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December 2007
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February 2008

Measuring Progress Toward Open Access

In his Open Access News blog, Peter Suber comments on my post from last Friday, and says that he's puzzled by my last paragraph in which I say that the policy "achieves few (if any) of the initial goals of the movement."  He points out that the mandate is a major advance for the movement, and I don't disagree with that.  But I think my comment still stands.  Making an advance is not the same as achieving the goals.

Certainly people became involved with the open access movement for different reasons and, perhaps, having different priorities, so I'm not sure that it actually makes sense to talk about the "initial goals of the movement".  But when I referred to initial goals I was thinking about some of the early definitions that focused on immediate availability of the published version of the article, with no subscription barriers and the ability to reuse the material for any purpose -- these, it seems to me, are the principles inherent in the original BBB declarations.  In addition, many of the early OA advocates talked about a complete revolution in how scholarly publishing is funded and some openly called for a complete end to the subscription based system, claiming that publishers had a moral  responsibility to "free" their literature.  Many librarians viewed OA as a means of eliminating or reducing what many saw as unfair  pricing policies.   This was the rhetoric that freaked out so many of the publishers.

NIH was careful to call its proposal "public access" to distinguish it from "open access" as understood in the way that I've just described it.  The policy does not provide immediate access, it does not provide access to the final version, it does not automatically provide for reuse in any format, and it does not appear to have dramatically weakened the existing system of scholarly publishing.

As Suber says, it does indeed make a great number of articles freely available after an embargo period, but I wouldn't call that one of the initial goals of the movement.  (And, it is also important to note that of the 80,000 articles per year that will be affected, many of them would have been made freely available after six months or a year anyway because they are published in society journals that already have such policies in place.  I haven't seen an analysis that shows what portion of the 80,000 would not have become available under existing journal policies).

Suber suggests, in the January 2 issue of SOAN, that one of the next goals should be shrinking the embargo period.  However, proponents of the NIH policy pointed out frequently that publishers should not be concerned about the policy's impact on subscriptions because of the embargo.  They claimed that the argument of the publishers that the policy threatened the viability of their journals was just a smokescreen because there was no evidence that libraries would engage in wholesale cancellations as long as the embargo was in place.  If OA advocates now set their sights on eliminating the embargo, aren't they opening themselves up to the charge of arguing in bad faith?  Wouldn't that justify the publishers' concerns that OA advocates were not being honest, but were merely using the NIH policy as an important stepping-stone on the way towards immediate open access?

Making the NIH public access policy mandatory is indeed a huge achievement, and those people who have worked very hard to get there should be rightfully pleased with their success.  But what comes next?   And will the arguments that will be used to advocate for the next set of goals be consistent with the arguments that were used to defend and advocate for the NIH policy?


Questions for the ARL Public Access meeting

Later this month,  ARL is hosting a "small planning meeting to better understand what steps our institutions can take to more fully understand how the NIH policy can be successfully and smoothly implemented on campus" with invited reps from a few universities and from NIH.  This is a very good thing (although I kinda wish they had done this months ago).  Here are some of the things that I hope get discussed at the meeting:

  1. Primary responsibility for compliance is with the investigator.  What are the institution's responsibilities for insuring that investigators comply?
  2. If there is not 100% compliance, will there be sanctions of any sort at the institutional level?
  3. Who is responsible for figuring out what the level of compliance at an individual institution is?  Does the institution need to develop a tracking mechanism?
  4. Should ARL (or some appropriate group) develop a standard addendum that can be used by authors submitting to journals that do not automatically submit to PMC, or does that need to be addressed at the institutional level?
  5. Does the institution bear any responsibility for correcting mistakes? (E.g., the author submits a draft of the article that is not the final draft, the author fails to get the appropriate permission from the journal, the author submits a .pdf of the actual published article instead of their final manuscript, etc.)
  6. If an article has multiple authors from multiple institutions, is there any consensus as to who is responsible for submission of the article, or do the authors have to work that out among themselves?
  7. If corrections are made to the published article after the author's final manuscript has been submitted to PMC, who is responsible for seeing that those corrections are also made to the author's manuscript?

