May 312016
New Peer Review Survey – results now out

The Publishing Research Consortium has just released the results of a 2015 survey on peer review for which I did the analysis and report. From the press release: PRC Report Reveals: Broad Support for Peer Review, Desire for Improvements Increasing Peer review still broadly supported, continuing preference for conventional, pre-publication, single or double blind peer review [read more]

May 272015
Evolution or revolution? Publishers’ perceptions of future directions in research communications and the publisher role

Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the British Library, on behalf of the Global Research Council (GRC), hosted a workshop entitled Unlocking the future: Open Access communication in a global research environment in April 2015 to bring together publishers, funders, libraries and other stakeholders from across the world to discuss perspectives on open communication in a [read more]

Mar 232013
Academic and Professional Publishing - book review

My review of Academic & Professional Publishing, edited by Robert Campbell, Ed Pentz and Ian Borthwick has now been published in Learned Publishing where it is (currently) freely available . I liked it, a lot: The fact that book publishing deadlines (especially multi-contributor works) sometimes means that the rapid pace of events can overtake some [read more]

Apr 072011
Heading for the open road: costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications

I have a new report (jointly produced with CEPA for RIN) out today: Heading for the open road: costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications. We investigate the drivers, costs and benefits of potential ways to increase access to scholarly journals. The report identifies five different routes for achieving that end over the next five years, [read more]

Feb 252011

I was pleased to have been invited to talk at the Association of Subscription Agents Annual Conference this week, because otherwise I would most likely not have gone and this would have meant missing an interesting meeting. Nearly all the talks were informative and engaging, and even if not one then usually the other. For [read more]

Aug 032010

The contract for the “Dynamics of improving access to research papers” project was awarded to CEPA (Cambridge Economic Policy Associates) working in association with Mark Ware Consulting. This project is part of the Transitions in scholarly communications portfolio of projects that are being managed by the Research Information Network with a very diverse range of [read more]

Nov 042009

Mark Ware Consulting has been commissioned by Knowledge Exchange (, a partnership of JISC (UK), SURF (Netherlands), DEFF (Denmark) and DfG (Germany), to conduct a study into the feasibility of submission fees in open access journals (i.e. as distinct from publication fees). An open access business model based on submission charges could have real advantages [read more]

Sep 042009

The Publishing Research Consortium has published a new report by Mark Ware Consulting today: Access by UK small and medium-sized enterprises to professional and academic information From the press release (pdf): Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with 250 employees or fewer, make up 99.9% of UK businesses, and represent 59% of private sector employment and [read more]

May 172009

Probably old news for most, but the Library Journal annual survey by Lee Van Orsdel and Kathleen Born is as good this year as ever: Reality Bites: Periodicals Price Survey 2009 (Library Journal, 15 April 2009). The authors are very pessimistic on the impact of the global recession and the prospect for library cuts. They [read more]

May 152009

We’ve been awarded a contract to develop a web-based toolkit to support key stakeholders (especially research funders, higher education institutions, libraries and publishers) to apply the common principles set out in an earlier RIN document, the Research and the Scholarly Communications Process: towards strategic goals for public policy. I’m working with Robin Beecroft of Searchlighter on this [read more]

Oct 292007

A New York Times story from last week:Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content AllianceThe key issue is the terms of Google & Microsoft deals that prevent making the scanned material available to other commercial search services.

Oct 022007

The Hub is a destination site for researchers to share their views and build a dynamic, interactive community.Currently, the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials features articles originally published in PLoS Clinical Trials, along with clinical trials articles from PLoS ONE.In the future, this new resource will expand to include articles from all the PLoS titles that publish clinical trials…. More details in the PLos FAQ at Questions about the PLoS HubsAt present, the Hub is little more than a filtered view of articles from PLoS Clinical Trials and PLoS ONE (which PLoS Clinical Trial is being merged into).

