Month: August 2015

In:  Guest Blog  

Why OA is important to students – and why they are important to OA!

Green cars outside Berlin by Michael Caven, Flickr, CC BY

Yesterday, we were delighted to welcome student Peter Grabitz as an intern to the Berlin office. Peter is a former project coordinator at the European Students Conference (ESC) organized for 26 years by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, which attracts 400 students annually.  A warm welcome to Peter and his first blog post which offers his perspective on the importance of Open Access (OA) to students. As Peter says at the end of his post:

The responsibility for OA education lies with the younger generation. None of us has ever had the experience of sitting down with our grandparents while they explain the significance of Twitter or Facebook! When it comes to innovations and new technologies it is most often the younger generation that is the driving force to change. And so it is up to us to sit down with our professors and explain the groundbreaking advantages of new communication methods in scientific publishing. We grew up with this stuff, they did not.

A few Fridays ago I met Ruben on a friend’s birthday party. Currently doing a PhD and with a looming deadline, he was only there to say hello and leave a gift. He wouldn’t have been on such a tight schedule, if there was an easy and affordable way to access all the articles he needed. His University is quite small and doesn’t offer many journal subscriptions so he was hitting paywall after paywall, He nearly gave up before he really began.

The solution? He asked a friend who studies in a bigger University in the same city for his library password and finally he had the access he needed.

But… is this really the solution and what lies at the heart of this problem?

The current scientific publishing system made sense back in the time of Descartes at the beginning of the Enlightment when research began and findings needed to be shared publically instead of via letter. Interesting results were bundled and published regularly and the very first journals arrived. Publishers created a way to bring research to the people.

With the amount of submitted articles rising, publishers asked the most renowned researchers in the field to give their opinion on the relevance and methodology of the articles to decide which ones to publish which today we know as Peer Review.

The first difficulties became apparent in the late 20th century in what was called the “Serial Crisis”, Libraries and Universities couldn’t afford subscriptions to the ever growing number of crucial journals. Journal price inflation outpaced library subscription budgets and cuts in institutional funding. The only remedy: less serial subscriptions to balance the budget.

Publishing was shaken up again when Sir Tim Berners-Lee thought it would be great to start a global network connecting millions of computers – the internet. Spreading information became as easy as one click. One of the only fields that was slow to adopt to the internet was scientific publishing. With a margin of up to 36%, publishers continue to drain money out of the research system and are use draconian copyright restrictions and paywalls to block society from reading and using research results.

In 2001 a group of people dedicated to change this system met in Budapest and signed the Budapest Open Access Initiative. So why do I care about it?

  1. Ruben’s story is not the only one like this. All around the world, there are students not gaining access to the latest results in their field of study. And it is not only students. It is also their professors. How can you teach something you are not even able to read? Open Access gives equal opportunities to every student, regardless of whether he or she is affiliated to a small or big, British, German, Gambian, Malaysian or no university at all! Open Access empowers everyone!
  2. It is good for you and for your research. Because, as Björn Brembs puts it: “Glamour is nothing if nobody reads you.” By now it has been scientifically proven: publishing your research OA gives you more citations. More people read you. Your impact is higher, even without the dreaded Impact Factor.
  3. The importance of OA goes even further. It directly translates into better patient care by ensuring a medical education that reflects the current results of research and the state of the art. OA makes information on drug safety and treatment effectiveness available to literally anyone. It brings the latest results in research directly to the patients’ bedside.

The importance is clear. But: what can we do to support OA as students?

  • Read, read, read the OA literature. Encourage others to do so too.
  • Join the OA community. For example, the Right to Research Coalition are seriously amazing! Anyone can learn a lot from their experience by going to one of their Conferences
  • Be a role Model. Publish OA yourself! If you do it with ScienceOpen, or any of the newer OA venues, it’s quick, easy and more affordable than ever
  • Become an ambassador. Ask your professor and coworkers in the lab to publish OA. Articles, Data and Software. Even though you might receive negative answers, like these, don’t give up and be persistent
  • Become an advocate. Ask yourself, is there a Repository at your university? What OA strategy has your university adopted? Is there one? Who is responsible for it?
  • Educate and raise awareness. There are many opportunities to raise the topic of Open Science. For example, start an event during OA-Week!

The big question isn’t IF Open Access will take over, but WHEN it will do so. As Alexander Grossmann, co-founder of ScienceOpen, puts it: “both the visibility and acceptance of OA concepts among the scholarly community worldwide needs to be increased”

If not students…who else?

The responsibility for educating about OA lies with the younger generation. None of us has ever had the experience of sitting down with our grandparents while they explain the significance of Twitter or Facebook! When it comes to innovations and new technologies it is most often the younger generation that is the driving force to change. And so it is up to us to sit down with our professors and explain the groundbreaking advantages of new communication methods in scientific publishing. We grew up with this stuff, they did not.

