Archive for the 'open access' category

Around the Web: A quick list of readings on "predatory" open access journals

As a kind of quick follow up to my long ago post on Some perspective on “predatory” open access journals (presentation version, more or less, here and very short video version here) and in partial response to the recent What I learned from predatory publishers, I thought I would gather a bunch of worthwhile items here today.

Want to prepare yourself to counter panic around predatory open access journals? Here's some great places to start.

I'm sure I've missed a bunch of important articles. Please let me know in the comments!

2017.06.14 Update: Added Beyond Beall’s List: Better understanding predatory publishers to the list.
2017.06.14 Update #2: Added two more to the list.

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How can publishers help academic librarians? Let's all count the ways!

The STM Publishing News Group is a professional news site for the publishing industry which bring together a range of science, technology and medicine publishing stakeholders with the idea that they'll be able to share news amongst themselves as well as beyond the publishing world to the broader constituency of academics and librarians and others.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to see a post with the words, "How can publishers help librarians?" in the title? I was a little disappointed to find the entire title of the post is "How can publishers help librarians? Cambridge University Press leads the way with a metadata revolution."

Nothing wrong with metadata revolutions, of course, I'm all for them. But the promise of those first few words lead me to believe that perhaps the post had some sort of loftier revolutionary purpose in mind. That somehow publishers were finally considering ways that they could be truly helpful to academic librarians as a whole, and by extension, to our constituents of students, faculty and staff at our institutions.

Sadly, since I'm not a metadata librarian, I was disappointed. (And even if I were a metadata librarian, isn't state-of-the-art metadata part of what we pay publishers for in the first place, not some sort of "revolutionary" extra?)

But that doesn't mean I can't dream big dreams. Nor does it mean that you, my faithful readers, can't dream big dreams.

The original post begins with the line, "It’s no secret that library budgets have been slashed in recent years, and the burdens of trying to do more with less are growing for librarians and information professionals." Which is certainly very true. However, not one single idea in the rest of the post has anything to do with helping librarians with their budgets. Almost as if helping us with metadata issues will distract from those other kinds of problems.

Let's see if we can't come up with some ways that publishers could help librarians with those other kinds of problems, ones to do with budgets and licenses and sustainability and openness and fairness. I have a few ideas, of course, but I'd love it if all of you could pitch in with some more in the comments.

  • So many of libraries' budget problems are due to publishers' unsustainable pricing increases. How about you help librarians by stopping those pricing practices.
  • Stop over-reacting to "predatory publishers" as a way of distracting from your own far more serious predatory pricing behaviour
  • Hey, rational and sustainable ebook licensing models. For public libraries too, please.
  • Non Disclosure Agreements are bad for libraries and librarians. Stop requiring or even suggesting them.
  • Stop playing chicken with Big Deal negotiations as a way to pit librarians and their researcher communities against each other.
  • And a big one here, why not partner and engage completely and wholeheartedly with all the various scholarly communications stakeholder groups to build a fairer and more open scholarly communications ecosystem.
  • Your answer here

What are your ideas and suggestions? Certainly this topic would be a good one for an upcoming Society for Scholarly Publishing meeting.

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Around the Web: Celebrating the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute at The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

I don't have the time right now to do this justice, so I'll just lay out the story over the last year or so and let you, faithful reader, follow the thread. This is an amazing story.

This is an amazing initiative at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University in Montreal.

From the press release:

McGill University announces a transformative $20 million donation to the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital


Tanenbaum Open Science Institute to open new horizons and accelerate discovery in neuroscience

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was present today at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI) for the announcement of an important donation of $20 million by the Larry and Judy Tanenbaum family. This transformative gift will help to establish the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute, a bold initiative that will facilitate the sharing of neuroscience findings worldwide to accelerate the discovery of leading edge therapeutics to treat patients suffering from neurological diseases.

