Lightning Review: Open Access

Although the push for open access is decades old at this point, it remains one of the most important initiatives in the world of scholarly communication and publishing. Free of barriers like the continuously rising costs of subscription-based serials, open access publishing allows researchers to explore, learn, build upon, and create new knowledge without inhibition. As Peter Suber says, “[Open access] benefits literally everyone, for the same reasons that research itself benefits literally everyone.”

Picture of Suber's "Open Access"

Peter Suber is the Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication; Director of the Harvard Open Access Project; and, among many other titles, the “de facto leader of the worldwide open access movement.” In short, Suber is an expert when it comes to open access. Thankfully, he knows the rest of us might not have time to be.

Suber introduces his book Open Access (a part of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series) by writing, “I want busy people to read this book. […] My honest belief from experience in the trenches is that the largest obstacle to OA is misunderstanding. The largest cause of misunderstanding is the lack of familiarity, and the largest cause of unfamiliarity is preoccupation. Everyone is busy.”

What follows is an informative yet concise read on the broad field of open access. Suber goes into the motivation for open access, the obstacles preventing it, and what the future may hold. In clear language, Suber breaks down jargon and explains how open access navigates complex issues concerning copyright and payment. This is a great introductory read to an issue so prominent in academia.

Open 24 Hours Neon Sign

Take the time to fit Open Access into your busy schedule. You can read it the Scholarly Commons during our regular hours or online through our catalog anytime.

And finally, if you have any questions about open access, feel free to reach out to or request a consultation with the library’s Scholarly Communication and Publishing unit!

OASIS: The Search Tool for the Open Educational Resource Desert

Guest Post by Kaylen Dwyer

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license so they are free to access, use, remix, and share again.

Source: The Review Project. For more information about OER, the University of Illinois’ guide is available online.

Last year, the Common Knowledge blog discussed the cost of OER to professors and institutions in grants, time, sabbatical funding, and more. Yet professors felt that the main barrier between OER and the classroom were not these hidden costs, but rather lack of awareness, the difficulties of finding texts to use, and the monumental task of evaluating the texts and tools they did find.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s study, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market,” determined that many students chose not to buy their textbooks due to the costs despite concern for their grade, and felt that they would benefit from open resources. Even as textbook costs have skyrocketed and faculty awareness of OER continues to increase, only 5.3% of classrooms are using open textbooks.

Enter OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search), a search tool recently developed and launched by SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library. OASIS addresses the main frustration expressed by faculty—how do I know what I’m looking for? Or even what open sources are out there?

Oasis Logo Image

The easy-to-use interface and highly selective nature of OASIS are both evident from the front page. At the outset, users can start a search if they know what they’re looking for, or they can view the variety of OER source types available to them—textbooks, courses, interactive simulations, audiobooks, and learning objects are just a few of the tools one can look for.

Image of the options within Oasis for OER materials

Users can also refine their search by the source, license, and whether or not the resource has been reviewed. For those who need a text which has already been evaluated, this certainly helps. At launch, there are over 150,000 items available coming from 52 different sources like Open NYS, CUNY, Open Textbooks, OER Services, and SUNY. And, as a way to increase awareness of the tool and open resources, OASIS also created a search widget that libraries and other institutions can embed on their webpages.

OASIS is one step closer to getting OER into the classroom, providing equal access and increasing the discoverability of texts.

Check it out here!

Using an Art Museum’s Open Data

*Edits on original idea and original piece by C. Berman by Billy Tringali

As a former art history student, I’m incredibly interested in the how the study of art history can be aided by the digital humanities. More and more museums have started allowing the public to access a portion of their data. When it comes to open data, museums seem to be lagging a bit behind other cultural heritage institutions, but many are providing great open data for humanists.

For art museums, the range of data provided ranges. Some museums are going the extra mile to give a lot of their metadata to the public. Others are picking and choosing aspects of their collection, such as the Museum of Modern Art’s Exhibition and Staff Histories.

Many museums, especially those that collect modern and contemporary art, can have their hands tied by copyright laws when it comes to the data they present. A few of the data sets currently available from art museums are the Cooper Hewitt’s Collection Data, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts metadata, the Rijksmuseum API, the Tate Collection metadata, and the Getty Vocabularies.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently released all images of the museum’s public domain works under a Creative Commons Zero license.

More museum data can be found here!

Open Access Button v. Unpaywall: Is there a Winner?

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication and Publishing Graduate Assistant Paige Kuester.


