Presentation: Predatory Open Access Journals: Myths and Realities

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation as part of Open Access Week at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (ie. OCADU) on "predatory" open access journals. It seemed to be well-received at the time and since then I've gotten some positive feedback as well.

So I thought I'd share the slides here in case others find what I did at OCADU useful in their own work. What I talked about is along the same lines as a post I published a while back on Some perspective on “predatory” open access journals.

First of all, I'd like to thank Chris Landry of the OCADU Library for inviting me to present. It was an honour and a huge pleasure to be invited. Chris has a nice recap of their OA Week celebrations here.

And here are my slides. Enjoy!

Around the Web: Ada Lovelace Day, Wikipedia & Women in Science

My library is hosting a Ada Lovelace Day event tomorrow (ok, a little late...). Continuing in a tradition of having Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thons, we're hosting our own Wikipedia Women in Science Edit-a-thon!

I've been doing a fair bit of reading over the last couple of years about Wikipedia culture and especially how it relates to the under-representation of women both as editors and as subjects of articles. So I thought I'd share some of my readings here with all of you.

Of course, this list is in no way comprehensive or complete. I welcome suggestions for further readings in the comments, either on edit-a-thons, women in science, Wikipedia culture or any of the intersections of those topics.


About Wikipedia Edit-a-thons


About Wikipedia and Editor Culture More Generally

I'm working on a LibGuide for the event which I'll post here once I make it live.

Reading Diary: Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler and Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War

Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball and Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War by Brandon R. Brown are two of the best history of science books I've read in a very long time. And even though they're both about World War II, some seventy years in the past, they've both also very topical because they are both very much about the relationship between politics and science. In a sense, what comes first, the political chicken or the scientific egg. Are scientists responsible for how their work is put to use by their political "masters?" Do scientists' responsibilities as citizens outweigh their curiosity and inquisitiveness?

All difficult questions with perhaps no right answer. But both Ball and Brown deal with those issues very directly in their books. Ball looks at how physics and physicists thrived, survived and struggled under Hitler, covering a lot of ground but basically concentrating on the story through the lives of a few key people: Werner Heisenberg, Peter Debye and Max Planck. Heisenberg and Planck are, of course, well known figures but the choice of the Dutch-borh Debye as a focal point of the book was very interesting. In Heisenberg we see the opportunist, someone who perhaps played with fire a little and tried to wiggle a bit at the end of the war. In Planck, we see someone who tried to be apolitical and "do the right thing" in a political world but in his eighties perhaps lacked the energy and perceptiveness to truly see the more just path. But Debye's story is different. Without giving too much away, it's filled with nuance and uncertainty. Who knew what and when? Why did he do that particular thing? What were his true motives? There's lots to explore and his chapters were very interesting and certainly was a very new part of the story for me.

In fact, there was lots here that was new too me, even after having read John Corwell's Hitler's Scientists a few years ago, mostly because of the way Ball really focuses on the story of physics under the Nazis, the men and the institutions and the political wrangling.

But mostly the strength of Ball's book is the way it surfaces questions about the role of science in politics, how society should see science and mostly how scientists could perhaps see their roles in a complex and dangerous world. Is science free from human concerns? When scientists insist they should be free to do pure science and not be concerned with politics or morality, are they just being delusional? What is the nature of collaboration and co-operation with the authorities of your own country in wartime? It allows us to see our own moral challenges and failings through the lens of an admittedly extreme situation. As stereotypical as the charge of "Godwining" is, the extreme lens is useful.

Brown on the other hand, does a kind of deep dive, and takes a look at the struggles Max Planck dealt with while under Nazi rule during the last decade or so of his long and illustrious career. Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War does cover all of Planck's life but mostly focuses on his final years, from 1933 when the Hitler came to power until he passed away, a broken old man but still honored and revered, in 1947.

If Ball treated the issues of science and politics from a relatively high level, Brown uses a microscope, looking at the challenges that Planck undertook as the proud standard bearer and leading light of the German physics establishment. Under the Nazis, science was to be put in the service of war; to what extent was someone like Planck able to see the dark, evil side of the Nazi regime and to what extent was his stiff upper lip essentially leading to a go along to get along attitude? So this is a book about weakness -- Planck's inability to come to grips with the deeper reality of Nazi rule is a theme. But it's also about the human side of weakness too, as Planck is presented as a principled, moral man whose weakness was deeply embedded in a culture of obedience to the state and a rigid conception of how scientists should relate to their political "masters."

