‘Why Publishers Should Care About Persistent Identifiers’

Phill Jones and Alice Meadows, in a Scholarly Kitchen post urging publishers to go all in with persistent identifiers like ORCID:

Over the last few years, there has been significant progress in developing recommendations, policies, and procedures for creating, promoting, and using persistent identifiers (PIDs). […] Publishers — and publishing system providers — were early and enthusiastic adopters of persistent identifiers. […] Nevertheless, we think it’s fair to say that many — probably most — publishers aren’t realizing the full potential of PIDs. DOIs are being registered for most publications (especially Crossref DOIs) and ORCID iDs are being collected, but their full value — for authors and publishers alike — isn’t currently being exploited.

“Exploited” is an interesting verb in this context.

The benefits of persistent identifiers—including new-ish entrants like the ROR organization ID—are obvious, and Jones and Meadows make the case in this and a follow-up post.

But there are reasons, too, to be cautious about a “PID-optimized world,” to borrow their phrase. One is that an ID-for-everything system promises to feed the quantified research-assessment culture—the one that’s ruined UK higher ed and, in its worldwide overspread, is complicit in the re-casting of the university as an economic engine.

The other, related issue is that all this interlinked data will make it easier for the big publishers to create prediction products, only to sell back to universities and research-assessment offices at steep premiums. We are, in a PID-optimized world, shoveling coal into the furnace of surveillance publishing.

Jones and Meadows, indeed, pitch the business case to publishers directly: “This information,” they write, “doesn’t just flow from publisher systems; it can flow into them too, enabling […] better (and easier) business insights.”

Yikes. And who knew there is a PIDapoolaz?

‘Open access in low-income countries — open letter on equity’

From a new and important open letter signed by 17 Nobel laureates and more than 30 international organizations:

The exorbitant article processing charges (APC) that come hand-in-hand with the Author-Pays OA publishing model deepens the inequality between researchers from developed countries and those in lower income countries. […] In developing countries, APC associated with the publication of scientific articles could represent a large proportion of the annual grants (as much as 35-130%).

The letter, spearheaded by a group of young scientists, calls out Plan S for its friendly fire, and cites the momentum behind the UNESCO Recommendation. Among other suggestions, the letter calls for the creation of an ad hoc worldwide committee, a Global Initiative for Equitable OA Models.

This is one to watch—and join.

‘FTC warns it will go after ed tech companies misusing children’s data’

Tonya Riley, writing for Cyberscoop:

The Federal Trade Commission voted 5-0 on Thursday to issue a policy statement warning education tech companies against using data collected from children via education services for additional commercial purposes, including marketing and advertising.

A promising move … for children under 13. Teens and, well, college students remain, as Riley puts it, “susceptible to industry surveillance.”

‘Wiley and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Sign Open Access Agreement’

From the Wiley press release:

This agreement, which marks Wiley’s first in Latin America, positions UNAM as the leader and pioneer in the development of open access research, allowing its researchers to publish most if not all of its articles open access across Wiley’s portfolio of hybrid journals.

It’s a strangely spare announcement, with ambiguous language (“most if not all,” hybrid journals only?). Without more details, the “deal” looks like a PR stunt: Latin America—home to the nonprofit, fee-free alternative—joins the read-and-publish club.

‘Partnership with Max Planck Society marks Springer Nature’s largest open access book deal’

From Springer Nature’s press release announcing an OA book deal with Max Planck:

The initial three-year agreement, live as of 1st January 2022, will enable authors from all 86 Max Planck Institutes to receive a discount on the standard Book Publishing Charge (BPC) to publish their book OA. MPDL will contribute central funding toward the coverage of the discounted BPC, lowering the costs for authors even further. The discount and funding will be available across all of the publisher’s book imprints, under a CC BY licence, ensuring their work is freely accessible and discoverable to all communities across science, technology, medicine, the humanities and social sciences. They will be available to readers around the world via Springer Nature’s content platform SpringerLink. 

Deals like this one are an extension in spirit of the journal-based read-and-publish model—even if there’s no straightforward “read” component. Springer Nature charges $15,000 to publish an OA book, via a Book Processing Charge (BPC). Max Planck researchers won’t see that charge, as the German institutes will cover the difference after the deal’s discount. The problem is that deals like this prop up the BPC system, which excludes the vast majority of the world’s scholars. Researchers lucky enough to work in wealthy European countries and a handful of rich North American universities, meanwhile, accrue all the OA benefits.