And although it's probably out of the scope of the meeting, I'm very curious to see what happens next for the open access movement.   Since the policy achieves few (if any) of the initial goals of the movement, what will be the next steps for those who are committed to "freeing" all of the world's scientific literature?  Or isn't that any longer the goal?


Who Are These People?

The more I looked into it, the more discouraged I got.

The subject line to the email read: The Journal of Leadership, Management and Organizational Studies invites you to join its Advisory Board.  Naturally, I was intrigued.

But the email itself turned out to be boilerplate from an outfit calling itself "Scientific Journals International."  It leads,

SJI (the parent company of The Journal of Leadership, Management and Organizational Studies) has assembled the most prestigious and extensive Editorial and Advisory Board in the world, representing scholars from Yale, Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, MIT, Columbia and hundreds of universities from around the world.

And indeed, the editorial advisory board listing is long, with people from prestigious universities with impressive titles -- an Associate Vice-Chancellor from UT-Austin, a Research Scientist from Berkeley, an Associate VP from the University of Florida, an Associate Provost at Tufts and another Associate Provost from Rice -- thirty-seven individuals altogether.

The managerial advisory board is similarly impressive and the editorial review board listing for the different disciplines (SJI "publishes" journals across all fields) contains hundreds of names.

My first clue that something was amiss comes in the 2nd paragraph of the email:

The volunteer Advisory Board provides advice and guidance for the ongoing development of SJI. The members receive periodic emails about the developments of various SJI journals.  There are no regular responsibilities for the Advisory Board members.  Occasionally, you will receive an email that requests your input on new ideas, decisions or changes in the policies, procedures and guidelines of SJI.  If you feel that the issue is not in your area of interest (since SJI publishes journals in all disciplines), or if you do not have the time, you can simply disregard the message. 

What a deal!  List my membership on the advisory board on my CV, and then ignore all of the messages that I get from them.

Nowhere on the website could I find any indication of who is actually behind these journals.  There's a business address in St. Cloud, Minnesota, but no one is named.

I starting looking into the various journals -- there are many.  Turns out that very few of them have actually published any articles.  Click on a journal title and most of them will say: "Coming soon..."  As soon as they get some submissions, I suppose.

So what's the scam?  Open access, I'm sorry to say.   The opening page reeks of a high-minded dedication to assisting  "researchers, writers and artists to cope with the publish or perish reality in the academia."  They promise rapid turnaround and quick peer review.

Of course, they have to charge a processing fee.  The section on "Why We Charge A Processing Fee," which can be found under the submission guidelines for each journal is perhaps the most interesting part of the entire site.  It includes a summary of the "open access movement" and a very helpful listing of the various granting agencies that allow use of funds to cover article processing charges.  They point out that their processing charge is much lower than what various other open access publishers charge -- just $99.95 (add $99.95 for each additional author).   Somehow, I don't think they're viewing this as an incentive to limit the number of authors per paper.

Oh, and they're also looking for investors.  Just click on the helpful link.

It's got to be the open access movement's worst nightmare, living proof of the most hysterical charges leveled by the most rabid opponents.  Do the people who have signed on to these advisory boards think that they're supporting open access by lending credence to this?  I suppose I can give a break to some non-US junior scientist who hasn't gotten proper mentoring on publishing norms, but somebody with an Associate Provost title?!

Oh, I suppose I could be completely mistaken -- it could be that the people hidden behind the curtain are idealists who actually believe everything they say on their home page, that their peer review process is as rigorous as any of the prestigious journals in the fields that they cover, and that the papers being published are splendid contributions to science that any journal would be proud to have.

And that they're just too humble to put their own names on the masthead.  They'd rather that the credit goes to all of those paragons of academic virtue who've signed on to their volunteer advisory boards.