At the end of the day, these are both terrific books that I would recommend to any library that collects in the history of science and technology or the history of World War II.

Ball, Philip. Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 320pp. ISBN-13: 978-0226204574

Brown, Brandon R. Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 272pp. ISBN-13: 978-0190219475

(Review copy of Planck book provided by the publisher.)

The Science Integrity Project and the Statement of Principles for Sound Decision Making in Canada

Though not explicitly tied to our current federal election campaign, the début this week of the Science Integrity Project and the publishing of their Statement of Principles for Sound Decision Making in Canada just as the campaign heats up is surely not coincidental.

In any case, election or not, this is a wonderful initiative and I support it wholeheartedly. There's lots of background on their website about the process for coming up with the principles, an FAQ and a few examples of how the principles work in practice.

From their website:

Welcome to the Science Integrity Project. Our project reflects the collective wisdom of 75 leaders — in science, indigenous knowledge, public policy, civil society, and governance — who are concerned about the erosion of an evidence-based approach to public policy decision-making in Canada.

Why SIP:
The Science Integrity Project was created in response to growing concerns [1] that many public policy decisions made in Canada — and in its cities, provinces and territories — are not consistently supported by solid information derived from the best available evidence — from science and indigenous knowledge.

What is SIP:
Through a series of in-depth interviews and a national forum, we developed principles for improved decision making on the basis of the best available evidence.

We call upon all Canadians, acting individually and collectively, to embrace and apply the principles for evidence-based decision-making. We invite decision makers at all levels to adopt these principles as an enduring standard for public policy development in Canada. We invite scientists, knowledge holders, and research communities to take this commitment a step further by speaking out for science integrity and the use of your research and knowledge in the development of good public policy.


There's a media release that fills in a few more details about the project. And the principles themselves:

Statement Of Principles For Sound Decision-Making In Canada

The Science Integrity Project
There is growing public concern that policy decisions in jurisdictions across Canada are being made without the support of relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information [1]. The Science Integrity Project – a 2-year initiative involving nearly 75 diverse, influential, and experienced thinkers and practitioners nationwide – is an inclusive, constructive, and non-partisan effort aimed at improving the use of evidence in decision making at all levels of government in Canada. The project held a national forum in February 2015 to discuss foundational principles for the generation and use of evidence in decision-making in Canada. This Statement is the product of their work.

The Case For Evidence-Based Decision-Making
Strong public policies, built on the foundations of evidence and analysis, ensure better outcomes for Canadians, increase government accountability and transparency, and improve our democracy. Canadians expect their representatives to seek, consider, and use rigorous, widely sourced evidence to inform decisions. Such evidence may take many forms, including:

  • Science in its broadest sense, including the body of knowledge resulting from experiments, systematic observations, statistical data collection and analysis, theory and modeling, and including information from a range of fields in the physical and biological sciences, social sciences, health sciences and engineering; and,
  • Indigenous knowledge, the body of knowledge that is the result of intellectual activity and insight gained in a traditional context and adapted over time to modern situations, and which includes the methods, skills, practices, and knowledge contained in codified knowledge systems passed between generations. [2]

Principles for Evidence-based Decision-making
We call upon all Canadians, acting individually and collectively, to embrace and apply the following principles for evidence-based decision-making. These principles are both ambitious and achievable. Real-world applications exist in many Canadian jurisdictions and have been implemented in countries around the world with great success. We believe the robust implementation of these principles will result in a stronger Canada.

Principle 1
The best available evidence – produced by methods that are transparent, rigorous, and conducted with integrity[3] – should always inform decision-making in Canada.

Principle 2
Information should be openly exchanged among scientific researchers, Indigenous knowledge holders, decision makers, and the public[4].

Principle 3
Research results should be preserved, protected, interpreted and shared in a way that is broadly
understandable and accessible.

Principle 4
Decision-making processes, and the manner in which evidence informs them, should be transparent and routinely evaluated.

1. E.g., Professional Institute of the Public Service in Canada (2013); Voices-Voix Coalition (2015)

2. There are many definitions of indigenous knowledge; we use one adapted from the World Intellectual Property Organization

3. By “integrity” in the use of science and Indigenous knowledge, we mean that public policies are built upon the best available, most relevant knowledge resources and that the transfer and use of knowledge in policy and decision-making is transparent. Integrity in the use of knowledge
in policy-making also requires integrity in the production of knowledge, that is, adhering to professional, ethical, and disciplinary standards in the production of scientific knowledge and codified cultural standards in the production of Indigenous knowledge.

