Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Venting some frustration with the slow pace of change in scholarly communication

Putting together some thoughts concerning some posts that I read a several months back.

A quiet culture war in research libraries – and what it means for librarians, researchers and publishers by Rick Anderson

In this article, Mr. Anderson had stated:

"The culture war that I believe is currently brewing in research libraries is between two general schools of thought: the first sees the research library’s most fundamental and important mission as serving the scholarly needs of its institution’s students, scholars and researchers; the second sees the research library’s most fundamental and important mission as changing the world of scholarly communication for the better." [Note, I bolded this text.]

And later in the article, he notes:

"Again, we do not have to choose entirely between these two orientations; however, we do have to acknowledge that they are in tension with each other..."

Two other blog posts had also talked about certain tensions in library work. 


"Examples of our silences, as read by subject faculty and students:
  • Always saying yes: In my last post [see the link below to part 1] I talked about saying no to requests for database demos–and what a fraught, complex act that is.  When we always say yes to faculty requests, no matter how problematic they are, we are choosing silence.
    • Meaning (from subject faculty perspective): Positive emptiness–librarians are cheerful, obedient helpers. 
  • Skills-based / neutral IL instruction: So, there is the silence of saying yes to the faculty request, and then there is the silence of performing instruction based on that request.  Whether it takes the form of a database demo or something else (CRAPP test, anyone?), skills-based, apolitical IL instruction silences librarians.  We lecture and demonstrate, we present research as sterile and detached from students’ real lives, we cover so much material that students absorb nothing.  We might be talking a lot, but we are silenced because we are not able to truly teach, or to address the complexity of information literacy" 

"Coming out of silence means we will make some people angry. After all, we’ve convinced everyone we’re just obedient, cheerful helpers."

And from:


"Can you just show them the databases?  This is a phrase I’ve heard a lot as an instruction librarian.
I’ve thought about it, and the answer is no.  I cannot just show them the databases.

I cannot “just” show them the databases because there are so many layers of destruction inherent in my process of pointing, clicking, and narrating.  I am not demonstrating how students can find a scholarly article, I am demonstrating how profoundly students are marginalized from academic knowledge production.  I am not identifying aspects of peer review, I am silencing all non-academic voices–including the students’.  I am not modeling good search strategies, I am erasing myself as a teacher."


What does this all have to do with me?

I am getting very frustrated with the slow pace of change in scholarly communication.  Yes, I think librarians should be working to change the world of scholarly communication for the better.

I also think that librarians need to say "no" to their patrons and to publishers more often.  At my place of work (which is reasonably well funded), we try to make our patrons happy as much as possible by buying ALL THE THINGS that they ask for.  The fact that the library is viewed as the wallet is not necessarily a good thing.  Throwing more money at publishers and vendors is not going to solve the problems of scholarly communication.

As in Lauren's case, I had also been frustrated with some of our local gates of academic discourse. In my case, I probably opened up the gate incorrectly.  I did not find the gate to be: very inviting; easy to open; nor easy to navigate once I got inside. Also, I was given a short amount of time to demonstrate the information maze once the gate was opened. Some departments were better than others, but some provided very narrow windows of opportunity for me to talk to their students about information issues.

I guess I am frustrated that I am not given more time to discuss scholarly communications issues and the inherent problems with faculty and students.  The system is screwed up, and I am not sure what more I can do about it. The conversation trail from @daskey's tweet displays some of the same frustration that I have.  Ian had responded with "change is too hard, also the system works fine as it is...' - the average faculty member."  Yup, that just about sums up my frustration.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pretend that you are a librarian in the year 2025

A lot of the essay below is wishful thinking, but some of it might come to pass. Just as there are a lot of physicists who ignore the journal literature, and they read only from the Cornell physics arXiv, more researchers and disciplines will take a path that takes advantage of open access resources.