It is our responsibility to find a better solution to the problem than Ruben did. It is our responsibility to shape a new publishing system in scientific research that will be effective, innovative and most certainly: open.


In:  Other  

Reflections of my trip to Shanghai – huge potential for OA

StephGWwborderI wrote this post on the plane back from my trip to Shanghai after a multiple day delay that (looking on the bright side) allowed me to see some of the sights courtesy of Hainan Airways!

I was invited to speak at the 3rd International Academic Publishing Forum on August 19th. Organized by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University press, the event brought together nearly 60 Chinese University Presses and representatives from some Western academic publishers – Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, Sage, Brill and ScienceOpen –to discuss what we can learn from one another.

My most powerful impression was the high value China places on knowledge. Mr. Shulin Wu, Vice-Chairman of the Publishers Association of China said in his in his keynote speech that the government regards “knowledge production to be as important as mining or oil”. And China is set to surpass both the US and the EU in spending on research and development by 2020. Communicating this knowledge, therefore, also has a high priority and falls mainly to the university presses. Their main short-term goals expressed over the two days were internationalization and digitalization of their content, with language seen as the main hurdle. Certainly all had a plan for going global.

But some publishers, including myself, were already thinking beyond internationalization and digitalization to the next step in academic publishing. Jason Wu hit the nail on the head by describing Wiley’s process of transformation “from publishing business to global provider of knowledge and learning services.” Solutions for researchers must be digital, global, mobile, interdisciplinary (Bryan Davies of Elsevier quoted a study that found 44% of researchers look for information outside of their own field). And Open Access is a good place to start.

The Open Access business model for journal publishing is perfect for Chinese publishers who have until now been dependent on cooperation with Western publishers to get their authors heard. Chinese scientists who do world-class research can publish in “world-class” journals such as Science or Nature, but publishers here were asking the hard question of themselves – why are so few of those world-class journals published in China? While Open Access cannot itself address the problem of reputation, it can insure that research can be read immediately and globally, without a team of sales representatives on every continent. As essentially non-profit entities with a mission to communicate China’s research successes to the world they are uniquely situated. With access to so much outstanding research, I sincerely hope that Chinese publishers will embrace this opportunity.

Taking the Shanghai subway I can attest that young Chinese are constantly networking on their mobile devices. A scientific networking and research platform like ScienceOpen in China would have a good chance to catch the imagination of young scientists. But time will tell how open this generation will be allowed to be. During my stay the Chinese government shut down up to 50 online news websites and nearly 400 Weibo and WeChat accounts for spreading “rumours” of the recent chemical explosion which took 129 lives. Twitter, Facebook, Google and many other sites were blocked during my visit, which left me feeling rather cut off from the rest of the world.

It was a crazy week – from the crowds and flashing neon of Shanghai to the peaceful magnificence of the Great Wall. I came away with a sense of the huge potential in China and the feeling that China needs Open Access and the Open Access movement needs China.

In:  Announcements  

Invitation to Shanghai and the growth of Chinese OA

Image credit: Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, bfick, Flickr, CC BY
Image credit: Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, bfick, Flickr, CC BY

Here’s some interesting news, Stephanie (our CEO) is in Shanghai, China. She went at the invitation of Shing Jiao Tong University Press in their organizing role for the Third International Academic Publishing Forum on August 19th, held during the Shanghai Book Fair (Aug. 19-25).

All I can say is lucky her! It’s a huge privilege and honor to attend such an event in such a historic city.

The forum is hosted by the Association of Chinese University Presses, Shanghai Press & Publication Administration, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Topics to be discussed include:

  • Trends of International Academic and Professional Publishing;
  • Strengthening Co-operation between Chinese and International Publishers;
  • New Governmental Support for “China Book International” Program;
  • Identifying Needs of Chinese Academic Community and Libraries

Those participating in the discussions include state administration officials, leaders from major Chinese publishing houses, libraries and top scholars. International publishers including Nature, Cambridge University Press, Sage and Routledge have also been invited.

Stephanie will be presenting a paper she wrote (hopefully to be published in the Journal of Chinese Editors) on rethinking scientific publishing in an era when “Sharing rather than ownership is the new normal for the upcoming generation of open researchers“.

It’s encouraging to observe the support for Open Access in China expressed in the Nature/Palgrave Macmillan Annual Author Insights Survey which had responses from 22,000 authors:

  • Chinese authors are much more likely to receive support to publish their research via open access (OA) than their global colleagues and an increasing proportion are choosing to do so exclusively.
  • 92% of Chinese researchers who took part had sufficient funds to publish their research in OA journals, substantially higher than the global average 68% of researchers from the rest of the world.
  • 20% of Chinese authors report having published exclusively in OA journals in the last 3 years.

There’s also plenty of reading for Stephanie to do during her trip! There‘s a piece on China on the Global Open Access Portal and another from BMC entitled “A window on Open Access publishing in China“. Finally, this paper Development of open access in China: strategies, practices, challenges in the journal Insights by Xialon Zhang from the National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences

We can’t wait to hear all about her visit either during it (if that’s technically possible) or afterwards.

