst some repeat offenders feature as many as 7 times.

As we have a fairly large record of problems (and we’re librarians) we’ve decided to try and structure the information, currently recorded in an online spreadsheet.

We’ve added columns for contextual information, such as the type of publisher, their location, whether the problem relates to Gold or Green OA, and if Gold, whether hybrid or pure. This allows us to do some basic analysis on the data, for instance, we can filter to discover that most of the publishers who cause us problems in terms of licensing are small/society outfits based in the USA.

We’ve come up with 7 categories that we use to collate similar problems together, as below.

  1. Costs

    We record publishers whose basic APC costs we consider to be excessive and also those who have unfair or unusual charges, such as those who charge an additional fee for a CC-BY licence (a cynical attempt to exploit institutional UKRI/COAF OA grants?), compulsory page and colour charges, or APC charges based on article length.
  2. Licensing

    For issues around CC licences, particularly changing them, and other licensing problems such as confusing or restrictive publisher-own Gold licences.
  3. Payment

    Examples of payment problems include using different systems for APCs and other charges, sending invoices for articles that should be paid via prepay, or a publisher being repeatedly unable to trace payments.
  4. Policy

    Predominantly for confusing, conflicting or very restrictive copyright/self-archiving policies, such as rolling embargoes or deposit only in closed access repositories, or only on an intranet (me neither).
  5. Predatory

    Simply a way of recording potentially illegitimate publishing entities (PIPEs). PIPEs are often referred to as ‘predatory publishers’, and there is a list of PIPEs. To be listed as a predatory publisher/journal in our list the publisher/journal must have failed several of the checks on the ThinkCheckSubmit website.
  6. Procedure

    For difficulties in arranging Green/Gold and the processes that we/the publisher go through. Examples include publishers requiring payment to be received before publishing, unintuitive dashboards for prepay schemes, or delays between ordering Gold and receiving an invoice. A problem recorded just this morning regards one publisher’s decision to set an exchange rate from $ to € in January of each year, which is then set until the following January, irrespective of currency fluctuations. This potentially increases costs as well as adding extra administrative burden when processing an invoice charged in €, to be paid in £, for an APC originally advertised in $.
  7. Production

    To do with what the publishers actually produce, so for problems with their product, e.g. not stating whether something is CC-BY, broken DOIs, confusing article types, attaching adverts to articles, etc.

The purpose of the spreadsheet was to allow us to see which problems and which publishers were frequently reoccurring so that we could try and locate particular areas that need addressing. The information, it is hoped, will be of use to the rest of the OA community, as well as other interested parties, such as funders, to see how we can collectively petition publishers to change their practices and quicken the transition to a more open system of scholarly communication.

So, please take a look at the sheet for yourself.

Many of the entries were recorded some time ago and may not be up to date, and we would welcome collaboration on the sheet to make it as accurate, current, and in depth as possible – we hope to have a link available on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page soon.

Please do make your own additions/amendments and get in touch and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Open access outside academia

Emily Nunn’s recent talk for the London Open Access Network (LOAN) meeting at the British Library, titled “Open Access outside academia: exploring access to medical and educational research for non-academics” provided an interesting opportunity to look at how the non-academic public access, view, understand and use academic research.

Tennyson said by Begoña V. (CC BY NC SA) https://flic.kr/p/4HJ8Kr

The talk was based on Emily’s PhD research investigating the impact of open access publishing outside traditional academic communities and focussed on patients and workers in the education/ charity/ medical sector. The motivations behind accessing research ranged from health diagnosis, “naturally curious”, to tasks at work, and social media coverage.

The access to research differed greatly among research participants, from those who had institutional access via their employer (such as a library), access via university, to those who relied on personal networks such as friends in academia. Although most users tend not to pay for paywalled content, there was little to no knowledge or familiarity with open access tools such as Unpaywall (a browser plug-in that locates free, legal, green open access versions of research when available). Workers in the charity sector were aware of/ had used pirate websites to access research.

Research participants also mentioned that they sometimes found it difficult to understand and interpret academic language, statistics etc. which could be a further barrier to accessing research. There was also no mention of the “Request a copy button” as most users were relying on Google for their searches. There was an exciting discussion around whether libraries should lead the way in research literacy, and helping the lay public to understand and interpret research. A suggestion was to include lay summaries in scientific articles and also to embed open access links within lay articles.

Knowledge of open access was quite low, among the research participants, and limited to only being a way of accessing research; there was no discussion or mention of re-use by any of the participants. There was very little understanding of the green and gold routes to open access, with the public not getting to green articles easily, most reached journal websites.

Interestingly, there was a false understanding of scholarly publishing, with research participants believing that articles were paywalled so as to allow the author/ researcher to recuperate their costs themselves. (rather than the publisher profiteering!)

The talk lead to a lively discussion among the members of LOAN, with those present wondering if university and public libraries should be doing more open access advocacy to engage the wider public.

 

Anisha Ahmed

19 February 2018