Five years ago, in the year 2020, a small unique software company led to an academic revolt in publishing. A small foundation-based nonprofit start up called the AcademiCenter (AC) created a scholarly social network that scientists, social scientists, and a fair number of humanities researchers use to find, read, share, and communicate their open access research. (Some say that foundation is funded by Bill Gates, but no one is sure.) This service is much more than just a blogging system, it is a truly easy-to-use publishing system with built in altmetric features. Scholars and researchers all over the world can keep track of reading patterns, download metrics, citation data, and other metrics. In short order, the AC integrated citation and linking data from a merger with CrossRef, and they also bought out the content and linking services from Google Scholar. (This was in 2022 when the Feds split up Google into five parts.) Over the next three years, the service integrated data and resources from mergers with ResearchGate, Academia.edu, Mendeley (sold off from Elsevier), MEDLINE, the Cornell ArXiv, and the SSRN, and many small society presses. This service has built up a huge following of academics, scholars, and other researchers because of huge breadth, depth, and the amount of semantic interlinking. This service uses advanced Artificial Intelligence tools to create metadata on the fly. This is THE PLACE for researchers to find information and knowledge. This is also THE PLACE for researchers to post articles, book chapters, whole books, conference papers, reports, dissertations, presentations, and anything.

The cost for scholars to join this “club” is nominal, but it is well worth the small expense. The pricing for this service was modeled after PeerJ.  Many researchers add value to the database by donating time to crowdsource fixes to bugs and other known issues. In return for their maintenance, they are able to add content to the database for free or a reduced cost. Other researchers provide peer-review services to enhance the content.

Now that it is 2025, the cost of data and information storage is tiny. Services such as this can host petabytes of storage for just a couple of dollars a year. The AcademiCenter is the central hub for researchers to post their ideas, thoughts, and other content, so that they can get feedback from others in just about any subject area. Because of this new system, researchers have slowly learned that they don’t need to publish content with traditional publishers to get a high research reputation and status in a field of work.

Just as the newspaper market was disrupted in the years 2010-2020, the scholarly publishing market has been greatly disrupted by this new easy to use self-publishing service.

What does this all have to do with academic libraries today (in 2025)? Submissions to the large commercial publishers have dropped about 10-30% each year over the last 5 years. For example, Elsevier has lost 75% of their content (compared to the amount of content published in 2020) since most scholars are now using the AcademiCenter to publish their papers. The local consortia has been able to renegotiate a price reduction of 75% as well. (Elsevier figures that 25% is better than wholesale cancellations.) Book publishers are doing slightly better—they have only lost 50% of their market share in the last five years.

Libraries are also seeing the usage of core databases such as ProQuest Central and EBSCO Academic Search Complete go down dramatically. Many libraries have cancelled mainstream databases, but they continue to subscribe to specialized databases. Databases such as the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge and Scopus have licensed data from the AC to enhance their indexing services. Even still, many academic libraries are cancelling those two citation databases as well.

Many universities also pay nominal fees to the AC so that they can host Institutional Repositories. The price depends upon the percentage of scholars at the university who take part in the crowdsourced project.  The AC is a much better system than the IR software systems that were available just 10 years ago back in 2015. Overall, libraries all over the world have saved Billions of dollars because scholars use and trust this system to publish their articles. While some scholars are afraid of putting everything into one basket, the library license for the IR software will automatically hold the intellectual output of the university should something happen to the AC.

Academic libraries are putting this saved money back into other resources. They are hiring more data managers who help the researchers document and keep track of their work. Libraries are hiring more specialized reference librarians because it is still hard to find good high quality content in certain subject areas. While the AcademiCenter houses a wealth of recent articles, chapters, reports, dissertations, and data, they don’t have the full text of everything. Also, artificial intelligence applications in smart phones are starting to work better to anticipate the information needs of the students, but it still isn’t perfect. The library is able to hire more programmers so that customized software systems are implemented. The library is able to purchase more books, particularly the ones in the humanities, since 300+ page academic texts are not posted in the AC as often as shorter works.

The library building is still a central location for student interaction and meeting space. Faculty still assign group projects, and students find face-to-face communication to be the most productive. While many students meet with others using the latest version of Skype, the on-campus students still find the library a great meeting place.

Academic libraries have experienced a great deal of change over the last ten years. Some of the librarians tell stories about how people had to “type in” their search phrases into Google Scholar or that old Summon database (cancelled in 2021). Now, people can just whisper to their computer, “Hey AC, can you find me some information concerning the history of Maine politics in the early 1900s?” and the system comes back with a wide set of results including articles, videos, dissertations, and more. The system knows that you are looking for Maine (and not the word "main") based on new AI features that were implemented.

