Archive for the Open Access Category

Open Access: the Future is Diamond

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , on May 24, 2023 by telescoper

As it was foretold the Council of Europe has now released a document (PDF) that calls for “transparent, equitable, and open access to scholarly publications”.  In its conclusions, the Council calls on the Commission and the member states to support policies towards a scholarly publishing model that is not-for-profit, open access and multi-format, with no costs for authors or readers. In other words, it calls for Diamond Open Access. The covering press release includes:

If we really believe in open science, we need to make sure that researchers can make their findings available and re-usable and that high-quality scientific articles are openly accessible to anyone that needs to read them. This should be particularly the case for research that benefits from public funding: what has been paid by all should be accessible to all.

Mats Persson, Swedish Minister for Education, Ministry of Education and Research

This is clearly how Open Access should be, though I am still worried that the sizeable publishing lobby will still try to persuade research agencies and institutions to pay the existing fees on behalf of authors, which does not solve the problem but merely hides it.

I know I’m not alone in thinking that the current publishing ecosystem is doomed and will die a natural death soon enough. The replacement should be a worldwide network of institutional and/or subject-based repositories that share research literature freely for the common good. Universities and research centres should simply bypass the grotesque parasite that is the publishing industry. Indeed, I would be in favour of hastening the demise of the Academic Journal Racket by having institutions make it a disciplinary offence for any researcher to pay an APC to any journal.

We are lucky in physics and astronomy because arXiv has already done the hard work for us. With the existence of arXiv, old-style journals are no longer necessary. It is great that arXiv is being joined by similar ventures in other fields, such as BiorXiv and EarthArxiv. A list of existing repositories can be found here. I’m sure many more will follow. The future is Diamond.

What is needed is a global effort to link these repositories to each other and to peer review mechanisms. One way is through overlays as demonstrated by the Open Journal of Astrophysics, there being no reason why the idea can’t be extended beyond arXiv. Other routes are possible, of course, and I would love to see different models developed. I hope the European Council call will result in more support for Diamond Open Access. But whether this happens or not, I think the next few years are going to be very exciting.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in OJAp Papers, Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on May 18, 2023 by telescoper

It’s time to announce yet another new paper at the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was published yesterday (17th May).

The latest paper is the 17th paper so far in Volume 6 (2023) and the 82nd in all. With this one we have now published as many papers so far in 2023 as we did in all of last year. With significantly less than half the year gone, and a large number of papers in the pipeline, I think it’s quite likely we will exceed a total of 100 papers by the end of 2023. How’s that for cosmic acceleration?

The primary classification for this paper is Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics and its title is “Deep-field Metacalibration”. This article describes a technique that reduces the pixel noise in estimators of weak gravitational lensing shear signals by using a deeper imaging survey for calibration.

The authors are Zhuoqi (“Jackie”) Zhang (University of Chicago, IL, USA), Erin Sheldon (Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY, USA), and Matthew Becker (Argonne National Laborary, IL, USA).

Here is a screen grab of the overlay which includes the  abstract:

 

You can click on the image of the overlay to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the officially accepted version of the paper, along with all other astrophysics and cosmology research papers worth reading, on the arXiv here.

To Preprint or not to Preprint?

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on May 16, 2023 by telescoper

In my capacity as managing editor of the Open Journal of Astrophysics I’ve received a few emails recently disagreeing with our policy of asking authors to submit their papers to the arXiv before submitting them to OJAp. Before reflecting on the wider issue, let me just point out that we don’t actually require papers to on the arXiv first. It is possible to submit a PDF directly to the Scholastica platform. We do however say in our For Authors page:

We strongly encourage authors to submit in the manner described above (i.e. on the arXiv first). We can receive and review papers submitted directly to this platform but since the final version must be on the arXiv in order to be published we feel it is far better to submit it there first in order to establish that it is on an appropriate topic for this journal.

Looking back over the 81 papers we have published, only a handful were submitted directly to the platform; the vast majority were put on the arXiv first.

This behaviour is in some sense a continuation of a very old practice in astrophysics. I can’t resist sharing this, one of the interesting astronomical curiosities I’ve acquired over the years, which is a preprint of the classic work of Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler and Hoyle in 1957 (a paper usually referred to as B2FH after the initials of its authors), which is such an important contribution to the literature that it has its own wikipedia page.

