Scholarly Communications


Harvard open memo says major journal publishers’ prices are “untenable”

Posted by: Hillary Corbett


On April 17, 2012, Harvard University’s Faculty Advisory Council on the Library issued an open memo to the Harvard community stating that “major periodical subscriptions cannot be sustained” due to high prices and unreasonable publisher practices. If this topic sounds familiar, it’s because it’s already been in the news recently – in January, mathematician Timothy Gowers-Lee blogged about these issues specifically as they relate to publishing giant Elsevier. In February, a website was created where scholars could sign on to a boycott of Elsevier; as of today over 10,000 signatures have been gathered.

The Harvard memo avoids mentioning specific companies, instead  referring to “certain publishers” that receive close to $3.75 million per year from Harvard for its subscriptions to their journals. Harvard’s expenses for online journal content from just two major providers has increased 145% over the past six years. The memo states, “The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership,  reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.”

Harvard University is certainly not alone in struggling with rising subscription costs – it’s been discussed in the professional literature since the 1990s, when publishers introduced the “big deal” pricing model of requiring libraries to subscribe to less important journals along with their subscriptions to essential titles. Only recently, though, have the mainstream media begun reporting on publishers’ questionable practices. Although it’s too soon to say whether the Harvard memo will have any direct impact on the industry, it’s definitely increasing public awareness of an issue that  not only affects Harvard but is jeopardizing the financial sustainability of academia as a whole.

Recommended reading:

Full text of the Faculty Advisory Council Memorandum on Journal Pricing

⇒ “Harvard Now Spending Nearly $3.75 Million on Academic Journal Bundles,” The Atlantic, April 23, 2012

⇒ “The wealthiest university on Earth can’t afford its academic journal subscriptions,”, April 24, 2012

⇒ “If Harvard Can’t Afford Academic Journal Subscriptions, Maybe It’s Time for an Open Access Model,” Time, April 26, 2012

⇒ “Harvard panel pushes benefits of free journals,” The Boston Globe, April 28, 2012


Posted in: Information and Society, Research Online, Scholarly Communications


Celebrate Open Education Week – March 5-10, 2012

Posted by: Hillary Corbett


Today’s News@Northeastern featured a “3Qs” interview with our Dean of Libraries, Will Wakeling. The focus was open access to research, and Will specifically highlighted Open Educational Resources (OERs).  Development of OERs involves remixing resources that are openly available in order to create learning materials that don’t cost students anything. The average college student paid $700 a year on textbooks in the 2009-2010 school year; given that the price of college textbooks is said to be increasing at four times the rate of inflation, that amount is likely higher today. So, it’s no surprise that the need for affordable course materials is becoming critical. Legislation such as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act has placed limits on textbook publishers, but prices are still high.

MIT was a pioneer in the OER field with their Open CourseWare system, which debuted in 2002. It offered anybody, anywhere, the opportunity to access MIT course materials for free – a radical concept at the time. Since then many other institutions around the world have also established OCW programs, as well as an international consortium. That consortium is now sponsoring the first global Open Education Week, “to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide.” Events are taking place around the world this week – many being hosted as online webinars. I encourage you to check out their schedule of events!

How do you think Northeastern can play a role in the development and adoption of OERs? Leave your thoughts in the comments section…

Posted in: Library News and Events, Scholarly Communications


Scholars call for boycott of Elsevier over high prices and copyright maximalism [Updated]

Posted by: Hillary Corbett


Mega-publisher Elsevier has been garnering some negative publicity of late. Last month it was revealed that its political action group funded the re-election campaigns of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), one of the authors of the controversial Research Works Act (H.R. 3699) that would prohibit open access to articles resulting from government-funded research.

[Update: On 2/27/2012, Elsevier announced it no longer backed the Research Works Act, and the sponsoring legislators subsequently announced they will not pursue the bill further.]

