Archive for the 'publishing' category

What do you do: publisher wants a higher increase because you use their journals more

Dec 06 2018 Published by under Collection Development, libraries, publishing

Here's the situation. My larger place of work's electronic resources folks are processing renewals when one digital library comes back and says: your normal increase would be 3% but since your usage increased 24% since last year, it's a 6% increase. Ladies and gentlemen: we do not have an extra 3% to give them, nor did we agree to a usage based subscription fee (we think).

First thought was that the pricing model is AFU and what on earth actual publisher wants more money for more usage?

Second thought was whoa - 24% increase in one year is weird for something that is basically the same and a topic of perennial interest? Like not CRISPR-R-Us or all-AI-all-the-time or anything super hot... just a topic that all of the sci/tech divisions of the larger institution are interested in to some extent.  No new programs in the area and no dramatic changes to the content on the platform. So maybe the logs are messed up?

The electronic resources folks got two bits of usage data for us: a file with all the IPs that have downloaded articles 2016-2018 and a file with article identification info and date-time stamp (to the minute only) of when it was downloaded 2016-2018.

First thing to check - are these all our IPs (we've gotten usage logs of other universities in the past from other vendors)? Yes. And interestingly, it divides up 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 between the 3 major sci/tech divisions of my larger institution.

Second thing - are they double counting? We can see by visual examination that there are 2 entries with the same time stamp for a single article. There are also a bunch that are 1 minute off. Question: is the double counting consistent across years or does it happen significantly more often in 2018?

So I imported the log into R, then counted up all the records that had the same article name identifier as the one below them and either the same time stamp or 1 minute off. Well bummer. Turns out the double counting was worse in 2016, the year with the lowest usage. (FWIW, we had a 2% increase in usage from 2016-2017 and the data show an 18% increase not a 24% increase from 2017-2018)

Third thing - is this one of the publishers that's weird about reserves?  I'm not at all fluent in that since I don't work with students, but we can see articles with 230 downloads all clustering around the beginnings of semesters (August-September, January). So... ?

Another thought: we tell people to just send around the link and everyone should download their own copy. Sounds like a bad idea for this publisher!

This isn't a done deal but I'm not sure beyond looking at the license what we can do. We're definitely going to push back. Wish us luck!

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Oh scientists, writing a letter about a publisher platform upgrade gone awry...

Apr 01 2017 Published by under Collection Development, publishing

Apparently, Oxford University Press' recent journal platform upgrade (details pdf) got super screwed up. A bunch of scientists are (rightfully) quite upset about various issues such as missing years of archives, access being denied for certain subscribers, misdirected and non-directing urls and dois, and missing supplemental data.

Don't get me wrong, this is pretty horrible. What tickles me is the response of writing an open letter.

Typically, when these upgrades go wrong, the scientists scream at us, their librarians. We in turn call and e-mail and fuss at the vendor who then eventually fixes it and then sends an apology to our acquisitions team and sometimes relevant listservs. I don't think we ever actually get any credits on our bills, though.

What a pleasant surprise that the scientists are actually blaming the publisher!

When I say typically, I mean like probably every month or so something like this happens to some extent. Some vendor platform upgrades are smooth, but I think most have some subset of the issues OUP has had.

Sage gave free access for like a month and then redirected all URLs. RefWorks is running 2 platforms in parallel for like 3 years.  LexisNexis is going to SOOPRIZE change us all over during the summer to a completely new platform... It is more typical to change over during the summer instead of screwing things up during prime paper writing season. Of course, OUP did start this late fall ... so...

Anyway, I hope OUP gets their stuff squared away quickly.

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Unpacking Societies Publishing With For Profit Companies

Aug 06 2016 Published by under publishing

This week, Jon Tennant went off on a riff on Wiley and the poor experience he had with a particular journal published for a society by Wiley.

First - I'm not affiliated and so very much not endorsing any companies, etc.