The local university is feeling some financial pressure though. Since there are new colleges that are starting up using the wealth of open access content that is available, the U has had a hard time attracting some of the best students. Some of them have been going to attend online classes that use the AC as the source of learning materials, and they use a Khan Academy approach to instruction. In fact, the local U reduced the tuition for all students this year so that they can continue to attract the best and the brightest of students. Because of this pinch, the University has had to cut some of the budget. It was a tough decision, but the Law School was disbanded, since enrollment had been declining for years and years. The budget for the library had been reduced as well, but the renegotiation of the contracts with Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, Thomson Reuters, etc., more than made up for small reduction.

It is an exciting time to be in academic libraries.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Remembering Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley

I first knew Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley through his writings on the Useful Chemistry Blog; he wrote quite a bit about Open Notebook Science.  In fact, he coined the phrase.  I particularly remember reading a blog post concerning errors in the publishing of chemistry data.  He wrote a post on "Dangerous Data: Lessons from my Cheminfo Retrieval Class."  I used that blog post to help teach LIS students that a reference librarian needs to recommend that patrons use multiple sources to confirm reference data.  One can't trust any single source of information. 

I was able to invite Jean-Claude to speak at a session of the 2011 SLA Conference in Philadelphia.  He did a great job talking about errors in the chemical literature and his efforts in correcting those errors.

Jean-Claude was a strong advocate for the open exchange of scientific information (particularly the data from research notebooks), and he really helped advance the cause for open access and open data.  Text from the last slide of one of his 2011 SLA presentations is a good way to close.
For science to progress quickly there is great benefit in moving away from a “trusted source” model to one based on transparency and data provenance.  Open Notebook Science offers an efficient way to make research transparent and discoverable. 
Dr. Bradley, we will miss you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The ACS and their prior publication policy for preprints #openaccess

I recently had an email conversation with someone from the ACS over some of their policies.  In particular, I noted their policy of not publishing articles that are online as preprints.  They consider those to be prior publication.

"A preprint will be considered as an electronic publication and, according to positions taken by most Editors of ACS journals, will not be considered for publication. If a submitted paper is later found to have been posted on a preprint server, it will be withdrawn from consideration by the journal."

I let them know that I was not happy with this statement because it has an effect on the research sharing behavior of researchers.  "This policy disallows chemists from using services like the arXiv, an institutional repository, or some other preprint server.  If this policy was modified, then more researchers would be able to share preprints with the world, and then science would speed up.

Will this archaic policy ever be reconsidered?"

The ACS representative noted that "As stated in the policy they view a preprint as a) unreviewed material and b) prior published material.  Hence it is not considered for publication: it is not an issue regarding open access etc. - more that we are not in the business of publishing secondhand news.”

I responded with:

"I agree that a preprint is unreviewed material, but I disagree that it is prior published material.  The author(s) should have a right to circulate their ideas and drafts to servers such as the arXiv.  The authors have the copyright to the early version of their manuscripts, and hopefully the ACS would change it up during peer review, during copy editing and in layout to make the article a different piece of work.  Physicists have been fine with this system for decades.  I would not call what the AIP, the APS, IOP Publishing, and Nature Physics are publishing as “secondhand news.”  Librarians and researchers know that the final published versions are different from the preprint versions.  That is why we keep on subscribing to AIP, APS, IOP, NPG, and Elsevier journals. 

It is this conservative policy of considering a preprint to be prior published material that is keeping chemists from posting these earlier drafts to institutional repositories or to a chemistry preprint server.  This policy is helping to keep chemists stuck in the mud when it comes to Open Access."

Is the ACS afraid that researchers will unsubscribe because a fraction of the research is scattered online as preprints?  Maybe they are afraid that researchers won't see that the ACS adds enough value to the articles?  Then, people can compare a preprint with what the ACS has published.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Mathematics Resources for Librarians

Sent this to a colleague, and thought I would blog it so that I could easily get back to these later on.
Are you on the PAMnet discussion list?  One does not need to be a member of the Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division of SLA to subscribe. http://pam.sla.org/manual/pamnet-information/

Are you a member of the Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division of SLA? http://pam.sla.org/

