Paying for Peer Review?

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge
Alberta, Canada

I got to talking with a newer professor in our Faculty of Management about issues around open access and the huge profits of the big publishers, and found that she was surprisingly passionate about the subject. I say surprisingly, because often I find faculty members, especially in that particular Faculty, somewhat resistant / unconcerned about the issue. But this particular professor is from a younger generation, having recently completed her PhD, and is not yet totally convinced about the traditional scholarly communications models. As we drove home from a trip our book club had taken, we had hours to muse about the state of academic publishing and the unfairness of it all.

Then she said something shocking, at least to me: “Those publishers should be paying us for peer review”. But the more we talked, the more she had me on board; sure, writing the articles is part of our job, but the reviews we are also expected to perform for free? Those are often seen as over and above, certainly not counting nearly as heavily towards one’s tenure & promotion package but often time consuming and, at least for some, undertaken quite painstakingly and conscientiously. I argued that the ‘good’ guys, those truly open access publications which are operating at a break-even level, wouldn’t be able to afford that; but I couldn’t deny that charging the Big Five a hefty fee for at least some of the free labour we provide as academics would be incredibly satisfying. We fleshed out the idea, devising a scheme in which universities would administer the funds on behalf of their researchers; the funds would go towards the cost of research (RAs, equipment, etc) rather than being paid directly to reviewers, and a portion of it would be held back in a central fund to ‘reimburse’ those who were reviewing for non-profit, open access journals. We got ourselves so worked up about the issue that we decided right then and there to write a blog-post/style article about it, and within hours of getting home she’d sent me an outline of the arguments we’d use.

We did write the article; it’s currently being reviewed by one editor and we hope to get confirmation of publication this month. [Editor’s note: the article has been published and can be found at University Affairs.] But as I floated the idea past my colleagues, I was met with several objections, most of which were philosophical. I get it – the idea of monetizing any element of publication seems inherently wrong. But as long as we are stuck in a world in which some people (read: publishers) are getting rich off of the free labour of others (read: academics), shouldn’t we try to balance the tables at least a little bit? Another objection was that publishers would simply raise the prices of their subscriptions to compensate for their increased expenses. We countered this by calling for government intervention on subscription prices, much the way they currently cap the price of pharmaceuticals. We also noted that this harebrained idea would only work if everyone, worldwide, insisted on payment for their reviews – as soon as someone caves and does it for free, the system falls apart.

So do I think it will work? Not really. I’m sure it’s just another of the many, many ideas out there about how to transform academic publishing that won’t pan out. And in the process, it will probably raise the ire of many a librarian. But what I loved about this collaboration was that another academic – not a librarian, and a business faculty member to boot – cared as much about the unfairness of it all as I, a librarian, did. And I loved the idea that we would put this crazy idea* out there and potentially raise the conversation in a wider forum among academics – not just among librarians and other scholarly communication gurus, but among scholars from all disciplines. We intentionally submitted it to general academic, blog-type sites to gain as wide a readership as possible. And if it does nothing more than stir the pot among a larger audience of scholars and make a few of them think twice about feeding the oligopoly, then I will view that as a success.

So what do you think? Will I be outed as a traitor if this thing gets published? Will all librarians think I’m crazy, and shun me at conferences? Or is any idea a good idea if it raises awareness of the broken scholarly communication system?

*To be fair, once we started writing the paper we discovered that others have flirted with paying for peer review, with some success; see for examples.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Open Access is just the Beginning…

By DeDe Dawson
Science & Scholarly Communication Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Lately I have been making lots of presentations on open access (OA) to faculty, administrators, and other campus groups. Mostly these presentations are well received, but often there is some push-back too. The majority of the push-back is related to stubbornly persistent and widespread misunderstandings or misinformation about what OA is (and isn’t) and how it can be achieved. I can handle that. But occasionally, I also get the “OA is too radical” kind of push-back. This I can’t handle. Because really, OA is just the beginning…

Let me explain.

One of the main reasons we need OA is because the current system of scholarly publishing (especially for journals) is dysfunctional, unsustainable, and inequitable. It has become this way because academia has handed over control of the scholarly literature to large, commercial publishers that care primarily about ownership and revenues (some “non-profit” scholarly publishers are no better). These entities have systematically bought up smaller publishers and society publishers resulting in an oligopoly.

“This consolidated control has led to unaffordable costs, limited utility of research articles, the proliferation of western publishing biases, and a system in which publisher lock-in through big deal licenses is the norm.” (SPARC, 2017)

OA gave the possibility of some relief. But now these same publishers are co-opting OA. They have cleverly incorporated OA as an additional revenue stream in hybrid journals and new OA megajournals. And academia is spending more money than ever, not just on astronomical subscriptions – but now also on article processing charges (APCs) for “gold OA.” All to buy back, or make accessible, research that has already been paid for by grants and faculty salaries. This is not how it was meant to be! OA is still achievable without hemorrhaging more and more funds to commercial publishers. This money can be better spent.