Younger readers will probably not realize that preprints were not always produced in the electronic form they are today. We all used to make large numbers of these and post them at great expense to (potentially) interested colleagues before publication in order to get comments. That was extremely useful because a paper could take over a year to be published after being refereed for a journal: that’s too long a timescale when a PhD or PDRA position is only a few years in duration. The first papers I was given to read as a new graduate student in 1985 were all preprints that were not published until well into the following year. In some cases I had more or less figured out what they were about by the time they appeared in a journal!

The B2FH paper was published in 1957 but the practice of circulating preprints persisted well into the 1990s. Usually these were produced by institutions with a distinctive design, logo, etc which gave them a professional look, which made it easier to distinguish `serious’ papers from crank material (which was also in circulation). This also suggested that some internal refereeing inside an institution had taken place before an “official” preprint was produced and this lending it an air of trustworthiness. Smaller institutions couldn’t afford all this, so were somewhat excluded from the preprint business.

With the arrival of the arXiv the practice of circulating hard copies of preprints in astrophysics gradually died out, to be replaced by ever-increasing numbers of electronic articles. The arXiv does have some gatekeeping – in the sense there are some controls on who can deposit a preprint there – but it is far easier to circulate a preprint now than it was.

It is still the case that big institutions and collaborations insist on quite strict internal refereeing before publishing a preprint – and some even insist on waiting for a paper to be accepted by a journal before adding it to the arXiv – but there’s no denying that among the wheat there is quite a lot of chaff, some of which attracts media coverage that it does not deserve. It must be admitted, however, that the same can be said of some papers that have passed peer review and appeared in high-profile journals! No system that is operated by human beings will ever be flawless, and peer review is no exception.

Nowadays, in astrophysics, the single most important point of access to scientific literature is through the arXiv, which is why the Open Journal of Astrophysics was set up as an overlay journal to provide a level of rigorous peer review for preprints, not only to provide quality control but also to improve papers through the editorial process. In fact, I think the latter is more important than the former.

A Resignation Issue

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on May 8, 2023 by telescoper

I see the Observer has picked up on a story I wrote about a couple of weeks ago concerning the resignation of the entire Editorial Board of an Elsevier journal called Neuroimage. This story was reported in Nature on 21st April. Here is a quote from the Observer article:

Neuroimage, the leading publication globally for brain-imaging research, is one of many journals that are now “open access” rather than sitting behind a subscription paywall. But its charges to authors reflect its prestige, and academics now pay over £2,700 for a research paper to be published. The former editors say this is “unethical” and bears no relation to the costs involved.

Observer, 7th May 2023

“Unethical” is far too polite a word. Apparently the former editors intend to set up their own Open Access journal instead. Good!

This action demonstrates that researchers are starting to realize that the current system of ‘Gold’ Open Access is indeed a scam, and it’s a terrible shame that we have ended up having it foisted upon us. Fortunately, being forced to pay APCs of many thousands of euros to publish their papers, researchers are at last starting to realize that they are being ripped off.

The Editorial Board of Neuroimage and its sister journal Neuroimage: Reports resigned in protest at the `extreme’ APC levels imposed by the publisher, Elsevier, which they claim is being “too greedy”. Note however that the level of APC reported in the quote above is by no means exceptionally large.

I’m sure other academics will follow this example, as it becomes more and more obvious that the current arrangements are unsustainable. Previously the profits of the big publishers were hidden in library budgets. Now they are hitting researchers and their grants directly, as authors themselves now have to pay, and people who previously hadn’t thought much about the absurdity of it all are now realizing what a racket academic publishing really is.

If you’re an Editor of a journal that charges “article processing” fees of several thousand euros per paper then I think you should be considering your position…

Progress on Open Access?

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2023 by telescoper

The current state of play with regard to Open Access publishing is very disappointing. The academic publishing industry seems to have persuaded the powers that be to allow them to charge exorbitant article processing charges (APCs) to replace revenues lost from subscriptions when they publish a paper free to readers. This simply transfers the cost from reader to author, and excludes those authors who can’t afford to pay.