‟Today, we take an important step forward in opening up new horizons in neuroscience research and discovery,” said Mr. Larry Tanenbaum. ‟Our digital world provides for unprecedented opportunities to leverage advances in technology to the benefit of science. That is what we are celebrating here today: the transformation of research, the removal of barriers, the breaking of silos and, most of all, the courage of researchers to put patients and progress ahead of all other considerations.”

Neuroscience has reached a new frontier, and advances in technology now allow scientists to better understand the brain and all its complexities in ways that were previously deemed impossible. The sharing of research findings amongst scientists is critical, not only due to the sheer scale of data involved, but also because diseases of the brain and the nervous system are amongst the most compelling unmet medical needs of our time.

Neurological diseases, mental illnesses, addictions, and brain and spinal cord injuries directly impact 1 in 3 Canadians, representing approximately 11 million people across the country.

“As internationally-recognized leaders in the field of brain research, we are uniquely placed to deliver on this ambitious initiative and reinforce our reputation as an institution that drives innovation, discovery and advanced patient care,” said Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and Chair of McGill University’s Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. “Part of the Tanenbaum family’s donation will be used to incentivize other Canadian researchers and institutions to adopt an Open Science model, thus strengthening the network of like-minded institutes working in this field.”

‟We thank the Tanenbaum family for this generous investment, which allows us to further accelerate progress to meet the needs of patients,ˮ said Professor Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University. ‟The Open Science movement is gaining momentum, with global initiatives underway in the European Union, Japan and the United States. The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital will become the first academic institute worldwide to fully embrace Open Science. The Tanenbaum Open Science Institute will set the global standard for this movement and position McGill, Montreal, Quebec and Canada at the forefront of scientific progress.ˮ

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro – is a world-leading destination for brain research and advanced patient care. Since its founding in 1934 by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro has grown to be the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical center in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The seamless integration of research, patient care, and training of the world’s top minds make The Neuro uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders. The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute. The Montreal Neurological Hospital is part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. For more information, please visit www.theneuro.ca

About McGill University

McGill University is one of Canada’s top institutions of higher learning and one of the leading universities in the world. With students coming to McGill from some 150 countries, its student body is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country. Its 11 faculties and 11 professional schools offer more than 300 programs of study to some 40,000 graduate, undergraduate and continuing studies students. McGill ranks 1st in Canada among medical-doctoral universities (Maclean’s) and 24th in the world (QS World University Rankings).

Source: The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University

Contact Information
Contact: Shawn Hayward
Organization: Montreal Neurological Institute
Email: shawn.hayward@mcgill.ca
Office Phone: 514-398-3376

Secondary Contact Information
Contact: Cynthia Lee
Organization: McGill University
Secondary Email: cynthia.lee@mcgill.ca
Office Phone: 514-398-6754

 

And their commitment to open science is described here. While it doesn't focus so much on research outputs such as articles (Which I guess will mostly be covered under the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications), I'm very pleased to see code, data sharing and no IP protection emphasized. On the other hand, item number five in the list below is a partial escape clause for researchers (and others) at the Neuro who aren't quite on board. Which is understandable. Let's just hope that over time they are able to shift their culture such that researchers at least won't feel the need to decline participation in open science initiatives.

A Ten-Year Mission
Within the next ten years, we aim to transform many brain disorders from chronic or terminal to treatable, or even curable, conditions. The main objective of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute is to accelerate the discovery of novel therapeutics to treat patients suffering from neurological disease.

We want to reduce the human and socio-economic burden of psychiatric and neurological illnesses, and improve the mental health, quality of life, and productivity of people around the world.

Our Principles
Open Science at the Montreal Neurological Institute is based on five guiding principles:

1. Share scientific data and resources
MNI researchers will render all positive and negative numerical data, models used, data sources, reagents, algorithms, software and other scientific resources publicly available no later than the publication date of the first article that relies on this data or resource.

2. Open external research partnerships
All data and scientific resources generated through research partnerships – whether with commercial, philanthropic, or public sectors – are to be released on the same basis as set out in Principle 1.