Second - I'm on record saying some things are worth paying for and I still feel that way.

I've reviewed for a Wiley-published society journal but not published with one. The ScholarOne interface is like whoa, yuck, but that is, by the way, actually a TR product. Any interactions with the editorial staff have been very professional and pleasant.

I've also been helping a colleague navigate ScholarOne to submit to a Taylor and Francis journal. It has been more than a year and we're still going back and forth with them. E-mails to the editor go unanswered. One reviewer was just like "this isn't science"  and doesn't do any more reviewing. The other has provided detailed feedback which the authors have appreciated.

Over the years, I've seen plenty of organizations think they can just do it all themselves. Why, though, should they not outsource to vendors who already have set-ups? I mean, OJS is just ugly. Free CMS are plentiful, but just because you can put articles online for cheap doesn't mean that they'll work with the rest of the ecosystem.

From what I can tell about what Tennant said, his real problem is with the society and the editors, not with the platform.

The other think to think about is if the society had to pay the intermediate vendors themselves (Atypon, etc) and manage those relationships, would that really be cheaper than an all-in-one package? Maybe? Not sure.

Remember, too, that journals are sometimes expensive because the society sees them as a revenue stream so they can pay expensive executives and lobbyists and maybe a scholarship here or there.

If you're part of a society trying to make the decision, you'll likely have the numbers to help - but I don't think the decision is as obvious as everyone thinks.

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ACS and Just Accepted Manuscripts

A colleague posted on Chminf-l asking about the American Chemical Society's Just Accepted Manuscripts program. Most of the immediate responses were to explain the program, which is not what she asked. Here's the site's description:

"Just Accepted" manuscripts are peer-reviewed and accepted for publication. They are posted online prior to technical editing, formatting for publication and author proofing. The American Chemical Society is posting just accepted, unredacted manuscripts as a service to the research community in order to expedite the dissemination of scientific information as soon as possible after acceptance. "Just Accepted" manuscripts appear in full as PDF documents accompanied by an HTML abstract. They are accessible to all readers and citable by the Digital Object Identifier (DOI®). The manuscripts posted on the "Just Accepted" Web site are not the final scientific version of record; the ASAP (As Soon As Publishable) article (which has been technically edited and formatted) represents the final scientific article of record. The "Just Accepted" manuscript is removed from the Web site upon publication of the ASAP article, and the ASAP article has the same DOI as the "Just Accepted" manuscript. The DOI remains constant to ensure that citations to "Just Accepted" manuscripts link to the final scientific article of record when it becomes available.

The FAQ explains that this is opt-in and these copies will be removed when the ASAP and final versions are live.

Chemistry is kind of a funny field when you talk about scholarly communication and sharing (see and read everything from Theresa Velden's dissertation research on this, in particular). Journals are dominated by ACS with RSC and the other scholarly publishers following. In some areas like synthetic chemistry, there's a real reluctance to even share at meetings, no desire to post pre-prints, and tight control over data access. In more computational and analytic areas, it's a little more relaxed.

Pre-print server efforts in chemistry have been mostly unsuccessful. For one thing, the journals will not take articles posted elsewhere first. Second, there's this big tension with priority (now moving to first to file maybe will change patent things but there's still recognition issues).

With all that, there are still efforts to require self-archiving broadly across fields and to have disciplinary pre-print servers. The big publishers who are rolling in dough from the subscriptions from all the ACS accredited programs do not want to see these archives and self-archiving succeed, even though it's been shown that it doesn't harm subscriptions in physics.

Anyway, as I said on the list, this is a pretty smart move by ACS. It solves the problem of getting the science out there sooner, but still with peer review, and on the hosted platform. This version disappears and the doi points you to the official version when available so they keep the traffic in house. I'm sure the embargoes go from official publication, too, so this is more time the publisher has to disseminate the content and get attention before government funders and institutional repositories can share it.

