The biweekly update of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog (SEPW) is now available, which provides brief information on 15 new journal issues and other resources. Especially interesting are: "Developing Digital Preservation Programs: The Cornell Survey of Institutional Readiness, 2003-2005"; "Dramatic Growth of Open Access: Revised Update"; "Google, the Naked Emperor"; and Institutional Repositories for the Research Sector: Feasibility Study.
How can scholars be motivated to deposit e-prints in disciplinary archives, institutional repositories, and other digital archives?
In "A Key-Stroke Koan for Our Open-Access Times," Stevan Harnad says:
Researchers themselves have hinted at the resolution to this koan: Yes, they need and want OA. But there are many other demands on their time too, and they will only perform the requisite keystrokes if their employers and/or funders require them to do it, just as it is already their employers and funders who require them to do the keystrokes to publish (or perish) in the first place. It is employers and funders who set researchers’ priorities, because it is employers and funders who reward researchers’ performance. Today, about 15% of research is self-archived spontaneously but 95% of researchers sampled report that they would self-archive if required to do so by their employers and/or funders: 81% of them willingly, 14% reluctantly; only 5% would not comply with the requirement. And in the two objective tests to date of this self-reported prediction, both have fully confirmed it, with over 90% self-archiving in the two cases where it was made a requirement (Southampton-ECS and CERN).
This is a very cogent point, but, if the solution to the problem is to have scholars’ employers compel them to deposit e-prints, the next logical question is: how can university administrators and other key decision makers be convinced to mandate this activity?
In the UK, a debate is raging between OA advocates and publishers about the UK Research Funding Councils’ (RCUK) self-archiving proposal, which would "mandate the web self-archiving of authors’ final drafts of all journal articles resulting from RCUK-funded research." The fact that this national policy debate is occuring at all is an enormous advance for open access. If RCUK mandates e-print deposit, UK university administrators will need no convincing.
In the US, we are a long way from reaching that point, although the NIH’s voluntary e-print deposit policy provides some faint glimmer of hope that key government agencies can be moved to take some kind of action. However, the US does not have an equivalent to RUCK that can make dramatic e-print policy changes that affect research universities in one fell swoop. It does have government agencies, such as NSF, that control federal grant funds, private foundations that control their own grant funds, and thousands of universities and colleges that, in theory, could establish policies. This is a diffuse and varied audience for the OA message to reach and convince, and the message will need to be tailored to the audience to be effective.
While that plays out, we should not forget scholars themselves, however dimly we view the prospects of changing their behavior to be. University librarians and IT staff know their institutions’ scholars and can work with them one-one-one or in groups to gradually influence change. True, it’s "a journey of a thousand miles" approach, but, the number of librarians and IT staff that will be effective on a national stage is small, while the number of them that may be incrementally effective on the local level is large. The efforts are complementary, not mutually exclusive.
I would urge you to read Nancy Fried Foster and Susan Gibbons’ excellent article "Understanding Faculty to Improve Content Recruitment for Institutional Repositories" for a good example of how an IR can be personalized so that faculty have a greater sense of connection to it and how IR staff can change the way they talk about the IR to better match scholars’ world view.
Here are a few brief final thoughts.
First, as is often said, scholars care about the impact of their work, and it is likely that, if scholars could easily see detailed use statistics for their works (e.g., number of requests and domain breakdowns), they might be more inclined to deposit items if those statistics exceed their expectations. So, the challenge here is to incorporate this capability into commonly used archiving software programs if it is absent.
Second, scholars are unlikely to stumble when entering bibliographic data about their works (although it might not be quite as fully descriptive as purists might like), but entering subject keywords is another matter. Sure they know what the work is about, but are they using terms that others would use and that group their work with similar works in retrieval results? Yes, a controlled vocabulary would help, although such vocabularies have their own challenges. But, I wonder if user-generated "tags," such as those used in Technorati, might be another approach. The trick here is to make the tags and the frequency of their use visible to both authors and searchers. For authors, this helps them put their works where they will be found. For searchers, it helps them find the works.
Third, it might be helpful if an author could fill out a bibliographic template for a work once and, with a single keystroke, submit it to multiple designated digital archives and repositories. So, for example, a library author might choose to submit a work to his or her institutional repository, DLIST, and E-LIS all at once. Of course, this would require a minimal level of standardization of template information between systems and the development of appropriate import capabilities. Some will say: "why bother?" True, OAI-PMH harvesting should, in theory, make duplicate deposit unnecessary given OAIster-like systems. But "lots of copies keep stuff safe," and users still take a single-archive searching approach in spite of OAI-PMH systems.
Jim Pitman, Professor of Statistics and Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, has created a derivative work from the Open Access Webliography, which is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
This version of the OAW utilizes the BibServer software, and it is searchable. There are four views of the entries:
- Bookmark: A link to the resource.
- Plain text: A field-oriented ASCII presentation of the resource with active links in the description field.
- Linked text: A field-oriented HTML presentation of the resource with complete active links.
- Descriptions: The resource name and description with active links.
Entries are can be sorted by category, description, title, and URL.
The biweekly update of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog (SEPW) is now available, which provides brief information on 17 new journal issues and other resources. Especially interesting are: "E-LIS: an International Open Archive Towards Building Open Digital Libraries," "In the Public Interest: Open Access," "Investigating the Biblioblogosphere" in Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, "A Proposal for an Open Content Licence for Research Paper (Pr)ePrints," Sponsorships for Nonprofit Scholarly & Scientific Journals: A Guide to Defining & Negotiating Successful Sponsorships, and a special issue of Reference Services Review on the role of reference librarians in institutional repositories.