3. Share research participants' contributions and protect their rights

The Neuro Open Science Clinical, Biological, Imaging, and Genetic data (NeurO CBIG) Repository will maximize the long-term value of contributions made by research participants and the scientific resources created by MNI researchers and their collaborators. In the conduct of the NeurO CBIG, the MNI recognizes the primacy of safeguarding the dignity and privacy of patient-participants, and respecting the rights and duties owed them through the informed consent process.

4. Do not file patents
Subject to patient confidentiality and informed consent given, neither the MNI nor its researchers in their capacity as employees or consultants of the McGill- MNI unit will obtain patent protection or assert data protection rights in respect of any of their research.

5. Respect academic autonomy
The MNI supports the autonomy of its stakeholders, including but not limited to researchers, staff, trainees and patients, through recognizing their right to decline to participate in research and associated activities under an OS framework. However, the MNI will not support activities that compromise the previously outlined OS principles.

 

Andre Picard puts it nicely in context in today's Globe and Mail, In Montreal, a wee opening in the closed world of science research.

Is the accepted way of doing science bad for science?

That question is the driving force behind the bold new “Open Science” initiative at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Currently, governments invest a lot of money in health research, almost all of it at universities and labs associated with teaching hospitals.

We expect scientists to discover stuff such as drugs and technology and then commercialize those findings so there is a return on investment on the public funds invested. In recent years, there has been tremendous pressure on scientists to demonstrate immediate and lucrative results, and enormous scorn when they don’t.

*snip*

The Open Science philosophy holds that it is the latter. Open Science has four fundamental goals: 1) Transparency in experimental methodology and collection of data, 2) Public availability of scientific data, 3) Public accessibility and transparency and scientific communication, and 4) Using Web-based tools to facilitate collaboration.

*snip*

At The Neuro, all findings will be patent-free and freely accessible to other scientists worldwide – making it the first academic institute in the world to fully embrace open science. The Neuro can afford this experiment thanks to a $20-million (Canadian) donation from the family of Larry Tanenbaum, the philanthropist and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. As a savvy businessman, he is convinced that openness will accelerate research and discovery. “What we are celebrating here today is the transformation of research, the removal of barriers, the breaking of silos and, most of all, the courage of researchers to put patients and progress ahead of all other considerations,” Mr. Tanenbaum said at Friday’s announcement.

 

Bravo. Let's hope this isn't the last Canadian research institute to make such a public commitment to open science. In fact, I'd like to challenge all of us to help our own institutions travel along this path. Different disciplines and different institutions (and even different units with different institutions) will have their own path, but it's important to start the journey and make the commitment to find that path.

And, as promised, here's a bit of background reading on the Neuro's journey to open science over the last year or so.

 

As usual, if I've missed anything significant, let me know in the comments.

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Around the Scholarly Communications Web: The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access and more

Jun 10 2016 Published by under around the web, open access, scholarly publishing

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Elsevier buys SSRN: Another sideshow or the main event?

Main event. Definitely.

Elsevier's acquisition of the open access journal article and working papers repository and online community Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is definitely a case of Elsevier tipping their hand and giving us all a peek at their real long term strategy.

Much more so than their whack-a-mole antics with Sci-Hub and other "pirate" services.

One of the big hints is how they've tied it's acquisition so closes with their last important, strategic acquisition -- Mendeley. Another hint is that they also tie it in to one of their cornerstone products, Scopus.

From the announcement:

When Elsevier acquired Mendeley three years ago, many people wondered how well it would work out — including our team at the Social Science Research Network. SSRN has similarities to Mendeley, and many differences, but we share a common vision of improving researchers’ lives, and doing that together within Elsevier makes complete sense.

*snip*

Together, SSRN and Mendeley can provide greater access to the growing base of user-generated content, build new informational and analytical tools and increase engagement with a broader set of researchers.

*snip*

SSRN will benefit from access to Scopus citation data and an ability to link working papers to their published versions with direct forwarding links. We’ll also have access to Elsevier’s broader collection of metrics and data analytics, which we can share with SSRN authors, readers and users.

