Tag Archives: Public Knowledge Project

John Willinsky – The Open Access Advantage for Research: It’s more than the Price

My notes from John Willinsky’s talk at the APSR Open Access Publishing Workshop (they are a bit rough):

What is important = Mobilisation of knowledge

Background on PKP – a humble project with humble origins
Business model = PKP gets grants for research projects, and in the course of that research they develop software
John started out in 1998 with this out of frustration as an educator – his primary goal was being able to excite kids about knowledge
Once he become Prof – goal was exciting teachers about knowledge
Frustrating as an educator to not be able to share knowledge with students except when they were at the university, on campus, talking and accessing the material that the university pays for. But once they leave the university they have nothing – library cards are taken away – essentially told their thirst for knowledge must end once they leave the university
So why are we teaching people to be interested in learning and knowledge if we don’t make the knowledge available to them?

Consequences of the serials crisis was about access to knowledge in a fundamental way
Internet was exciting and filled people with hope because suddenly access was possible

Principle of the 1990s – asking, how are we going to make this work? On what basis can we circulate this?
People didn’t wait for an answer
They just started putting things up
And discovered that they got traffic; there were readers; people were interested

PKP started in 1998 – but realized they weren’t going to be able to convince people to put their journals online and make them free
Because then people were asking, what will it cost?
And we are still trying to answer that

Now, John proposes that this is a misleading question
He is not asking us to reconcile how some journals are publishing entirely with a zero budget while other journals have huge expenses
Different journals work on different economies, habits etc
All PKP wanted to do was contribute to this
Another piece to a complex puzzle
A piece that said, YOU can decide how much this will cost – will you use open software or not, will you have volunteers or paid work…etc?
There are some journals that have always been run on nothing more than the enthusiasm of academics and they deserve the proper software for this
That is why there is such a DIY focus to the software
And why PKP uses open source software

Business model for open source software = people don’t pay for software but they contribute to the software and build a community of users
This sounds a lot like scholarship
The software and the publishing model could come together

Saw value of work not in its profit or loss, but the value in its circulation

PKP continues to be funded from research grants, principally from Canadian Government

Want to provide a choice for the academic community – academics deciding how they want to shape the products they are creating


1. Research e.g. – Open Medicine

Series of editors for Canadian Association of Medicine were fired because Association was not happy with the direction they were taking with the journal ($$)
Board resigned because they were upset the editors were fired
PKP offered the free software as an opportunity
Not fair that CMA and pharmaceutical companies could interfere with the research being disseminated
So these formerly well paid editors decided to form an open journal called Open Medicine
Agreed they would not accept medical advertising, and they would make their content available immediately for free
Has been difficult
Now on the brink on being indexed
Established for themselves the possibility of running a journal on a different economy
Interesting academic freedom questions – not just about the money
About keeping universities and academics at the forefront of what makes research daring
We need to see the libraries of our universities as public institutions

2. Eg – research on registered massage therapists

It was discovered that registered massage therapist they were entirely engaged in the research in PubMed, and frustrated that they could only see 15% of research that was available. They were not prepared to tell their clients about the research unless they could see the methodologies – interesting that this group would raise their standard of care in accordance with the open access of material

3. E.g. – Wikipedia

Finished a study on Wikipedia as a public point of entry
Fact that so many people are coming together to discuss and debate knowledge is itself a public good
Asked how much research is being included in wikipedia
Compared with Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – peer reviewed, free, in text links, etc
Found that 80% of entries in Stanford E of P are being cited in Wikipedia [me: that’s pretty cool]
Wikipedia may not be accurate about some things, but it is accurate about Aristotle, Descarte, the meaning of life – to the extent that it is citing peer reviewed literature
In a 2 week period, ¾ of the 80% cited were viewed and discussed
180 000 references to peer reviewed literature in W (but most of it not freely available)

Where are PKP going next?

Open access = public access

(1) Monograph is one of the most exciting developments moving forward
What we have done with journals has only harmed monographs
“shrinking monograph budget”
The thoroughness of an argument in a monograph is an important intellectual property that we cannot allow to disappear
If we discourage people from thinking in book length thought than the quality of research will decline

Want to create a digital option with print on demand for monograph
Want to use the same principles of OJS and OCS
Monograph system for monographs that would not otherwise get published – e.g. studies show that if you are working in Latin American history at an American university, then you will not get your monograph published