Book Analytics Dashboard

From the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI) announcement:

The Book Analytics Dashboard Project (2022-2025) is focused on creating a sustainable OA Book focused analytics service. […] In addition to scaling workflows, infrastructure and customer support, the Demonstration Project is developing a long-term plan for housing, maintenance and funding of the analytics service as a sustainable community infrastructure.

It’s a mess right now—a labor-intensive harvesting of (in Lucy Barnes’ phrase) “apples, oranges, grapes, kiwi fruit and pears.”

Godspeed to the COKI people.

‘The Gig Economy Comes for Scholarly Work’

Kate Eichhorn, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education [paywalled]:

In early March, Chegg launched a marketing campaign to convince educators to sell their teaching materials to the company’s recently launched Uversity platform. Chegg describes Uversity as a “collaborative learning library,” though many educators may disagree with that characterization. […] The message went on to break down Chegg’s assessed valuation of different types of curricular materials, with a caveat that the listed price reflects the company’s current 50-percent bonus — a limited-time offer. Apparently, if I rushed to take advantage of this promotion, I could cash in to the tune of $375 per practice exam (limit 4), $375 per study guide (limit 4), $120 for lecture notes (limit 15), $75 per practice quiz (limit 5), $120 per case study (limit 5), and $120 for lab notes (limit 10).

Chegg, the cheating-as-a-service (CAAS) platform, is preying on underpaid academics:

That there’s a market for Chegg’s predatory practices at all reflects the grim reality of higher education in the 2020s. As stories about the New Faculty Majority reveal, a critical mass of faculty members don’t make enough money to support themselves and their families. As a result, side gigging is already a norm in higher education.

‘What’s Your Tier? Introducing Library Partnership (LP) Certification for Journal Publishers’

Rachel Caldwell and Robin N. Sinn, writing in Commonplace in November, propose a journal-publisher scorecard. In their vision,

a publisher’s actions are quantified based on points earned for practices that align with the values of libraries and many institutions of higher education. The more points a publisher earns, the higher their overall score. LP certification is similar to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) architectural certification. Where LEED certification assesses a building project’s practices in “credit categories” such as water efficiency or indoor environmental air quality, LP certification assesses a publisher’s practices in four categories: Access, Rights, Community, and Discoverability. The overall score a publisher earns places them in one of four tiers.

The idea is to help librarians make informed choices about where to invest limited OA dollars, through what is, in effect, a point-based rating system. Library-by-library vetting is utterly impractical, especially when multiple values (like licensing and fee-free OA) are at stake.

It’s an exciting idea, one that could streamline and justify libraries’ mission-aligned investing. Caldwell and Sinn include a pilot run-through of their scoring with five publishers. Elsevier, with 12 points, is easily bested by UC eScholarship and the Society for Neuroscience—40 and 44 points, respectively.

Library Partnership

Their proposed scheme (dubbed Library Paternship) could easily fold into mission-aligned funding exchanges like LYRASIS’s OACIP. Even a badging system would make sense.

More on this project soon.

Scopus + arXiv

From Arxiv’s blog last week:

New among the membership benefits that all institutions receive, is access to a personalized digital dashboard, containing an overview of the articles their researchers have posted on the platform. […] To provide this information, arXiv is partnering with Scopus to optimize that publication data and increase institution’s visibility of their researcher contributions.

Yikes: arXiv in bed with Elsevier. As arXiv later clarified, Scopus is using arXiv’s open APIs, so there’s no private data capture. As Open Book Publishers’ Rupert Gatti wrote on Twitter:

The additional info is helpful – suggesting that Scopus is using the open api as anybody else can. But what does it mean that Scopus was ‘selected’ to provide submission data? Could another entity (eg @OpenAlex_org) provide an alternative for you? any Scopus exclusivity clause?

‘Introducing the Open Book Collective’

The good people at COPIM have officially announced the Open Book Collective:

The collective will bring together OA publishers, OA publishing service providers, libraries, and other research institutions to create a new, mutually supportive ecosystem for the thriving of OA book publishing. At the heart of the work of the Open Book Collective (OBC) will be a new platform. This platform will make it far quicker and easier for libraries and others to financially support different OA publishers and service providers via membership offerings.