A few months back, the Commons Knowledge blog featured a post about a new feature from Impactstory called “Unpaywall.” Read that article here. This is still a relatively new tool that aims to find open access versions of articles if they are available. You can click on the lock that shows up on an article’s page if it is green or gold, and Unpaywall will take you to an OA version of that article. If only a grey lock shows up, then there is no OA version of that article that this feature can find.

Similarly, the Open Access Button’s goal is to get you past paywalls. This is an older extension than Unpaywall, but is still being updated. This one works by bookmarking the button, and once you happen upon a paywalled article, you click on that bookmark. It also has a feature for when the article is not available: emailing the authors directly. The authors are then encouraged to deposit their articles in a repository, and either send a link to that or send the article directly to OAB so that they can upload it to a repository. Of course, if the author’s rights contract does not allow them to do this, then they can decline. OAB is also working with interlibrary loan departments in order to utilize this tool in those systems, which is supposed to eventually reduce the cost of sending articles between libraries.

I decided to test out the Open Access Button in order to write a fantastic blog post about it and how it compares to Unpaywall, and honestly, I came out a bit disappointed.

Maybe I just picked the wrong articles or topic to search for, or I’m just unskilled, but I had little success in my quest.

My first step was to install OAB, which was easy to do: I just dragged the button to my bookmarks for it to chill there until I needed it.

I used Google Scholar to search for an article that I did not have access to through the University. We do have a lot of articles available, but I did manage to pin one down that I could not get the full text for.

The Google Scholar results.

So I went to the page.

And opened my bookmarks to click on the

Open Access Button.

A screenshot of the bookmark for Open Access Button.

And then it loaded. For quite a while.

A screenshot of the loading screen.

And then…

A screenshot of how to request an article.

The article wasn’t available. But it gave me the option to write a note to the author to request it, like I mentioned above. Awesome. I wrote my note, but when I went to send it off, I arrived at another page asking me to supply the author’s email and the DOI of the article.

Screenshot of the website asking for a DOI.

An unexpected twist.

Okay, fine. So I searched and I searched for the first author but to no avail. I did, however, find the second author’s email, so I put that in the box. Check.

Next, the DOI. I searched and I searched and I looked up how to find an article’s DOI. Well, my article was from 1992 so the reason I couldn’t find one was probably because it didn’t have one. There was no option for that, so what next?

I installed Unpaywall to see if I would have more success that way. First, I had to switch from Safari to Chrome because Unpaywall only works on a couple of browsers. It was also easy to install, but I could not get the lock to show up in any color on the page, which is something that has happened to me many times since, also.

I ended up interlibrary loaning that article.

Additional experiences include OAB saying that I had access to an article, but sending me to an institutional repository that only members of that school could access. Unpaywall was more truthful with this one, showing me a grey lock. Another article let me send a message to the author in which they had thankfully found the author’s emails themselves, but I never heard a response back. Unpaywall would not show me any type of lock for this one, not even grey.

Both of these applications are still rather new, and there are still barriers to open access that need to be crossed. I will continue to try and implement these when I come across an article that I don’t have access to because supporting open access is important, but honestly, interlibrary loan was much more helpful to me during this venture.

Where Does Sci-Hub Fit In?

A circular and messy pile of books and papers.

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication and Publishing Graduate Assistant Paige Kuester.


Open access is not as simple as it may seem. In addition to conflicting definitions of open access itself, there are many different kinds, which may or may not follow the definitions previously put forth. There are three basic types that scholars discuss: gold, green, and hybrid, which are defined in this LibGuide.

There are also the colors that authors utilize to describe a category that does not fall under the three listed above, including but not limited to: bronze, diamond/platinum, and blue, white, and yellow.

And then there’s a whole category, black, just for Sci-Hub.

Okay, it’s not just for Sci-Hub, it also includes other platforms like ResearchGate and the like, where articles are freely shared by authors, but mainly, it’s for Sci-Hub.

Now keep in mind that most of these terms and definitions are up for debate, so take it all with a grain of salt.

The first question is: is Sci-Hub even open access?

If we are defining OA as freely available, then the answer would probably be “yes.” However, if we are defining OA as “legally” and freely available, then probably not. It does not following licensing laws, it is often unavailable, and the content is usually from subscribed entities meaning that someone is still paying somewhere, according to this article by Angela Cochran, of The Scholarly Kitchen.

Actually, the real first question is: What is Sci-Hub?

Sci-Hub is a website that was started in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan, a then-Kazakhstani graduate student who was tired of facing paywalls for articles that she could not get access to (which is something we can all relate to, honestly). So she created a way around it with Sci-Hub, which grabs articles behind institutional and publisher paywalls and makes them freely available. If it does not already have an article, it will retrieve it for you and make it accessible to others.