We currently have a system for “green OA” – posting manuscripts in institutional or subject repositories at no cost to authors or readers. We could conceivably bypass traditional journals entirely and simply use networks of interoperable repositories as the infrastructure for scholarly communication, overlaid with platforms to manage peer review and promote discoverability, etc. Academics already provide the content (research papers), and the quality control (peer review, editorial work). And academic libraries can provide the technical infrastructure, curation, and long-term preservation. COAR’s Next Generation Repositories initiative advocates for something along these lines:

“COAR’s vision is to position repositories as the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication, on top of which layers of value added services will be deployed, thereby transforming the system, making it more research-centric, open to and supportive of innovation, while also collectively managed by the scholarly community.” (COAR, 2017)

I know, I know, this is not exactly simple. We have considerable ingrained academic culture and incentive structures to contend with (prestige journals and Impact Factors anyone?); but it is worth striving for as a long term goal to free our institutions (and our research) from the commercial overlords. The enormous amounts of money currently tied up in overpriced subscriptions could eventually be redirected to supporting this infrastructure and there’d likely be remaining funds to reinvest in more research or student scholarships.

The trouble is commercial publishers are now seeking to control this infrastructure too. Elsevier has been pretty transparent about its new strategy of buying up software and platforms that support researchers at all stages of the research lifecycle. Examples include Mendeley, SSRN, and bepress. They have also developed Pure, a current research information system (“CRIS”), to sell to university administrators for research assessment and analytics. Elsevier is clearly attempting to enclose all key elements of the research enterprise – to sell back to us (at inflated prices no doubt). This feels strangely familiar… ah yes, it is what they’ve already done with the scholarly literature!

Academia must get ahead of this trend for once. We must be as strategic and cunning as the commercial entities. We must collaborate across institutions and nations. We must maintain control of the infrastructure supporting the research enterprise. The first and most basic step is to financially support open infrastructure as David Lewis suggests in his 2.5% Commitment:

“At the end of the day, if we don’t collectively invest in the infrastructure we need for the open scholarly commons, it will not get built or it will only be haphazardly half built.” (Lewis, 2017).

So, OA is just the beginning. Now we need to move on to supporting open scholarly infrastructure owned and controlled by the research community. We cannot allow this to be co-opted too.

Further reading:
Accelerating academy-owned publishing – In the Open blog post, Nov 27, 2017
Join the Movement: The 2.5% Commitment – In the Open blog post by David Lewis, Sept 29, 2017
The 2.5% Commitment – Short white paper by David Lewis, Sept 11, 2017
Elsevier acquisition highlights the need for community-based scholarly communication infrastructure – SPARC news release by Heather Joseph and Kathleen Shearer, Sept 6, 2017
Elsevier’s increasing control over scholarly infrastructure, and how funders should fix this – SV-POW blog post by Mike Taylor, May 22, 2016
Tightening their grip – In the Open blog post by Kevin Smith, May 20, 2016

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Designing and Presenting Research Posters

By Shannon Lucky, Information Technology Librarian, University of Saskatchewan
Bernice Leyeza, Research Assistant, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Saskatchewan

This summer I have been fortunate to have Bernice working as a research assistant, partially funded by an undergraduate student research grant at our institution. Part of the grant program has the RAs participate in a research poster competition at the end of the summer. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to co-write a post about designing and presenting a research poster from our two different perspectives.

I love presenting research posters. I like having real, sometimes lengthy, conversations with people who are interested in my research. I have gotten new perspectives on my work and great suggestions for things to look at, particularly scholarship outside of my academic bubble, from conversations with one or two people in a hall full of posters. This has never happened to me during a standard paper Q&A. Conferences where the posters presentations happen in tandem with refreshments are also a bonus. I have long suspected that the insightful introverts in our communities are a little bolder during cocktail hour than during lecture hall panel discussions.

While presenting a poster might be my favourite part of the process, designing one has been a surprisingly useful scholarly activity. I can easily fill up a word count limit for a paper, but trying to essentialize down what I am really trying to say (conveyed in the right 30 pt. font verbiage) has challenged me to get real about what I am doing – not what I like to think I am doing, or what I want other academics to think I am doing. It is hard to hide behind academic-ese when you have 16 square inches to describe the significance of your project. You also need to actually use that elevator pitch I know I have been coerced into writing at more than one research workshop. This is all to say that it is hard to phone-in a decent poster. You need to know your question, data, and results inside and out; well enough to distill it down to the essential text, speak extemporaneously about it, and probably answer a few questions.

I was lucky to have Bernice as my RA for this project. Not only was she eager to take on the challenge of translating our early results into a poster, she also has design skills that far surpass my own. In planning for the poster we came up with four essential questions that we have done our best to answer from each of our perspectives. We hope that the following advice will be useful for veteran and rookie research poster presenters alike.

