Archive for the ‘Making research accessible’ Category

Chapter 3 v2 now online!

Just a quick note to let a few interested parties know that Chapter 3 v2 has been posted. The thesis is coming around second base now and well on its way home. The next chapter, “Making Research Accessible”, needs to pull together quite a few issues. Looking at the Open Access debate, chapter 4 will build on the publishing challenges created by the changing audiences of anthropological research that were discussed in chapter 2 (need for collaboration with people involved in research, need for interdisciplinary access, and the need for “public engagement”).  It will also explore the different forms of OA publishing – OA journals, self-archiving (websites and repositories), and the copyright issues that come with them.

Speaking of anthropology repositories, the Mana’o anthropology archive, which I will be discussing in this next chapter, has reopened its doors! Hopefully it’s website will soon rank higher than the “Shuttering Mana’o” post that currently ranks #1 on Google (if you search for Mana’o and anthropology).

Once the need for open access to research has been established, the thesis will turn against itself, looking at the ethics of conducting research and sharing the knowledge gained openly. Having argued for an “open” anthropology, and for “open” access to research, the thesis will explore how “openness” is a problem, and it will try to do justice to the thoughts and opinions of anthropologists who are not publishing Open Access, and/or who have no desire to maintain a presence online.

Chapter 3 wordle included to make the giant runonsentence a little more 2.0
Wordle: Ethnography and the Internet

notes from “The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations”

Notes from:

Waltham, Mary. 2009. “The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations”,
Report on a study funded by a Planning Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

This is an interesting report that reveals how large scholarly associations popular in the U.S. are adapting to new publishing environments. Unfortunately the article is perhaps too focused on the journals from these associations and it makes some rather bold conclusions based on these findings, that I think would look different if the study included more open access journals inside and outside the U.S.  This is mostly related to costs to publish a page, and how peer review fits in. But the report is about scholarly publishing within these big scholarly associations, and it shows the logic behind their publishing strategies even if I find the numbers a bit murky.

Publications from the American Anthropological Association generated revenue largely from print subscriptions. The report points out that print costs are high, but that if print publications were dropped, net income would drop. From this it infers that online publications are undervalued, being that they are subsidized by their print subscriptions.

It also points out that while an author pays OA model has been incorporated into most of the journals, very few authors used it.

While Science, Technical and Medical (STM) journals keep track of authors geographical distribution, Humanities and Social Science (HSS) journals do not pay much attention to it according to this comment in the report:

“v) STM publishers regularly record and report on the country of the corresponding author of articles
published. Such data is further reviewed and discussed by agencies such as the National Science
Foundation in the “Science and Engineering Indicators” series of reports published alternate years

  • This group of association publishers had collected relatively little data on the topic. Several commented that they believed that most of the authors of articles were from the US and this was borne out by a random review of the country of corresponding author for 25 articles published in 2007 by each journal and shown in Table 1.1.”

This ties into the previous post of notes discussing the distribution of Open Access journals (from Max Forte’s post) in relation to Wallerstein’s comments on the historical foundations of social science.

Peer review is also shown to be pretty restrictive:

“The ratio of article submission to publication is also distinctly different and since these journals publish fewer peer-reviewed articles they are often highly selective. Selectivity through peer-review takes in-house staff time (included in the study) and external reviewers’ time (not included in the study), and drives costs up.

  • Taking three consecutive years of submission and publication data together, five of the eight journals published less than 10% of the articles submitted to them.”

Although in one interview I had, a paper was rejected not based on peer review but rather editorial control. Is it selectivity through peer review, or by editor? How often is it the peer reviewers who decide a work shouldn’t be published?  And too bad they didn’t include external reviewer costs too, because from the few interviews I’ve done no one had been paid to peer review.