Now, thousands of scholars are signing an agreement to boycott Elsevier in protest of its high subscription prices, its practice of bundling journals (so libraries are forced to subscribe to titles they don’t want), and its support of restrictive legislation like SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act. Although members of the library community have protested such practices by Elsevier and other large publishers for years, this marks the first occasion that members of the research community–the people who write the articles and serve as peer reviewers or editors–have taken a large-scale stand.

Timothy Gowers, a prominent mathematician, wrote a blog post on January 21, 2012, in which he discussed the issues outlined above and asked, “Why can’t we just tell Elsevier that we no longer wish to publish with them?” A reader took up the challenge and created a website where scholars could register their dissatisfaction and refusal to provide free labor for Elsevier in the form of research, peer review, and editorial duties. Within its first ten days of existence, the website has collected the signatures of over 2,700 scholars worldwide.

The boycott has received a lot of media attention, perhaps especially because it has grown so exponentially in such a short period of time. And many writers are asking: because scholars are both producers and consumers of research journals, do they have the ability to disrupt the scholarly publishing system and effect lasting change?

Further reading:

Posted in: Information and Society, Research Online, Scholarly Communications


Why is Wikipedia down today? (Jan. 18, 2012)

Posted by: Hillary Corbett


Major websites such as Wikipedia and the Internet Archive are holding blackouts today, January 18, 2012, in protest of two anti-piracy bills currently before Congress. Many believe that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) go too far in their efforts to curb illegal downloading and streaming of movies and television shows.

The stated intent of these acts is to protect the intellectual property rights of copyright holders (sometimes the authors or creators but more frequently the large media corporations who own the works). However, if passed into law, they may set a dangerous precedent for permitting private companies to block access to information. Wikipedia, among other sites, has chosen to do just that today – block access to the information that millions of us seek every day – in order to highlight what they feel could happen if SOPA and PIPA are passed.

What do you think about this topic? Read more here:

Full text of SOPA and PIPA

“A Political Coming of Age for the Tech Industry” (The New York Times)

On a lighter note…

“Wikipedia Blackout: A Nation of Students Mourn” (The Guardian)
(compilation of tweets, may contain foul language)

Register your opinion on SOPA/PIPA with Congress:

PopVox: What’s Your Position on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)?

PopVox: What’s Your Position on the Protect IP Act (PIPA)?

Need that information TODAY? Visit our online collection of dictionaries and encyclopedias!

Posted in: Information and Society, Library News and Events, Research Online, Scholarly Communications, Tech Alerts


Open-access publishing by NU researchers in 2011: Part 1, journal articles

Posted by: Hillary Corbett


Researchers at Northestern University published 29 articles in open-access scholarly journals in 2011. By choosing open access journals over those that are restricted to readers with subscriptions, our researchers are helping to increase knowledge on a global level. In fact, more Northeastern authors published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE than in any other journal, open or subscription-based, in 2011.

Watch for my next post on open-access books produced by Northeastern authors in 2011! For more information about Open Access and why it’s important, check out our research guide on the topic.

Complete list of articles:
(NU authors are listed in bold.)

Altaboli, Ahamed, and Yingzi Lin. 2011. Investigating effects of screen layout elements on interface and screen design aesthetics. Advances in Human-Computer Interaction 2011, 659758. Published online: 2011.

Bagrow, James P., Dashun Wang, and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. 2011. Collective response of human populations to large-scale emergencies. PLoS ONE 6(3), e17680. Published online: March 30, 2011.

Bellon, Marc, Enrique F. Moreno, and Fidel A. Schaposnik. 2011. A note on holography and phase transitions. Advances in High Energy Physics 2011, 917127. Published online: 2011.

Benson, Ryan W., Matthew D. Norton, Ida Lin, William S. Du Comb, and Veronica G. Godoy. 2011. An active site aromatic triad in Escherichia coli DNA pol IV coordinates cell survival and mutagenesis in different DNA damaging agents. PLoS ONE 6(5), e19944. Published online: May 17, 2011.

