Archive for the 'open access' Category

The steakhouse blog

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 13th, 2014

When I finished editing “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall,” the lead essay in the April 2014 Cites & Insights*, I didn’t worry about the fact that I failed to reach clear conclusions about Beall or his list or blog. As with most essays of this sort, I was trying to paint a picture, not come up with a Declaration of Belief.

But I did think about why I found the situation so troubling–especially since it was and is clear that many librarians continue to assume that Beall is a reliable and worthy source. Last night, it came to me.

The steakhouse blog

Let’s say someone with some credentials as a judge of good meat starts a blog called Steakhouses. (If there is such a blog, this has nothing to do with it: I didn’t check.**) It gets a fair amount of readership and acclaim, even though every post on it is about bad steakhouses. After a while, there’s even a Bad Steakhouse List as a page from the blog.

Some people raise questions about the criteria used for judging a steakhouse to be bad, but lots of people say “Hey, here’s a great list so we can avoid bad steakhouses.”

The big reveal

After a couple of years, the author of the blog–who continues to be judge and jury for bad steakhouses–writes an article in which he denounces all meat-eaters as people with dire motives who, I dunno, wish to force other people to eat steak.

I will assert that, to the extent that this article became well known and the blog author didn’t deny writing it, the Steakhouse blog would be shunned as pointless–after all, if the author’s against all meat-eaters, why would he be a reliable guide to bad steakhouses?

Bad analogy?

So how exactly are the Scholarly Open Access blog and Beall’s List different from the Steakhouse blog and Bad Steakhouse List? And if they’re not, why would anybody take Beall seriously at this point?

Note that dismissing the Steakhouse blog and the Bad Steakhouse List as pointless does not mean saying “there are no bad steakhouses.” It doesn’t even mean abandoning the search for ways to identify and publicize bad steakhouses. It just means recognizing that, to the Steakhouse blog author, all steakhouses are automatically bad, which makes that author useless as a judge.


Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a steakhouse in years, and I rarely–almost never, actually–order steak at restaurants. I am an omnivore; different issue.

*Just under 2,900 downloads as of right now. Amazing.

**I’ve now done some crude checking. There are a number of blogs that include “Steakhouse” in their titles, I don’t find a Steakhouse blog as such, I don’t find a “Bad Steakhouse List,” and the blogs about steakhouses that I did find don’t appear to be uniformly anti-steakhouse.

Getting it wrong

Posted in open access on January 2nd, 2014

An open letter to a whole bunch of people talking about OA as though they know something about it:

If you use the phrase

The gold (author pays) open-access model

you should just stop right there and maybe actually learn something about OA.

A higher percentage of subscription-based journals have article processing charges than do gold OA journals, at least the last time anybody who cared about facts checked.

But if your intention is to scare people away from gold OA and OA in general, I guess facts don’t much matter.

 

Open access, advocacy, extremism and attention: A casual note

Posted in open access on December 9th, 2013

For a long time I viewed myself as an open access (henceforth OA, because that’s what I’m talking about) independent/observer: Not really involved in the “movement” but noting developments, commenting from time to time and–once in a while–indulging in a little “curse on both your houses” when it seemed necessary.

More recently, I found that I was gradually moving from independent to advocate–but I’m beginning to think that’s wrong, for a couple of reasons:

  • While I did write what’s still a key book on OA (Open Access: What You Need to Know Now), and while that book could be considered OA advocacy–it’s certainly not entirely neutral–I’m not in the trenches day-in and day-out responding to critics and espousing all forms of OA. I’m no Peter Suber or Michael Eisen. I’m also no (insert list of effective OA advocates here).
  • For whatever reasons–possibly lack of institutional affiliation, possibly lack of single-minded 100% support of any and all OA models and approaches, possibly not being either a scientist or an academic, possibly, I dunno, being a crappy writer–I find that I’m not really a significant part of the conversation. With relatively few exceptions (Peter Suber being a primary one), my contributions to the discussion are largely ignored, especially outside the library field. And even within the library field, I’d bet that J. Beall gets 10 times the attention and credibility that I do–and 10 times may be too conservative.

Maybe I’m overstating the second one. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

For various reasons, I don’t have readership numbers for Cites & Insights for most of 2013. My sense is that the three OA issues that year were not widely read, and they certainly haven’t been widely-referenced, at least from what I can see using Google searches.

It probably doesn’t help that one of the Great Men of OA labeled me an enemy of OA years ago, and as far as I know has never retracted that absurd charge. Yes, I’ve criticized that particular Great Man for what I consider an extremist view of OA and his frequent attempts to undermine forms of OA that differ from his own. I don’t apologize for that. (I’ve also criticized one of the would-be Great Women of OA for a form of extremism, for that matter, mostly having to do with appropriate CC licenses. I don’t apologize for that either.)