Sep 042007

Ironically, perhaps because the sciences have led in the adoption of new forms of scholarly communication such as disciplinary repositories and online journals, they were less interested in supporting University-sponsored initiatives, while the Arts & Humanities faculty express greater interest in alternatives, the need for change, and a call for discussion and help.Senior faculty may be the most fertile targets for innovation in scholarly communication…. Because they are also involved in making academic policy and serving as role modelsfor junior faculty, their efforts at innovation are likely to have broader influence within their departmentsSome of these findings echo those of earlier surveys, such as the large-scale surveys undertaken by the CIBER group at City University (e.g. the dissociation between attitudes and behaviour.)The finding that faculty are conservative in their publication behaviour because of the pressures of the rewards and promotion system also won’t come as a surprise to most observers, however dismaying to advocates for new models.

Sep 042007

The Financial Times today publishes a signed opinion piece by James Boyle, professor of law at Duke Law School,, and a co-founder of Science Commons, entitled The irony of a web without science, arguing in favour of the proposed US legislation that would require open access to authors’ postprint versions of articles a year after publication…. This is no Voltairean call to strangle the last commercial publisher with the entrails of the last journal rep. Commercial journal publishers and learned societies play a valuable role in the assessment and dissemination of scientific knowledge – though we might wish that the availability of worldwide, free distribution had not caused their prices to rise quite so sharply.

Aug 292007

From their press release:A new initiative was announced today to bring together like minded scholarly societies, publishers, researchers and other professionals in an effort to safeguard the scientific and medical peer-review process and educate the public about the risks of proposed government interference with the scholarly communication process.(That is, to campaign against research funders such as the National Institutes of Health mandating the deposit of authors’ postprints in open access repositories.)The criticism from the open access blogging community has been deafening, at least for those who hang out in the echo chamber that is the blogosphere. Blog posts are too numerous to mention but here are a few: Open Access News, Information Research Weblog, Peter Murray-Rust, A Blog Around the Clock (includes links to yet more comment), and lots more.The criticism ranged from the detailed and forensic (Peter Suber’s OA New entry cited above) through heavy-handed satire (The PISD Coalition) to the downright ugly (“lying profitmongering scum”).The storm in blogoland was picked up by the quasi-mainstream press in the form of Salon (“Science publishers get even stupider”) and Wired (“Astroturf Spreads to Science Journals: Publishing Industry Forms Front Group to Cheat Public”), whose writers both weighed in with their own brands of polemic.It was left to the ever-reliable John Blossom on ContentBlogger to give the voice to the kinds of worries that many in the mainstream STM publishing industry might have about PRISM:The primary problem with PRISM is that it seems to be advocating on a range of issues which, while valid in their own right, are more about fear, uncertainty and doubt – those familiar sales tools – than the real issues at hand….

Aug 242007

But despite PLoS ONE having been surprisingly successful at attracting authors (given that authors have to pay $1250 publication charge for a journal with no impact factor and low peer review standards), it has been much less successful at getting users to comment on articles.PLoS ONE has therefore hired a well-known science blogger, Bora Zivkovic as Online Community Manager with the specific responsibility for drumming up comments…. It may be that the BMJ Rapid Responses were seen as simply an electronic version of an already existing (and popular) feature, the Letter to the Editor, whereas the Nature and PLoS One examples were wholly or partly attempts to develop new forms of peer review.

Aug 222007

The advice to societies is to work out in advance exactly what it is you want from a publisher before you start the beauty parade: as in many things in life, if you don’t know what you want, you probably won’t get it.But it seems this “journal transfer market” is potentially under fire as a result of the decision by the American Anthropological Association to move their journals from the University of California Press to Wiley-Blackwell…. They’ve got a membership that in some disciplines is increasingly convinced that the way to do that is more openness in publication and more innovation in publication, but these societies have got sort of addicted to these revenue streams from their publication programs over the last few decades, and are trying to figure out if they want to make the transition to a new model and — if so — how do they navigate the transition.“Of course, the publishers (both commercial and not-for-profit) that are generating these addictive revenue streams argue that their model is the one that has delivered the biggest increase in access to literature ever: their retained capital allowed them to make the technology investments that Lynch speaks of, and the (consortia-based) licensing model has broadened access enormously while simultaneously cutting the average cost per journal article use by an order of magnitude or so.