Specific to Open Access, the report states that while many of the associations adopted an author pays open access model, very few academics went for it:

“Open Access: There has been a dramatic increase in the percentage of publishers offering optional open access to authors, from only 9% in 2005 to 30% in 2008. This applies to a total of 1,871 titles. 53% of these publishers have enabled an open access option for all of their titles. However, the takeup of the open access option is low; of those publishers which have offered this option for two or more years under an author-pays model, 52.9% had a take-up rate of 1% or less, 73.5% had a take-up rate of 5% or less, and 91.2% had a take-up rate of 10% or less. The author fees set by these publishers range from under $500 to over $3000, but the majority (69%) charge between $1,000 and
$3,000. Bjork et al. calculated that of the estimated 1,350,000 journals articles published in 2006, 19.4% are freely accessible (4.6% OA immediately on publication, 3.5% freely accessible after an embargo, usually at least one year; and 11.3% through self-archiving).”

Of course, the AAA supports self archiving too, not that a quick look at the website would let you know. I wonder how many of these authors were aware of the option. I’m not necessarily in favor of an author pays model either, and other solutions are necessary,  which seems to be the conclusion of the scholarly associations and the report.

Also, publishing contracts are changing:

“Copyright: In 2003, 83% of publishers required copyright transfer, in 2005, the figure stood at 61%. In 2008 this has dropped to 53%, and those which only require a license to publish have increased from 17% to 20.8%.”

The report also found that the number of academic journals has been steadily increasing, along with the amount of peer reviewed research. While the climate is changing, it is still growing.

Why are researchers publishing in these big reputable journals not taking the OA option? For one, the report shows that average prices to publish are extremely high:

“If print costs are removed the publishing costs per page for these journals now average $360 or at an average article length of 19pp, author fees of $7,000. For the journal with the lowest publishing cost per page ($90) and an average article length of 25 pages, author fees could be set at $2,500 to provide full cost recovery on the peer-reviewed articles published. Since just 59% of this particular journal’s pages are peer-reviewed Open Access payments would still not sustain the journal.”

This is also perhaps why many OA advocates are promoting mandates at the institutional level. Getting the people funding research to mandate OA is a great strategy to making research accessible online.

Mana’o Self Archiving Repository

After a long summer delay wondering what was up with the Mana’o repository, today I finally got word that yes, it is officially shutting its doors [it has unofficially been down all summer due to the operation being run on a personal home server]. Alex Golub, who spearheaded the project has asked others to pick it up – and I’m quite sure that with all the information cataloged in it that someone will do so.

I offered to help host the archive, as prior to studying anthropology I worked as a web developer and system administrator. And being the lazy bastard I am, I would never in a million years try to host something on my home server – far too much work.

What I would love to do, is to take the Mana’o archive, change its name to “The Open Anthropology Self Archiving Repository”, and to introduce a new form of “openness”. To do this, we need to step backwards a decade, back to the days when hundreds of small operations where trying to figure out how to make use of the internet. Back then, when servers often sucked, and when costs for bandwidth where more attrocious, people would use a Web 1.0 technology called “mirroring”.

So here is my proposal:

Open the Mana’o repository so that anyone who wants to can setup a mirror of it. Use basic internet technologies to manage the mirroring. Then we could invite multiple universities to participate. By inviting multiple universities to get involved, and anyone else interested, the project would become an “open project” of sorts. Libraries could contribute, and benefit from the openness, by contributing a little time to help catalog entries and ensure copyright issues are dealt with properly.

This is important because almost every university is currently developing its own institutional self-archiving repository, and due to this a lot of work is being redone over and over. Institutional repositories are also important, but they also tend to suck for the very same reasons Mana’o did – they can never get enough manpower.

Either way, I agree completely with Alex Golub that the repository is valuable enough that I’m not too worried about it not being picked up. One option is to host it on the Open Anthropology Cooperative, and that is a great start. But I really think bringing in multiple libraries and universities, and allowing them all to post their little logos for branding, will help in the long run.