I think it will be accepted by chemists because it is from ACS and it is after peer review. We'll see, though, if there are any typos and whatnot that offend people.


Edit to add: Thurston Miller points to a few viewpoint papers in Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters on OA (the papers themselves are not OA).

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Enough already with the computer-generated papers!

Feb 25 2014 Published by under publishing, scholarly communication

SIGH! Years ago there was the Sokal affair that poked fun at cultural studies. Then there was a series of efforts to create a computer program to create articles - SciGen from MIT students is a famous one. Phil Davis got a computer-generated paper accepted to Bentham. More recently there was the Bohannon AAAS "sting" operation that (unfairly) targeted only OA journals... There were also two groups that gamed Google Scholar to show more citations... And now:

Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers
Conference proceedings removed from subscription databases after scientist reveals that they were computer-generated.

Richard Van Noorden, Nature News, 24 February 2014

Ugh! At least we can't blame Cyril Labbé, the scientist in question. He didn't submit the articles, he just detected them. And in places near and dear to my heart like IEEE Xplore and Springer. These are conference papers this time. Not only did they supposedly go through peer review - but were they presented? WHAT was presented? Even if these were pranks - how funny was it if it wasn't revealed? Should the authors be banned? Should they be charged with fraud as some suggest? What a stinking mess.

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An interesting thought - journal article orphan works?

Dec 12 2013 Published by under information policy, publishing

I made an assumption and was called on it on Liblicense. I was under the impression that to be published you ( or someone from your place of work if it's work-for-hire like at mpow) had to have signed a copyright agreement. Turns out that over time, some publishers have been a little slipshod with this. They didn't follow up or they made some statement that if the author didn't sign, the transfer was assumed or claimed or whatever. Even if they got the agreement, they might not still have it.

Huh. According to Laura Quilter on LibLicense, in the US there has to be a signed agreement. So... makes you wonder... could these people who never signed agreements claim their own copyright back? Post their articles wherever they want? Or maybe it would still have to be the content stripped of all the publisher specific formatting and logo?

Worth pondering.

P.S. - read what you sign! consider the SPARC or other addendum.

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Heads Up new Science is a Special Issue on Scholarly Communication

Oct 03 2013 Published by under publishing, scholarly communication

The "sting" article that details a Sokal-Affair-type test of crap open access publishers to see if they really were crap open access publishers is getting all the attention. (do note that Hindawi and PlosONE quickly rejected the manuscript and Plos even questioned the ethical issues - hence they are not crap publishers but decent publishers).

Elsewhere in the issue that just went live at 2pm are articles on:

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eBook DRM - do not like!

Jul 03 2013 Published by under information policy, publishing

MPOW had a trial for Taylor & Francis ebooks - in my professional opinion (not anyone else's) - I find T&F stuff overpriced, difficult to use, and less important than stuff from other publishers. We're quick to call their competitors evil, but at least the platforms work well! With that said, there are a few key journals there that we pretty much need. Some of these books might be useful, too. So I took a look.

ew, ew, ew!  The DRM is horrible. View on screen in quick view or pdf view with limited printing, copying/pasting; or download (requires a plugin to Acrobat) and no copying/pasting or printing and it's "saved for a limited time."  Just say no!

Oh, and while I'm naming names... McGraw-Hill changed what they offer for their AccessEngineering Library a while ago so that you can't print unless you create a login (boo!). Today an engineer showed what the print out looks like - massive watermark in black obscuring half the page. Nice job, McG-H!

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Does bundling "screw libraries"?

Apr 11 2013 Published by under publishing, scholarly communication

I'm not an Elsevier apologist, really, but let's just be pragmatic here. There are lots of things to criticize them for, but I can't get as exercised about the bundling as some.