  1. What is the poster for and who is my audience?

“My first undergraduate degree required us to master our skills in producing different communication materials. I took a lab class where our weekly assignments were to translate a research article into a poster – good practice for designing your own.” (Bernice)

Whether your poster is for a class or a conference, focus on the most interesting and important information for that audience and what language will speak to them. This is a good time to note any restrictions on dimensions, digital file standards, and any design or content requirements provided by the event organizer. Is this the place to show your creativity, or is it expected that you use a standard template/layout? Look at other examples from researchers in your discipline online or ask colleagues/professors if they can share examples with you. Get an idea of the common practices within your discipline or at the event you will be presenting at.


  1. What comes first, the writing or the design?

The quality of your research and ability to communicate its value is first and foremost. You can’t have a successful poster without solid research to communicate. Having said that, there are different approaches to turning your literature review, hypothesis, data, and analysis into a cohesive poster design. Bernice prefers to write up a research article first which helps solidify the important details for the poster. As she transfers the writing into the poster layout she works to make it more concise – good practice for academic writing in general. If the poster is about new (unpublished) research, Shannon prefers to write some quick notes and start laying out the broad ideas on post-its or in the design software. Finessing the writing comes later. Both approaches work well, just make sure to avoid self-plagiarism if you are re-purposing text from your publications and grants to fill out the purpose/methods/relevance sections.


  1. What design program should I use?

Unless there is a standard required template, you can use whatever software you like. We recommend using what you are comfortable with so you don’t spend extra hours struggling with the software; there is enough work to do getting your content organised. You can use something as simple as PowerPoint, or as complicated as InDesign, both can give you a professional looking result.

Sometimes universities will have a standard template students and faculty can use. For Bernice’s poster, we wanted it to look like a poster from our institution, but not like all of the other posters in the competition. Instead of using the standard ppt file, Bernice chose to design her own layout in InDesign using the official university colours.


  1. How will you make your poster engaging and able to stand out in a hall full of other presenters?

This answer has two approaches: design and presentation.

Design – Use sound design rules for your poster. You can print out 4-6 paragraphs of text in 16 pt. font and call it a day, but taking some extra time to make your poster look approachable (as in, you can read it in less than 30 minutes) and visually appealing will make your research look more approachable and interesting. Using appropriate white space, limiting your colour pallet (and think about accessibility for colour blind readers), and using a legible font in an appropriate size will go a long way to making your poster stand out. A good font size guideline is 85 pt. for the title, 36 pt. for sub headings, 24 pt. for the body, and 18 pt. for captions and references. Using relevant images and diagrams is also a good idea.

Presentation – First and foremost, you want to be presentable. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that are appropriate for the event. If you feel comfortable you will be more comfortable presenting. Have your elevator pitch memorised, but be ready to have a conversation about your project. Don’t stick to a formal script but if you get nervous you can prepare some talking points and write them down in bullet form. Try to engage with the audience around their interest in your research, not just your favourite ideas. This is a great way to find collaborators or get asked questions that may not come up in a formal conference Q&A. While you are standing by your poster waiting for someone to approach put your phone away, smile, and say hello. Don’t just talk to the people you know or people from your institution, you never know what kind of connections you will make.

This is a great networking opportunity, so make it easy for people to follow-up with you after the event. Include your email address, Twitter handle, or website URL directly on your poster and bring your business cards with you. If you won’t be standing next to your poster for the entire event, pin up a few cards next to your poster for people to take.

A few final tips:

  • If you are travelling to present at a conference, plan ahead to have your poster printed at your destination. Shannon has had good luck using hosting universities’ campus print shops, and Staples is always a quick and nearly universal option. This will save you having to carry on a poster tube or risking damaging or losing your poster en route.
  • Get the most mileage out of your poster. If your institution has an institutional repository, add your poster and some speaking notes to your profile. If you have a personal academic website, link to a pdf version of your poster there. Like any scholarly communication product, this may be useful to another researcher (if not for the subject matter, then certainly for your elegant design).

Research poster can be a little tricky, it may be easier to write about your research first or some people might find it easier to start with the layout. Practising how to write concise material is a useful exercise. If your information is well written, designing and presenting will come naturally. You don’t have to use complicated software to design your poster and can use the resources you have. Again, you are presenting your research and that’s the bulk of your poster. Make sure to follow the design rules of the conference and have your elevator pitch ready.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

A Day Year in the Life of an Editor-in-Chief

by Lorie Kloda
Associate University Librarian, Planning & Community Relations, Concordia University

I have worked as a scholarly journal editor in some fashion or another for at least 10 years with various titles, but mostly with the open access journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. In my various roles as a peer reviewer, evidence summary writer, section editor, and associate editor, I have gained a lot of valuable experience and skills. And I imagine many librarians who have had these roles or aspire to fill those positions at some point have a rather good conception of what those roles entail.