4. Except in rare cases of demonstrated concern regarding privacy and security. For an overview of open access principles see “Concepts of Openness and Open Access” (UNESCO 2015

Reading Diary: Are We All Scientific Experts Now by Harry Collins and To Explain the World by Steven Weinberg

Science! What's it good for? Working towards better knowledge about the natural world!

Under review today are two books that approach what science is and what it's good for from very different angles. Steven Weinberg is a Nobel laureate in physics and in his book To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science he uses the example of the development of physics and astronomy in modern times to show how the scientific method has been developed and evolved over time. Harry Collins is a sociologist who was instrumental in developing the fields of science studies and the sociology of science. In his book Are We All Scientific Experts Now?, Collins takes what the scientific method has given us and explores how society should take advantage of the resulting knowledge and expertise.

In a sense, we have two sides of the coin here, a way to approach the contingent, temporary, evolving "truths" of science. How did we come to know what those truths are and how should the citizens of modern society view those truths. Both Weinberg's and Collins' approaches are valuable and interesting, however one of them is more successful in terms of what we actually have before us as finished books.

The Harry Collins book is the more successful of the two and is actually one of the best examples of "practical philosophy of science for regular people" I have encountered. Collins' career project is understanding expertise, particularly scientific expertise, and this book is a kind of career capstone for him. He looks at different kinds of expertise in the book. In particular he evaluates scientific expertise how those regular people should evaluate the experts and make use of the expertise.

He comes to the conclusion that scientific expertise that is based on evidence and established community practices within science should generally be trusted by the general public. The question in the title of his book, "Are we all scientific experts now?" That he basically answers with a resounding No. While skepticism is important to science and citizens should be skeptical, when we look at so many of the major issues of the day where there is widespread disagreement between citizen skeptics and the consensus of the scientific community -- vaccines and climate change being the two biggest examples -- it's not contest. Evidence and expertise are fundamentally important.

Collins' book is an incredibly important contribution to the discussion on the place of science in society and the formulation of public policy based on science. I can't imagine a library at any level that wouldn't benefit from this book. It is a quick read and very accessible and is suitable for even high school or middle school libraries.

The Weinberg book by contrast isn't as successful as I would have hoped. The goal of the book is to demonstrate the development of the scientific method through the historical development of the major scientific ideas in astronomy and physics. This is actually a very interesting goal. The scientific method is often presented as a kind of fait accompli is explanations of how it works, as if scientists always used it and always understood its power.

Of course, that's no where near the case. And Weinberg does a pretty good job of using the history of scientific ideas to tease out the history of the scientific method. But a potential pitfall is all too obvious here -- finding the right balance between explaining the content and details of those scientific theories and ideas versus pulling together the progression of the philosophical ideas embedded in the discovery of those ideas. Too much either way and the risk is diluting the complementary goal. Too much philosophy and too little science will have no grounding. Too much science and too little philosophy will produce a book too similar to shelves and shelves of other history of science books.

Unfortunately Weinberg puts too much emphasis on the science.

This is a book that could easily have been fifty pages shorter and still made the same points. I often found my attention wandering wadding through the "facts" and looking forward to the context. Weinberg often got bogged down in the "What" rather than the "why" or "how." Overall a pretty good book, I would recommend it for academic libraries that have popular science collections. Large public library systems would probably also find an audience for this book.

Collins, Harry. Are We All Scientific Experts Now? Cambridge: Polity, 2014. 140pp. ISBN-13: 978-0745682044

Weinberg, Steven. To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science. New York: Harper, 2015. 432pp. ISBN-13: 978-0062346650

Why are librarians hesitant to CANCEL ALL THE JOURNALS?

There's lots of discussion out there right now in the twitter and blog world concerning Bjorn Brembs' call to librarians to jumpstart the mass migration to Open Access by essentially unilaterally cancelling all the journals they subscribe to. This act would force the hands of all the various players in the ecosystem to immediately figure out how to make Open Access work.

Which is a great idea. I actually kind of mused about this sort of scenario a while back in a post called An Open Access thought experiment. Except what I wasn't smart enough or brave enough to do was imagine a scenario where it was librarians themselves who up and cancelled all the journals rather than it just happening.

Why would that be? Well, I think it's safe to say that librarians don't feel they have the power to unilaterally cancel all their institution's subscriptions without some fearsome retribution either from within the institution itself or from elements of the publishing world.