This current system of ‘Gold’ Open Access is a scam, and it’s a terrible shame we have ended up having it foisted upon us. Fortunately, being forced to pay APCs of many thousands of euros to publish their papers, researchers are at last starting to realize that they are being ripped off. Recently, the entire Editorial Board of Neuroimage and its sister journal Neuroimage: Reports resigned in protest at the `extreme’ APC levels imposed by the publisher, Elsevier. I’m sure other academics will follow this example, as it becomes more and more obvious that the current arrangements are unsustainable. Previously the profits of the big publishers were hidden in library budgets. Now they are hitting researchers and their grants directly, as authors now have to pay, and people who previously hadn’t thought much about the absurdity of it all are now realizing what a racket academic publishing really is.

The people at the top have been slow to grasp this reality, but there are signs that this is at last happening, In the USA there has been the Nelson Memorandum (see discussion here). Now there is movement in the European Union, with member states apparently set on agreeing a  text to be published next month (May 2023) that calls for immediate open access the default, with no author fees. This is clearly how Open Access should be, though I am still worried that the sizeable publishing lobby will try to persuade research agencies and institutions to pay the existing fees on behalf of authors, which does not solve the problem but merely hides it.

I know I’m not alone in thinking that the current publishing ecosystem is doomed and will die a natural death soon enough. The replacement should be a worldwide network of institutional and/or subject-based repositories that share research literature freely for the common good. Universities and research centres should simply bypass the grotesque parasite that is the publishing industry. Indeed, I would be in favour of hastening the demise of the Academic Journal Racket by having institutions make it a disciplinary offence for any researcher to pay an APC.

We are lucky in physics and astronomy because arXiv has already done the hard work for us. Indeed, it is now a fact universally acknowledged* that every new research paper worth reading in these disciplines can be found on arXiv. Old-style journals are no longer necessary. It is great that arXiv is being joined by similar ventures in other fields, such as BiorXiv and EarthArxiv. A list of existing repositories can be found here. I’m sure many more will follow. What is needed is a global effort to link these repositories to each other and to peer review mechanisms. One way is through overlays as demonstrated by the Open Journal of Astrophysics, there being no reason why the idea can’t be extended beyond arXiv. Other routes are possible, of course, and I would love to see different models developed. I think the next few years are going to be very exciting.

*It is also a fact universally acknowledged that anyone who doesn’t understand the reference to “a fact university acknowledged” has not read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen…

On SciPost…

Posted in Maynooth, Open Access with tags , , , on April 24, 2023 by telescoper

On of my colleagues this morning passed on details of a recent publication to put on the Twitter feed of the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth. As far as I’m aware this is the first paper authored by a member of the Department to be published on SciPost, a Diamond Open Access journal.

I’ve known about SciPost for quite a while, but have been preoccupied with the Open Journal of Astrophysics (OJAp) and have not tracked its progress very closely, but I’m glad to see it going well. Its business model is very different from the Open Journal of Astrophysics but its commitment to publishing high-quality scientific papers free of charge for authors and readers alike is most commendable. Looking at the physics section I see that there are quite a few highly-cited papers among them, over a wide spread of topics, including high-energy physics. There are only a few papers in Astronomy, however- only three when I looked.

I’ve heard it said that one of the advantages of SciPost is that, because it allows authors to keep the copyright on their publications, they can post articles freely on arXiv for wider distribution without embargo or other restriction. That is true and laudable. The logic of the Open Journal of Astrophysics, however, is that most astrophysicists use arXiv as their primary source of research literature, so if you’re going to read it on arXiv why not dispense with the separate journal and just use an overlay?

Not all research areas are so wedded to the arXiv, however, and it is great that there’s a free alternative. I’m a little surprised that nobody has set up a particle physics overlay journal (yet), as the HEP community seems to use arXiv a lot. When I asked a particle physicist about this they said it had been discussed, but they decided that they were happy enough with SciPost as an OA platform. Fair enough. The important thing to me is to avoid the excessive Article Processing Charges (APCs) imposed by mainstream journals for OA publishing.