Aug 212007

SciVee’s creators hope that that the appeal of a video or audio explanation of paper will make it easier for others to more quickly grasp the concepts of a paper and make it more digestible both to colleagues and to the general public.SciVee was also discussed in the Fink & Bourne’s article Reinventing Scholarly Communication for the Electronic Age in the August issue of CTWatch Quarterly which I mentioned recently. It’s possible to add synchronised audio to powerpoint presentations using general (non-scientific) services like Slideshare but the SciVee implementation includes a lot of useful dedicated tools, such as links to the references and figures (which pop up in separate windows without interrupting the presentation), a link to the full text (ditto), the ability to switch between a view of the presentation slides and the abstract, which will make it much more useful for this particular application.

Aug 202007

Communication & Technology Watch Quarterly’s August issue is devoted to The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communication & Cyberinfrastructure, guest-edited by Lee Dirks and Tony Hey of Microsoft. I haven’t had time to read it yet but there looks to be a lot of interest, including these that I turned to first:The Shape of the Scientific Article in The Developing Cyberinfrastructure, by Clifford LynchWeb 2.0 in Science, by Timo Hannay…

Aug 142007

The Scientist : Yale dumps BioMed Central:Yale University’s science and medicine libraries have decided to discontinue their membership to BioMed Central (BMC), an open access publishing company, citing skyrocketing membership costs in a public statement issued last Friday (Aug 3)…. The libraries have covered the costs of membership on behalf of the university and its researchers but can no longer absorb membership fees that have grown in excess of $30,000 over the past year, Kenny Marone, director of the medical library, told The Scientist.

Jul 122007

The Istanbul Declaration signed at the recent OECD World Forum looks interesting, calling on governments to make their statistical data freely available online as a “public good”:[quote]It’s not entirely clear to me how much different this would make to access, given that major Western governments like UK and USA already make their statistical data available. [check this]What does look really interesting, though, is the potential to combine this raw access to data with new online tools like Swivel, ManyEyes and MappingWorlds that allow ordinary users to manipulate, visualise and share datasets.

Jul 112007

All large publishers have such schemes, primarily as a response to the introduction of policies by research funders (such as the National Institutes of Health in the US and the Wellcome Trust in the UK) requiring authors to deposit a version of their accepted articles in a public archive.Springer had gone rather farther than most, however, with the appointment in 2005 of Jan Velterop as Director of Open Access, who had made public statements about Springer’s commitment to real open access, e.g. with the use of a licence based on the Creative Commons licence.Murray-Rust thought about publishing an article under Open Choice and decided to look at some existing examples to see what he got for his money…. Velterop went on to blame the copyright line and Rightslink buttons on inflexibilities in the Springer production system and flaws in their Rightslink implementation, which is hardly great PR for the publisher — the “cock-up rather than conspiracy” defence.He also pointed out that Springer had made some articles Open Choice without author payments to help measure usage (there presumably not being enough take-up by authors to produce any valid statistics on differential usage?), and that Springer had made some articles retrospectively Open Choice by agreements with various Dutch institutions.

Jun 192007

Timo Hannay’s announcement is here and the press release here.The site is very nicely implemented, with all the Web2.0 features we have come to expect from Nature Publishing Group, including tagging (documents and people), voting for articles, and open discussion on articles, etc. Perhaps not surprising, by far the largest single subject category is Bioinformatics, with 20 documents…. Nature hopes the stature of the partners will allay fears about Nature’s plans for possible future control of the content.The site differs from some of the earlier preprint sites (like arXiv in physics) in that it accepts powerpoint presentations as well as journal article preprints, e.g. this interesting presentation: Open Notebook Science Using Blogs and Wikis.