Recently the University of Montreal's library cancelled a big deal and seem to have gotten good support internally. So that's hopeful. By the same token, the SUNY Potsdam library's cancellation of the American Chemical Society a few years back seems to have had strong support internally. It was externally that the blowback happened. So that's both good news and bad news.

Most recently the situation at Brock University in Ontario is an interesting example of what librarians fear will be the outcome of any large-scale cancellation exercise. The Brock library cancelled the Wiley big deal package, with what they thought was internal support. But a firestorm ensued with ultimately the Brock Faculty Association filing an internal grievance to force the administration to fund the library at the level necessary to subscribe to the journals. The grievance has since been dropped, leaving it to the Senate to pick up the pieces, but the implication is clear.

Librarians: Act boldly at your own risk.

Of course, it's not that simple. As a species librarians are rather risk-averse. Institutionally, academic librarians are rarely the most powerful constituency on campus and maintaining the influence we do have is a tricky dance at best. This is not to mention that many librarians are quite happy with the subscription status quo as it more-or-less is. Handling journal subscriptions is a clearly defined role, one that makes us feel important. If that importance is often more in the cynical eyes of the publishers who flatter us than in the eyes of the local communities whom we actually build those collections for, well, that's nothing new.

Barbara Fister has much more on this issue here, Determining our Tech, and in the comments of the post:

Recently Björn Brems suggested that librarians should simply cancel all subscriptions to fix this problem. On Twitter Mike Taylor predicted that things would sort themselves out within three months of the mass die-off of subscription journals. Of course, that ignores the likely fallout: librarians would be fired and possibly arraigned on charges of collusion, the budgets they had devoted to subscriptions would not be reallocated to supporting institutional repositories or any other way of sharing information, and the many scholars who email colleagues for the PDFs they no longer could access would find out their colleagues couldn’t access them, either. Three months for the establishment of a new and better system seems a bit optimistic and based on some serious misconceptions, such as that the scholarly record Is safely preserved in LOCKSS and that somehow the copyrights publishers hold to that material will suddenly be irrelevant as publishers implode. Remember that the majority of books published in the 20th century live in copyright limbo? Yeah. Canceling subscriptions en masse won’t fix that problem.

The Library Loon suggests some ways those on the research/publishing side could perhaps better understand the pressures and constraints that librarians work under:

Kent Anderson works for a scholarly publisher. So does Peter Binfield.

Phil Davis is a researcher. So is Martin Eve.

Why is it so hard for certain portions of the open-access movement to assimilate that libraries and librarians are not monolithic with respect to open access (or, indeed, much of anything else) either?

To be sure, some of the answer to that question is “unconsidered privilege.” Librarianship is a feminized profession; that has profound social consequences vis-à-vis voice and silencing as well as political capital and lack of same. It is hardly coincidence that the loudest voices either spouting absolute nonsense about libraries and scholarly communication or erasing libraries’ contributions to open access altogether have been—universally, as best the Loon can tell—white men.

The Loon can name names if need be. Per her usual practice, she would vastly prefer not to.

Anyone can learn, however. To that end, some suggestions for places to learn about the complex world of libraries, electronic-resource management (as libraries term it), and open access.

Both Barbara and The Loon's posts are well worth reading in their entirety (The Loon refers to me as indefatigable in the post, BTW. I blush.). I couldn't agree with them more.

The paper The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era and Tim Gowers' Elsevier journals — some facts are also both good supplements to this conversation.

To end, I'll compile below as much of the documented history of the Brock case as I could find in a few quick searches online. Thanks to Ian Gibson of Brock University for some insight into their situation. Any misunderstandings remain mine, of course.

I welcome any additions or corrections from colleagues with respect to how I've described what's happened at Brock.

The Brock Library Open Access page is here.

Brock University Senate Meetings & Minutes are here.

As usual, please let me know about any errors or omissions in the list.

Update 2015.06.29. Thanks to input from a colleague at Brock, I have struck out ", with what they thought was internal support".

Friday Fun: Ten Simple Rules to Win a Nobel Prize

Being a librarian and not really being eligible for any Nobel Prizes, this probably isn't the most practical advice I've ever highlighted here on the blog. But some of you readers out there are scientists, though, right? Right?

On the other hand, I see no reason why librarians can't be eligible for the Ig Nobel Prizes, a prize I aspire to winning one day for the team. In that case, this fine article, Ten Simple Rules to Win a Nobel Prize by Nobel laureate Richard J. Roberts probably does contain a few valuable lessons towards that particular goal.

Here's a taste, but please do read the whole article. The suggestions are all on the light-hearted side, but still valuable.