The research services division that products like Mendeley, Scopus and now SSRN belong to are a completely different beast than the much-maligned journals division. By contrast, this research services division seems much more nimble and user focused, with a laser-like aim towards the future rather than the past. I think that they reflect more where Elsevier wants to be in ten or twenty years, focused on providing high-value services to researchers and institutions rather than still weighed down by the legacy subscription business. They see that the old fashioned soak-libraries-for-all-they're-worth business model is (very) slowly becoming an albatross, a dodo bird. They're not the rapacious bullies and "Evil Empire" types, but more coolly rational and calculating. (Tywin Lannister vs. Ramsay Bolton, if you'll forgive the Game of Thrones analogy.)

So yes, maximize the soaking, drain every last dollar (Euro, Pound...) from libraries, wage a rear-guard battle against pirates as a massive feint maneuver to distract from the real front.

Services, services, services.

Elsevier has been the dominant player in the scholarly communications space for a very long time. They've masterfully figured out how to keep the money flowing down hill in their direction. They have no intention of surrendering their dominance. In a new, more open environment, they want to maintain that hegemony. And keep the money flowing.

As my favourite rock band put it so succinctly, "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

 

As is my habit, I'm including below some links from the last couple of days with various commentary about the SSRN acquistion. If I've missed anything significant, please feel free to mention it in the comments.

The first few especially provide a more detailed overview of the facts, issues and immediate implications than I attempt to above.

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My new project launching today: The Quisling Qourner: A group blog on the library/publisher relationship

Reader Beware: Please note the date of publication of this post.

It's been really gratifying over the last year to see how my DSCaM scholarly communications empire has grown. From it's small beginnings, Dupuis Science Computing & Medicine has craved out a small but important niche in the discount APC publishing community.

And I really appreciate how the scholarly communications community has encouraged my career progression from publisher of a journal at Elsevier to Chief Advisor on Science Libraries for the Government of Canada to last year's huge launch of DSCaM.

And the DSCaM empire grows.

This year I would like to announce the launch of a major new initiative: The Quisling Qorner: A Group Blog on the Library/Publisher Relationsship.

I like to think of this new blogging community as being a fellow traveller with the longstanding Scholarly Kitchen blog. As well, we'd like to welcome the brand new In the Open: Libraries, Scholarship, and Publishing blog to the scholarly communications group blog family. While the Scholarly Kitchen tends to take the publisher's side of things and IO seems headed more towards a bias in the library direction, I think the QQ has it's own important niche.

And that niche would be the firm belief that the library side and the publisher side of the story are really the same tale, that libraries and publishers should be friends and colleagues of the highest order, that we are essentially on the same side of all the important issues in scholarly communication, that our interests are so intrinsically and explicitly tied together that they are essentially the same.

Publishers are librarians' best friends, they know what's good for us and we should just follow their lead in important matters.

Heaven knows, as librarians we've enjoyed so much publisher hospitality at conferences -- the wine! the cheese! the free pens! -- that it's really time for us to give back. There have been too many years of tragic misunderstanding and animosity between the two communities.

And repairing that damaged relationship will be the role of The Quisling Qorner. I've invited a plethora of the brightest lights in librarianship, some well known, some up-and-comers, to contribute their thoughts about how we can bring librarians and publishers closer together. I've also invited friends and colleagues in the scientific and publishing communities to weight in on some of those same issues as well a provide of broader perspective of how libraries and librarians can serve their interests exclusively.

 

Finally, I'd like to announce the first set up amazing posts that I'm publishing today. I'm a firm believer that any new blogging project needs to launch with enough initial content to draw people in and keep them reading.

So here goes -- the first set of posts, all by shining lights in the library/publisher interface universe!

 
And here's a few titles for forthcoming posts, all either written and in the pipeline or under development by the authors!