In any case, I would recommend that you get your hands on these two books, but they were published about 9 years ago.
For something more recent, these have some chapters in mathematics.
  • The new Walford : guide to reference resources / editor-in-chief, Ray Lester, London : Facet Pub., 2005-<2008> "Volume 1 covers 12 broad subject groupings: mathematics, physics & astronomy, earth sciences, chemistry, biological sciences, agriculture, forestry, fisheries & food, pre-clinical sciences, clinical medicine, health, natural resources & energy, engineering, information & communication technology."
  • Science and technology resources [electronic resource] : a guide for information professionals and researchers / James E. Bobick and G. Lynn Berard, Santa Barbara, Calif. : Libraries Unlimited, c2011. Mathematics is covered on pages 242-247, not very much.
You may already know this, but you will want to collect materials from Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, Springer (Especially their Lecture notes in Mathematics, the Springer undergraduate texts in mathematics and technology, and their Graduate texts in mathematics.), American Mathematical Society (AMS), Mathematical Association of America, SIAM Books, and maybe IMS Publications.

Other important publishers are listed here. http://www.mathontheweb.org/mathweb/mi-publishers.html such as:
    Walter de Gruyter, Inc.
    Marcel Dekker, Inc.
    Dover Publications, Inc.
    Taylor & Francis
    World Scientific

Monday, July 15, 2013

It should be "information wants to be valued"--not that information wants to be free

I've been thinking of the "information wants to be free" phrase lately.  I am not sure that that is quite right.  Most people by now know that the phrase was coined by Stewart Brand back in the 1960's, and many librarians know about Meredith's blog of the same name.  The full quote by Stewart is:
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
However, just because nformation can be valuable does not mean that it has to be expensive.  Information can be valuable and free at the same time, so that is why I say that information wants to be valued.  People who are open access advocates know that information is valuable, and they know that it isn't free.  But, it can be free for the end user.  There is a cost to providing high quality information, but there are different models for paying for the dissemination.

For example, I know of a report that is published by Outsell, Inc.  They are trying to sell a 32 page report "Open Access: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends" for $895.  But, if one is a savvy searcher on the Internet, one can find the report that had been posted on the web somewhere.  I am sure that Outsell is not that happy about that, but I would rather not pay $895 to learn about their views of the Open Access Market.

The value of information that is available in open access channels has also been discussed in a couple of other recent blog posts.  Joe Esposito had noted at the Scholarly Kitchen that:
This basic economic formulation has given rise to the world of the Internet as we know it today with a plethora of free services, some of astonishing value, of which Google is simply the most prominent.  But it wasn’t always this way and it may not be that way forever.
It is true that it may not last forever, but content producers need to make content that people value and find worth paying for.  People can get free television over the airwaves, but lots of people pay for entertainment content over cable, dish, or through services like Hulu or Netflix.

Scholarly content is a different kind of market, where this information has a different kind of value.  Scholars are learning about the value to providing their content using green or gold open access means.

In a section of a blogpost concerning past scholarly communication behavior, Cameron Neylon said:
We work on the assumption that, even if we accept the idea that there are people out there who could use our work or could help, that we can never reach them. That there is no value in expending effort to even try. And we do this for a very good reason; because for the majority of people, for the majority of history it was true.
Now, people are seeing that it is easy to reach an audience of Billions over the Internet.  There is value in expending a small effort to try to reach them.  The scholar can either publish in a gold open access journal, or he or she can post the preprint or the postprint manuscript to a green open access repository.

As an aside, here are some good articles and reports that discuss the value libraries provide. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Soylent Green OA is People - #openaccess

Yup.  It takes people to run institutional repositories.

I got the idea for the title of the post from a friend, who may publish a paper with a similar title.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Support for gold open access journals and SCOAP3 #openaccess

I wrote this as a response to a discussion list on PAMnet, but I thought I would also post the majority of it here.

I would argue for another reason to support SCOAP3.  For the most part, researchers and scholars want to use, read and cite the final published version of an article (or book chapter or report or whatever piece of information.)  While researchers will often read the eprint/preprint/postprint, they might cite the final version once it appears.  In other words, they may not be reading the item that they are citing. (See http://arxiv.org/abs/cond-mat/0212043.)  As more research gets published as gold open access, more researchers will be citing the things they are reading (or skimming), and that would be a good thing.