Ten Simple Rules to Win a Nobel Prize

1. Never Start Your Career by Aiming for a Nobel Prize

Don’t even hope for it or think about it. Just focus on doing the very best science that you can. Ask good questions, use innovative methods to answer them, and look for those unexpected results that may reveal some unexpected aspect of nature. If you are successful in your research career, then you will make lots of discoveries and have a very happy life. If you are lucky, you will make a big discovery that may even bag you a prize or two. But only if you are extraordinarily lucky will you stand any chance of winning a Nobel Prize. They are very elusive.


9. Always Be Nice to Swedish Scientists

Several laureates had their prize severely delayed by picking a fight with the wrong person, someone who was either already a Nobel Committee member or became one subsequent to the fight. Some individuals may even have lost out altogether, although one would need to search the archives (only available 50 years after the award) to find them. This is usually an easy rule to follow as in my experience the Swedes are very nice people, good scientists, easy to collaborate with, and extremely amiable drinking partners.

It is never too early to get started on this. Then, should your name magically appear on the candidates’ list and you have to wait for it to reach the top, you may still be around to cash in. Peyton Rous had to wait from 1911 until 1966 for the Medicine Prize, just four years before his death.

Some perspective on "predatory" open access journals

Predatory open access journals seem to be a hot topic these days. In fact, there seems to be kind of a moral panic surrounding them. I would like to counter the admittedly shocking and scary stories around that moral panic by pointing out that perhaps we shouldn't be worrying so much about a fairly small number of admittedly bad actors and that we should be more concerned with the larger issues around the limitations of peer review and how scientific error and fraud leak through that system.

I'm hoping my methodology here will be helpful. I hope to counter the predatory open access (OA) journal story with a different and hopefully just as compelling narrative. Fist of all, after gathering together some of the stories about predatory OA journals, I will present some of what's been written recently about issues in scientific peer review, it's problems and potential solutions.

Then I'll be presenting a more direct counter narrative to the predatory one. First of all, I'll present some information about the fantastic resource Retraction Watch. Then I'll present some concrete case studies on how traditional peer reviewed commercial publishing fails in all the same way that supposedly predatory publishing fails.

Finally, using the incredible work of Walt Crawford and others, I'll gather some resources that will further debunk the whole "predatory" open access moral panic and further suggest that perhaps it isn't the bogus OA journals that are the main source of "predatory" publishing, but rather that the big commercial and society publishers perhaps deserve that label more.

I want to be perfectly clear. My issue isn't with the necessity of peer review and it's importance in science. Issues like climate change and vaccination panics highlight why trusting in peer reviewed science is most responsible thing to do. After all, “Research misconduct accounts for a small percentage of total funding”. I think it's probably safe to say that at the end of the day, peer review and scientific publishing work fairly well as far as fraud and general quality levels go.


Both peer review in particular and the scholarly communications ecosystem in general are human systems with all the potential for the full range of human weaknesses that implies: folly, error, bias, fallibility and bad faith. This post will explore some of the dimensions of folly, error, bias and bad faith in scholarly communication.

Let's start our adventures with some media stories and cases studies of bad faith -- true predatory open access journals.

Predatory journals are a real problem, of course, as we can see from the list above. However, I think the moral panic about their extent and impact tends to be exaggerated. I would really love to see more balance in reporting about predatory journals that contrast the real issues with scam journals with what I think are the far more pressing issues in scholarly communications. In other words, the flaws and limitations in the peer review system and the far more "predatory" traditional system of scholarly publishing that's controlled by the big commercial and society publishers. It's those publishers that are the leeches affecting the system.

These stories and anecdotes about predatory journals tend to acquire the mythic stature of the stories and anecdotes about vaccination that drive the anti-vaccine movement. Those tragic, personal stories take on a weight and social impact that's disproportional to the actual scientific and statistical significance.


Time to explore bias and human fallibility a little bit. Here are some resources about the general state of peer review, talking in general about the issues around peer review and the potential for reform. This list is meant to contrast the moral panic about "predatory" open access journals with a sober discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of peer review across all of science publishing, not just some fairly specific issues with a limited number of open access journals.

General Resources on Quality in Scientific Publishing, particularly on Issues with and Reform of Peer Review

(The Shit My Reviewers Say tumblr is a lighter-side exploration of some of these issues.)


More importantly perhaps, there is another set. There is no shortage of fairly well publicized cases of significant retractions or scientific fraud that got past the peer review process in traditionally published, peer reviewed journals, mostly from the big commercial or society publishers. In other words, where peer review was the issue, not the subscription model.

