Raising awareness for open access at Eawag

Dr. Jochen Bihn & Dr. Lothar Nunnenmacher

Researchers at Eawag and elsewhere all face the same paradox: «You write the papers, you review the papers …. Why should you pay to read them?» The Eawag seminar last Friday (21 September 2012) was dedicated to The new push for open access publishing: How should Eawag researchers respond? Janet Hering summarised some of the issues around academic publishing/open access and stressed that researchers should be more conscious of where they publish or provide services as editors, as editorial board members or even as reviewers. This includes decisions about publishing in open access vs. toll-access journals and publishing with non-profit vs. for-profit publishers. The current state of open access at Eawag and an outlook on the forthcoming institutional repository were presented by Lothar Nunnenmacher. Kristin Schirmer moderated the lively discussion afterwards.

Download a PDF version of the presentation slides.

Some notes and links to further information on the issues discussed:

Why Open Access?

  • Open access to publicly-funded research results: When research is funded by the taxpayer or by charities, the results should be available to all without charge.
  • It’s all about the costs: The costs for serial subscriptions are unsustainable. Library expenditures for serials quadrupled from 1986 to 2005. The average annual percent change in subscription rates is still above 7% while the annual consumer price index is increasing at an annual rate of about 1%. Janet Hering concluded that you should think about where you publish if you care about the financial health of your institution. Otherwise the rising costs for journals could have an influence on the budget available for research.
  • The visibility and citation advantage: Open access increases the visibility, findability and accessibility of articles. Several studies have shown that open access articles are more frequently cited than those solely available via subscription based journals. Swan (2010) gives a good summary of the research on this topic. The Open Citation Project (OpCit) provides a bibliography of studies about the effect of open access on citation impact.
  • Freely available worldwide: Open access enables researchers in poorer countries to access scientific literature, free of financial and other restrictions. Thus, open access helps to integrate researchers from developing countries into the global knowledge pool.
  • More arguments in favor of open access.

Strategies for open access

The green road:
Self-archiving of published, peer-reviewed articles in institutional or subject-specific repositories.

  • Most publishers give permission for archiving of postprints (the version of the paper after peer-review). Self-archiving is therefore compatible with publishing in toll-access journals. The burden is on the authors to invest some minutes for depositing new articles.
  • The SHERPA/RoMEO database provides information about archiving policies of publishers.
  • Read the copyright transfer agreement with the publisher carefully and make sure to retain the right of postprint archiving. Consider an author addendum to the copyright transfer agreement that modifies the agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles. SPARC and the Creative Commons offer a useful templates for this.
  • Some but not many publishers allow the archiving of the publisher’s version PDF in repositories. Postprint version of articles are often hard to read because of the basic layout. Some options were discussed to achieve better readability of postprint version in repositories:
    • One option might be to remove all elements protected by trademark rights (e.g. the publisher’s logo) from the published version. According to the expert opinion of Reto M. Hilty and Matthias Seemann the author of an article can use such a modified version of the publisher’s PDF for the deposit in an institutional repository.
    • The library could offer a layout template to present postprints of articles in coherent, readable form in the institutional respository.
    • Another solution might also come from the publishers by offering special versions for the deposit.
  • Authors need no permission for the archiving of preprints before the publication of the final version in a journal because they still hold the copyright. A «preprint» is usually the version submitted to a journal. However, some journals refuse to consider articles that are deposited in a repository. This is not a requirement of copyright law but a journal policy. After you have «transferred» your copyright to the publisher in a «copyright transfer agreement», some publishers do not allow you to archive preprints. Avoid these publishers like the Spanish flu.
  • The library Lib4RI is working on an institutional repository for the four research institutes. This will allow open access publishing according to the green road. Deposited documents are (optionally) visible on the internet and metadata can be harvested through an OAI-compatible interface, i.e. indexed in Google Scholar etc.

The golden road:
Open access journals make their articles freely available to everyone while providing services common to all scholarly journals, such as the peer-review process, production, and distribution.

  • For a list of open access journals, see the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  • Open access is fully compatible with peer review. Open access removes access barriers not quality filters. More than 800 open access journals received an impact factor in the 2011 edition of the Journal Citation Reports. Dozens of OA journals already made it in the top 10% of their category.
  • Some OA journal publishers are non-profit (e.g. Public Library of Science) and some are for-profit (e.g. BioMed Central).
  • «Predatory» practices can be found with open-access and toll-access publishers. However, the current boom in open access publishing often makes it difficult to sort out the good from the bad.
    • Look at the editorial board. It is not a good sign, if you have never heard or read anything from the editorial board members or if they are not experts in the field.
    • Jeffrey Beall has put together a list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers. He also provides a handy list of the criteria he uses for determining predatory open-access publishers.
    • The library team is happy to assist you with judging the quality of open access journals (@email or 058 765 5700).
  • Did you know? Eawag and Empa cover any costs for publications in Open Access Journals under the following conditions: the journal is listed in the Science Citation Index, the first author is an employee of Eawag or Empa, and the publishing costs cannot be borne by other parties ( more info ).

Hybrid open access model:
Some toll-access publishers offer the option to make an article open access for a publication fee. In this way, most hybrid journal publishers double dip by charging subscription fees and publication fees for the same article. Eawag and Empa do not financially support publication under the hybrid open access model.

Consider Society Journals

  • Favor (non-profit) society journals with your paper submission, editorial and referee work. Society journals are much more reasonably priced than journals of commerical publishers.
  • Professional societies provide services of genuine value to the academic community; commercial publishers provide yield for their shareholders.
  • Bring the issue of open access to your professional societies, persuade the organization to make its journals open access (if not already) or at least let authors retain copyright and archive postprints.

There seemed to be a general consensus that senior scientist with secure positions must be in the front line when it comes to supporting open access. Of course, this is no excuse for younger scientist not to make conscious decicions about where and how to publish. But at least part of the problem with the academic publication market is self-made. As Martin Paul Eve writes : «easy recognition of a journal name is primarily needed by those who award grants, those who appoint staff and those who are already too over-laden with administration to accurately gauge a piece of work in a niche field that is not their own. Great, truly-pioneering work published in a new open access journal (no matter how elite the editorial board)? Nope. Good work published by an already-secure staff member in Nature? You’re in.»