Since December 2015 (so, a little more than a year), I have served in the role of editor-in-chief, and I thought it might be interesting to provide an insider’s view as to what this involves. Actually, it was an opportunity for me to reflect on my overall responsibilities and the many (many, many) tasks that I undertake to fulfill these. The fact is, I, and most editors-in-chief of scholarly journals, do not do this is a full-time job. We cobble together the time to get this work done and achieve our vision while working in full-time academic positions. At least, if we’re lucky enough to have full-time paying positions. Another fact is that I do the work from wherever I am, usually my office, or laptop perched somewhere in my home on the weekend. In some ways, working with an editorial team is much like working as a freelancer – I collaborate with several people who also have other jobs and with whom I do not share office space or even a time zone.

I cannot realistically present a “day in the life” because on a given day I may actually do nothing related to my role as editor-in-chief. Whereas on other days, I may do a handful of small tasks. Instead, I present an overview of the kind of work I’ve been involved with over the past year in this particular role.

Responsibilities as an editor-in-chief (in no particular order):
• Assist editors in evaluating submissions
• Recruit peer reviewers for the journal, and provide guidance to (and guidelines for) reviewers
• Provide leadership on the direction of the journal through consultation with various stakeholders
• Solicit and provide editorial review for commentaries and other content
• Answer author queries about potential submissions
• Work closely with the production editor to ensure issues are published on schedule
• Manage a team of editors and editorial advisors, as well as writing assistants, an indexer, and copyeditors
• Write editorials
• Liaise with professionals responsible for managing the Open Journal System (the platform on which the journal content is hosted) and ensure the long-term preservation of the content
• Oversee communications, including promotion of the journal and its indexing in various databases, and status in the Directory of Open Access Journals
• Coordinate “features” – content devoted to particular themes, conferences or symposia which appear in select journal issues

The tasks I undertake to achieve the above consist of a blend of activities, mostly emailing, meetings on Skype (with up to 12 people, across 14 time zones), call for applicants and screening of submissions for various positions. I try to track this time, but even so, the numbers don’t capture everything and the work is not evenly spread out over the weeks or even the months.

It should go without saying, but I would not be able to achieve any of my objectives without the dedication and collaboration of all of my colleagues – associate editors, production editor, copyeditors, etc. In the end, the position is extremely rewarding. I often find myself wishing I had more time to devote to the role and to thinking of ways to support the team of editors in producing such a high caliber publication. Hopefully, with more experience, and perhaps magically, more time, I’ll be able to add to contribute even more.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Paying for Publishing: A Reflection on One Approach to Opening Up Hybrid Journals

by Crystal Hampson
Services to Libraries, University of Saskatchewan

Sometimes I like to think “what if?” Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular “what if” to do with open access, how it affects our institutions’ researchers as authors, and how could the publishing system make OA better (easier, more practical) for them. Basically, I don’t want researchers to have to put their time into administrative work like negotiating author rights, keeping track of embargo periods and article versions for each article for deposit into an IR, finding funding to pay OA article processing charges, keeping track of differing funding agency mandates, etc. etc. I want researchers to put their time into research. I also want them to be able to publish in whatever journal is best for them in terms of audience and timeliness. Researchers want that too (Solomon and Björk, Nariani and Fernandez). I also don’t want to see institutions deal with sorting out all these details for every individual article one-by-one. There are too many articles, too many variations, and ultimately too much administrative process. Keeping track of all the many varied results is impractical.

I’ve therefore been musing about “what if” we had a different model to cover OA publishing charges for currently hybrid journals, something other than a model that used details to calculate an offset to subscription cost, or some type of discount to OA APCs that still have to be paid, but a model that includes all author charges (why not include all types, while we’re at it: OA fees, page fees, etc.) so that our researchers can just publish articles OA, with no charge or administrative process for them and minimal process altogether.

In the course of my reading, I recently came across Jan Velterop’s notion of the “New Big Deal.” Velterop is the co-creator of the Big Deal model for selling journal packages. He theorizes a national approach to purchasing not only toll content but also what is essentially gold OA publishing services. Velterop notes that an individual library does not have enough leverage to negotiate such a deal well (and I would add that an individual researcher has even less leverage for any negotiation); such negotiation needs to be at a national level. I would argue that “open” is open to the world, so not only a national but internationally coordinated approach will ultimately be necessary, not necessarily one global license, but national licenses that amount to global access. Though Velterop discussed this idea in 2012, it is not in place today. I like the fundamental simplicity of this idea though, but I realize it is not simple to enact.

Would this approach save money? I recognize that publishers provide value to the scholarly communication system and I don’t object to a reasonable margin of profit for their services. It seems to me that trying to save, or make, a lot of money through the switch to OA is just holding up “open.” What if we made it open first, at current price and distribution among participants (institutions, journals and publisher)? What if then multiple publishers could ingest the open content and then truly compete, without monopoly over content, and costs could become lower over time through competition and reduced complexity? What if we started with current contribution levels and contributing institutions negotiated over time a fair distribution of costs among themselves?