I had another jotted note toward a future post about escalating definitions of openness, another form of OA extremism that I find troubling (in that it makes it easier to oppose OA or ignore it entirely). I might yet write that…or maybe not.

So maybe I’m not really becoming an OA advocate. Of course I believe it’s important (and it’s fair to note that I was writing about it–and engaged in it–long before the term existed). Of course I’ll note it where it matters (e.g., in talking about possible solutions for the damage done by the big deal). And no, I’m not saying “screw it: I’m walking away from OA” again. That’s silly; while I may not have much of an audience or much credibility, I still have a little–and there continue to be some interesting aspects of OA to write about.

Still… My Soros funding still hasn’t come through (nor have I ever requested it); I don’t have a “cushy job” or any job at all to fall back on; I’m not sure I’m willing to plow through all the BS from extremists both opposed to OA and those favoring The One True Way; and, well, this is one area where:

  • There are some eloquent voices who do have some credibility
  • I sometimes feel as though writing in this area is mostly a waste of time.
  • It’s clear that I have no basis for direct OA advocacy.

So, back to being an observer–not really an independent, but not really an advocate. To attempt otherwise appears to be beating my head against a wall of gelatin: Not bloody-making but basically pointless.

 

 

 

 

Maybe I should write something about OA

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on November 4th, 2013

Purely an incidental comment…

I used to write a fair amount about open access–in particular about how it related to libraries.

Enough so that in 2010 I self-published Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights 2001-2009. (That link is to the $17.50 paperback; the PDF ebook is absolutely free.)

The paperback is 513 pages long and includes 33 essays and an introduction. (It’s incomplete: it only includes whole essays on OA, not discussions of OA within other essays.)

I put it together partly because I’d sort of given up writing about OA at that point, partly because I didn’t think I was being heard at all, partly because more knowledgeable people and those with much larger voices were covering it so extensively.

Indeed, there were no essays specifically about OA in Cites & Insights during 2010, 2011 or 2012–although one could certainly argue that one or both of the essays in the December 2012 issue were pretty closely related to OA.

On the other hand, I did produce a compact book for ALA Editions in 2011, Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. It’s still available; I believe it’s still useful.

Then came 2013

In January 2013, I devoted most of the issue (90%) to “Catching Up with Open Access.”

In February 2013, I devoted most of the issue (>90%) to the second half of that essay.

And stuff kept happening that I thought was worth tagging for discussion…enough stuff so that I devoted nearly all (98+%) of the June 2013 issue to “Hot Times for Open Access.”

Adding it up

Just for fun (and because I could do it in three or four minutes), I thought I’d see what those essays–the ones in December 2012, January 2013, February 2013 and June 2013–would amount to if I was doing a second volume of Open Access and Libraries.

Three hundred and forty pages. Well, that’s without copyfitting. With copyfitting, it would probably come out to as little as 330-334 pages. Plus an introduction, table of contents and (maybe?) an index (but an index would be at least 10-12 pages).

In other words, by at least one measure, I’ve devoted almost precisely two-thirds as much space to open access since December 2012 as I did from 2001 through 2009. It comes out to about 126,000 words.

I don’t (currently) plan on doing such a second volume, partly because I don’t (currently) plan on abandoning OA coverage as a small voice grumbling in the wilderness, but even now it would be a fairly thick paperback.

211

That’s the number of items currently tagged “OA” in Diigo. Which means it’s all items that I have not yet written about. Dunno when I will. One significant chunk of that gets me a pleasant enough earworm of a particular Scott Joplin rag…

No deeper significance.

 

 

 

Go read this.

Posted in open access, Stuff, Writing and blogging on August 15th, 2013

Dorothea Salo has a new article out in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

You should read it, especially if:

  • You care about open access
  • You care about scholarly communication in academic institutions
  • You would like to see a healthy future for scholarly communication and for scholars, including independent scholars
  • [This bullet removed as, well, a spoiler for those who don't read thoughtfully.]

The title: “How to Scuttle a Scholarly Communication Initiative.”

The remarkable thing about this article is that it appears to have been used as a blueprint by any number of institutions before it was published.

One consequence of Salo’s article: My planned article-in-installments, “How not to be the expert,” a series of autobiographical musings, may be postponed indefinitely. Once you’ve seen a master at work, it’s easy to recognize one’s own limitations. But that’s me. For you: Go read it. Now.

 

 

Ad hominem or learning from experience?

Posted in Language, open access on June 8th, 2013

One of many, many so-called logical fallacies is ad hominem–”to the person,” short for argumentum ad hominem.

