Scholarly Communications

22
May12

Open Access supporters petition the White House (Updated)

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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[Update] On June 3rd, the petition supporters reached their goal of 25,000 signatures!

This year, the Obama administration has been actively considering the issue of public access to the results of federally funded research. The administration is currently considering which policy actions are priorities that will it will act on before the 2012 presidential election season begins in earnest. Supporters of  open access to research results hope to demonstrate a strong public interest in expanding the NIH Public Access Policy across all U.S. federal science agencies. As a supporter of open access to information, I agree with them.

On Monday, a petition calling for public access to federally funded research was posted on the White House’s “We the People” site.  If the petition garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days, it will be reviewed by White House staff, and considered for action. I’ve signed the petition, and so have over 7,000 other people as of today.

For more information on open access issues and initiatives in the library, see the library’s information page, the subject guide, or this recent 3Qs with Dean Will Wakeling from news@Northeastern.

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

4
May12

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

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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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,” io9.com, 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

7
Mar12

Celebrate Open Education Week – March 5-10, 2012

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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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

29
Feb12

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

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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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

18
Jan12

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

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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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