Here are my thoughts in brief:

  • What we pay for each download/view is actually pretty low
  • Our researchers have immediate access to lots of obscure things we never thought they'd need
  • Our researchers are accessing things we'd never subscribe to if offered separately
  • Even crap journals may have some good content from time to time (El Naschie not withstanding)
  • We don't have to take the bundle. We can always just subscribe to just those journals we want. Many libraries have cancelled their big deals.

Bad things:

  • Supporting some crap journals
  • Some jerk editors of crap journals advertising that we subscribe to their crap journal
  • Inflation in the cost of the big deals eating up the serials budget leaving less and less for smaller publishers or individual subscriptions.

This last thing is really bad, but it's not only the case in bundle situations. The big fancy science and technology journals are crazy expensive whether you purchase them in a bundle or individually. Our budgets are decreasing - we're cutting 5% here or 10% there when we're not facing 25% cuts - and as I said in an earlier post, 15% increases are not doable, even if new journals are added to the package.

So anyway, call me brainwashed or whatever, but I'm just trying to get the content our folks need for the money we have to spend (or, in most cases, the money our parent institution has to spend 'cause mpow is cut to the bone).

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The latest land grab in the LIS world: Citation managers

Apr 10 2013 Published by under information policy, publishing

The information industry (or whatever) seems to go through wave after wave of big land grabs with mergers and acquisitions and then series of product launches. The current one is for citation managers. You might be wondering why now? What's going on? I have some thoughts (spurred along in part by discussions in the Library Society of the World area on FriendFeed).

Citation managers have been around since at least the 1980s if not before. They're really a no-brainer for people who need to write about their research (attributing ideas gotten elsewhere) and it always surprises me that not every scholar has one set up. They're simply a database that's smart about citations/references/bibliographies. All viable ones right now take imports from research databases, the web, and digital libraries; let you search; and let you reuse information by inserting citations into documents and formatting them in your preferred format. In the past 5-10 years, newer ones are web-based or at least back-up/sync over the web, and offer some social or collaboration features.

The web-based citation managers provide a ton of very interesting data to their companies:

  • What are people reading?
  • Where are they searching (where is their data coming from)?
  • How are they reading - what in documents do they find interesting (for services that provide annotation tools)?

You start to see, then, why for-profit publishers would find this very interesting indeed.

At the same time, the publishing market is growing at a set rate, so to increase profits, publishers need to branch out into different services. Hosting pre-prints? Indexing or hosting data (too expensive)? Expanding presence into other parts of the scientist's workflow (ding!)?

By expanding their brand's presence into the writing process and the reading and analyzing the literature process, companies gain a few possible benefits:

  • more places to put ads, better data to sell more relevant (thus acceptable and profitable) ads
  • lower the friction to submit valuable articles into their journals
  • get submissions with better markup so editing and typesetting are easier (may be a pipe dream)
  • more brand loyalty?

What's in it for us? Some of these big corporations actually have very functional UX teams and have the potential of really making some improvements. Better integration of these tools with the research databases and whatnot you already use could be useful.

With respect to Elsevier and Mendeley. Sure Elsevier is evil... BUT... they do actually have some really great products and they do spend a ton of money improving them. Some of their competitors are also evil, but do not put any money back into improving their interfaces.

Your data going to help Elsevier (and a fuss coming from a Microsoft employee - give me a break!)? Yeah, well, I guess I'm of the school that I'm willing to give up some things to get better and more relevant services. To be honest, Elsevier is a known entity and that's slightly more comfortable than a start-up on venture capital looking to turn a buck. Maybe less uncertainty is better? (bring on the pitchforks and torches!)

Other acquisitions: Springer and Papers - I actually missed this news last Fall.

Also: ACS and ChemWorx (not an acquisition but a partnership, I believe).

Of course Thomson Reuters bought ProCite, EndNote, Reference Manager ages ago and now offer EndNote Web to Web of Science subscribers.

Edit 4/30: I forgot to mention that ProQuest bought RefWorks a while ago. I just read today (via) that there's now a free version of EndNote Web. Competition is good!

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