This, of course, has varying consequences across the board.

So who is it hurting?

Obviously, publishers like Elsevier don’t like it. They aren’t getting paid for the articles that they provide access to. In fact, they have already sued Elbakyan and won, which caused the website to shut down temporarily, until it popped back up under a different domain. This is an ongoing battle.

Even open access Publishers may be harmed in the process, says Cochran again. Though open access articles are already openly available, open access platforms traditionally also informs readers of what they can do with the work, like reuse, revise, retain, remix, and redistribute. This information is valuable to both the reader and the publisher, as the reader knows the rights regarding the work, and the publisher does not get this work used unfairly. This is lost on Sci-Hub. Additionally, OA publishers lose income by not keeping people on their sites to buy other products or services, it hides the real costs of OA publishing, and Sci-Hub does not give researchers the full picture of the article, just the text itself, no comments or retractions (or stated rights) attached.

Authors and researchers seem to be stuck in the middle. They cannot get an accurate picture of their article’s citation impact because Sci-Hub does not provide download counts for the authors, and most reputable citation indices would not calculate Sci-Hub downloads into them, anyways. However, as many of the main users in the US appear to be around college campuses, in all likelihood, there are researchers who are accessing articles this way, if for nothing else than convenience.

Similarly, students are still utilizing this site even if their institutions do have access to the articles. This is true even when the articles are open access, which makes it very clear that part of the appeal is convenience–not having to log in using credentials, for example.

What next?

This is the trickiest question of all.

There are a lot of opinions about Sci-Hub, but there are not many answers. If you are for open access, then the best way to reduce the threat of Sci-Hub against open access is to publish and access articles through those OA routes. The OA model can’t sustain itself if it does not have support. But if the knowledge needed is not accessible through OA means, then that is another question entirely. Librarians are torn on this issue, and time will tell how the publishers come out in this legally. However, it is very unlikely that Sci-Hub, or sites like it, will go away anytime soon.


Sources:

Björk, Bo-Christer. (2017, February 7). Gold, Green, and Black Access. Learned Publishing. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/leap.1096/full

Bohannon, John. (2016, April 28). Who’s Downloading Pirate Papers? Everyone. Science. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/whos-downloading-pirated-papers-everyone

Cochran, Angela. (2017, June 6). Are Open Access Journals Immune from Piracy? The Scholarly Kitchen. Retrieved from https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2017/06/06/open-access-journals-immune-piracy/

Geffert, Bryn. (2016, September 4). Piracy Fills a Publishing Need. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Piracy-Fills-a-Publishing-Need/237651

McKenzie, Lindsay. (2017, July 27) Sci-Hub’s Pirated Papers So Big, Subscription Journals Are Doomed, Data Analyst Suggests. Science. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/sci-hub-s-cache-pirated-papers-so-big-subscription-journals-are-doomed-data-analyst

Ruff, Corinne. (2016, February 8). Librarians Find Themselves Caught Between Journal Pirates and Publishers. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Librarians-Find-Themselves/235353

Waddell, Kaveh. (2016, February 9). The Research Pirates of the Dark Web. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/02/the-research-pirates-of-the-dark-web/461829/

Open Access Week News Round-Up

Photograph of President John F. Kennedy speaking at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, 22 November 1963.

Photograph of President John F. Kennedy speaking at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, 22 November 1963. Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

In honor of Open Access week, graduate assistants at Scholarly Communications and Publishing compiled a round-up of some breaking news stories related to Open Access!


The​ ​remaining​ ​JFK​ ​Assassination​ ​Records​ ​will​ ​be​ ​made​ ​available​ ​this​ ​week.​​ ​On​ ​October 26,​ ​1992,​ ​the​ ​first​ ​President​ ​Bush​ ​signed​ ​the​ ​JFK​ ​Assassination​ ​Records​ ​Collection​ ​Act, stipulating​ ​that​ ​all​ ​withheld​ ​records​ ​should​ ​be​ ​released​ ​within​ ​25​ ​years.​ ​We’re​ ​coming​ ​up​ ​on​ ​that day.​ ​​See​ ​the​ ​records​ ​released​ ​so​ ​far​​ ​or​ ​​learn​ ​more​ ​about​ ​the​ ​records​​ ​from​ ​the​ ​National Archives.