The brain child of Ivan Oransky, Retraction Watch is an amazing resource in this area, so before we get to the main event here are some advanced reading from and about that fine resource.

If you want to know about the failing of the big publishers when it comes to quality control or about researcher perpetrating scientific fraud, Retraction Watch is the definitive site on the web.

Resources by and about Retraction Watch

The site Science Fraud was taken down by various legal threats. While it existed, it was an amazing resource for uncovering practices such as falsified images or tables. Some posts are retrievable via the Internet Archive.

SCIgen is a website that allow anyone to automatically generate a bogus paper. It is often used to generate garbage papers for predatory open access journal stings. SCIgenDetection is one site that detects SCIgen papers. The SCIgen page has a number of examples and other resources related to automatically generated bogus scientific pages.

Springer has recently teamed up with Université Joseph Fourier to release the a generalized open source software package SciDetect which tries to detect fake scientific papers such as those generated by SCIGen.


And yes, the main event where we explore a different dimension of bad faith and human folly and weakness. This time on the side of the supposedly "good guys."

Bellow are examples where big commercial or society traditional, subscription-based peer review have fallen short, either due to careless or insufficient review or fraud on the part of scientists. Of course, peer review will rarely catch genuine fraud as the books are cooked. But even fraud cases demonstrate the limits of peer review across all scholarly communication, not just in "predatory" open access journals.

I would like to emphasize that this list is extremely selective. I'm mostly only highlighting particularly egregious examples that have made their way into the mass media or onto popular blogs. As above, for much much more, please visit Retraction Watch for more complete coverage. For example, The top 10 retractions of 2014.

This list is meant to contrast in number and severity to the list of examples of "predatory" open access publishing crisis and stings above.

Failure in Scholarly Communications Ecosystem through Stupidity, Error or Fraud

As noted above, this is the tip of the iceberg. Please see Retraction Watch for the rest of the iceberg.

And here are some books about academic fraud.


And as a bit of a desert, let's take a brief look at who we should perhaps be considering predatory journals, those big commercial and society journals that soak the library world for every penny of obscene profit.

Oh yes, some resources from this blog and beyond that highlight some of the issues with the big, traditional journals, some of which are society, some of which are commercial. And finally, some resources about the real predatory publishing, the big commercial and society publishers who control so much of scholarly publishing.

This list is extremely partial. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Hearing complaints and panic about predatory open access journals? Send them here for a hopefully more complete and honest picture.

(As usual, if I've mis-characterized or misunderstood any of the incidents or if I'm missing any significant items for any of the lists above, please let me know in the comments or by email at jdupuis at yorku dot ca. Hey, think of this as post-publication open peer review on this blog post. The wave of the future!)

Reading Diary: Graphic novel catchup: Laika, Neurocomic, In Real Life and The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change

Here's a bunch of graphic novels I've read in the last while that are well worth your time reading and acquiring for your library!

Abadzis, Nick. Laika. New York: First Second, 2007. 208pp. ISBN-13: 978-1596431010

Laika by Nick Abadzis in a fantastic graphic novel recounting the life of the first dog in space, the Russian dog Laika. The book goes into quite a bit of social and political history of the Soviet union in the 1950s, giving a good sense of how totalitarian states sometimes make decisions. We also get an illuminating look into the lives of people around Laika as her fateful one-way journey approaches. I really like the way Abadzis mixes the biographical with the fictionalized to give a sense of history.

In particular, keeping too close to known details and personages might have bled a bit of the drama from the tale. At the same time, inventing too many characters or events would have done a disservice to how amazing the truth is. Great book, great art, highly recommended for all audiences. This would be a great book for any school library, elementary, middle or high school. Academic libraries that collect graphic novels on science should acquire this.


Doctorow, Cory and Jen Wang. In Real Life. New York: First Second, 2014. 192pp. ISBN-13: 978-1596436589

Cory Doctorow's story Anda's Game has been adapted before, but this expanded version by Jen Wang is much longer and more engaging than what I've seen done before. In Real Life is the story of a young gamer, Anda, and her introduction to some of the harsher realities of life through a massively multiplayer game. She discovers that the economics aren't so simple -- she might work hard to earn the "gold" she needs to succeed but those with ready cash can exploit sweat shop "gold farmers" in China and pay real life money for game gold. Which is cheating, in a way, but also emblematic of how the off-line world works. Entrenched, wealth interests have an advantage.