I admit I usually see the good elements of a “what if” idea at first. The flaws appear to me later, like where such a model leaves independent OA journals. And certainly, “what if” only goes so far until we hit the political and business realities. On the other hand, a completely new model with too many unknowns becomes something that we can’t realistically, practically, and quickly implement, and further holds back the transition to open. Certainly models involving myriad micropayments and varied author rights terms are also not viable on a large scale. So the idea to take a model that presents less of an unknown, that has less financial uncertainty for the parties involved, and develop it from there has a certain appeal.

Nariani, Rajiv, and Leila Fernandez. “Open Access Publishing: What Authors Want.” College & Research Libraries 73.2 (2012): 182-95. HighWire Press. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

Solomon, David J., and Bo-Christer Björk. “Publication Fees in Open Access Publishing: Sources of Funding and Factors Influencing Choice of Journal.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 63.1 (2012): 98-107. Wiley Online Library. Web. 24 Jul. 2013.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

A Style Manual for the Rest of Us

by Christine Neilson
Information Specialist, St. Michael’s Hospital
Toronto, Ontario

I’ve decided I like writing. But the hard part about writing is making sure that it’s done well, and I’ve read enough library literature that was not well written that I get concerned about my work falling into that category, too. Before Christmas some colleagues told me about Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist/linguist, and his recent book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. They told me that Pinker’s books are very good and even entertaining. I thought, “The man writes about writing – how entertaining could it be?”, but I was curious. When I flipped through the book, I noticed that it included several cartoons: I took this to be a good sign. In the prologue Pinker wrote “By replacing dogma about usage with reason and evidence, I hope not just to avoid giving ham-fisted advice but to make the advice that I do give easier to remember than a list of dos and don’ts.” (p 6). If that doesn’t speak to an EBLIPer, I don’t know what does. I was sold.

It turns out the book was indeed entertaining. More importantly, it was easy to read and helped me to pinpoint a few areas that I need to work on. When all is said and done, I took two things away from Pinker’s book. First: there are rules to follow including, but not limited to, grammar and punctuation, but they are not an end in themselves. They are tools to get you closer to the goal that any writer should have in mind: composing clear prose that engages a reader in way that makes the topic easy to understand. In fact some of the rules we were taught in school are incorrect and the application of some others includes room for the writer’s discretion, and learning this made me feel a better about my writing (maybe it’s not so bad after all!). But what I liked best about Pinker’s book was the use of concrete examples of good and bad writing, and how the bad writing might be improved. It reminded me of the reality TV program “What Not to Wear”, where the hosts set out to improve participants’ wardrobes by showing them not only which elements work and which don’t, but also by giving the reasoning behind the advice so participants can continue to improve their style after the show is over. Pinker’s examples were drawn from a variety of sources, from academic papers to advice columns, and they illustrate that good (or bad!) writing is not limited to a specific area.

Pinker’s book also drove home for me that writing is an art form. There are rules and techniques to learn, but just like being able to follow a recipe doesn’t make you a master chef, knowing the rules does not necessarily make you a great writer. Any art form requires creativity, time, and effort. You have to develop a feel for what you’re doing that comes from experience: learning when to follow the rules and when to throw them away, and learning from others’ example. This may not be very encouraging for those of us who are not naturally inclined to be great authors and want a quick fix, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever tried to become proficient at anything, whether it’s writing, karate, mathematics, or Ukrainian dancing.

So how can we move our writing along the spectrum of “bad” to “good”? By practicing and reflecting on the good writing we come across. Reading Pinker’s book can’t hurt either. In fact, I believe I’ll read it again.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views of St. Michael’s Hospital, the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Oh, the Digital Humanities! C-EBLIP Journal Club, November 13, 2014

by Shannon Lucky
Library Systems & Information Technology, University of Saskatchewan

The most recent meeting of the C-EBLIP Journal Club was my chance to select an article and lead our discussion. I was intrigued by our previous conversations about strategic publishing choices, open access journals, the perception of different publishing outlets in our field, and alternatives to traditional scholarly publications (like blogs!) and wanted to keep that discussion going. An announcement about the recent digital humanities project The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 hours in Kiev landed in my inbox and I thought it could ignite a great conversation about alternative research communication options – but it is decidedly not a traditional journal article. Although this goes against the basic organizing principle of a journal club, Virginia encouraged me to take some liberties with the definition of an article and it led to a lively discussion that ranged from the audience(s) for research, to selfies, to peer review and anxiety about wanting to experiment with your research, but also wanting to get tenure.

The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 hours in Kiev comes from Lev Manovich’s Software Studies Initiative and uses “computational and data visualization techniques [to] explore 13,208 Instagram images shared by 6,165 people in the central area of Kyiv during 2014 Ukrainian revolution (February 17 – February 22, 2014).” I will state my bias up front – I love this kind of stuff. This is a very “DH” (digital humanities) project – I wondered how researchers from other disciplines (like libraries) would feel about putting their resources into creating a website where they release everything (findings, data, and research tools) rather than focusing on getting that highly regarded publication accepted first.

