Open Access gains critical mass with two new petitions

Two recently launched petitions have called attention to important issues in scholarly publishing: cost and access.

The Cost of Knowledge petition, sparked by a frustrated mathematician’s blog post, was launched earlier this year to call attention to what researchers believe are unfair and opaque journal pricing practices, as well as support for American anti-Open Access (OA) legislation by the Dutch publisher, Elsevier. The petition, which now has nearly 12,000 signatories, allows supporters to indicate their discipline, institutional affiliation, and whether they plan to boycott Elsevier by refusing to publish in, referee for, or do editorial work for their journals.

While many laud the petition as an example of effective grassroots organizing that led Elsevier to withdraw support for the Research Works Act (a response much appreciated by librarians), critics of the boycott have pointed out that singling out Elsevier is unfair, given similar legislative support shown by other publishers. Some even go so far as to say that Elsevier’s “Big Deal” journal pricing practices are beneficial to libraries, small journals, and societies alike.

Riding the wave of awareness created by the Cost of Knowledge petition, a campaign called “#OAMonday” began on Twitter on May 21. #OAMonday (led by SPARC, Access2Research, and a variety of prominent figures in the OA movement) has drummed up an impressive amount of support in a short amount of time for a White House petition that asks President Obama to implement an access policy, similar to the Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health, for all federally funded research. (Pro-Open Access bills such as FRPAA have historically had a hard time making it through Congress; this petition seems to be a way around that. ) As of this posting, the petition is almost at the 22,000 mark.

Even if the petition does reach its goal by the June 19th deadline, it’s hard to say what the outcome will be. We already know that the Obama administration supports Open Access to federally funded research. The “We the People” petitions’ only promise is: “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

Whatever the result, one thing is for sure: this is an exciting time to be a researcher, librarian, or advocate interested in Open Access.

Further reading

Arnold, DN & Cohn, H. (2012). Mathematicians take a stand. Retrieved from

Bambauer, D. (28 May 2012). Support Open Access to Government-Funded Science. Info/Law. Retrieved from

Jha, A. (9 April 2012). Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution. The Guardian. Retrieved from

(#19) Publications, Publishing, Publisher, Public

In full disclosure, I have not (recently) consulted a dictionary regarding these words, but I am going to discuss some thoughts I have on their definition(s).

To make public is how I primarily think about publishing.  That’s a pretty simple view and I am certain it would not hold up in a legal case.  Each day, as digital publishing librarian, I help scholars and researchers (authors) make their publications public (publish) using the technology our team has available within the IUScholarWorks suite of services.

We manage traditional forms of publications, i.e., text, and we work with audio and visual materials too.  We explore and in some cases support new publication trends and forms such as portals, blogs as scholarly serialsmash-ups and alternative metrics.

We engage in open access publishing, but we are not certain that we are a publisher.  Why do we, maybe it is really just I, keep questioning this?

To help me figure this out, I engaged in an exercise to list out the things we provide for journal publications via the IUScholarWorks Journals Service.  We:

  1. Support the journal’s publisher of choice – whether it is IUScholarWorks or another entity such as a society or association.
  2. Support a journal’s copyright policy of choice and consult on intellectual property matters upon request.
  3. Support continuous publishing with no requirements or restrictions on pages or the number of volumes/issues per year.
  4. Publish non-text materials like video, audio, and images – in the article or supplemental to an article.
  5. Provide tools that manage editorial work: blind peer review system, electronic author submissions, communication amongst those doing the work/editing, and various reader tools may be elected to be turned on such as: comments, contacting the author, notify a colleague, how to cite (MLA, APA, Chicago style).
  6. Continue services for a publication once it has moved from Indiana University.
  7. Provide and manage trusted infrastructure and policies for the preservation of digital objects.
  8. Support a journal’s unique URL for their publication if they manage the domain registration.
  9. Train on software and provide technical support.
  10. Supply article-level use statistics – currently annually.
  11. Supply announcements and table of contents feeds to readers.
  12. Import back-files if rights can be transferred (if necessary).
  13. Update library cataloging records supplied to OCLC – so that records across libraries can be updated.
  14. Support harvestable metadata for discovery by various search engines.
  15. Supply metadata and articles to indexing/abstracting services (such as Ebsco or Proquest).
  16. Manage or help apply for an ISSN (international standard serial number).
  17. Provide limited design work as student staff expertise permits.  If a journal is migrating to our platform, we will endeavor to keep the design as similar as possible within our framework constraints.
  18. Are genuinely helpful and supportive to our scholars and researchers.

It’s an impressive list of what IUScholarWorks services and staff can do for a journal publication. Perhaps, upon review, IUScholarWorks Journals is a publisher, publishing various publications and making them publicly accessible to the world-wide public. I also came up with a shorter list of things we do not do, and I will write about them soon.

(#18) Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

We began last month exploring why copyright plays in important role in scholarly communication by looking at one case – publishing.  Copyright also plays important roles in other ways that scholars do their work.  As Clifford Lynch has said, “The most fundamental part of research, teaching, and scholarly discourse is the ability to build upon both evidence and prior scholarship.” (Center for Intellectual Property Handbook, p. 154) This building upon requires both access to the material as well as the ability to use portions of it to build your own case, make an argument against it, or to perhaps to establish a common understanding within your field.  This ability to use other works is not just important; it is, to use Cliff’s word, fundamental.

Many of the questions that I receive are about the use of others’ copyrighted work.  Can I include this image in my paper?  Can I show this film clip in my class?  Many of these questions rely on those limitations I also touched upon last time.  To recap: Section 106 of the copyright law goes about defining the exclusive rights of authors and creators.  Sections 107 through 122 are about setting limits on those exclusive rights.  These are not exceptions to copyright law.  These are statute defined limitations on the exclusive rights of the author.  I believe this is a very important distinction as exceptions are generally thought of as a thing to be gotten rid of, but defined limitations has a very different connotation.

Scholars rely on many of these limitations in order to do their work.  The most frequently used sections of the copyright law in higher education are Sections 107 (the fair use section), Section 108 (specifically for libraries and archives), and Section 110 (deals with teaching).  These are not the only parts of the law that scholars rely on, but probably the most heavily used.  More on each of these in future posts.  For now, let’s just think about how important it is to have the ability to build upon the scholarship of others, teach about developments in a field, or to freely read about these areas of our choosing.