Jun 152007

As the open access movement blossoms, its supporters should continue to critically evaluate the parallel development of openness and transparency in the peer review process….while all manner of electronic journals are experimenting with reader input on published material, little is known about the scientific value of post-publication review in the modern era of open access publishingPeer review is a surprisingly active area for discussion and experimentation, given that has been the standard approach for about 400 years. For instance the American Medical Association runs an four-yearly International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication.Some example of new approaches to peer review: Nature’s open peer review trial: authors were invited to have their submitted manuscripts placed on an open website where anyone could review and comment on them.

Jun 112007

This, in turn, allows them to solicit community feedback and establish priority over their results or ideas.A bioinformatics resesarcher, Pedro Beltrão, who has been participating in the beta testing, has a posting about it here…. Despite the long-time success of subject-based preprint servers in other disciplines (arXiv in physics, RePEc in economics, etc.), there has been very little interest to date, and indeed some active hostility[1], to the idea in biomedical research.

Jun 082007

From publishers’ perspectives, the parts about open access will be of particular interest:The vision for 2010 refers to the wish that a “high percentage of newly published scholarly outputs [be] made on available on terms of open access” and speaks of “a growing recognition of the benefits of making academic content more available”…. Universities UK was:“firmly behind” JISC’s approach to the development of open access repositories, suggesting that repositories were “vital to universities’ economies and to the UK economy as a whole.”Although Universities UK has recently produced a Policy Brief on open access (I blogged about this a few days ago here) the presentation is much broader (although it opens with a slide on OA), covering efficiencies in managing academic assets, data-driven science, lifelong learning and preservation.

Jun 012007

Universities UK – the representative body for the executive heads of UK universities and is recognised as the umbrella group for the university sector – has published a Policy Briefing entitled Publishing research results: the challenge of open access.It has not attracted much comment, perhaps out of embarrassment, because it is an extraordinarily unbalanced and partial review. For example, it ignores completely two reports (one written by myself, and the other by Chris Beckett and colleagues at Scholarly Information Strategies) which presented studies into the potential impact of self-archiving on journal subscriptions.

Dec 042006

Peter Suber has published his annual predictions for all things Open Access-related in the December Open Access Newsletter. His main predictions in outline: more Open Access policies from funders and universitiesinstitutional repositories will continue to spreadfunding agencies with weak OA policies will come under pressure to tighten themthe key issue for funder mandates will be the length of the embargopublishers that are not already “Green” (i.e. allow authors to post versions of their accepted articles) will come under pressure to become somore publishers will adopt hybrid OA policiesbook publishers will come to see that free online full-text *reading* will increase net salesThere are also links to the previous years’ predictions, so you can check out his track record: a quick look shows he’s much more right than wrong.

Nov 212006

It’s a long piece – over 12,500 words – but thoughful and insightful, and goes well beyond the usual rhetoric.I’m not the first to commend it; Peter Suber and Stevan Harnad have both praised it highly: Peter said “if I were convening a meeting on long-term strategy, I’d assign this article in its entirety as background reading…. Read it and make up your own mind.”Over on The Parachute, though, Jan Velterop concedes that while it is well-written (too well written, in fact, since because of this “one may not easily spot that some of his observations are presented as foregone conclusions, yet are not supported or warranted”) but takes issue with a couple of points.

Nov 212006

the grand vision of the DML is feasible: with today’s technology, it is actually a tractable task to put all 50 million pages of the past mathematical literature online.The older literature is particularly important in mathematics:Unlike researchers in many other disciplines, especially in the sciences and engineering, mathematicians rely heavily on past literature while working at the frontiers of research. Having that literature available electronically would have a large impact on current research in mathematics.The DML project is actually a fairly loose federation of separate digitisation projects, including Numdam (a French project supported by CNRS providing delayed open access to digitised maths journals), Göttinger Digitalisierungs Zentrum (the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft programme for retrospective digitisation of library materials), and Emani (an archiving & preservation project ).