The in-progress platform, when it’s unveiled this summer, will be the best example of what I’ve called mission-aligned funding exchange—where funders provide direct support to OA publishers, bypassing the author-excluding APC/BPC. One especially exciting facet of the design is that the Collective will support publication bundles, including the ScholarLed publishers (of which mediastudies.press is a member).

Annual Reviews Goes All-In with Subscribe to Open

Annual Reviews, in a press release:

Today, the leading nonprofit publisher Annual Reviews announced that over the next 18 months they will make their entire portfolio of 51 academic journals freely available to everyone under a new model called Subscribe to Open. These highly cited journals cover topics across the sciences, including astronomy, environmental science, genomics, marine science, public health, and sociology

Annual Reviews, together with Berghahn, ran the first round of S2O pilots last year. They apparently went well.

‘When Consolidation Provides Benefits as well as Market Power’

I missed this odd bit of Panglossian praise for corporate consolidation, published in the Scholary Kitchen last fall:

One very good reason to favor consolidation is when it provides scale and financial stability to a specialized or niche provider. Such a specialized provider may find it a struggle, if not impossible, to sustain itself over time without such scale. […] Users also benefit when a consolidation serves to streamline and integrate workflows. This is such an obvious benefit to end-users that it is often surprising how long it takes for some consolidations to deliver on workflow benefits. […] Paradoxically, consolidation may serve to increase competition, not weaken it. This happens when a particular market segment already has a dominant player, but consolidation among other, smaller organizations in the same segment can put pressure on the leading incumbent. In the research publishing area any consolidation that does not include Elsevier potentially makes it possible to compete more effectively with Elsevier.

Wowzer. Both Roger Schonfeld and Joseph Esposito are better than this, whatever
cavaets and qualifications they offer. They dismissively refer to “frequent, at times reflexive, customer opposition to acquisitions in these sectors, motivated by concerns about pricing.” That’s Newspeakish as a characterization: Yes, lots of folks that care about scholarly communication, librarians very much included, worry about monopoly pricing power. But we’re also worried about a host of other factors, including the monetization of scholars’ data, blocked access to reading (subscriptions) or authorship (APCs), and the fundamental misalignment of values between publicly traded for-profits and the pursuit of knowledge.

A benefit of consolidation is that …. it will help another conglomerate bloat up to rival the hyper-consolidated Elsevier?? That’s a depressing surrender of agency and possibility. Et tu, Roger?

Surveillance Publishing

From my just-published Elephant in the Lab piece:

Siphoning taxpayer, tuition, and endowment dollars to access our own behavior is a financial and moral indignity. That we are paying the sellers a second time, after budget-draining subscription and APC outlays, is a scandal. Elsevier made $1.4 billion in profit last year, on $3.6 billion in revenue—a profit margin of 38%. That lucrative business is built on scholars’ unpaid labor, as subsidized by our university-employers. The typeset product of that labor, in a longstanding complaint, is sold back to us at extortionate prices. Now Elsevier is skimming the behavioral cream, and selling that too. If anything, profits from the first business have financed the build-up of the second.

There are surveillance publishers in our midst, and it’s going to get worse unless we start crying foul.

‘The arXiv of the future will not look like the arXiv’

Alberto Pepe, Matteo Cantiello, and Josh Nicholson, in their arXiv paper calling on arXiv to overhaul itself:

Disclaimer: This article has originally been written and posted on Authorea, a collaborative online platform for technical and data-driven documents. Authorea is being developed to respond to some of the concerns with current methodology raised in this very piece, and as such is suggested as a possible future alternative to existing preprint servers.

The paper doesn’t mention that Authorea is owned by Atypon, which itself is a subsidiary of publishing oligopolist Wiley. All three authors are affiliated with the Wiley-owned platform.

Which begs the question: will the arXiv of the future be nonprofit?

Update: The paper was originally published in 2017, before Authorea was acquired by Wiley. A webpage version was posted to arXiv’s experimental html5 renderer with a 2022 time stamp, which confused me and many others across Twitter about its pub date.

‘Sometimes, accessing money is a bigger problem than making a sale’

The Knowledge Futures Group’s Gabe Stein, writing about the head-scratching hurdles faced by KFG in its effort to secure financial support from libraries:

If we were selling to for-profit corporations we’d mostly be able say “enter your credit card info here” and that would be that. If we were a for-profit corporation ourselves, the interface would be at least a little bit simpler because we’d be able to say “you pay us for these exact services, which we take away if you don’t continue to pay us” […] But being a mission-driven nonprofit with values that align with universities has, ironically, made it much, much harder to be supported by those universities.