"Supporting the new branding..."

Several months ago, when discussing the value of librarians, I mentioned, in passing, Elsevier's experiment with using advertising to support an oncology portal.  Yesterday, I received an email from someone identifying herself as a "content specialist" for OncologySTAT, asking me to update the link.

OncologyStat has recently restructured its website and would like you to update our link. OncologySTAT offers an unprecedented array of professional cancer information and an abundance of educational resources for your students in one online destination.

The following page needs to be updated:

http://tscott.typepad.com/tsp/2007/09/valuing-librari.html 

Please use the following link and text:

Oncology by OncologyStat

The phrase “Oncology” should be the clickable link to http://www.oncologystat.com and the text “by OncologyStat” should just be text, and not part of the clickable link.

Thank you for taking the time out to update your site and our link. We appreciate your cooperation supporting our new branding and messaging. Please let me know if and when these updates can me made. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

I thought, at first, that they had changed the url, but actually, the link still works.  So the issue isn't the link itself, but the way that it is referred to and what part of the phrase is the clickable link.

It's a polite and pleasant message and if I had mentioned the name in, say, a list of resources that I was promoting, I'd probably go ahead and make the change.  Within the context of my post, however, given that I was just mentioning it in passing and that the link itself still works, I don't see any reason to change the text (although I suppose I could put in a parenthetical update).

It's curious, because, after a cursory look, I don't see the phrase "Oncology by OncologyStat" anywhere on the site itself.  If that's the way that they want it to be referred to, you'd think that they'd use it themselves.  Maybe they just haven't gotten to it yet?  More likely, they're trying to increase the odds of their site showing up near the top when somebody searches for "oncology".

This is the first time that I've been contacted with a request to make this kind of a change.  I suppose that in this age where branding is all the rage, it'll become more common.


Cloned Food

There've been a scattering of news stories since the FDA declared cloned food safe to eat.   It doesn't appear that the announcement has changed anybody's mind, but that's pretty typical of our non-scientific age.  If you were queasy about cloned food to begin with, you tend to be dismissive of the FDA (what do they know?); and if you were inclined to think that cloned food isn't a problem, you take the FDA announcement as proof of your position (so there!).  But was there anyone, anywhere, thinking, "Well, I'm not sure about the safety of cloned food.  I guess I'll wait to see what the scientists at the FDA say, and then I'll make up my mind."  We're in an age where we make up our minds first, based on vague feelings and the punditry of those we feel most closely aligned to, and then we interpret or dismiss the evidence to suit those beliefs. 

I wonder if the woman on the NPR story who expressed her discomfort with cloned food in typically vague and emotional terms eats mass-market chicken.  And if she does, whether she has any clue at all about how those chickens are grown.  Those birds certainly bear less resemblance to the chickens pecking around the feet of Auntie Em in Kansas than the cloned cattle will bear to the animals that they're cloned from.  That anyone would think that the non-cloned versions of mass-market meat proteins are any more natural than the cloned versions seems to stem from ignorance and a romantic nostalgia for what farming has not been in several decades.

I suppose that one could object to cloned food on the principle that cloning itself is a bad thing, although again, the root of this objection can't be scientific.  And that one would object in principle to cloning food animals, but not be concerned about what we do in slaughterhouses and chicken factories strikes me as another bit of cognitive disconnect.

I say this as a confirmed carnivore who rarely eats a vegetarian meal.  I may be uncomfortable with the ethical conundrums surrounding the way that we produce meat in the 21st century, but I still make the choice to eat it.  I do try to be aware of what really goes into the food that I eat so that at least I'm making informed choices.  Living in the modern world is an ethical minefield where one is never entirely sure whether or not bits and pieces of your value system haven't already been blown off, and you didn't realize it because you weren't paying the right kind of attention.

As Dylan says in Brownsville Girl, "People don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent."