Nov 152006

6 colloquium on issues in scholarly publishing, there were two points on which almost everyone agreed: The high costs for journal subscriptions charged by commercial publishers in recent years are unsustainable, and the ability to distribute articles electronically has fundamentally changed academic research and publishing.The colloquium, sponsored by Stanford University Libraries, invited presenters from Stanford and other institutions to discuss issues including ways in which institutions and scholars are responding to the ongoing crisis in journal pricing…. Bergstrom presented data comparing journal costs in 2004 that showed that the price-per-page of for-profit journals was about three times the average price-per-page of nonprofit journals.I think it is a shame that these discussions don’t reflect the reality that (for the larger publishers, i.e. those most criticised) the headline journal subscription price per title is no longer the only, or perhaps not even the most important, measure of the price of a journal.

Nov 132006

A couple of days ago I blogged on a new survey by Chris Beckett and Simon Inger of Scholarly Information Strategies looking at whether or not self-archiving of authors’ journal articles on open archives would be likely to lead to cancellation of journal subscriptions by libraries.I had also conducted a survey of librarians’ opinion on the same topic earlier this year which received responses from 340 librarians (report available on the ALPSP website here; free summary article here)…. (Incidentally, on a related point, I noted that Thomson’s Reynold Guida’s slides from his presentation on this at the Charleston conference included the point that “[WoS/arXiv integration] Provides links and citation data at article level as an incentive for every researcher to post work on IRs ”.)(6) Looking at the headline question of the new study, there’s enough in just the Part 2 findings to at the least suggest OA archives will be a factor in cancellations.

Nov 132006

The articles are written in non-technical language and will be useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.The Need for a New Reference on the EnvironmentThe motivation behind the Encyclopedia of Earth is simple…. The remainder is of poor or unknown quality.This illustrates a stark reality of the Web: digital information on the environment is characterized by an abundance of “great piles of content” and a dearth of “piles of great content.”

Nov 102006

Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version.Herein also lies the greatest differences between Scholarpedia and traditional print media: while the initial authorship and review processes are similar to a print journal, articles in Scholarpedia are not frozen and outdated, but dynamic, subject to an ongoing process of improvement moderated by their curators…. They have some big names signed up to write articles (e.g. Lorenz on the Butterfly Effect, Mandelbrot on Fractals and Mandelbrot set, etc.) but every article I tried to look at just had a “coming soon” stub like this:Remains to be seen whether Scholarpedia will prove any better at getting over-committed superstars to deliver on time than conventional publishers!

Nov 092006

Earlier this year I conducted a “quick’n’dirty” survey of librarians’ attitudes to the availability of self-archived journal articles as a possible substitScholarly Information Services have now done a much more sophisticated piece of research on the same topic, commissioned by the Publishing Research Consortium. According to the summary:“Overall the survey shows that a significant number of librarians are likely to substitute OAmaterials for subscribed resources, given certain levels of reliability, peer review andcurrency of the information available.

Nov 092006

Connecting for Health (part of the NHS in England) has not renewed its contract with BMJ Publishing which made access to Clinical Evidence freely available at the point of use to doctors, CfH has chosen a rival service, Prodigy Knowledge, which is supplied by the vendors of the Prodigy clinical software systems…. According to its own website, “Clinical Evidence summarises the current state of knowledge and uncertainty about the prevention and treatment of clinical conditions, based on thorough searches and appraisal of the literature.

Nov 092006

Now the UK library systems vendor Talis and the Alliance Library System have just issued a joint press release, announcing their work together to extend and enhance current Info Island/ Second Life Library capabilities through the establishment of a brand new island inside the virtual world; Talis Cybrary City…. Features like a coffee shop and open-air reading rooms are also a reflection of Jade’s desire to create ‘a social atmosphere for residents who prefer not to go to clubs.’Though the library has yet to begin producing articles, Jade says the institution will take an active role in acquiring content….Visitors to the library will access its holdings through searchable and browsable terminals linked to a r/l database that will return a notecard visitors will be welcome to keep, free of charge.