That link is to a Wikipedia article, and in this case (as in many others, although not always), it’s a pretty good discussion. If you read it, read the whole thing–including the Talk page (which I always recommend reading if you’re using Wikipedia for anything more than quick lookup).

I find it interesting that some academics and philosophers argue that ad hominem isn’t a fallacy at all.

I won’t go quite that far. I will say that some things that can be faulted as ad hominem are really something else: Learning from experience.

Viewed through the prism of long experience and various arw–sorry, awkward–attempts, it’s not unreasonable to be deeply suspicious of new initiatives from old antagonists emerging to a chorus of selective praise from the usual suspects.

That’s not ad hominem; it’s learning from experience. It’s learning that, based on oodles of previous cases, you should view proposals from certain parties with extreme skepticism, even reasonably beginning with a stance of “demonstrate that this isn’t another trick” rather than “sure, sounds like a good idea, let’s investigate further.”

Technically, it’s true that just because an agency or group or person has been wrong 100 times doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be right the 101st time. But saying “well, you can’t judge the future by the past, so you have to give them the benefit of the doubt” is just silly–and calling an inclination to judge the future by the past argumentum ad hominem is equally silly.

I won’t claim that I won’t get fooled again–that would be as absurd as hoping that I would die before I get old. (A bit late for that by now!) I will claim that I’ll apply substantially more critical analysis, looking for loopholes, questioning underlying motives, assuming the worst…all those nasty things…to proposals coming from parties and groups with long histories of suspicious proposals.

If doing so is a logical fallacy, so be it.

Open access: A quick factual post

Posted in open access on May 21st, 2013

Given the growing amount of nonsense being repeated in various ways about OA, here are four simple facts:

  1. Most gold OA journals do not charge article processing fees (“author charges”) at all. Period. (Something like 70% of journals don’t, and those journals include a majority of gold OA articles.)
  2. A higher percentage of subscription journals charge article fees (under various names) than do gold OA journals.
  3. Subscription publishers have in quite a few cases been guilty of practices that could be considered predatory (republishing articles, creating multiple journals in a very short time, etc., etc.)–but it would be as unfair to generalize subscription journals as predatory as it is to assume that most OA publishers are predatory.
  4. You can simultaneously believe that some critics of OA go far overboard in overgeneralizing their criticisms–and that suing a critic for criticism, in the absence of blatant factual error, is both wrong and a pretty good sign that something’s amiss with the publisher. (Call this “a curse on both your houses” if you wish.)

For more information, I refer you to Open Access: What You Need to Know Now (ALA Editions, 2011), also to three recent Cites & Insights issues (January 2013, February 2013, June 2013)–and, if you’re a glutton for punishment, Open Access and Libraries (free PDF, $17.50 paperback), a compilation of earlier OA-related essays.

 

Walking the talk: CC BY

Posted in Copyright, open access on March 25th, 2013

It may be a while before I actually have the license linked and the icon showing in the sidebar, but I’m finally doing something I probably should have done a while ago.

I’ve replaced the bottom paragraph of my “About” page (which referred to the CC BY-NC license for original material in this blog) with this:

As of March 25, 2013, I’m walking the walk: Original content is now covered at least implicitly by a Creative Commons “BY” license: It may be freely used as long as credit is given. Period. I’ll have the actual license and icon as soon as I figure out how to add it.

As for Cites & Insights? I’m thinking about it, and will probably make the same decision. So, y’know, if you’re eager to get filthy rich by selling something based on my posts here, and you provide attribution, go to it. Good luck with that…

Big day for open access

Posted in open access on February 22nd, 2013

If you’re one of my few readers who don’t follow open access developments elsewhere–and I’m guessing there aren’t many of you:

This is a very big and mostly good news day.

Specifically,

  • The White House responded to the We the People petition on open access.
  • The nature of the response is excellent, almost astonishing. Quoting from Dr. John Holdren’s response (the link above):

I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

This is probably the biggest gain in OA since the NIH policy became law.

And there’s more (again quoting from the response):

In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding.

That goes beyond free access to reports, to encourage open data–access to the actual data.

So why the mostly?

It’s good news. It’s very good news. But, as usual, it could always be better.

  • I’ll suggest–as other more knowledgeable sorts are–that this does not mean FRPAA isn’t needed. This is an administration policy, subject to reversal by a new administration. FRPAA would be a law (also, to be sure, subject to reversal, but a little stronger).
  • This memo (and NIH policy) allow for up to a one-year embargo. Ideally, there would be no embargo, or at most a six-month embargo. Delayed open access still delays progress.

But in this case, three-quarters of a loaf is most decidedly better than none!

You’ll have no trouble finding oodles of cheering, commentary and (I imagine) bitching & moaning from all the usual suspects. Meantime, it’s definitely a fine day for OA.

 


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