Watching the Primaries

I was relieved to see Clinton bounce back in New Hampshire.  It's not that I'm in her camp, just that I'd like the race to go on for awhile.  It is somewhat bizarre that so much emphasis is put on the caucuses in Iowa when they are representative of nothing except the opinions of the people who go to the caucuses in Iowa.  The media coronation of Obama was absurd.

Jon Stewart (who gets a little better each night dealing with his no-writers situation) had John Zogby, the prominent pollster, on his show Wednesday night, and their exchange was fascinating.  Jon kept trying to press the point that it would be better for the country if the MSM quit expending so much energy trying to figure out who was going to win ahead of time, and focused on reporting the issues and positions, and then reported who actually won.   To his amazement, Zogby didn't really contest that point -- his stance seemed to be, that might be true, but he's a pollster, so he runs his polls and delivers the results and what the media do with those results is not his issue.

Jon expressed the most amazement, though, at the answer to his question, "Does the polling data simply reflect what people are thinking or does it actually influence the way that people subsequently vote?"  Zogby said, "I don't know."

On the issue of why the Obama/Clinton projection was so wrong, Zogby gave a number of plausible reasons.  There's been a fair amount of blovistic chatter claiming that this shows that polls are just meaningless.   But, in fact, most of the time the polls are pretty accurate -- that's what makes this result interesting.   What it does reveal in this case is that the situation is extremely fluid and many people are not making up their minds until they get to the point of actually casting that vote.  If I were going to be voting in a primary, I wouldn't be able to tell you today who I'd vote for, and I've been following all of this pretty closely.   It's like ordering in a restaurant where I almost never know what I'm actually going to order until I open my mouth and tell the waiter.

I won't be voting in the primary, however.  Alabama has an open primary and is participating in the February 5 carnival, so the vote here will actually count for something; but it doesn't seem right to me to vote in the primary when I'm not now and never have been a member of a political party.   Why should I have a voice in choosing the nominee of either major party if I'm not willing to cast my allegiance for that party?  (I realize that this is an extreme minority viewpoint).

My fondest hope for the primary is that we come out of February 5th with the issue still undecided -- although the field will undoubtedly be much smaller by then.  We are finally getting to the point where people are starting to pay attention to the nuances of the differing positions, and I think it would be good for both parties for the potential nominees to have to spend at least another month or so further defining and explaining their positions.

I'd prefer that Edwards hang on a little longer because of his emphasis on the economic divide that the country ought to be dealing with.  Once he's out of the race, we'll lose that thread, and I think it's an important one.  On the Republican side, I'm happy to see Romney struggling.  Whenever I hear him speak I can't help remembering Mary McCarthy's famous comment about Lillian Hellman. 

I'm disturbed, though, by the rise of Mike Huckabee.    Like many people (apparently), I respond very positively to Huckabee as a person.  He seems very natural and very genuine.   A nice guy (although the further one digs into the details of his time as governor in Arkansas the more the glow wears off).  But I have no confidence that he would actually protect and defend the constitution any more than W has.   I want a president whose decisions will be driven by a deep understanding and belief in the democratic principles on which this country was founded, not someone whose decisions will be driven by their religious faith, whatever that faith may be.

And what about Bloomberg and the potential for an independent candidate?    According to a story in today's NYT, there's a growing backlash in New York from people who think that he should quit dancing around the issue and make up his mind -- preferably that he is not going to run, but is going to get on with being the mayor of New York.   But if the contests are still pretty open after February 5th, the calls for him to go for it are going to increase.  And then things would get really interesting.


How Social Should I Be?

MacCall's last question gave me pause.  We were at the end of my last online lecture for his health librarianship class, and I'd been answering questions on a wide variety of topics having to do with academic medical libraries in particular, and librarianship in general.  I think this was the sixth one of these I've done using Wimba -- the students and I can hear each other, they can see my powerpoint, we can do chat, we just can't see each other.  A little awkward at first, but I've become quite comfortable with it, and the students are great.