Want to bring in some ideas:
1. Bring back the great ideal of a wonderful editor – using the social network
2. Want to build an incubator where authors can start to put their work and where an editor could say – “I think this looks promising – let’s see if you have a book here”
3. Encourage people to think about whether they have a book or not and start developing it at an early stage
4. Make sure people are aware of what is already out there
5. Mainly about conceptualization – the monograph is something that needs an alternative approach to – the universities have set the parameters of what they are willing to publish as a monograph and we think that it is unacceptable – need to foster more extensive work
6. Want to create a publication area that lasts for longer – build a place for the book to be a permanent part of a growing culture – all comments received in the incubator become part of the book’s development

(2) how can we create better quality layout in a way that costs less
product = lemon8-xml
like a great copy editor
e.g. can compare bibliography with bibliographies in PubMed and correct mistakes

(3) Working with Dataverse Network (out of Harvard with Gary King) to make data citable and will give the data a “thumbprint” so that if people download the data and use it and don’t credit you, then you can find them

APSR Open Access Publishing: A PKP User Group Workshop

On Thursday 4 December 2008, I attended the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) Workshop entitled, Open Access Publishing: A PKP User Group Workshop.

PKP is the acronym used for the Public Knowledge Project, a research and development initiative directed toward improving the scholarly and public quality of academic research through the development of innovative online publishing and knowledge-sharing environments (see “About the Public Knowledge Project”). PKP was founded in 1998 and is located at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Canada and Stanford University in California. PKP has developed Open Journal Systems (OJS) and Open Conference Systems (OCS), open sources software for the management, publishing and indexing of journals and conferences.

Professor John Willinsky, Director of PKP, Professor of Education at Stanford University School of Education and author of, “The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship” came out to Australia for the workshop, as did PKP Developer, MJ Suhonos. My notes from Professor Willinsky’s plenary address appear in this post.

The workshop was held at the University of Sydney and continued on Friday 5 December. I was unable to attend on Friday, but my colleague, Professor Anne Fitzgerald of QUT Law School, gave a presentation entitled, “Constructing open access by effective copyright management” and QUT’s DVC, Professor Tom Cochrane, spoke on “The Institutional Perspective on Open Access – dos and don’ts”. The full program can be viewed on APSR’s website.

My notes from Thursday follow.

The workshop was primarily focused on users’ experiences with PKP software. So we heard from Eve Young, Helen Morgan and James Williams from the University of Melbourne, Bobby Graham from the National Library of Australia and Susan Lever, Editor of the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature about their experiences with using OJS and from Peter Jeffery of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) about using OCS. Generally the feedback was very positive (especially for OJS) but some suggestions for improved usability (particularly for non-tech savvy academics) were also made. Susan Lever spoke about the exciting opportunity that online publishing offers where articles can contain in-text live links to other sites offering additional information, images and videos, which greatly enrich the experience of the reader.

The university ePress was also a topic of the day. Lorena Kanellopoulos informed us about the management and operation of Australian National University (ANU) ePress and Dr Alex Byrne spoke about University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ePress. UTS ePress publishes the journal, Portal, which I believe was the first journal to be published in Australian using PKP software. The main point to come out of Lorena and Alex’s presentations, to me, was that university ePress costs were not high and that universities can publish their own journals, using open source software and a “publish online with a print-on-demand option” approach, successfully and cost-effectively. Dr Geoffrey Borny, Visiting Fellow in the School of Humanities, College of the Arts and Social Sciences and Member of the Emeritus Faculty at the Australian National University, gave a personal account of what it was like to publish a book with ANU ePress. He was a very happy customer, saying that ANU ePress was efficient and professional, and that publishing online had given him much wider exposure than he expected.

For me, however, the most interesting presentation of the day (aside from Professor John Wilinsky’s plenary address, which is covered in a separate post) was from Andrew Stammer, Journals Publishing Director at CSIRO Publishing. As Andrew pointed out, the CSIRO Publishing Charter creates an interesting creative tension between CSIRO Publishing’s commercial role and public interest role by stating that CSIRO Publishing is to:

  1. Operate within CSIRO on a commercial basis with its viability entirely dependent on the capacity to generate revenue and sufficient return on investment (i.e. CSIRO Publishing must fund itself – it apparently receives no funding from CSIRO or the Australian Government); and
  2. Carry a national interest publishing obligation on behalf of CSIRO within this commercial role.

Despite not agreeing with everything that Andrew had to say (I was highly amused to see that he included “lobbying” amongst the publishers’ roles, right up there with “striving for quality in content” and “nurturing relationships”), I thought that his presentation was remarkably well balanced. He spoke about the OA initiatives of CSIRO Publishing, including the publishing of an OA journal – The South Pacific Journal of Natural Science. He explained the publishing process, being that publishers:

  • Acquire content;
  • Review and develop content (facilitate peer review);
  • Prepare content for dissemination;
  • Disseminate content; and
  • Promote content and authors.