Previous related posts:

“Why the delay”

“Self-Archiving Repositories”

“Self-Archiving and Anthropology v2”

“Self Archiving and Anthropology – Not There Yet”

knowledge mobilization

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a talk by David Yetman, discussing a program developed at Memorial University that works to “mobilize knowledge” between the university and outside interests. The program acts as a liaison of sorts, between interested community members and interested researchers. It’s an open door for communities to invite researchers to participate in questions relevant to them.

The program is interdisciplinary and completely voluntary. Yetman admitted that collaboration between faculty members and administration is a tricky thing, and that for this reason the program members actively sought out responsive members in the faculty, and worked with them, rather than trying to change the minds of those uninterested in collaborative research projects.

The project staff, “knowledge mobilization officers” work as a kind of knowledge broker – in many ways facilitating the business side of research, helping find funding, but also facilitate ways to disseminate research in ways appropriate to the project (perhaps pointing to the need for multiple styles of research publication, in that the standard journal publication may not be what is needed).

They have also been developing a search engine/database for research projects community members are interested in. The database provides researchers and community members a way to connect. The database would allow researchers to look for relevant research questions, and link them to members of the community that would help with it. He mentioned the need for “finding audiences” for academic research, and that “80% of what we do is building relationships”.

Pushing the business angle did cause my anthropological ears to ring a little.  The “benefit to society” thing has been done to death in my readings for this project, and while increased collaboration was argued to benefit society, Yetman also said that knowledge mobilization officers “do not pass judgment on the type of project”, but that an ethics guideline was in the works.

I asked if knowledge mobilization officers, being interested in “finding audiences”, advocated Open Access publication of research – and I was disappointed to learn the program had not yet explored Open Access Publishing (and even though the program is small, and just starting, I still choke swallowing this one…). I promised myself I’d check back with them down the road to see if information on Open Access Publishing couldn’t be provided by the knowledge mobilization officers as standard practice.   [just editing this, and again, how do you talk about mobilizing knowledge, and ignore Open Access? uggh!]  [thinking more on it, I think Yetman comes from a medical research background, and I have no idea how well received open access publishing is in that area]

Looking at the relationship between academia and surrounding communities, and having this opportunity to see it more generally through multiple disciplines, I appreciate ethnography more. Not so much the value of ethnography as a “scientific method”, but the lessons one can learn looking at anthropology’s often brutal relationship with people/communities/states [things that make you go “hmm…”]. I asked Yetman how disputes would be settled between researchers and community members inviting research – what happens when the research doesn’t go as planned? Yetman admitted this was a challenge, but he felt that the knowledge mobilization officer, while not responsible for such a situation, would still be able to lend a hand. He said in no way would the knowledge mobilization officer, nor the community member inviting the research, have any control over the research output.

I also asked about Minerva style funding, and how interests could be balanced out – if at all. He said that many researchers would be interested in military funding, and admitted that large-scale funding could be an issue if it were let to dominate research agendas. Here exists the problem of promoting collaboration without judging “good or bad”. Ie: in the article linked at the bottom of this post, it discusses knowledge mobilization as coming from technology transfer, which involves patents, and making profit. So maybe this program will end up promoting the “closed” side of the intellectual property debate.)

Even if it ignores ethical issues, steps around research responsibility, and hasn’t yet figured out how important open access publishing is, it does do one thing that I like – it opens a door for people to approach the university with their questions and concerns.

While a liaison can help on the community side, I still think anthropologists have the right idea building collaboration into the research methods, and to facilitating the collaboration themselves. Ie: do we need a special database to find relevant research questions, when we have the internet, or live in a local community? Are these issues not constantly being discussed in the news,  on blogs, and on youtube? Yes, at least with online ethnography. A knowledge mobilization office could help researchers get their feet into the community however, and help local organizations advertise their issues and interests.

I would have kept the questions pouring, but few others were participating so I shut up and talked to him when the talk finished. I explained my interest in “sharing knowledge” and Open Access, and when I told him I was in the anthropology program he told me he always got a great response from anthropologists, who he said expressed more interested in community collaboration. During the talk he also mentioned how the program was new, but tried to incorporate what it could from participatory research methods that have been developing in anthropology and other disciplines. [he mentioned proactive and reactive strategies, community workshops hosted in different areas in the region]

One audience member inquired about measuring and quantifying the success of such collaborations – Yetman replied that was a challenge, but that qualitative assessments seemed to work pretty well.