  • Paywalled Journals Are the Best, Only the Best, They Are HUUUUUUGE, I'll Build a Wall Around Them So Only the Good Scientists Can Read My Articles and Make Science Great Again by Donald Trump
  • PLoS Should Buy a Majority Stock in Elsevier: Here's Why by Roberta Eksevierian
  • Why APCs Are the One True Way Forward for Publisher Business Models by Cameron Neylon
  • Fire all Older Librarians and Give Their Salaries to Elsevier by Phillipa Springster
  • Thomson Reuter's ISI Makes all Citation Data Open Access in Bid to Thwart Allegations of Impact Factor Manipulations by Sharma Singh
  • Non-Disclosure Agreements as a Preferred Library Bargaining Tactic by Frances Taylor

 

And please consider this an open call. Everyone should go right ahead and pitch post ideas in the comments!

And the first authors' meeting will be in Stockholm in 2017! Paid for by all those fantastic publishers!

Update 2016.04.04. Laura Crossett's just published post was added to the list.

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The Sci-Hub story so far: Main event or sideshow?

The controversy about Sci-Hub is raging in the halls of scholarship and academic publishing.

What's the story, in a nutshell?

Sci-Hub is a Russian website that has used donated institutional login credentials to harvest tens of millions of academic articles and has posted them on their site, free to access and read for everyone. This has not pleased the academic publishing community, to say the least. Elsevier is leading the charge to shut them down, succeeding with one iteration of the site last year until, mushroom-like, Sci-Hub has popped up again this year.

My take? Mostly that it's a sideshow.

Overall, my thoughts are fairly similer to The Library Loon's in a lot of ways, so heading over there to read that very fine post is well worth your time.

One aspect that I have ranted about on Twitter which I think is worth mentioning explicitly is that I think Elsevier and all the other big publishers are actually quite happy to feed the social media rage machine with these whack-a-mole controversies. The controversies act as a sideshow, distracting from the real issues and solutions that they would prefer all of us not to think about.

By whack-a-mole controversies I mean this recurring story of some person or company or group that wants to "free" scholarly articles and then gets sued or harassed by the big publishers or their proxies to force them to shut down. This provokes wide outrage and condemnation aimed at the publishers, especially Elsevier who is reserved a special place in hell according to most advocates of openness (myself included).

The big publishers deserve the bile and disgust aimed at them, no doubt about that. Their rear-guard operations are overly heavy-handed and probably counter productive in a lot of ways. But they are a distraction from the real front line in the battle for a fairer and more open scholarly communications ecosystem. The predatory toll access publishers are symptoms of a deeper disease, just like "predatory" open access publishers are a sideshow to that same malaise.

And while we must continue to address those symptoms and work hard to alleviate the suffering they cause, the disease itself is more than happy for us to spend our time complaining about the symptoms.

In other words: Elsevier and its ilk are thrilled to be the target of all the outrage. Focusing on the whack-a-mole game distracts us from fixing the real problem: the entrenched systems of prestige, incentive and funding in academia. As long as researchers are channelled into "high impact" journals, as long as tenure committees reward publishing in closed rather than open venues, nothing will really change. Until funders get serious about mandating true open access publishing and are willing to put their money where their intentions are, nothing will change. Or at least, progress will be mostly limited to surface victories rather than systemic change.

What about libraries and librarians, you say? Library journal budgets have been the canary in the coal mine for this issue longer than I've been in the profession and will continue to be that canary. But the fundamental issue is a difficult one for us to solve. While we are the main source of funding for the big publishers -- to the tune of something like us$10 billion per year -- we are not actually the main users of their products. Those users are the researchers themselves. Who are isolated from directly bearing the cost of that scholarly publishing in their research.

We have a situation where the main consumers consume but don't pay. And the main payers don't actually do the vast majority of the consuming. Libraries are caught in the middle, not much paid attention to or cared about seriously by either side, as long as we continue to find a way to continue paying. Wallets with a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Hence the complexity of all the pain and anguish around the Sci-Hub issue.

But I've ranted enough.

This has been one of those white-hot-rage rants. Deeper thought and reflections will be much more evident in the many recent articles and posts I've linked to below. I'm also mostly concentrating on the most recent Sci-Hub flare up rather than older posts.

Enjoy.