I note that the HEP community has SCOAP3, which pays for articles to appear in Open Access form in traditional journals. In other words it hides the cost from the scientists and effectively subsidizes the academic publishing industry. It is important that there are alternatives to traditional journals so that authors to have a choice whether to adopt the SCOAP3 route.

One final comment. On the Finance page for SciPost it states that the estimated average cost per paper published is €400. That’s at 2019 rates. It’s probably higher now. That cost is a lot less than a typical APC but is still about a factor of ten higher than the cost per paper for OJAp. SciPost has a large network of sponsors so it can cover this cost. The overlay model used by arXiv is much cheaper to run.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in OJAp Papers, Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on April 18, 2023 by telescoper

Back after a short hiatus due to the Easter holidays, it’s time to announce yet another new paper at the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was accepted for publication a few weeks ago but the final version only appeared on the arXiv yesterday. Since OJAp is an arXiv-overlay journal, we have to wait for authors to upload the accepted version before we can publish the overlay.

Anyway, the latest paper is the 12th paper so far in Volume 6 (2023) and the 77th in all. This one is in the currently under-populated folder marked Solar and Stellar Astrophysics and its title is “Predicting Stellar Mass Accretion: An Optimized Echo State Network Approach in Time Series Modeling”.

The authors are: Gianfranco Bino, Shantanu Basu & Ramit Dey (all at the University of Western Ontario, Canada), Sayantan Auddy (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, USA), Lyle Muller (University of Western Ontario, Canada) and Eduardo I. Vorobyov (University of Vienna, Austria & Southern Federal University, Russia).

Here is a screen grab of the overlay which includes the  abstract:

You can click on the image of the overlay to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the officially accepted version of the paper on the arXiv here.

Response to the Nelson Memorandum from arXiv

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on April 11, 2023 by telescoper

I just noticed on the arXiv blog that arXiv, along with bioRxiv and medRxiv, has released its response in the form of an open letter to the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) “Nelson Memorandum” which recommends that US government agencies update their public access policies to make publications and data from research funded by US taxpayers publicly accessible immediately without embargo or cost. I thought I’d take the liberty of reproducing the letter in full here because what it says should apply beyond the United States. I agree particularly strongly with the last paragraph. I haven’t edited the letter except to replace footnotes with links.

—o—

April 11, 2023

The recent Office of Science and Technology Policy “Nelson Memorandum” on “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research” is a welcome affirmation of the public right to access government funded research results, including publication of articles describing the research, and the data behind the research. The policy is likely to increase access to new and ongoing research, enable equitable access to the outcome of publicly funded research efforts, and enable and accelerate more research. Improved immediate access to research results may provide significant general social and economic benefits to the public.

Funding Agencies can expedite public access to research results through the distribution of electronic preprints of results in open repositories, in particular existing preprint distribution servers such as arXivbioRxiv, and medRxiv. Distribution of preprints of research results enables rapid and free accessibility of the findings worldwide, circumventing publication delays of months, or, in some cases, years. Rapid circulation of research results expedites scientific discourse, shortens the cycle of discovery and accelerates the pace of discovery.

Distribution of research findings by preprints, combined with curation of the archive of submissions, provides universal access for both authors and readers in perpetuity. Authors can provide updated versions of the research, including “as accepted,” with the repositories openly tracking the progress of the revision of results through the scientific process. Public access to the corpus of machine readable research manuscripts provides innovative channels for discovery and additional knowledge generation, including links to the data behind the research, open software tools, and supplemental information provided by authors.

Preprint repositories support a growing and innovative ecosystem for discovery and evaluation of research results, including tools for improved accessibility and research summaries. Experiments in open review and crowdsourced commenting can be layered over preprint repositories, providing constructive feedback and alternative models to the increasingly archaic process of anonymous peer review.

Distribution of research results by preprints provides a well tested path for immediate, free, and equitable access to research results. Preprint archives can support and sustain an open and innovative ecosystem of tools for research discovery and verification, providing a long term and sustainable approach for open access to publicly funded research.

R.I.P. Gordon Moore (1929-2023)

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on March 25, 2023 by telescoper
Gordon Moore, photographed in 1981. Picture credit: Intel corporation.