A recent theme that has been running through our meetings is standards for promotion and tenure at our institution and how the collegium values research work and output. There are so many different ways we all engage with research and share the things we learn, but the gold standard remains the traditional peer reviewed, high-impact journals. We had previously talked about the tension between publishing in the most appropriate or interesting place vs. traditional, highly regarded library journals. I wanted to talk about how a project like this breaks the expectation of how research is communicated and if this format is effective, persuasive, authoritative, or just a gimmick.

This publishing format is certainly out of the ordinary but one of the biggest benefits was the ability to get information out FAST. The event this project studied happened less than eight months before the day I got that announcement in my inbox. That kind of production time is basically unheard of in traditional publishing, even for electronic journals. The downside is there is no time for peer review. Post publication peer review was mentioned as an option to keep the timely nature of the publishing cycle while maintaining the important value of peer review. I am very curious what that would look like for this project and how that peer review would be communicated to readers.

Perhaps my favourite comment from our discussions was “This made me feel like the oldest fogey ever”. While a hysterical comment coming from a room full of people who love new research, it nicely described the feeling several of us had trying to read this project like a journal article. As we picked our way through the site we acknowledged that most of the information we look for in an article was there (except an abstract!), but not having it in the familiar linear format was disorienting. The project checks all of the boxes in term of citing sources and uses research methods we recognize, but nothing is where you would expect it to be. It is both easy to browse and difficult to skim for information. We need to develop new literacies to become more comfortable with this format or at least check our assumptions that the best way to communicate research findings is the way we do it now.

Although the project proved complicated to read in the same way we understand journal articles, this format does have major benefits. This kind of project allows you to publish everything – multiple articles or essays, your dataset(s), huge full-colour graphics, interactive visualizations, the digital tools you used to do the research, and you can update all of this stuff on the fly with no extra cost. This is only good if all of that information is useful (or at least beautiful to look at) but it does give the opportunity to understand the methodology and process better by revealing multiple aspects of the research, particularly if the research subject exists online.

All of this analysis and comparison to traditional academic publishing kept coming back to the question of who the audience is. Who is this research for? We didn’t come to a consensus on this question. We did wonder what the altmetrics for something like this would look like and what the benefits are in pursuing this publication model. The project didn’t show up in Google Scholar at all, but it did have over 800 hits from a regular Google search (many from social media). In the end we posed the question: What is more valuable for your research, having a paper peer reviewed and read by your academic peers or seen by thousands of people outside your field and likely outside academia? I can’t imagine building an academic career based on web projects (without peer review) at the moment, but who can tell the future? Things are changing all of the time. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some peer reviewed articles about 144 Hours in Kiev pop up in Google Scholar in 2015.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

IR You Open? How Institutional Repositories and Open Access Publishing Benefit Universities

by Shannon Lucky
Library Systems & Information Technology, University of Saskatchewan

As we begin planning for Open Access Week (Oct 20 – 26, 2014) at the USask University Library, I have been thinking about institutional repositories (IRs) and the role they play in open access culture at universities. A well-managed, user friendly IR can be a great publicity piece for an academic institution, but not all post-secondary institutions have IRs and those that do don’t always require their faculty to contribute to them. Universities’ interest in IRs is growing, especially now that some major granting agencies require scholarly output be made available through these kind of services, and it is very often academic libraries that take the lead on developing and supporting these projects. CARL is active in promoting IRs in Canada and maintains a list of current universities that have IRs. There are even university IRs that any academic can contribute to if your institution does not have one. Libraries and IRs seem like a natural fit, libraries are the information and research specialists on any university campus, but it takes a larger institutional commitment to make these projects successful.

IRs are services provided by a university to its members to support the management and dissemination of intellectual output in a digital format. This can include digital documents and/or metadata for journal articles (preprints and postprints), monographs, theses and dissertations, instructional materials, admin documents, or other digital assets. The goal is to bring together all of the relevant intellectual output of an institution in one place and make it accessible based on the ideal of digital interoperability and open access. In a digital publishing environment where it has become increasingly easy to search and share articles, researchers are still often stymied by publisher paywalls and copyright issues. There has been no shortage of criticism about the current state of academic publishing relating to cost, bundling of journal subscriptions, library e-book lending, and using publication metrics to gauge faculty performance. While not a silver bullet, IRs are a useful way to make research more easily accessible while still working within recognized publication authority structures.

Alma Swan published a briefing paper in Open Scholarship (2013) that listed the ways universities benefit from developing IRs.