At mediastudies.press we face this problem too. Library and university procurement policies make it hard for even well-meaning librarians to commit direct support to publishers. There’s some serious madness here. Libraries are choking on the oligoplolists’ subscription and APC costs. They’re generally sympathetic to the community-led, nonprofit alternative. There are plenty of other obstacles in shifting dollars to the KFG’s of the world; red tape and we’ve-always-done-it-this-way inertia shouldn’t be one of them.

‘In defence of writing book reviews’

David Beer, in his love letter to the academic book review:

Rather than being at the centre of disciplines, they are seen to be something of a luxury: an indulgent misuse of time spent reading, cover to cover, and then writing something that does not have any measurable value. As a result, the practice of writing a book review is often, and understandably, seen as an indulgence too far; a waste of precious time; a distraction from the proper activity of making original contributions to knowledge; an inefficiency perhaps.

Beer acknowledges all the metric-tide pressures that make reviews hard to fit in. But, he continues,

if these pressures mean that we abandon the book review, then we might well be damaging the foundations from which knowledge emerges and the community building properties of the debate that they afford.

It’s a great post. Beer ends up describing writing a book review as “very minor form of resistance”:

a space that we use to put a notion of collective knowledge ahead of the pressure for individualised contributions. The book review presents us with an opportunity to show that we value the things that might otherwise be lost in the logic of the systems that govern our research. We may even find that by defending the book review, the other aspects of our work might be enriched anyway.

On the Other Hand: ‘UK Universities Accept Elsevier Open-Access Proposal’

ResearchProfessional News:

UK universities are close to sealing an open-access deal with the academic publisher Elsevier, following protracted negotiations on the replacement of the UK’s largest subscription agreement. On 24 February, a spokesperson for the higher education IT firm Jisc confirmed that the sector had accepted a proposal from Elsevier “which meets their core requirements”. “Contract negotiations are currently ongoing, before a deal is finalised,” they said. 

One step forward, one step back.

The Open Acess Community Framework

Helen Dobson, writing for Jisc’s blog on the UK consortium’s new diamond OA funding scheme:

Jisc will publish a call directed to mission-based and diamond publishers to submit an application providing detailed information about their journal/initiative and an annual UK HE funding target by a submission deadline date.
Jisc will then check submissions against sector quality standards and will work with approved publishers to arrive at institutional contribution levels […]
We’ll announce participants in late April and open catalogue pages in [in] Jisc’s ordering system, so that members can see details of funding options and pledge support.

It’s such happy news: Jisc’s Open Acess Community Framework (OACF) is the latest iteration of the mission-aligned funding exchange—the direct-funding alternative to the APC and read-and-publish.

‘Revealed: leading climate research publisher helps fuel oil and gas drilling’

The Guardian:

Scientists working with one of the world’s largest climate research publishers say they’re increasingly alarmed that the company works with the fossil fuel industry to help increase oil and gas drilling, the Guardian can reveal.

For more than a decade, [Elsevier] has supported the energy industry’s efforts to optimize oil and gas extraction. It commissions authors, editors and journal advisory board members who are employees at top oil firms. Elsevier also markets some of its research portals and data services directly to the oil and gas industry to help “increase the odds of exploration success”.

Let me count the ways…

‘The Fund for Fair OA’

Demmy Verbeke and Laura Mesotten, writing in UKSG Insights on the KU Leuven Fund for Fair OA:

The current push for OA risks putting so much strain on library budgets that there is no money left to foster alternative approaches to scholarly communication beyond the for-profit solutions offered by a handful of big technology companies. This should not deter research libraries from investing in OA, but rather incentivize them to prioritize non-profit, community-led approaches which are better aligned with scholarly values. One possible way to do this is to create a discrete fund specifically focused on financing these alternatives, which has a number of advantages concerning visibility, speed of decision-taking, administration and budget control. The Fund for Fair OA managed by KU Leuven Libraries is an example of such a fund, solely spent on OA books published by a university press and other non-profit initiatives in the field of open scholarship (particularly when funded through library membership programmes).

More like this, please.

The article describes KU Leuven’s thinking behind the Fund‘s decision to drop APC support, even for nonprofit publications. The issues were mainly logistical: It was a messy hassle. The upshot, though, is that the Fund, since 2021, has turned off what was already a slow-flowing APC spigot.