Carneiro, Katia, Claudia Donnet, Tomas Rejtar, Barry L. Karger, Gustavo A. Barisone, Elva Diaz, Sandhya Kortagere, Joan M. Lemire, and Michael Levin. 2011. Histone deacetylase activity is necessary for left-right patterning during vertebrate development. BMC Developmental Biology 11, 29. Published online: May 20, 2011.

Combosch, David J., and Steven V. Vollmer. 2011. Population genetics of an ecosystem-defining reef coral Pocillopora damicornis in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. PLoS ONE 6(8), e21200. Published online: August 9, 2011.

Dauth, Stephanie, Ruxandra F. Sirbulescu, Silvia Jordans, Maren Rehders, Linda Avena, Julia Oswald, Alexander Lerchl, Paul Saftig, and Klaudia Brix. 2011. Cathepsin K deficiency in mice induces structural and metabolic changes in the central nervous system that are associated with learning and memory deficits. BMC Neuroscience 12, 74. Published online: July 27, 2011.

DeMaso, Christina R., Ismar Kovacevic, Alper Uzun, and Erin J. Cram. 2011. Structural and functional evaluation of C. elegans filamins FLN-1 and FLN-2. PLoS ONE 6(7), e22428. Published online: July 25, 2011.

Diaz-Gonzalez, Rosario, F. Matthew Kuhlmann, Cristina Galan-Rodriguez, Luciana da Silva, Manuel Madeira Saldivia, Caitlin E. Karver, Ana Rodriguez, Stephen M. Beverley, Miguel Navarro, and Michael P. Pollastri. 2011. The susceptibility of trypanosomatid pathogens to PI3/mTOR kinase inhibitors affords a new opportunity for drug repurposing. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 5(8), e1297. Published online: August 2011.

Evans, James D., Suresh Peddigari, Kathy R. Chaurasiya, Mark C. Williams, and Sandra L. Martin. 2011. Paired mutations abolish and restore the balanced annealing and melting activities of ORF1p that are required for LINE-1 retrotransposition. Nucleic Acids Research 39(13), 5611-5621. Published online: March 26, 2011.

Fiamegos, Yiannis C., Panagiotis L. Kastritis, Vassiliki Exarchou, Haley Han, Alexandre M. J. J. Bonvin, Jacques Vervoort, Kim Lewis, Michael R. Hamblin, and George P. Tegos. 2011. Antimicrobial and efflux pump inhibitory activity of caffeoylquinic acids from Artemisia absinthium against gram-positive pathogenic bacteria. PLoS ONE 6(4), e18127. Published online: April 4, 2011.

Hasson, Christopher J., Ross H. Miller, and Graham E. Caldwell. 2011. Contractile and elastic ankle joint muscular properties in young and older adults. PLoS ONE 6(1), e15953. Published online: January 11, 2011.

Hryshko, Dmytro, María José Luengo-Prado, Bent E. Sørensen. 2011. Childhood determinants of risk aversion: The long shadow of compulsory education. Quantitative Economics 2(1), 37-72. Published online: March 8, 2011.

Iacob, Roxana E., Jianming Zhang, Nathanael S. Gray, and John R. Engen. 2011. Allosteric interactions between the myristate- and ATP-site of the Abl kinase. PLoS ONE 6(1), e15929. Published online: January 10, 2011.

Kemper, Kathi, Sally Bulla, Deborah Krueger, Mary Jane Ott, Jane A. McCool, and Paula Gardiner. 2011. Nurses’ experiences, expectations, and preferences for mind-body practices to reduce stress. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11, 26. Published online: April 11, 2011.

Kranzer, Katharina, Nienke van Schaik, Unice Karmue, Keren Middelkoop, Elaine Sebastian, Stephen D. Lawn, Robin Wood, and Linda-Gail Bekker. 2011. High prevalence of self-reported undiagnosed HIV despite high coverage of HIV testing: a cross-sectional population based sero-survey in South Africa. PLoS ONE 6(9), e25244. Published online: September 28, 2011.