Andrew also spoke at length about the costs associated with publishing. And these costs seemed quite incredible to me. For journal publishing of 1162 pages, across 108 articles in 12 issues, printing alone costs $43,166. This cost is quite distinct from costs associated with layout, peer review, promotion or even postage (postage additionally cost thousands of dollars). Much of these costs, I think, could be avoided or massively reduced by online dissemination and print-on-demand services.

Yet what really jumped out at me was a graph that Andrew displayed, which he had acquired from the journal article: Rowlands I and Nicholas D (2006) The changing scholarly landscape, Learned Publishing, 19, 31-55. He showed this under the heading, “What do authors want?” and I was only able to quickly scribble down the order in which the items appeared:

  1. Reputation of journal
  2. Readership
  3. Impact factor
  4. Speed of publication
  5. Reputation of editorial board
  6. Online ms submission
  7. Print & electronic versions
  8. Permission to post post-print
  9. Permission to post preprints
  10. Retention of copyright.

Being a lawyer and an advocate that authors retain copyright in their works and only issue their publisher a Licence to Publish, I was rather concerned about “retention of copyright” being last on a list of “what authors want”.

On Friday morning, I looked up the journal article online, it’s full citation being: Rowlands,I., Nicholas,D. (2006). The changing scholarly communication landscape: an international survey of senior researchers. Learned Publishing 19(1), 31-55. ISSN: 0953-1513.

The article presents the results of a survey “on the behaviour, attitudes, and perceptions of 5,513 senior journal authors on a range of issues relating to a scholarly communication system that is in the painful early stages of a digital revolution” (p31). The survey was conducted by CIBER, “an independent publishing think-tank based at University College London” (p31), in early 2005 and was commissioned by the Publishers Association (PA) and the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) with additional support from CIBER associates. I was somewhat skeptical about the survey being commissioned by two publishing bodies, but the article’s authors assure readers that:

The views expressed in the Report and in this article are those of the authors alone, based on the data. They do not represent a corporate position, either of the PA or STM. The survey was conducted in a totally unbiased fashion; the research team (CIBER) has no allegiances other than to the data (p33).

The graph in the article is labeled “Figure 7 Reasons for choosing last journal: averages, where 5 = very important, 1 = not at all important (n = 5,513)” not “what authors want”. The actual figures in the graph were –

  • Reputation of the journal – 4.50
  • Readership – 4.21
  • Impact factor – 4.04
  • Speed of publication – 3.89
  • Reputation of editorial board – 3.55
  • Online manuscript submission – 3.43
  • Print and electronic versions – 3.21
  • Permission to post post-print – 2.58
  • Permission to post pre-print – 2.34
  • Permission to retain copyright – 2.31

In my opinion, the reasons why an author may have chosen to publish in a particular journal in the past are not necessarily indicative of what may influence them to publish where in future, especially in this very changable environment of academic publishing. Yet it is still somewhat concerning to see permissions to post pre and post print versions of the article and to retain copyright rate so low.

The question must be asked why the survey results may have shown these preferences. I think it is important to point out that this survey was undertaken in 2005, so does not reflect the most current state of affairs. Additionally, the authors identify the age of the survey respondents as being a potential influencing factor:

More than a third (35.9%) of the respondents are baby boomers, aged 45 or older, and many of their attitudes will have been formed during a long period of relative stability for the academic sector, at a time when the current difficulties facing institutional library budgets and the scholarly communication market were not so evident (p37).

The authors also write:

Many spoke of the influence of external measures, like impact factors, in determining where they feel they have to publish, sometimes to the detriment of their readers (p41).

However, “readership” and “speed of publication” rated almost as highly as “reputation of journal” and “impact factor” – features which I would argue could be delivered quite effectively by OA journals, even relatively new ones.

My final point in relation to this article is that I perceived an implicit bias against OA publishing, despite the authors’ claims to the contrary. This I perceived from the phrasing of questions with a negative slant (for example, “How disruptive is open access?”) and from comments such as this:

There is a significant relationship between previous experience of publishing in an open access environment and researcher’s attitudes to the value they attach to peer review. Authors who have published in an open access journal are more likely to attach lower value to the importance of peer review (p44).

To me, this statement implies that OA journals do not necessarily use peer review or value peer review, which is simply not true.

Notwithstanding my opinions about how the results of the survey are presented, the article is an interesting read. The OAK Law Project has also conducted its own survey, in 2007, on the attitudes and practices of Australian academic authors in relation to the publication and dissemination of their research. The survey report can be accessed here (or by direct link to PDF).