And of course, Anda being an idealistic girl wants to help out one such gold farmer, a boy in China who is being exploited by the people who run the gold farms. Action and adventure ensure, In Real Life is a fast-paced tale with a lot to recommend it. Wang's adaptation is solid and her art is both joyful and fun yet still able to convey the grittier parts of the story. If they book has a flaw, it's that it seems a little too pat and simplistic for this young western girl to save the poor developing world boy. The simplification of the world that needs to happen for this to happen weakens a book aimed at an older teen audience who could probably handle a bit more complexity.

Overall, I would recommend this book for any young adult. Any public, high school or middle school library would do well to acquire this book.


Klein, Grady and Yoram Bauman. The Cartoon Guide to Climate Change. Washington: Island Press, 2014. 216pp. ISBN-13: 978-1610914383

The best part of Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman's The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change is the way is very clearly and concisely lays out the the current scientific understanding of climate change, presenting all the evidence in a clear and understandable way. From a brief introduction to earth science through the geological history of earth, the carbon cycle and some basic information on energy all the way to a solid introduction to climate science, Klein and Bauman cover all the basics. They also present one of the best explanations I've seen of the predictions of climate science in terms of extreme weather, water issues as well as implications for life on earth. Taking the long view, they also address what the implications are in a 100 year time frame and touch on what uncertainty means in the context of climate science.

Perhaps a bit weaker is the last section of the book, on actions we can take to combat climate change. They tend to focus on techno fixes that promise major fixes while only changing our lifestyles very little. The case they make that we can use the tools of capitalism and merely tweak our current system and still major changes in our carbon footprint isn't very convincing. Both Philippe Squarzoni's Climate Changed and Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything both make more convincing cases that we'll need more structural changes to deal with reducing our carbon output.

All that being said, this book is still worthwhile as an introduction and perhaps a gift to the climate skeptic in your circle. Bauman's narrative is clear and yet lively and amusing and Klein's art fits perfectly with the slightly zany tone. I'd recommend it to high school libraries and academic libraries that collect science or climate themed graphic novels or popular science.


Ros, Hanna and Matteo Farinella. Neurocomic. London: Nobrow, 2014. 144pp. ISBN-13: 978-1907704703

A book project supported by the Wellcome Trust, Hanna Ros and Matteo Farinella's Neurocomic is a bizarre and phantasmagorical visual journey through the world of neuroscience. The narrative is a bit strained at times, but the scientific material they do cover is solid and well presented. The art is a perfect compliment to the dreamy tale of exploration and neuroscience. Recommended, especially for an undergraduate audience.

Canada's new Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications

Finally, the Canadian government's Tri-Agency funding councils (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) have released the consolidated final version of it's open access policy. The draft version came out some time ago. The consultation process garnered quite a few responses, which the Tri-Agencies were kind enough to summarize for us.

And finally it is here. I have to admit I was getting a bit concerned. The final version was rumoured to have been kicking around the various departments waiting for final sign-off for months. With the rumours of the Conservatives possibly dropping the writ and calling a spring election I was concerned that the policy would just fall off everyone's radar and then a new government would just restart at least part of the process.

The press release is here. The FAQ is here as well as a toolbox of resources.

Here's the official text of the policy:

Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications
1. Preamble
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (“the Agencies”) are federal granting agencies that promote and support research, research training and innovation within Canada. As publicly funded organizations, the Agencies have a fundamental interest in promoting the availability of findings that result from the research they fund, including research publications and data, to the widest possible audience, and at the earliest possible opportunity. Societal advancement is made possible through widespread and barrier-free access to cutting-edge research and knowledge, enabling researchers, scholars, clinicians, policymakers, private sector and not-for-profit organizations and the public to use and build on this knowledge.

Information and communications technology, and in particular the advent of the internet, has transformed the way that science and scholarly research is conducted and communicated. Indicative of this changing landscape has been the steady growth in open access publishing and archiving, which facilitates widespread dissemination of research results. Open access enables researchers to make their publications freely available to the domestic and international research community and to the public at large, thereby enhancing the use, application and impact of research results.

Momentum for open access has been growing as numerous funding agencies and institutions worldwide implement open access policies. The Agencies strongly support open access to research results which promotes the principle of knowledge sharing and mobilization – an essential objective of academia. As research and scholarship become increasingly multi-disciplinary and collaborative, both domestically and internationally, the Agencies are working to facilitate research partnerships by harmonizing domestic policies and aligning with the global movement to open access.