In:  Announcements  

United here – open and toll access research

Image credit: Hugs are healing by Ganesha.isis, Flickr, CC BY

We couldn’t resist using this photo to illustrate the news that we have just added the openly available content (which can be quite basic) from 2.5 million toll access articles to ScienceOpen. This number will rise over the next few days until we have a total of approx. 10 million articles on the platform.

The finger on the left represents the 1.6 million Open Access (OA) articles which were on the platform yesterday. It can be seen warmly embracing the skeptical subscription finger on the right!

For those of you who are wondering how we did this, we traced the references of the OA articles we already hosted back to their roots and added their title and author information plus the abstract if available. If you are contemplating how these two unlikely bedfellows are going to get along and why we would bother trying to force this relationship, let us explain.

The current situation is that despite huge efforts by publishers such as PLOS, BMC and many who have come after them, the percentage of Gold OA content is below 15% of the total published in a year. The reality of life as a researcher is that they need keep up with the latest work regardless of whether it is openly communicated or not. In the interests of utility, we wanted to unite the universe of research in one place, even if, sadly, it is not all yet fully available to read, re-use and mine.

Tracking the references of OA articles showed us which articles have been cited and how often, without needing to purchase access to expensive and proprietary databases! For each article, we are now able to show how many articles elsewhere refer to it. Moreover we can track real time social media coverage (Twitter, Google+, Mendeley and others). By searching ScienceOpen, users can now quickly find articles with the most citations or article impact in any discipline. A click on the number of citations shows all the citing articles and their own citations, and so on. We also provide all openly available author information.

Professor Dr Alexander Grossmann, President, ScienceOpen Berlin – Boston

Here’s what co-founder Alexander Grossmann said about this latest release:

When I first thought about the concept of ScienceOpen about 3 years ago, I had this exact vision in mind. It is terrific to see it come to life now and I hope that researchers will find it useful in their daily lives. As research steadily becomes more open, I believe that the significance of what we have built will become clearer.

This next iteration of ScienceOpen brings us closer to the goal of unlocking the true promise of knowledge in the following ways:

1. By juxtaposing open and closed content (and having previously added user tools such as the ability to curate article Collections), we hope to remind researchers how much value is lost when they choose to publish in a toll environment. Community Editors can combine any selection of articles together in a Collection but their audience can only read those that are open.

2. By providing Collections as an alternative to journals from large publishers with their associated Impact Factors, we hope to catalyze the change initiated by DORA and realign the balance of power towards the researcher.

3. By believing that the future of scholarly communication lies beyond the journal, even beyond the article and that research will gradually become more open, we hope to be one of the first sites that is positioned to encourage the adoption of text mining and other tools that help explore connections between the literature.

4. By adding metrics to every article, and allowing users to sort and filter content based on them (or other criteria that they pick), the different usage patterns of OA content will become more apparent and the benefits of picking it will be clearer.

These features are the first of many in what we hope will be an iterative process of improvements in response to user feedback. Please do tell us what you think via Twitter, Facebook or by commenting on this post.




In:  Announcements  

“10 to watch” from annual OA report includes ScienceOpen!

Image credit: the cover of Open Access 2015: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends, by Outsell Inc.

In the field of publishing and open access, there’s a surplus of excellent reports to read and digest. One that I make time to read each year is from Outsell Inc and is entitled “Open Access: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends”. You can find their 2015 report here.

It goes without saying that we were delighted to be featured in the “10 to watch” section of the report and the final paragraph of their write up was particularly pleasing:

ScienceOpen [It] is a creative and simple structure with impressive editorial and advisory boards, but marketing has been minimal, unlike with other OA-related publications or publishers. With increased press exposure and marketing by means other than social media, SO can be a top-tier publication.

Outsell’s inclusion criteria for this section are as follows: “We expect the actions of the following 10 companies and organizations, some already active participants and some emerging as a result of open access, to have an impact on the market going forward”.

Figure 1 of the report is also well worth examining since it shows that the early heady days of growth in OA revenue have disappeared to be replaced by a steadier rate of 15%. To set this performance in context, it’s worth knowing that the STM market generated $26.2 billion and the journals market $6.8 billion last year!

Image credit: Open Access: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends

Here’s what Liz Allen, our VP of Marketing said about the analyst’s observations:

To be included in this top 10 list after just over a year in operation and with a small marketing budget is very gratifying. It really does demonstrate the power of social media to reach into certain communities but these are largely ones that have an inherent interest in all matters “open” and are responsive to our approach. The next step is to reach beyond this group and continue to show the benefits of a democratic approach to knowledge sharing and conversely to illustrate what is not possible when knowledge is closed.

And the good news will continue – watch this space for further announcements coming soon!