MacCall does an excellent job of incorporating the various "new tools" into his courses.  The students all keep blogs, they use del.icio.us to track the stuff they're reading.   He doesn't "teach" the tools -- he just makes sure that everybody uses them.

We were just about at the end of our allotted time, and I asked if he had a last question.  It turned out to be, "What social networking or web 2.0 tools do you use in your non-work life?"

"Non-work life"?  That's not a clear concept for me anymore.  It was many years ago that I realized I no longer thought of my life as being divided between "work" and "non-work" in anything like the traditional sense.    The boundaries are porous.

I don't mean to imply that I am "always working".  I've said before that I probably don't put in more hours per week than a good library director did twenty-five years ago.  It's just that those hours are spread across the 24/7 continuum in a less structured way.  Case in point -- Mr. Tomcat was in town the last couple of days for a meeting at EBSCO.  He stopped by the library on Tuesday for a tour, and Lynn and I had dinner with him last night.  Conversation topics ranged easily across issues related to journal licensing, the value of archived backfiles, the economic challenges of open access, the new Fishman acoustic guitar amp, changes to the setlist for the May Pigs gig, and what fun it would be to get his daughter together with Josie.    Was this my work life or my non-work life?

Take any typical day when I'm not traveling.  I'm up before 6:00, writing in my journal.  Some of that writing is very personal and some of it is planning for the things I'm going to be doing that day.  I'll take a break and catch up on email, most of which (although not all) is work-related.  Maybe I'll write a blog post, which may or may not have to do with libraries.  I'll spend most of the day at the university, although depending on what's going on I may have errands to run or other obligations that intrude.  I don't keep regular office hours.  In the evening, I may spend more time working on projects, catching up with email -- or not.  The technology gives me the flexibility to tend to things when it is convenient for me.  I'm not locked into an artificial time schedule.  My "worklife" and "non-worklife" flow easily into one another.  The range of topics on my blog is a reflection of that.

Still, I could see what MacCall was driving at.  The irony for me as someone who believes strongly in the importance of all of these social networking tools and, in particular, their application to library practice, is that I'm not a very sociable guy myself.  Never have been.  I've got minimal profiles on facebook, myspace and linkedin, and I'll generally accept friend requests for these.  But I've never asked anybody to be a friend on any of them and I hardly use them for communicating with anybody.  I've only posted two or three pictures to Flickr and it's highly unlikely that I'll ever send anything to YouTube.  I have no interest in exploring Second Life.  I use IM extensively at work and with a couple of friend/colleagues outside the library, but that's it.  I don't have a blackberry or other smart phone.  (I do have three iPods --four if you count the dead one -- and I'm pretty intrigued by the iPhone, but I don't have one yet). 

My online life is simply a reflection of the rest of my life.   The social networking tools haven't had much impact on me because I've never been that interested in doing a lot of social networking, whether online or in person.

From a professional standpoint, I think it is critically important to understand all of these tools, how they work and how they might be used to advantage.  But personally?  I'm just as happy sitting up in my study with my guitar, a couple of good books, a hardbound journal, and a really nice fountain pen.

 


Tradition

"My biggest worry," I said to Lynn on Christmas Eve, "is making sure that we get to the living room before Josie does.  I want to see her face when she sees the bike."

At just two months shy of three years old, Josie has been in full-blown Christmas mode for weeks, with the hoped-for bicycle a constant preoccupation.  Her Mom has used it to combat "Santa fear."  Last year, there were no pictures of Josie with Santa -- she wouldn't go near him.  But this year her Mom told her that if she wanted that bicycle she was going to have to ask Santa.  In person.  It worked.  She had several opportunities to sit on Santa's lap and explain about the bicycle and she wasn't the least bit shy about doing it.  And I laughed out loud when I had her up on my shoulders while we were watching the Christmas parade at DisneyWorld -- as the various characters danced by, she'd shout out their names and wave.  When Santa's float came by she shouted, "Santa!  Bicycle!  Bicycle!!"   Marian said that in the last few days before Christmas she was starting to wonder if she was really going to get one.