  • Opening up outputs of the institution to a worldwide audience;
  • Maximizing the visibility and impact of these outputs as a result;
  • Showcasing the institution to interested constituencies – prospective staff, prospective students and other stakeholders;
  • Collecting and curating digital output;
  • Managing and measuring research and teaching activities;
  • Providing a workspace for work-in-progress, and for collaborative or large-scale projects;
  • Enabling and encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to research;
  • Facilitating the development and sharing of digital teaching materials and aids, and
  • Supporting student endeavours, providing access to theses and dissertations and a location for the development of e-portfolios.

It is a persuasive argument, but large scale uptake in IR use is still a work in progress.

An IR that is actively embraced by the members of an institution and used to its full capacity is an incomparable advertisement for the quality and diversity of the research being done there. This is often a major selling point for institutions who choose to implement these large scale projects. It makes the institution look good and it raises the profile of all of their members who contribute to it. While this is often reason enough for a university to implement an IR project, the most powerful function of IRs is the interoperability protocols that will aid discovery and visibility. IRs are great ambassadors for institutions to show off all of the fantastic work their members do, but individual IRs are not meant to be siloed digital storage. The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) aims to connect institutional repositories together, using shared protocols, to create a seamless layer of content across Canada and around the world. This would mean the ability to search a network of international IRs providing open access to the combined published intellectual output of all participating institutions. Imagine what a fully developed system like this could do to support cross-institutional collaborative research, rapid dissemination of findings, and discovery of useful sources (not to mention increasing the discoverability – and citation numbers – for shared publications).

While I find all of this potential for sharing information thrilling, there are very real issues institutions need to confront. The process of setting up an IR framework is not difficult (there are a number of open source and proprietary software packages available) but working with institutional culture can be challenging. Encouraging buy-in and participation of researchers is critical to the success of an IR, without a critical mass of content an IR may as well be simple cloud storage. I have heard concerns that making work open access, particularly preprint articles or research data and findings that have not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal, could open academics up to being scooped on their research. There is also the concern that IRs might break copyright agreements with publishers. On top of these legal and intellectual challenges, academics are busy people and asking them to jump through one more hoop to enter their work in an IR once it has been published may not endear IR proponents to their colleagues.

To deposit or not to deposit, that is the question.

By Roche DG, Lanfear R, Binning SA, Haff TM, Schwanz LE, et al. (2014) [CC-BY-4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I believe that these concerns can be resolved, but it will mean improving the design, workflow, and understanding of the benefits of IRs within the university community. Following copyright agreements and protecting unpublished research is already accommodated in many IRs by embargoing publications and using integrated tools to track copyright permissions. Self-archiving can be an empowering and extremely beneficial practice, but it is much easier when you have the best tools to do it. A lack of interest and participation can cripple an otherwise well planned IR project, which may be one of the reasons some institutions make submitting work to their IR compulsory. Many universities now require graduate students to submit their theses and dissertations to an IR, for example. Requiring researchers to deposit their publications in an IR can get them more actively engaged in the copyright agreements they sign with publishers. While making IR contributions compulsory can work, it would be so much better if we didn’t have to strong-arm people into participating.

I propose a less stick, more carrot approach that would make keeping your IR profile up to date appealing by having additional tools that can export formatted publication information directly into institutional CV  templates or automatically update departmental or personal webpages with your most recent academic output. If an IR is designed with the needs of both searchers and contributors in mind it can become an invaluable resource for multiple aspects of disseminating your academic work, not just another tedious institutional task.



Swan, Alma. “Open Access institutional repositories: A Briefing Paper”Open Scholarship. Retrieved 05 September 2014.


This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.


Perpetual Access, Perpetually Confusing? C-EBLIP Journal Club, August 25, 2014

by Charlene Sorensen
Services to Libraries, University of Saskatchewan

I’m really enjoying the C-EBLIP journal club and I’ve been trying to figure out why since I’ve never been one for book clubs. It certainly helps that journal articles are short but that isn’t the whole reason. I find all areas of librarianship so interesting, but I don’t have enough time to explore areas outside of my own (technical services and collections). So the exposure to others’ article selections, combined with the small time commitment to read the articles and attend the meetings, is very exciting to me.

The third meeting of the C-EBLIP Journal Club was held on August 25, 2014 to discuss this journal article of my choosing:

Bulock, Chris. “Tracking Perpetual Access: A Survey of Librarian Practices.” Serials Review 40, no. 2 (2014): 97-104

I chose this article because it was from the area of the library literature that I typically follow but would probably be a topic unfamiliar to the journal club members. It was also relevant to a project I am involved in and it was short (do you see a theme here?). I also liked it because the research study was pretty straightforward and was an example of what any one of us might undertake.

The author undertook a survey that asked librarians about their practices with respect to tracking perpetual access to e-journals, e-books, and multimedia resources. That is, even if perpetual access is contained with a license agreement, the perpetual access entitlements must then be tracked and holdings must be adjusted if changes occur. The author concludes that librarians seem committed to securing the perpetual access rights, but they were less dedicated to maintaining the access as evidenced by the fact that a great many weren’t actually tracking the access.