Reference Services Review 33, no. 3 (2005) is a special issue on "the role of the reference librarian in the development, management, dissemination, and sustainability of institutional repositories (IRs)." It includes the following articles (the links are to e-prints):
- "Changing Roles of Reference Librarians: The Case of the HKUST Institutional Repository"
- "Content In, Content Out: The Dual Roles of the Reference Librarian in Institutional Repositories"
- "Digitizing a Gap: A State-Wide Institutional Repository Project"
- "Distinct and Expanded Roles for Reference Librarians"
- "The Evolving Impact of Institutional Repositories on Reference Librarians"
- "Leading Roles for Reference Librarians in Institutional Repositories: One Library’s Experience"
- "The Librarian’s Role in Institutional Repositories: A Content Analysis of the Literature"
- "Open Access Webliography"
- "Reference Librarians and the Success of Institutional Repositories"
- "The Role of Reference Librarians in Institutional Repositories"
A preprint of the article "Open Access Webliography" by Adrian K. Ho and Charles W. Bailey, Jr. is now available. This annotated webliography presents a wide range of electronic resources related to the open access movement that were freely available on the Internet as of April 2005.
This article appears in the volume 33, no. 3 (2005) issue of "Reference Services Review," which is a special issue about "the role of the reference librarian in the development, management, dissemination, and sustainability of institutional repositories."
A preprint of my "The Role of Reference Librarians in Institutional Repositories" article in this issue is also available.
Both preprints are under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Below is a list of the topics covered in the webliography:
- Starting Points
- Directories—E-Prints, Institutional Repositories, and
- Directories—Open Access and Free Journals
- Directories and Guides—Copyright and Licensing
- Directories and Guide—Open Access Publishing
- Directories and Guides—Software
- Disciplinary Archives
- E-Serials about Open Access
- Free E-Serials That Frequently Publish Open Access
- General Information
- Mailing Lists
- Publishers and Distributors
- Search Engines
- Special Programs for Developing Countries
While highly visible, large-scale STM open access publishing ventures such as BioMed Central loom large in the free e-journal scene, small-scale scholar-produced e-journals continue to quietly publish new scholarly articles as they have done for at least 18 years now.
I won’t detour into a lengthy history lesson for those readers who weren’t there. The short version of the story is that New Horizons in Adult Education is typically seen as the first scholarly e-journal published on the Internet (it was established in Fall 1987); however, it’s important to recognize that those were primitive times Internet-wise, when distribution of ASCII article files via list servers and FTP servers were cutting-edge ventures. So, as you would image, finding tools were informal and few and far between. ARL’s publication of the Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists in July 1991 was a landmark event that made the invisible visible.
For some reason, there was a mini-surge of activity in the 1989-1991 period, with the emergence of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, EJournal, Electronic Journal of Communication, Journal of the International Academy of Hospitality Research, Postmodern Culture, Psycoloquy, The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, Surfaces, and other journals. Several editors (myself, Stevan Harnad, and John Unsworth) rocked the house at the Association of Research Libraries’ 1992 Symposium on Scholarly Publishing on the Electronic Networks to the dismay of the assembled conventional publishers, who thought we were mad as hatters because we thought that: (a) e-journals were viable, (b) we could anoint ourselves as publishers, and (c) we were giving it away for free. My recollection is that, after the last speech, there was a stunned silence followed by a spattering of applause and a frenzy of generally hostile, astonished questions.
And, as they say, the rest is history. Peter Suber’s Timeline of the Open Access Movement is a good way to get a handle on subsequent events. Someday, I’ll write more about the early e-volution of e-journals.
So, onto the topic at hand. What are the economics of free, scholar-produced e-journals?
Let’s delimit the field a bit. We are not talking about journals produced by university presses or professional associations. Scholar-produced e-journals are generally labors of love, supported by a small group of scholars who serve without pay as editors, editorial board members, and journal production staff.
They often leverage existing technical infrastructure (e.g., Web servers) at the editors’ institutions. The volume of published papers is typically fairly modest, and the papers themselves are frequently not graphically complex. Editors or other volunteers manage the peer review process (usually via electronic means) as well as copy edit and format articles. HTML and PDF are the usual distribution formats, requiring HTML editors, Word, Acrobat, or similar low-cost or free programs. Increasingly, electronic journal management systems are used to automate editorial functions and simplify journal site creation and maintenance (a prime example is the free Open Journal Systems software). "Marketing" is often done by free electronic means: journal mailing lists, table of contents messages sent to targeted subject-related mailing lists, RSS alerts, etc. Since the content is free and electronic, there is no overhead for subscription/licensing management. Since no one gets paid, human resources functions are not needed. If authors retain copyright or content is under a Creative Commons or similar license, no permissions support is needed. Since existing facilities are used (at work or at home), there is no need to rent or purchase office space. Since no money is changing hands in any form, accounting support is unnecessary.
So, what are the economics of free, scholar produced journals? The glib answer is that there are none. But, the real answer is that the costs are so low and the functions so integral to scholarship that they are easily absorbed into ongoing operational costs of universities. Even if they weren’t and scholars had to do it all on their own, server hosting solutions are so ubiquitous and cheap, free open source software is so functional and pervasive, and commercial PC software is so powerful and cheap (especially at academic discounts) that these minor costs would act as no real barrier to the production of scholar-produced e-journals.
Of course, this is not to say that there are not issues associated with the viability and sustainability of these journals, the perpetual preservation of their contents, and other difficulties, but these are topics for another day.
The biweekly update of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog (SEPW) is now available, which provides brief information on 15 new journal issues and other resources. Especially interesting are: "Creative Humbug? Bah the Humbug, Let’s Get Creative!," Intellectual Property and Electronic Theses, "Research at Risk," the ten-year anniversary issue of D-Lib Magazine, and "Whose Work Is It, Anyway?."