I was saddened this morning to see news of the passing of scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Gordon Moore at the age of 94. Moore was a co-founder in 1968 of semiconductor company Intel, which has an enormous manufacturing facility at Leixlip, just a few miles from Maynooth, which employs almost 5000 people and contributes hugely to the local economy.

Gordon Moore also gave his name to Moore’s Law which relates to the rate of growth of transistors in integrated circuits and hence to the growth of computing power that gave rise to microprocessors, personal computers and supercomputers. I had reason to refer to Moore’s Law on this blog just a couple of days ago.

Moore made a huge personal fortune from business, and in 2000, he and his wife Betty established the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with a gift worth about $5 billion. Through the Foundation, and as individuals, they have funded projects in science in fields as diverse as materials science and physics to genomics, data science and astronomy, in particular they have funded including the Thirty Metre Telescope project.

I have personal reasons for being grateful for the generosity of Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. When we were try to set up the Open Journal of Astrophysics some years ago we were awarded a small grant from them. It wasn’t a large amount of money but it was essential in allowing us to develop the idea into the working journal it is today. The Open Journal of Astrophysics is just one of many projects that would not have been possible without philanthropic giving of this sort.

I send my condolences to Betty (whom he married in 1950) and to the rest of his family, as well as all his friends and colleagues.

Rest in peace Gordon Moore (1929-2023)

How do we make accessible research papers a reality?

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on March 21, 2023 by telescoper

I wanted to advertise an event – an accessibility forum – organized by arXiv that looks interesting to anyone interested in open access publishing understood in the widest possible sense. It’s advertised as a practical forum, free for all:

Hosted by arXiv, this half-day online forum will center the experiences of academic researchers with disabilities who face barriers to accessing and reading papers. The forum will be useful for people across the academic authoring and publishing ecosystem who are committed to making accessible research papers a reality. Together, we can chart a path towards fully accessible research papers, and leave with practical next steps for our own organizations.

It’s on April 17th, from 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time (USA), which is 6pm to 10pm Dublin Time. You can find more details including information on how to register, here.

We usually focus on open access publishing in terms of the costs involved, but there is much more we can do in other respects to make scientific research as accessible as possible to as wide a community as possible. Having said that, this announcement did inspire me to go off

When I saw the word “ecosystem” in the description above, it reminded me of a brief discussion I had recently with a colleague who asked what I hoped to achieve with the Open Journal of Astrophysics (other than “world domination”). My answer was that I just wanted to show that there is a practical way to bypass the enormous expense of the traditional journal industry. Instead of just sitting around complaining about the state of things I wanted to demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be the way it is. The way the number of submissions to OJAp is increasing, it seems more and more people are becoming convinced.

It seems to me that the switch from subscription charges to the dreaded Article Processing Charge has help generate momentum in this direction, by making it even more explicit that the current arrangements are unsustainable. Previously the profits of the big publishers were hidden in library budgets. Now they are hitting researchers and their grants directly, as authors now have to pay, and people who previously hadn’t thought much about the absurdity of it all are now realizing what a racket academic publishing really is.

Increasing numbers of researchers think that the current ecosystem is doomed. I am convinced that it will die a natural death soon enough. But a question I am often asked is what will replace it? I think the answer to that is very clear: a worldwide network of institutional and/or subject-based repositories that share research literature freely for the common good. Universities and research centres should simply bypass the grotesque parasite that is the publishing industry. Indeed, I would be in favour of hastening the demise of the Academic Journal Racket by having institutions make it a disciplinary offence for any researcher to pay an APC.

We’re lucky in physics and astronomy because arXiv has already done the hard work for us. Indeed, it is now a fact universally acknowledged that every research paper worth reading in these disciplines can be found on arXiv. Old-style journals are no longer necessary. It is great that arXiv is being joined by similar ventures in other fields, such as BiorXiv and EarthArxiv. I’m sure many more will follow. What is needed is a global effort to link these repositories to each other and to peer review mechanisms. One way is through overlays as demonstrated by the Open Journal of Astrophysics, there being no reason why the idea can’t be extended beyond arXiv. Other routes are possible, of course, and I would love to see different models developed. I think the next few years are going to be very exciting.