‘Open Access Tipping Point (OATIP) Public Affirmation ‘

From the joint statement of participants in the late-August Open Access Tipping Point workshop:

While our approaches and strategies may take different forms, we affirm the importance of using journal license negotiations to promote open access to our scholarship and to support sustainable business models, including the elimination of dual payments to publishers. We will advocate broadly, and work with our stakeholders both locally and in existing consortia, to advance these common goals.

It’s pretty vague—no doubt by necessity, given over 30 signatories—but still exciting.

‘The Media Lab’s funding structure is unusual’

Buried in the Chronicle‘s investigative piece on the MIT Media Lab’s Caleb Harper:

The Media Lab’s funding structure is unusual. The lab’s operating budget is $75 million a year. “Member” companies, which tend to be megacorporations like Google and Nike, pay an annual fee of at least $250,000 in exchange for access to the technology that’s developed there. Representatives from the companies visit the lab twice a year to learn about the researchers’ progress.

With the Epstein scandal in the news, the Lab’s deep ties to business are getting more news. Yes, lots of good work happens there, but the Lab has long been—at the same time—an outsourced R&D operation.

‘Analytics can save higher education. Really’

Speaking of data-driven university makeovers, I missed this chilling joint statement from three big associations of higher-ed number-crunchers:

We strongly believe that using data to better understand our students and our own operations paves the way to developing new, innovative approaches for improved student recruiting, better student outcomes, greater institutional efficiency and cost-containment, and much more. Data are an institutional strategic asset and should be used as such.

These groups, along with the accreditors and foundations like Lumina and Gates, make up what is–full-stop–an assessment lobby. They’ve already transformed American universities in the McKinsey mold.

‘Data-Driven Accountability’

Inside Higher Ed on the Lumina Foundation’s grant to regional U.S. accreditor:

WSCUC will use its $745,000 grant to build on momentum and tools for results-driven accreditation, said Jamienne Studley, the commission’s president and a former Education Department official during the Obama administration. That may include enhanced measures of student success, a new set of triggers to decide when to devote extra attention to review institutions’ enrollment practices and strategies to better monitor financially fragile institutions.

What the accreditors plan today universities will be scrambling to implement tomorrow. Accreditors are the murky U.S. counterpart to the centralized, state-driven university sector of the rest of the world. And they are, ironically, far less accountable.

ScholarlyHub Shuts Down

From the initiative’s “final newsletter” today:

Over the last two years we have tried and failed to raise the funds necessary to make a major and urgent change in the world of scholarly communications. That failure, we think, has more to do with our strategy rather than a lack of vision, desire, people, or material means to use the internet’s full potential for liberating scholarly knowledge from the chains of private interests and greed. Other initiatives are blooming and still others are sure to come. Perhaps in due time the right formula will be found to bring them all into fruitful communication with one another, which was in essence our plan.

We need a viable nonprofit alternative to Academia.edu and ResearchGate now more than ever.

‘The Library Solution: How Academic Libraries Could End the APC Scourge’

From a piece I just published in the SSRC’s Items:

The article processing charge (APC) is the specter haunting the open access movement. Advocates for open access (OA) face plenty of other obstacles, including tolled journal prestige, researcher inertia, and the life-draining embrace of the publishing oligopolists. But the APC—the fee many publishers charge authors to publish—is a homegrown problem. Most scholars cannot afford the fees, a fact masked by the privileged segment who can: scientists in the rich industrialized world, and scholars at a handful of elite Western universities. The rest of us—researchers from the Global South and nonscientists everywhere—are left with a bill we can’t pay. So the prevailing APC regime fixes one barrier to access, for readers, by erecting another, for authors. That’s a cruel irony.