Krieger, Nancy, Pamela D. Waterman, Anna Kosheleva, Jarvis T. Chen, Dana R. Carney, Kevin W. Smith, Gary G. Bennett, David R. Williams, Elmer Freeman, Beverley Russell, Gisele Thornhill, Kristin Mikolowsky, Rachel Rifkin, and Latrice Samuel. 2011. Exposing racial discrimination: implicit & explicit measures – the My Body, My Story study of 1005 US-born black & white community health center members. PLoS ONE 6(11), e27636. Published online: November 18, 2011.

Lin, H., Tanmoy Das, L. A. Wray, S.-Y. Xu, M. Z. Hasan, and A. Bansil. 2011. An isolated Dirac cone on the surface of ternary tetradymite-like topological insulators. New Journal of Physics 13, 095005. Published online: September 9, 2011.

Milane, Lara , Zhenfeng Duan, and Mansoor Amiji. 2011. Therapeutic efficacy and safety of paclitaxel/lonidamine loaded EGFR-targeted nanoparticles for the treatment of multi-drug resistant cancer. PLoS ONE 6(9), e24075. Published online: September 8, 2011.

Onnela, Jukka-Pekka, Samuel Arbesman, Marta C. Gonzalez, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, and Nicholas A. Christakis. 2011. Geographic constraints on social network groups. PLoS ONE 6(4), e16939. Published online: April 5, 2011.

Pantazopoulos, Harry , Hamid Dolatshad, and Fred C. Davis. 2011. A fear-inducing odor alters PER2 and c-Fos expression in brain regions involved in fear memory. PLoS ONE 6(5), e20658. Published online: May 31, 2011.

Pei, De-Sheng, Xiao-Jie Yang, Wei Liu, Jeroen E. J. Guikema, Carol E. Schrader, and Phyllis R. Strauss. 2011. A novel regulatory circuit in base excision repair involving AP endonuclease 1, Creb1 and DNA polymerase β. Nucleic Acids Research 39(8), 3156-3165. Published online: December 20, 2010.

Robinson, Elizabeth M. , Delbert L. Smee, and Geoffrey C. Trussell. 2011. Green crab (Carcinus maenas) foraging efficiency reduced by fast flows. PLoS ONE 6(6), e21025. Published online: June 7, 2011.

Shulman, Maria , Merav Cohen, Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, Hiroshi Yagi, Hongyun Wang, Jonathan Goldwasser, Carolyn W. Lee-Parsons, Ofra Benny-Ratsaby, Martin L. Yarmush, and Yaakov Nahmias. 2011. Enhancement of naringenin bioavailability by complexation with hydroxypropoyl-beta-cyclodextrin. PLoS ONE 6(4), e18033. Published online: April 6, 2011.

Sohn, Yunkyu, Myung-Kyu Choi, Yong-Yeol Ahn, Junho Lee, and Jaeseung Jeong. 2011. Topological cluster analysis reveals the systemic organization of the Caenorhabditis elegans connectome. PLoS Computational Biology 7(5), e1001139. Published online: May 2011.

Sternad, Dagmar, Masaki O. Abe, Xiaogang Hu, and Hermann Mueller. 2011. Neuromotor noise, error tolerance and velocity-dependent costs in skilled performance. PLoS Computational Biology 7(9), e1002159. Published online: September 2011.

Wang, Y. J., H. Lin, Tanmoy Das, M. Z. Hasan, and A. Bansil. 2011. Topological insulators in the quaternary chalcogenide compounds and ternary famatinite compounds. New Journal of Physics 13, 085017. Published online: August 31, 2011.

Whelan, Donna R., Keith R. Bambery, Philip Heraud, Mark J. Tobin, Max Diem, Don McNaughton, and Bayden R. Wood. 2011. Monitoring the reversible B to A-like transition of DNA in eukaryotic cells using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Nucleic Acids Research 39(13), 5439-5448. Published online: March 29, 2011.

Zerebecki, Robyn A. , and Cascade J. B. Sorte. 2011. Temperature tolerance and stress proteins as mechanisms of invasive species success. PLoS ONE 6(4), e14806. Published online: April 26, 2011.

Posted in: Scholarly Communications