Stephen​ ​Hawking’s​ ​doctoral​ ​thesis​ ​is​ ​now​ ​openly​ ​available​​ ​through​ ​the​ ​Cambridge University​ ​institutional​ ​repository,​ ​Apollo.​ ​​According​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Guardian​,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​already​ ​Apollo’s most-downloaded​ ​item.​ ​Read​ ​​Properties​ of​ Expanding​ Universes​​ ​yourself,​ ​or​ ​explore​ ​Illinois’ institutional​ ​repository,​ ​​IDEALS​,​ ​for​ ​more​ ​open-access​ ​scholarship.

Five​ ​German​ ​researchers​ ​have​ ​resigned​ ​from​ ​editorial​ ​positions​ ​at​ ​Elsevier​ ​journals​ ​over open​ ​access​ ​disputes.​​ ​​According​ ​to​ ​Science​,​ ​“The​ ​researchers​ ​want​ ​Elsevier​ ​to​ ​accept​ ​a​ ​new payment​ ​model​ ​that​ ​would​ ​make​ ​all​ ​papers​ ​authored​ ​by​ ​Germany-based​ ​researchers​ ​open access.”​ ​The​ ​leaders​ ​of​ ​Projekt​ ​DEAL,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​organizing​ ​the​ ​protest,​ ​expect​ ​the​ ​number​ ​to grow.​ ​See​ ​also​ ​​Elsevier’s​ ​guide​ ​to​ ​publishing​ ​open​ ​access​ ​in​ ​Elsevier​ ​journals​.​ ​IDEALS encourages​ ​authors​ ​to​ ​negotiate​ ​for​ ​the​ ​right​ ​to​ ​publish​ ​open​ ​access.

Learn more about Open Access at the University of Illinois.

Open Educational Resources: Who’s Paying?

A stack of books.

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication and Publishing Graduate Assistant Paige Kuester.


Who wants free textbooks? If you’re a student, you probably just jumped out of your seat, depending on how much you have spent on books during your college career. According to an article in The Capital Times, one study has shown that the majority of students have not bought a textbook for a course because of its high price.

If you’re not a student, and especially if you’re a faculty member, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the catch?” You know that everything has its price, and in this case, you’re right.

So what are we talking about?

According to the article “Breaking free: To save students money, colleges are looking to the Open Educational Resources movement,” there is a trend among higher ed to provide open access resources to students instead of requiring traditional textbooks. Though the article cites that during 2015 and 2016, only 5.3 percent of courses across the country used open education resources, this is likely to increase in the coming years.

Open educational resources are just what they sound like: books are other items whose copyright makes them available online openly for educational purposes. Since books and materials are open, they can be shared between different institutions and updated more easily than a physical textbook. They can also be reused, revised, and remixed with other material to suit a professor’s needs.

But someone has to pay, right?

Right. In the case of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the school that is the focus of the article, the burden falls on the professors and instructors. Kristopher Olds, a professor of geography featured in the article, seized the opportunity to create an open textbook when it was presented with him, but it paying for it by patching together small grants, sabbatical funds, and other resources, and volunteering some of his own time. He feels his effort is worth it; however, after realizing that his students were not buying the expensive book he was assigning or were getting outdated information from older textbooks.

Surprisingly, Olds does not say that funding is one of the main barriers to institutions and professors implementing OER, but actually, awareness about OER and how to use them are bigger problems. However, the landscape is changing as knowledge about this type of resource spreads.

Here at the University of Illinois, we are encouraging professors and instructors to look into this facet of teaching. The University has just joined the Open Textbook Network, but data has not yet been gathered about its implementation on campus. Over the next few years, the library will be putting out more initiatives for OER as a part of joining the OTN. The Office of Information Literacy has put out a guide for helping instructors understand what it OER, how to use it, and how to find resources. Learn more at the Open Educational Resources LibGuide.

Schneider, P. (2017, August 9). Breaking free: To save students colleges are looking to the Open Educational Resource movement. The Cap Times. Retrieved from http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/university/breaking-free-to-save-students-money-colleges-are-looking-to/article_eebc0888-2f1f-5faf-ace3-6264b52b8512.html

Open Access Week at the University of Illinois Library

It’s that time of year again! Open Access Week is October 23-27, and the University of Illinois Library is excited to participate. Open Access Week is an international event where the academic and research community come together to learn about Open Access and to share that knowledge with others. In its eighth year, the U of I Library has a great week of events planned!

  • Monday: Workshop: “A Crash Course in Open Access”, 12-1 PM, 314 Main Library
  • Tuesday: Workshop: Open Access Publishing and You, 12-1 PM, 314 Main Library
  • Wednesday: Workshop: Managing Your Copyright and Author’s Rights, 12-1 PM, 314 Main Library
  • Thursday: Scholarly Communication Interest Group Kickoff meeting, 12-1 PM, 106 Main Library
  • Friday: Workshop: Sharing Your Research with ORCiDs, DOIs, and open data repositories, 12-1 PM, 314 Main Library

Fore more information on open access, visit the Scholarly Communication and Publishing website.