 

 

As usual, while the list above is not meant to be exhaustive, if I've forgotten anything important please feel free to link to it in the comments.

 
 

Update 2016.03.07. Updated up to March 6. A couple of stragglers added as well as a bunch of new ones since the original posting. The Sci-Hub issue seems to have legs!
Update 2016.04.08. Another update, bringing the list up to date. Mostly new items but a few stragglers from February and early March.

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Reading Diary: Data Management for Researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success by Kristin Briney

Kristin Briney's Data Management for Researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success is a book that should be on the shelf (physical or virtual) of every librarian, researcher and research administrator. Scientists, engineers, social scientists, humanists -- anyone who's work involves generating and keeping track of digital data. This is the book for you.

Like the title says -- data management for researchers. If you have data and you're a researcher, this is the book for you. Organize, maintain and share, the title says. If you're a researcher that needs to manage data, organizing, maintaining and sharing that data is exactly what you want to do.

And Kristin Briney is just the person to help. With a PhD in chemistry, you know she's been on the researcher side of the equation. And with a Master's in Library and Information Studies, you also know that she's studied the managing/organizing/sharing side of the equation and can bring deep insight and solid advice there too.

And that's the focus of the book -- insight and advice. Insight into the problems and issues around dealing with data and advice with how to deal with them.

The chapter topic areas give a good sense of the topics covered, so I don't have to go into detail with explanations of what's covered:

  • The data problem
  • The data lifecycle
  • Planning for data management
  • Documenting your data
  • Organizing your data
  • Improving data analysis
  • Managing secure and private data
  • Short-term storage
  • Preserving and archiving your data
  • Sharing/publishing your data
  • Reusing data

Briney covers a lot of ground and goes into pretty deep detail for most areas. Inevitably, not every section will be equally relevant to every potential reader and not every detail or discussion will be new information to everyone. Given breadth of topics and the level of detail in each area and that Briney mostly starts each section from square one, this book will work for everyone at pretty well every skill level.

Some judicious skimming will be inevitable for most potential readers, as will perhaps some selective Googling for addition background information in certain area. Briney has you covered. In fact, an interesting way to deal with the detail might be by taking this book in two passes. The first pass to get a sense of the "universe of data things you need to know" and a second more focused on "what I need to know to survive my current situation." Whether that situation is a librarian hoping to build a data service, a PI hoping to get a little better at the things an onrushing funder mandate is going to require or a grad student ready to tackle their first real project, all the information you need is there. You just have to zero in on it.

That being said, the sections on data management plans, preserving & archiving and sharing data are all must-read sections for everyone. Making research data openly available where possible, for reuse and replication purposes, is an important goal for, in particular, all of science.

I recommend this book without hesitation for all academic libraries. Individual researchers, research administrators, funding agency employees and academic librarians would all find much useful information. Simply giving copy to new graduate students is probably a worthwhile investment at any institution.

Briney, Kristin. Data Management for Researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success. Exeter, UK: Pelagic Publishing, 2015. 250pp. ISBN-13: 978-1784270117

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

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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!

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Librarians, institutions, soldiers, revolutionaries

One of the central tensions of modern librarianship is how to allocate limited resources to both make the whole world a better place and to serve our local communities by providing them with the services and collections they need to support their teaching, learning and research.

The particular way we try and change the world that I'm talking about here is working to create a fairer and more equitable scholarly communications ecosystem. We do this by both advocating for increased openness in the publishing system and working to actually create that fairer system via our own local open access publishing and support activities. (There are also other ways we work towards making the world a better place, for example, through our instruction activities. Not mention that there is an aspect of making the whole world a better place via serving local needs.)

Rick Anderson's recent piece A quiet culture war in research libraries – and what it means for librarians, researchers and publishers has certainly reignited this conversation in the online librarian world in the last couple of weeks, sparking a lot of commentary and discussion in blogs and on Twitter.