I put the bike together on Saturday and we had it stashed in the basement.  It surprised me, a couple of years ago, to find that the tradition for Lynn & Marian is that the presents from Santa -- one or two "big" things -- are left unwrapped in front of the tree.  They were shocked when I told them that when I was growing up the Santa presents were all wrapped -- sometimes even using the same patterns that my parents had used for the presents they gave us.  "How would he have time to do all that wrapping!" said Marian disgustedly.  "Elves?"  But no go...  So our tradition is that Santa's presents are unwrapped.

Christmas traditions are like that, though.   What we think of as the way it is supposed to be usually comes out of just a few years that seemed to be emblematic.  For me it was the years between, say, three and ten, when my parents created what I still think of as the classic Christmas.  In early December my father would buy a fresh cut Christmas tree from one of the local lots.  It would be frozen.   In those days, the temperature in Wisconsin was always well below freezing by December.  He'd toss it into one of the snowbanks beside the house.

On the 21st or 22nd, he'd bring it in and put it in the stand so that it would thaw and the branches could "fall".  As it thawed, it'd fill up the house with pine scent.  The next evening he'd assess the tree's fullness and move a few branches around, if need be.  The 23rd would be tree-trimming night, a family party that we thought of as the official start of the Christmas holiday.  We used big, multi-colored bulbs, with tin reflectors, and lots of pretty glass balls & baubles as ornaments.  Sometimes we'd hang strings of cranberries or popcorn.  And there was lots of tinsel.  The evening of the 24th and all day on Christmas would be spent with his sister's family alternating between their house and ours.

This is the way that I remember the classic Christmas.  But how many of those did I actually have?  Discount the first couple when I wasn't yet clued into what was going on.  Then, once I get into double digits, my oldest sister is in high school and dating and pretty soon my attentions are more and more out of the house and the patterns start to shift.  So I had maybe six or seven or eight of those Christmases?

I was talking about this a few days ago with my Mom.  When she and my Dad got together, the most important thing for them was the family they wanted to create.  So they made our classic Christmas out of their own fantasies, cobbled together from movies & books & their own inchoate desires.  Given that she had five kids, evenly spaced out, my mother had a core of maybe fifteen years of what I think of as those classic Christmases.    The traditions evolved.  The cast changed.

When I married Sandy, we evolved our own Christmas patterns that didn't much resemble what either of us had grown up with.  When I was single again I had a string of Christmases that were each quite different.  And then, with Lynn, I moved into a new set of routines that were boundaried by the fact that Marian would spend Christmas Eve with her dad's family and Christmas Day with her Mom.

Now we're building new traditions, stretching the pattern that we've established over the past decade to incorporate Josie and this surprise of a nuclear family that we've become.  The Christmases that we have these next few years will be what she'll build her "classic Christmas" memories from. 

And since I know how few of those we'll really have, I don't want to miss a moment.  Fortunately, I wake up half an hour before the girls do, so I have time to get the coffee going, make sure the tree lights are on, and settle in on the couch to write in my journal for awhile.  Then Marian hollers down, "She's up!"  Lynn rushes out to her spot on the couch and Josephine enters the room.

She stands shyly a few feet from the bicycle, twisting her hands, an unbelieving grin on her face.  She looks from one to another of us -- is this it?  Is it really here?  Is it finally really happening?  And then walks forward and touches it and laughs and laughs.

We open the presents slowly, one by one.  We have potato pancakes & champagne for brunch.  We play games in the afternoon, take Josie out on her bike.  I show her how to hold the little guitar that I've given her.  We tell each other the stories behind the gifts.  In the evening, we have the traditional spaghetti & meatballs dinner and then settle in to watch a Christmas movie on DVD.

This is the way that Christmas is supposed to be.