For example, just yesterday, the journal Science came out with three interesting articles concerning Voyager leaving the solar system.  I was curious if any of the three articles were available in repositories before they were published in Science.  Researchers in the field had probably already read "At Voyager 1 Starting on about August 25, 2012 at a Distance of 121.7 AU From the Sun, a Sudden Disappearance of Anomalous Cosmic Rays and an Unusually Large Sudden Increase of Galactic Cosmic Ray H and He Nuclei and Electron Occurred" via http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.0883.  In the future, I would bet that more researchers will probably cite the Science article "Voyager 1 Observes Low-Energy Galactic Cosmic Rays in a Region Depleted of Heliospheric Ions" (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/06/26/science.1236408.abstract) by the same six authors even though the title of the article, the abstract, the text, the figures, and the references are significantly different.  The acknowledgement provides a clue that this is essentially the same research. (I did not find eprints for the other two Voyager articles, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/06/26/science.1235721.abstract, and http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/06/26/science.1235451.abstract, but maybe I am not searching well enough.)

For background reading material, many people have studied the use and citation of papers found in the arXiv. (This is just a small sample. Scholarly Communication: The Use and Non-Use of E-Print Archives for the Dissemination of Scientific Information http://www.istl.org/02-fall/article3.html, Earlier Web Usage Statistics as Predictors of Later Citation Impact http://arxiv.org/abs/cs.IR/0503020, Physics Conference Proceedings and the Electronic Environment-an Investigation of New Dissemination Patterns http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/lib_research/42/, Demographic and Citation Trends in Astrophysical Journal papers and Preprints http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0411275, Citation Patterns to Traditional and Electronic Preprints in the Published Literature http://crl.acrl.org/content/59/5/448.full.pdf)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Some new news on #openaccess and #altmetrics

Some traditional publishers have recently unveiled a plan called CHORUS which is essentially a way for them to maintain their cash flow and the status quo.  This is a response to the OSTP recommendation, "Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research."  They do not want to let go of their stranglehold over the scholarly communication system.  I am assuming that the government agencies are not going to buy this ploy.

This article at Inside Higher Ed covers the topic pretty well. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/05/publishers-universities-both-prep-open-access-plans - How To Provide Open Access? The articles notes that “scholarly publishers want to keep hosting taxpayer-funded research that will soon be made public free of charge. The publishers unveiled a plan to do so Tuesday.”

The response from OA supporters has been less than enthusaistic. See:
Here are the new Altmetric items of interest.
[Edit: I should have noted that many of these links were found via John's post to the LSW.]

[Edit2: Here are two other recent posts in the Chronicle that I missed.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Some free Twitter advice

I am not be a social media guru, but I do have some advice for information professionals (and others) who are starting to use twitter.  I know that there is no right or wrong way to use twitter, but I think that some uses are more courteous than others.
  1. Say "Thanks" in tweets.  I tend to follow people more if I see that they are thanking others for help or advice.
  2. Look at your @ replies.  Someone is trying to talk with you or say something to you.  Respond to them, or favorite their tweet to let them know that you saw it.
  3. Retweet the good things that others say.  Don't just send out your own messages.  
  4. Use MT for a Modified Tweet instead of an RT in some cases.  In order to get information to fit into 140 characters, and if you want to RT what someone else has said (or make a short response), you might have to modify it a little bit to get the URL to work, or to have space to put in a hashtag.
  5. Use standard hashtags so that others can follow along a topic or discussion.  (And, spell the #hahstag correctly, otherwise, people won't find it.)  For example, I follow the #openaccess hashtag.  While I could follow or tweet about this with the #OA hashtag, I figure OA probably has lots of other meanings--#openaccess is unique, and lots of other people use that.  If you are arranging an event (conference session or whatever), make sure that you have a twitter hashtag announced beforehand.
  6. Don't feel that you have to send out the same information numerous times.  Some people who think they are social media gurus say they send out the same information multiple times a day, so that people in different parts of the world will see.  If you are sharing such wonderful information, people will keep track of what you say, no matter when you say it.
  7. Schedule a tweet or blog post only when needed.  I really don't care to time my tweets or blog posts to get posted during the right time of the day or week, but there are some times when it is good to do so.  For example, for the library twitter account, I will schedule a tweet about an event to go out an hour or so before the event to remind some people.  If a library service is going to be under maintenance, I will schedule a tweet to let people know that service X is down about 15 minutes before hand.
  8. Use a URL shortener like bit.ly or dlvr.it.
  9. Use a dashboard like hootsuite to keep track of replies, conversations, hashtags, what messages you sent, etc.
Of course, there are times when rules are made to be broken, but this is what I try to do.