‘The limitations to our understanding of peer review’

Jon Tennant and Tony Ross-Hellauer, in a new preprint on SocArXiv:

As a core component of our immense scholarship system, it is routinely and widely criticised. Much ink has been spilled on highly-cited and widely-circulated editorials criticising or championing peer review. A number of small- to medium-scale population-level studies have investigated various aspects of peer review’s functionality; yet the reality is that there are major gaps in our theoretical and empirical understanding. Research on peer review is not particularly well-developed, often producing conflicting, overlapping, or inconclusive results, and seems to suffer from similar biases to much of the rest of the scholarly literature.

They float the idea of a new ‘peer review studies’ field. The 2017 paper that Tennant, Ross-Hellauer, and an army of co-authors used to outline an array of possible peer-review futures is a good charter for their proposed field.

‘A University Press Goes Private, And No One is the Wiser’

Guy Geltner, commenting on the stealthy privatization of Amsterdam University Press:

The corporate, market-blindness leading this process on the UvA’s part underscores its dismissivness of the needs and concerns of the academic community, above all in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). It also betrays a lack of transparency in the UvA’s handling of the affair as well as a cavalier attitude towards the commodification of scholarship. I, for one, hope that SSH scholars—the myriad editors, reviewers, board members and authors on whose tax-paid work the press’s success relies—will take stock of what is being promoted behind their back yet ostensibly on their behalf, namely a business model built on ignorance and exploitation. The [University of Amsterdam] has consciously lent it a hand, allowing some fishy business to go on as usual (with apologies to the fish).

The licensing agreement—by which the now-private Press gets to keep using the University’s name and logo—is reminiscent of the shady non-disclosure of Knowledge Unlatched’s pivot to profit.

‘77 Years to Become Open Access’

If current trends hold, the communication discipline will be fully OA in 2094. In 77 years. That’s the conclusion of a just-published study in SAGE Open, that also reported that just 3.3% of communication articles are OA. By that yardstick, the discipline is a laggard, ranking 116 out of 184 disciplinary categories (as tracked by Web of Science).

‘Collaboration without Elsevier is the key to open access and open science’

Jon Tennant, in a reposting of his comments on a disingenuous, Elsevier-penned Times Higher Ed piece:

When Elsevier uses words like ‘sustainable’, I do not think it means what it thinks they mean. The term ‘sustainable’ means maintaining Elsevier’s 37% profit margins and projected growth. Everyone else means not wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and more on a for-profit publisher that continues to aggressively mislead its customers, and lobby against progressive OA models, when a number of better, non-profit, community-led initiatives exist.

Tennant is—as he should be—merciless.

‘Open Insights: An Interview with Janneke Adema and Sam Moore’

Janneke Adema and Sam Moore of the Radical Open Access Collective, in an Open Library of Humanities interview:

OLH: How does a radical approach to open access empower researchers in the Global South, and those outside of traditional institutional frameworks?

JA & SM: We would rather emphasise the opposite: it is researchers in the Global South and those outside or on the fringes of institutions (so-called para-academics) that empower the open access movement and scholarly publishing more in general. Dominique Babini has for example stressed that “the international community would do well to follow the examples of initiatives in Latin America, where open access is already the norm and where costs are shared among members of scholarly communities to ensure lasting impact”. In Latin America, Babini points out, the cost of publishing has always been an integral part of the cost of research, where it is universities and academic societies, not commercial publishers that predominantly publish journals and books. There is also the example of sustainable publishing platforms and models developed here, based on cost sharing, in opposition to the commercial enclosures APCs impose for example.

The whole interview is worth a read.

‘Fitting the mould – What the European Commission’s second tender for an Open Research Publishing Platform tells us about the future of scholarly communication’

Bianca Kramer, on the European Commission’s second go-around on its RFP for a preprint platform:

The use of proprietary technology is now allowed, with the Commission only requiring a non-exclusive license for the duration of the contract, and longer only for specific customizations. In addition, the handover will now only include the content of the platform as well as specific customizations, with the goal of transferring them to another publishing infrastructure if desired by the Commission.

The EC seems content to sacrifice OA infrastructure for OA content.