The core of the piece is those two tensions. Being soldiers and taking care of our communities versus being revolutionaries and trying to change the system. Anderson mostly attempts to play it right down the middle and not really fall on either side of the issue. And he certainly acknowledges that it's unlikely that any person or institution will fall completely on one side or the other, that a mix of both roles is natural and desirable. But in the end he seems to favour the role of soldier over revolutionary.

Take the final paragraph for example,

This fact has serious implications for the ultimate outcome of the culture war that I believe is currently brewing in the research library community. We are now working in an information environment that makes it possible for each library to exert a global influence in unprecedented ways. The desire to do so is both praiseworthy and solidly in keeping with many of what most of us would consider core values of librarianship. However, even as we experience varying levels of agreement amongst ourselves as to the proper distribution of our time and resources in pursuit of these two different orientations, virtually all of us continue to be supported entirely by funds that come from institutions that expect us to use those funds to support local needs and an institutionally defined mission. As long as it remains impossible to spend the same dollar twice, we will have no way to avoid choosing between programs that support local needs and those that support global ones and, as long as we depend on local resources to do so, we will have an ultimate obligation to act more like soldiers than like revolutionaries. Libraries that fail to do so will inevitably lose their institutional support – and with good reason. (Bold is mine -- JD)

Where do I fall?

First of all, at the institutional level academic libraries (and librarians) have no choice but to take care of local needs. Our patrons and communities need the collections we purchase and licence and we must take great care to spend our institutions' funds wisely.

At the same time, we would also be betraying our profession and failing our patrons if we did not also keep our eyes on the long-term needs of our patrons and communities. That long term need being to play a role in building a system that just works better, that spends their money more wisely and more equitably on making their scholarship more rather than less accessible to the rest of the world. On making the scholarship they need to access from the rest of the world more rather than less accessible to them.

Hogwash, you say, there's no way I can justify this. My job is support the mission of my institution and nothing else. Resources are limited. It's clear how I have to allocate them.

The mission of my institution.

A lot of the discussions seem to revolve around those words.

So I looked up the mission statement of my institution. York University.

The mission of York University is the pursuit, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. We promise excellence in research and teaching in pure, applied and professional fields. We test the boundaries and structures of knowledge. We cultivate the critical intellect.

York University is part of Toronto: we are dynamic, metropolitan and multi-cultural. York University is part of Canada: we encourage bilingual study, we value diversity. York University is open to the world: we explore global concerns.

A community of faculty, students, staff, alumni and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance, York University makes innovation its tradition.

Tentanda Via: The way must be tried. (Bolding is me again. )

[P]ursuit, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. Check. That's what building a fairer scholarly communications ecosystem is all about.

We cultivate the critical intellect. Check. It's part of our mission to think deeply and critically about the world. Which can lead to thinking of ways that it could be better.

[C]ommitted to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education. Check and bingo! My institution's mission actually includes working to make the world a better place.

The way must be tried. Check and mate. Just do it.

Of course, I work at York, one of the leftyest, most progressive universities out there. So the kind of language that we in the library (as a whole and as individual librarians) can use to justify building and advocating for a better world is all over the place.

But I invite everyone else who might be tempted to take a pass on devoting time, energy and other resources to making the world a better place to take a look at their own institution's mission statement. I've looked at a few around academia recently and from what I've seen most places have something in there about giving back to the community or making the world a better place.

Take a look for yourself. I hope your institution has something in its mission statement that you can work with (though I recognize it might not). And think about joining the revolution.

(This is about balance in resource allocation, of course. Every place and every situation will be different and local administrators will need to make different calculations about resource allocation. This isn't a call for librarians and libraries to shoot themselves in the foot. What I hope is to maybe expand a little bit how we look at our mission in relation to our institution's mission when we make those decisions.)

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As is my wont I've gathered together some of the recent commentary sparked by the original Rick Anderson article. There are lots of different takes on the soldiers vs. revolutionaries issue and several of the items I'm pointing to make similar points to my own but perhaps a bit more eloquently.

As usual, if this issue continues to have legs, I'll probably update this list. If I've missed something, please let me know either in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

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