Wednesday, 14 April 2010

UKSG 2010, Librarians and Open Access

Prior to attending the second day of the UKSG conference, I had also been invited to join the Cambridge Journals Advisory Group and attended a meeting of this the day before UKSG began. At this meeting, the question was raised by Cambridge about its publishing subscription model, and ways that this could be adapted/improved to help libraries during the current challenging financial climate. It soon became apparent from the serials librarians present that the main issues weren't really with Cambridge subscription rates, but with other well-known journals publishers. However, the main 2 points that I came away with from this discussion were that:

1. the librarians present were waiting for the publishers to react to the economic crisis and reduce their prices/adapt their pricing models accordingly

2. open access publishing (and a switch to) was not mentioned once, either by those representing Cambridge Journals or the librarians present. Indeed, the Marketing Director of Cambridge Journals remarked in his annual update that he was surprised at an increase in authors requesting permission to make their pre-print articles available on-line, and couldn't fathom why anyone would wish to do this.

I attended UKSG on Tuesday 13th April, and the first 3 speakers (Dorothea Salo, Eelco Ferwerda and Jill Russell) were all keen advocates of open access, and from what I could gather, open access had been discussed during the previous day also. Jill's presentation included details of the pilot project that she has been involved with at the University of Birmingham where three colleges have been allocated funding to publish their research findings following a gold open access publishing model. At my own institution, following the gold route has already been disregarded - we simply do not have the funds to both pay for journals subscriptions and pay for researchers to publish with journals as well, and despite funder mandates to make research publicly available, I know that researchers here are not as yet keeping money aside to pay an open access publication fee. I imagine that this is the case for most other institutions, indeed Jill was quick to point out that her institution could not afford to pay these fees for the majority of researchers there, leaving some of those not taking part in the pilot somewhat disgruntled.

All of this has lead to me looking at open access from a different angle. In my own role, I am actively encouraging researchers at my institution to both publish their research following an open access model, and to deposit their work in our repository. I've been doing this for about a year and a half now, we have our open access mandate in place, and I thought that encouraging researchers to make their paper open access would eventually lead to the tipping point where open access journal publishing would overtake subscription based. It's a lot more complicated than that though, isn't it? As well as the researchers being convinced, there is also the much less talked about hurdle (and from what I've seen it's a big one) of librarians who are still happy to follow the subscription based journal publishing model. I don't mean this to be a criticism of library budget holders and serials librarians who are working very hard to negotiate with publishers to retain access to as many journal titles as they can with their ever-decreasing budgets. Academic libraries have students who are paying for their education, and expect to have access to journal articles, and academics who expect access to current research to do their jobs - the idea of just stopping paying subscriptions as an individual institution, or even as part of a consortium is unthinkable at present, when the backlash from students and academics at losing access to journals would be so great.

Discussion of open access does have to be opened up further to the whole academic and research library community, and not just remain mostly within the world of repository practitioners and developers. I also wonder about the effects of CILIP's reporting on open access to the wider library community, with another less-than-positive review in this month's Update entitled Open access could cost some universities dear, says Jisc report. (I'm not putting the link to this in here as CILIP members will know where to look, and for the rest of you CILIP Update is not open access - sorry.) Hopefully the more positive coverage that open access has received at UKSG10 will help to redress the balance of this.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Peer review

The Research Information Network has recently published Peer review: a guide for researchers , which aims to provide researchers with a better understanding of the peer review process and also looks at some of the contentious issues surrounding peer review.