Here is an article discussing some of the projects successes and strategies:

“Putting Knowledge Into Practice”

[on the first round writing this, I used the word “interested” about 20 times. ]

Mandated self-archiving, anthropology, and power

Steven Harnad suggests that institutions could mandate self-archiving to get researchers to comply, as opposed to voluntary policies that have proven ineffective.  The ineffectiveness of voluntary policies is backed up by my own research where very few professors were aware of the legalities behind it, many arguing it would not be legal due to copyright, even though the American Anthropological Association and the SSHRC both claim support of it.

That they are not aware, and not making their students aware, show how these voluntary mechanisms for achieving self-archiving are not working.

This pushes me to support self-archiving mandates.

But let’s integrate the discussions I’ve been having with Max, an anthropologist who has spent a lot of time with politically marginalized groups. He asserts he is a “reformed open access advocate”, who while having founded an open access journal KACIKE, has since developed concern over the way the accessibility of the internet leverages existing power relationships even more. Access on the internet is not equal, not only due to government support of particular media monopolies – but also in the way programs can be developed to harvest information.

Open Access works to balance out unequal distribution – by giving those without access, access. But once everyone has access, there are other ways for inequality to present itself. In order to compile all the information, it requires massive man power – as is found among thousands of Chinese citizens working as internet censors. Open Access makes it easy for these censors to filter information, to find names, places, targets, etc. By posting an article about Falong Gong on a blog, or in an Open Access journal, programs developed in part by companies like Google can scan through the information and “harvest” it. Posts on such topics are automatically tagged and saved away for a human to scan through later.

So what kinds of information are people harvesting? The U.S. military has offices setup where soldiers can earn “distance drilling credit” by gathering data online from “open source” sources. Since the information was all open source, I wish I could tell you what they harvest, but they take “open source” info, and turn it into an inaccessible, but “unclassified” database. (also see here.)

The Chinese government has intelligence/censoring staff working full time, and they have in effect created a very different internet than the one we can access here. They, like the U.S. government, make sure they can “sniff” through the most traffic possible online, so they force telecom companies to make sure there are “choke” points on the internet where all information flows through. This lets them setup powerful monitoring tools..

The point here is, that state and corporate powers are colluding to control and observe peoples internet use. Companies need to track transactions, just as much as some states need to track citizens. These technologies are extremely powerful, but only available to dominant groups.

Enter Open Access. We share everything online, but who benefits the most? The academics, and interest groups, we might expect to read anthropology articles? Or, in being so open, are companies like Google and state powers benefiting more?

Google scans through every single email I send, and receive, using a computer program that looks for advertising key words. They don’t actually read it, but they created the technology to do so, and now governments are getting into the game too.

So back to Falong Gong. Do I really want the information making its way into corporate/state databases? Because with Open Access, it will. With “closed-access” it probably will too, but not as quickly or easily – and those accessing it will have to know about it, select it, and go through it – as opposed to information being flagged or blocked automagically.

For anthropologists, the concern over “what should be shared” in a publication is nothing new and there are massive debates as to how one can ethically go about doing and publishing research. And since I’m dealing with OA, I’m not even talking about researchers who collude even more directly with military powers.

To mandate self-archiving would remove a “gray” area that currently exists for material no one can identify as “safe” or “dangerous” to share. Since the concerns over what kinds of research are proper haven’t yet been worked out, then I agree, mandates might be too extreme. At the same time, I’d rather research methods and topics be developed – that address the kinds of content that are damaging.

I stand by the idea scholarship is meant to be shared. So I’m excited to see what Max’s upcoming presentation, “Useless Anthropology”: Strategies for Dealing with the Militarization of the Academy” turns out.