Unpaywall Supports Discovery of Open Access Articles

Open access (OA) works are, by definition, freely available on the internet. But in order for these works to be useful, we need an effective way to discover them. Library-based discovery systems generally gather information about a work’s “version of record,” that is, the article as published in a scholarly journal. And as most researchers know, most journals are subscription-based, which can serve as a barrier to access.

The University of Illinois Libraries’ house one of the largest library collections in the United States, but from time to time scholars may still come across electronic resources to which the Library does not have direct access. Colloquially, this is sometimes referred to as “hitting a paywall.” While the Library’s Interlibrary Loan service provides an excellent resource for obtaining access to materials outside of the Library’s collection, many “paywalled” articles are also available in OA versions.The problem is that discovery systems typically aren’t designed to get a user from a paywalled version of an article to an OA version.

A new browser plug-in from Impactstory called Unpaywall aims to address this issue by pointing users to OA versions of paywalled articles, when available. When a user arrives at a webpage for an article, Unpaywall attempts to find an OA version of the article by searching through open repositories. If the plug-in succeeds in finding an open version, this is indicated with an opened lock icon on the side of the screen. Clicking on this icon takes you to a copy of the article.

The circled green icon indicates that an open access version of the paper is available. In this case clicking the icon takes the user to a pre-print version of the paper that was deposited in arXiv.

Unpaywall can also distinguish between articles that are Gold OA (articles available from the publisher under an OA license) and Green OA (articles on a preprint server or an institutional repository, like IDEALS). This information is indicated by the color of the opened lock icon (Note that this is an option that is not turned on by default).

Unpaywall indicates that this article is Gold OA with a gold opened lock icon.

Unpaywall claims that they succeed in locating open access versions of 65-85% of articles (When an open version is not found, this is indicated with a grey closed lock icon), though librarian blogger liddylib reports a 53% success rate when trying it out on Almetric’s Top 100 Articles of 2016. Nevertheless, Unpaywall seems dedicated to improving their software, as Jason Priem, one of the program’s developers, responded to liddylib’s blog post, reporting that they had improved the product to locate some Gold OA articles that had originally been missed. Unpaywall also encourages users to report bugs.

As mentioned above, Unpaywall locates full text OA articles by using data from oaDOI, another ImpactStory project. oaDOI indexes upwards of 90 million articles. relying on data sources like the Directory of Open Access Journals, CrossRef, DataCite, and BASE. It is important to note that the OA articles to which Unpaywall directs users have all been legally made available. This distinguishes Unpaywall from projects like Sci-Hub, which provide PDFs that are often made available through less credible means.

Unpaywall is a brand new product, and so it is to be expected that some hiccups will occur. Nevertheless, it seems like a promising tool for helping more people get access to research by making open access resources more discoverable.

Meet Eleanor Dickson, the Visiting HathiTrust Digital Humanities Specialist

Photo of Eleanor Dickson

This latest installment in our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Eleanor Dickson, the Visiting HathiTrust Research Center Digital Humanities Specialist.


What is your background education and work experience? What led you to this field?

I have a B.A. in English and History with a minor in Italian studies. As an undergraduate I worked at a library which was a really fun experience. I also took an archival research trip to Florida for my undergraduate thesis research and realized I wanted to do what the archivist was doing. I have a Masters in Science in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and completed a postgraduate fellowship at the university archives / Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. And now I’m here!

What is your research agenda?

I research scholarly practice in humanities and digital scholarship, specifically digital humanities with a focus on the needs and practices in large scale text analysis.I also sometimes help with the development of train the trainer curriculum for librarians so librarians can be better equipped with the skills needed to teach patrons about their options when it comes to digital scholarship.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

My favorite work-related duties are talking to researchers and hearing about what they are up to. I am fascinated by the different processes, methods, and resources they’re using. With HathiTrust I get to talk to researchers across the country about text analysis projects.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I wish more people came to the Digital Humanities Savvy Researcher workshops. If people have suggestions for what they want to see PLEASE LET US KNOW.

(To see what Savvy Researcher workshops might tickle your fancy click here to check out our complete workshop calendar.)

If you could recommend only one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

Debates in Digital Humanities, which is an open access book available free online!

Need assistance with a Digital Humanities project? E-mail Eleanor Dickson or the Scholarly Commons.