The conversation started out innocently enough. We identified a couple of inconsistencies in the paper and yearned for better definitions of some of the concepts. But the discussion took off from there and we wondered if the advent of electronic resources has changed our perspective on long-term access of any online resource. Libraries struggle with electronic resources every step of the way, from selection and acquisition, to description and discovery, right through to current and long-term access. We are so very good at managing these processes for print materials, but are nowhere near having the same control over e-resources. BUT maybe we just can’t have the same ‘control’ over these materials and should dial back our expectations. For example, I have a shoebox of letters I received throughout my life up until 1996, when email came along and now correspondence with friends and family is regularly deleted. Many of us have photos on our phones that will be deleted accidentally or on purpose. Maybe history matters less now that it’s harder to preserve?

But are libraries supposed to stand up to these difficulties and be responsible for the long-term access to its resources for the benefit of the university community? The author of this paper isn’t very hopeful and concludes:

“It remains to be seen whether librarians will develop the tools necessary to bring their practices into alignment with their ideals, or whether the goal of perpetual access will simply fall by the wayside” (p. 103).

I personally believe that libraries do have the responsibility to ensure perpetual access, though the ideal may be different from that of print materials. I look forward to further discussions on this topic throughout the library.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Librarians Need to “Walk the Talk” on OA Publishing: C-EBLIP Journal Club, July 17, 2014

by DeDe Dawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

This post discusses a recent article in In the Library with the Lead Pipe:

Librarian, Heal Thyself: A Scholarly Communication Analysis of LIS Journals by Micah Vandegrift & Chealsye Bowley

Librarians are at the forefront of many discussions and actions related to advancing the open access movement. We often talk about the need to change the culture of researchers in academia. Researchers need to understand the importance of the issues and their rights as authors – then put this into action by changing their scholarly communications practices. It is the researchers that have the real power to create change in academic publishing. By “researchers” though we’re usually referring to the disciplinary faculty we support… but what about researching librarians?

Increasingly, librarians are publishing researchers in their own right. Indeed, it is a job requirement of many academic librarians. So why isn’t there a stronger movement within our own community of scholars to change our scholarly communications systems, and culture, to be more open? Even though we preach to other researchers at our institutions about the benefits of publishing in gold OA journals, or archiving copies of manuscripts in repositories, we have a dismal track record of following through on this ourselves.

Vandegrift and Bowley review the literature in this area and conclude:
“Taken together, the research could lead one to think that academic librarians are invested in changes to the scholarly publishing system about as little as disciplinary faculty and are just as cautious about evolving their own publishing habits.”

So, there is a problem – but what is the solution? The authors of this paper hope to ignite this discussion among librarians with their analysis of the openness of the main Library and Information Science (LIS) journals in our field. They adapt the “How Open Is It?” scale produced by SPARC/PLOS to propose a new measure: the “Journal Openness Index” (J.O.I.). And proceed to code 111 LIS journals according to this criteria, then apply the J.O.I. Factor to 11 “prestige” LIS journals (as identified by Nixon, 2013).

Information Technology and Libraries, published by Library and Information Technology Association/ALA, comes out on top with another ALA publication, College & Research Libraries (C&RL), close behind (see Table 2). Unsurprisingly, commercial publishers land at the bottom of the list. An aside: In the Library with the Lead Pipe runs on a blog-style format which allows comments and discussion at the end of the article. There is an interesting back and forth in the Comments between the current editor of C&RL and Vandegrift.

The authors intend that this application of the J.O.I. Factor serves as a “proof of concept”, and encourage others to use their coded data on the 111 journals (posted as a Google doc and in FigShare). They end the article with this:

“It is our hope that this article prompts furious and fair debate, but mostly that it produces real, substantive evolution within our profession, how we research, how we assign value to scholarship, and how we share the products of our intellectual work.”
The article did receive a flurry of attention back in April 2014 when first posted (see some of the trackbacks in the Comments section), but this has now died down. I share the authors’ desire for furious and fair debate in this arena. However, I am continually surprised, and disappointed, by the apparent apathy of many librarians on scholarly communications topics – especially related to their own research output. How can we account for this?

Our C-EBLIP Journal Club met today to discuss this article and also the topic of librarian values regarding their own research/publishing activities. We had a wide-ranging and compelling discussion… but kept arriving back at the distorted importance placed on various metrics like the impact factor. We need to satisfy our tenure and promotion committees just as any other faculty member. So, long-standing traditional proxies for “quality” are slow to change.
We did not solve all the problems of the [academic] world at Journal Club today, but I think we came a little closer to some understanding of what some of those problems are.

Bowley, C., & Vandegrift, M. (2014). Librarian, Heal Thyself: A Scholarly Communication Analysis of LIS Journals. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from

This blog post was originally posted on the blog, Open Access @ UofS Library.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.