[another angle against mandated self-archiving, is the need for culturally appropriate rules for dissemination – as argued by Kimberly Christen and demonstrated on the Mukurtu Archive project website. There are collaborations between communities and academia that develop into interesting research, but that demand other forms of publication. Mandated self-archiving universalizes the properness of “being open”, which has been shown to cause conflicts, and perhaps unnecessarily limits the kinds of publication that can be developed out of research.]

[and this doesn’t mean we can’t have self-archiving mandates, that allow for exceptions!]

Steven Harnad on self-archiving

I’ve never met the man, even though he teaches in Montreal, but if I was to put a face on his written voice, it would look something like this.

When the U.S. congress tried to pass a bill mandating the self-archiving of research, publishers bounded together to lobby against the bill. The American Anthropological Association signed on too.  The lobby group raised numerous arguments against self-archiving, and even claimed to speak on behalf of researchers – to which many have since argued it did not.

In response to Scott Jaschik’s article, “In Whose Interest?” (2006), Steven Harnad unleashes a powerful advocacy strategy:

“The AAA (and AAP and PSP and FASEB and STM and DC Principles Coalition) objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving (along with its counterpart proposals in Europe, the UK, Australia and elsewhere worldwide) are all completely predictable, have been aired many times before, and are empirically as well as logically so weak and flawed as to be decisively refutable.

But OA advocates cannot rest idle. Empirically and logically invalid arguments can nevertheless prevail if their proponents are (like the publishing lobby) well-funded and able to lobby widely and vigorously.

There are many more of us than there are in the publishing lobby, but the publishing lobby is fully united under its simple objective: to defeat self-archiving mandates, or, failing that, to make the embargo as long as possible.

OA advocates, in contrast, are not united, and our counter-arguments risk gallopping off in dozens of different directions, many of them just as invalid and untenable as the publishers’ arguments. So if I were the publisher lobby, I would try to divide and conquer, citing flawed pro-mandate or pro-OA or anti-publishing arguments as a camouflage, to disguise the weakness of the publishing lobby’s own flawed arguments.”

To achieve this, Harnad supports self-archiving with 8 points:

All objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving can be decisively answered:

(1) Open access has been empirically demonstrated to benefit research, researchers and hence the public that funds the research, by substantially increasing research usage and impact.

(2) There is no evidence to date that self-archiving has any negative effect on subscription revenue.

(3) With an immediate-deposit/optional-access (ID/OA) mandate, deposit must be immediate (upon acceptance for publication), not delayed; only the access-setting (Open Access vs. Closed Access) can be delayed (“embargoed”).

(4) In recognition of its benefits to research, 94% of journals already endorse immediate OA-setting; so the semi-automatic email-eprint request feature of the Institutional Repository software (allowing would-be users to email the author individually to request and receive the eprint by email) will only be needed for 6% of articles, to tide over any embargo interval.

(5) OA is optimal for research and immediately reachable via self-archiving mandates right now; publishing models can and will adapt, if and when it should ever become necessary.

(6) In response to attempts to delay and filibuster the adoption of the self-archiving mandate by calling for more “empirical studies to test for its likely impact”: mandating self-archiving is itself the empirical test; the impact of the mandate can be reviewed annually to see what other effects it may be having — apart from the positive effects evidence has already shown self-archiving to have.

(7) The way to answer any suggestion that it is unfair to put publisher revenues at potential risk for the sake of general public access to a literature most of which none of the general public is ever likely to want to read is to note that OA is intended for the sake of the public benefits of the research that the public funds, which are maximized by making research maximally available to the users for whom it is mostly written, namely, researchers, so they can use and apply it in further research and applications, as intended, for the benefit of the public that funded it. (It will be publicly accessible to everyone else too, but only as a secondary benefit, not the primary rationale for OA, which is free access to publicly funded research, for researcher use, for public benefit.)

(8) All evidence indicates that voluntarism, invitations, etc. simply do not work to generate self-archiving, whereas mandates do.

(Harnad 2006)