The following principles guide the Agencies in their approach to promoting open access to research publications:

  1. Committing to academic freedom, and the right to publish;
  2. Recognizing the critical importance of peer review to the scholarly communication ecosystem;
  3. Maintaining the high standards and quality of research by committing to academic openness and responsible conduct of research;
  4. Promoting recognized research best practices and standards across disciplines, and embracing and sharing emerging practices and standards;
  5. Advancing academic research, science and innovation;
  6. Effective dissemination of research results; and
  7. Aligning activities and policies between Canadian and international research funding agencies.

2. Policy Objective
The objective of this policy is to improve access to the results of Agency-funded research, and to increase the dissemination and exchange of research results. All researchers, regardless of funding support, are encouraged to adhere to this policy.

3. Policy Statement
3.1 Peer-reviewed Journal Publications
Grant recipients are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication. Recipients can do this through one of the following routes:

a. Online Repositories
Grant recipients can deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscript into an institutional or disciplinary repository that will make the manuscript freely accessible within 12 months of publication. It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to determine which publishers allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies.

b. Journals
Grant recipients can publish in a journal that offers immediate open access or that offers open access on its website within 12 months. Some journals require authors to pay article processing charges (APCs) to make manuscripts freely available upon publication. The cost of publishing in open access journals is an eligible expense under the Use of Grant Funds.

These routes to open access are not mutually exclusive. Researchers are strongly encouraged to deposit a copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript into an accessible online repository immediately upon publication, even if the article is freely available on the journal’s website.

Grant recipients must acknowledge Agency contributions in all peer-reviewed publications, quoting the funding reference number (e.g. FRN, Application ID).

3.2 Publication-related Research Data

CIHR only
Recipients of CIHR funding are required to adhere with the following responsibilities:

  1. Deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database (e.g. gene sequences deposited in GenBank) immediately upon publication of research results. Please refer to the Annex for examples of research outputs and the corresponding publicly accessible repository or database.
  2. Retain original data sets for a minimum of five years after the end of the grant (or longer if other policies apply).This applies to all data, whether published or not. The grant recipient's institution and research ethics board may have additional policies and practices regarding the preservation, retention, and protection of research data that must be respected.

4. Implementation Date

For research funded in whole or in part by CIHR, this policy applies to all grants awarded January 1, 2008 and onward. While not required, researchers holding grants that were awarded prior to January 1, 2008 are encouraged to adhere to the requirements of this policy.

For research funded in whole or in part by NSERC or SSHRC, this policy applies to all grants awarded May 1, 2015 and onward. While not required, researchers holding grants that were awarded prior to May 1, 2015 are encouraged to adhere to the requirements of this policy.

5. Compliance with the Policy
Grant recipients are reminded that by accepting Agency funds they have accepted the terms and conditions of the grant or award as set out in the Agencies’ policies and guidelines. In the event of an alleged breach of Agency policy, the Agency may take steps outlined in accordance with the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research to deal with the allegation. For research funded by the Agencies, the Institution shall enable researchers to comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Publication Policy, as amended from time to time.

6. Policy Review
The Agencies will review and adapt this policy as appropriate.

7. Additional Information
A) Various resources to assist researchers in complying with this policy can be found in the Toolbox.

B) Further information regarding how to comply with the open access policy can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions.

How do I feel about the final version? Overall, happy to finally have a policy in hand that will move forward and get the research funded by the government of Canada out there and available to the public. Frankly, it is a bit disappointing to have waited so long for a final policy that is so close to the original draft. What could have possibly taken so long?

As such, my comments on the original very closely mirror my comments on this version. I'm disappointed that the Feds didn't invest any kind of effort of new money into a process to ease the transition to open access or to bring stakeholders together. I'm disappointed that they aren't topping up grants or making dedicated funds to pay for at least a little bit of publication charges. I'm disappointed that they didn't extend data requirements beyond CIHR. I'm disappointed that the policy only applies to journal articles and not other funded research outputs. Twelve months is too long, it should be six months until materials need to be made open.

But at the end of the day, those are quibbles. We have a policy. Let's get down to business.

Heather Morrison has some commentary here.

Back in June 2013 I did a post on open access resources in Canada. That post definitely needs updating!

And speaking of resources, Walt Crawford has done an amazing job of chronicling and analyzing open access and the open access movement in his online zine, Cites & Insights, especially over the last year or so with his coverage of "predatory" journals, the costs of open access and the Science journal "sting." He's kindly gathered together links to all those issues on one master post.

I'm copying those links here. Thanks, Walt!