Advocacy in the form of sabotaging a Facebook post. #openaccess

In the circles I run in (Scholarly Communications, Libraries) there is a petition being passed around which seeks to bring the issue of open access to the immediate attention of President Obama. You can read all about it here.

I shared a video (below) on Facebook, which was then reshared by a friend who is in a humanities PhD program asking his science colleagues what they thought. In reading the few responses, I realized quickly that the misunderstandings about open access were fraught in the conversation, so I had no choice but to dive in with a (sufficiently-opinionated) response, pasted below for your reading pleasure. (Names removed for privacy)

Original post:

To all my friends in the sciences, what are your thoughts about making all government funded research freely available? 

  • B: pretty sure that 1 year after publishing the results are freely available on pubmed central. Also most university’s have the subscriptions.

    16 hours ago · Like ·  1
  •  B: Also a simple question but how will the peer reviewed/editorial process be paid for? That is part of what the fees for the journal are to cover. In addition authors also tend to have to pay fees to publish.

    16 hours ago · Like ·  1
  • J: Generally I’d say its a good thing. But i feel that this is not really an important issue. At least in the biomed sciences, universities pay for subscriptions to the journals, not the individual investigator. I’ve only rarely had problems accessing articles I need, and I can usually get them through inter-library loan. when I was in undergrad, and when I was applying to grad school I had no problem accessing the information I needed through the Public Library, or the CU med library. So in general I have to disagree with the premise that researchers have problems accessing published research.

    In terms of public access, I think even if the general public had access to the information it wouldn’t be terribly useful to them. It took me almost a year in grad school to be able to read and truly understand what was written. If you were to present these articles to your students I doubt most of them would comprehend what they’re reading.

    16 hours ago · Like ·  1
  • N:

    I don’t know who is out there that wants access to these materials, that can’t get to them. Do universities copyright their results and prevent others from using it?

    15 hours ago · Like
  •  J: actually no. Typically the university gives copyright privileges to the publisher of the article

    15 hours ago · Like
  • Micah Vandegrift 

    Hate to sabotage this, but it is my job. B – actually the peer-review/editorial process is typically not paid at all. In fact, most journals are reviewed and edited by scholars as part of their service to the field. The publishers then reap all the financial benefits of your freely donated labor. The “author pays” model is actually only one business model for making research accessible. The point here is not if the public will access the research, but that they funded it with tax dollars and therefore should be able to access that investment. Also, there is a case for the underfunded, developing country scholar who doesn’t have the access we all have. And the bright high school student who could cure cancer. Also, notice this petition is asking to open federally funded research, which could include the NEH and NEA. Could we argue that an independent scholar of Hemingway wouldn’t benefit from the latest work on the author? As for copyright, the author(s) are the sole copyright owners and THEY are the ones signing away all their intellectual property to Corporations who make 36% profits from selling their research to their own Libraries. (see Elsevier). Recently, Harvard put out a statement calling this system “untenable.” it’s worth looking further into, if you are interested. (obviously I’m passionate about this as a librarian mired in it.
    14 hours ago via mobile · Like ·  1
  • Micah Vandegrift Not to push the envelope too much but here’s the Harvard memo. (I think its really important that current scholars and grad students have the correct information about this topic, which is why I am blabbering on about it in a Facebook comment.) icb/ oupid=icb.tabgroup143448

    To: Faculty Members in all Schools, Faculties, and UnitsFrom: The Faculty AdvisoSee More
    12 hours ago · Like ·  1 · 
  • NMicah Vandegrift, you can always blabber away on my posts

    10 hours ago · Like
  • B:

    I know that the reviewers were not paid but I thought the editorial staff was paid depending on the journal. Also for NIH funding I am pretty sure that the articles go on PubMed central which is free and open to all who can access the internet. In addition to that, not all journals are restricted access. I am not arguing that they shouldn’t be freely available (again I think PubMed central is a start) I am asking would the current theoretically well curated and scientifically controlled via peer review would be maintained. The second part is will it still be reasonably fast. Currently, I am seeing 4-10 weeks before I get first reviews back, 1-2 months to address the reviews, and another 1-2 months before second reviews get back. When you add another month for editorial decision and 1-6 months for preparation for publishing you are at 5-12 months before it is published. And that is a problem and I don’t that is currently acceptable. If it was to get longer then that is going to block advancement just as much as it not being free right now.
    8 hours ago · Like
  • Micah Vandegrift As far as I know Editors are never paid. And you’re right about the NIH policy – as a condition of funding they go into PubMed, free to all. This petition is seeking to expand that policy to all government funding for research (not too much to ask, in my opinion.) The peer-review and high impact of the research wouldn’t be affected at all, as making them openly accessible happens at the end of the process; it’s a dissemination issue, not a adaptation to the quality filters. In fact, advocates for open access insist that peer-review and editorial oversight must be maintained as the most essential feature of “scholarship.” As for time to publication, I agree again… the process is too long and hinders the impact of research. Open access, in the best case scenario, does seek to cut down that time. For instance, in Physics, pre-prints (the Word docs you’d submit to a journal for peer-review) are circulated immediately on arxiv (an open disciplinary repository). There, the quality research is pushed to the top, and colleagues can begin building on it immediately. After that, journals fight to publish the work. Here’s the kicker: in Physics, who have been doing this for 15 years, there has not been any decline in journal publishing, quality or subscriptions. SO the field benefits from early access, the public benefits from easy access, and the publishers are still able to recoup the costs for copyediting, typesetting and layout (which are arguably the only assets the publisher put into journals). Here’s another quick, short video I came across that lays it out plainly. Thanks for the civil and productive conversation B, and for donating your Facebook page to academic discourse N! 



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