Monday, April 23, 2012

Harvard Leads the Way

Eli, has been on a bit of an open access tear, with a particular venom reserved for Elsevier.  Via Occam's Typewriter a message from the Crimson Faculty Advisory Council
We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.
a dose of reality
The Library has never received anything close to full reimbursement for these expenditures from overhead collected by the University on grant and research funds.
a shot across Elsevier's bow
It is untenable for contracts with at least two major providers to continue on the basis identical with past agreements. Costs are now prohibitive. Moreover, some providers bundle many journals as one subscription, with major, high-use journals bundled in with journals consulted far less frequently.
 with recommendations for action
and a call to action
Since the Library now must change its subscriptions and since faculty and graduate students are chief users, please consider the following options open to faculty and students (F) and the Library (L),

1. Make sure that all of your own papers are accessible by submitting them to DASH in accordance with the faculty-initiated open-access policies (F).

2. Consider submitting articles to open-access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to open access (F).

3. If on the editorial board of a journal involved, determine if it can be published as open access material, or independently from publishers that practice pricing described above. If not, consider resigning (F).

4. Contact professional organizations to raise these issues (F).
5. Encourage professional associations to take control of scholarly literature in their field or shift the management of their e-journals to library-friendly organizations (F).
6. Encourage colleagues to consider and to discuss these or other options (F).

7. Sign contracts that unbundle subscriptions and concentrate on higher-use journals (L).
8. Move journals to a sustainable pay per use system, (L).

9. Insist on subscription contracts in which the terms can be made public (L).
 Faculty of the world, revolt, you have nothing to lose but your subscriptions and given arXiv we may not need that.  Discuss this with your local library committee and librarians

UPDATES:  The Bunnies got John Naughton in the Observer on how academic publishing doesn't add up

As one of the characters in George Bernard Shaw's play The Doctor's Dilemma observes: "All professions are conspiracies against the laity." To update the observation for a contemporary audience, simply replace the term "professions" with "publishers of academic journals" and you've got it in one. For, without the knowledge of the general public, a racket of monumental proportions has been milking the taxpayer for decades.
And Crooked Timber has something on the Harvard memo.

Russell, in the comments is going to get his dissertation placed respectfully behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines.



O how the mighty are fallen!

Once an archipelago of over a hundred user-friendly departmental libraries, some gloriously indifferent to the pinheaded ukases of The Library of Congress system,( Imagine an inorganic chemistry stack laid out like the Periodic Chart !) Harvard has in the last two decades Dewey decimated itself by converting whole libraries into office space and bundling back journals into unbrowsable repositories.

Worst of all, it has rendered its most cavernous reading room, fit to park a blimp, unfit for scholarship by a smoking ban.

The librarians seem to be evolving into a species bent on separating books and readers at all costs, and dedicated to the principle that only books recently read should be available to readers , and that only the most widely read journals deserve to be read at all- to eliminate flagship libraries is to doom the world to a future devoid of the interdisciplinary scholarship whose production only they once made possible.

rab said...

Guardian article on an initiative by Gowers over across the pond.


toto said...

Worst of all, it has rendered its most cavernous reading room, fit to park a blimp, unfit for scholarship by a smoking ban.

Wait... People used to smoke in reading rooms? Seriously?

to eliminate flagship libraries is to doom the world to a future devoid of the interdisciplinary scholarship

Hmm. Widener library is still the Borgesian monster it's always been, and great fun to get lost into (now if only they could put explanatory notes for LoC sections on every stack...)

Relevant article from this week's Harvard Gazette.


In ye proverbial Goode Old Dayes, when the system boasted of subscribing to 35,800 journals it meant 35,800 journals on the shelves, a largess so terrific that one dreaded visiting Stanford, whose mere four digit selection meant that after a week you had nothing new to read.

Why would anyone bother to read piles of Field&Stream in a library featuring bound volumes of The Field, Historical Notes of the University of Uttar Pradesh, Country Life, and Comptes Rendus de L'Academie Polonaise ?

Foremost among the non-negotiable demands of the Readers Rights Movement is the conversion of the present librarian's office into a humidor.

Anonymous said...

my time in college was shared with an anonymous library masterbator. what will he do if the libraries close ?

Anonymous said...

All it would take would be for a principled nucleus of high-profile scientists in various disciplines to publish in fora such as the Public Library of Science,, and the granite monoliths of academic reporting would start to shift. Yes, they might lose a few impact factor brownie points for a while, but with a little persistence others would follow and there would soon be a seismic shift to open access, and the impact factors would not only bounce back, but bounce into orbit.

And Scrooges such as Elsevier would be history.

A win for libraries' budgets, a win for literature availability, and a huge win for the promotion of scientific exchange.

Please, all professional scientists reading this, encourage your colleagues to publish in open access. With a critical mass it would be the most profound change to the scientific method in the 21st century.

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

toto said...

PLoS is excellent, but biology-centered. PLoS One has the "peer-review lite" stigma.

The closest thing to an open, high-impact, generalist journal is PNAS (articles open-access after 6 months), but whatever they'd like you to think, they're nowhere near the big 2 in terms of impact or influence.

I wonder how long it will take for someone to launch a truly open-access generalist journal with the clear intent of taking on the big guys.

coeruleus said...

PLoS is also quite a bit more expensive than publishing in other journals. The faculty advisory council (well, all except for one on that list and I won't tell who) is asking us to spend our precious grant money on publishing in open source journals, when in fact there are other ways for them to save money. Also, too, where's all the indirect costs going to anyway?