Saturday, April 25, 2015

A case for strong fair use / fair dealing with restrictive licenses for reuse in scholarship

The types of works that many students and faculty would like to be able to include in scholarly works are not necessarily from other scholarly works. For example, scholars in my doctoral discipline of communication study a wide range of types of works including newspapers, television, films, cartoons, advertising, blogs and social media, and public relations materials. It is very useful for scholars to be able to include images and text from the primary source materials, either as illustration or for purposes of critique. Obtaining permission to use even small excerpts of such works is time-consuming at best. I argue that it would be in the best interests of scholarship to advocate for strong fair use / fair dealing exceptions for research and academic critique globally and accept that more restrictive licenses may be necessary to avoid the potential for re-use errors that could easily occur with blanket licenses allowing broad re-use. For example, while it makes sense to allow scholars to include small movie stills in an academic piece, it could be quite problematic for scholars to include such items in works that grant blanket commercial and re-use rights downstream.

This illustrates what I see as one of the problems with the one size fits all CC-BY license preferred by some open access advocates (which I consider to be a serious error): what I interpret as an implicit assumption that all of the works scholars are likely to want to re-use are other scholarly works. Rather than making assumptions, let's do some research to find out what scholars and students would like to be able to re-use. Anecdotally, in my experience the most popular items for re-use are images from popular culture (especially characters from the Simpsons TV series), not scholarly works. Scholarly journals like to use photos to add interest and aesthetic value. If it is the case that the greatest interest in re-use for scholars involves works from popular culture / outside the academy, then ubiquitous CC-BY licenses for absolutely every scholarly article, book, and dataset in the whole world would not solve the primary re-use question for a majority of scholars.

This is not meant to suggest that advocacy for global fair use / fair dealing rights for academic research and critique is an easy task, rather to raise the question of whether this is an appropriate and useful goal for scholarly works.

This post is part of the Creative Commons and Open Access Critique series.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Dramatic Growth of Open Access 2015 first quarter

Data for the first quarter of 2014 (the 11th year of publication of this series) are now available in the dataverse. Error note re Dec. 31, 2014 version: the number for Electronic Journals Library was copied incorrectly (total journals mistook for free full-text journals). Noted as an error in the current version, will result in under-reporting of growth of this initiative in the near future.


OpenDOAR added 129 repositories for a total of 2,857. The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine added close to 3 million documents for a total of over 71 million documents. Another 7,690 authors joined the Social Sciences Research Network for a total of over 275,000 authors.

Internet Archive added 1.7 million texts for 7.8 million.

The Directory of Open Access Journals, in spite of vigorous weeding and re-organizing over the past year or so, is back to showing consistent strong growth, adding 254 titles this quarter for slightly under 3 titles per day. Over the past year, the growth in articles that can be retrieved through a DOAJ article-level search grew by over a quarter of a million articles for a total of over 1.8 million articles! 20 more publishers joined the Directory of Open Access Books - as of today, DOAB includes 100 publishers.  Highwire Press added 9 completely free sites this quarter. The number of journals with immediate free access in PubMedCentral increased by 43 to a total of 1,443.

Congratulations and thanks to all of the people and organizations working hard to make open access happen. This is a major step for every author signing up for a repository, every journal moving to immediate free. I wish I had the time to thank and celebrate each of your accomplishments individually.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Canada's tri-agency open access policy

Kudos to Canada's three major research funding agencies (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council or SSHRC, CIHR & NSERC) on their new open access policy.

In brief, for grants awarded as of May 2015 (January 1, 2008 in the case of CIHR), researchers are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication. Researchers can select whether to make their work openly accessible via an open access repository or through publishing in an open access journal.

In many respects this is an exemplary policy. Strengths of the policy include:

  • researchers are required not just encouraged to make their work freely available
  • the aim is free accessibility - this is clearer and simpler than technical definitions of open access that appear equally simple but introduce potential problems down the road - see my Creative Commons and Open Access Critique series for details
  • researchers are responsible for ensuring that they publish in journals that will allow compliance with this policy - this reinforces that the primary rights in results of published research rest with the researchers and the public that funded the work, not the publisher
  • researchers are strongly encouraged to deposit their article in an accessible online repository even when publishing in an open access journal
  • open access publication fees (APCs) are an allowable expense under the granting conditions. This is excellent because it provides the option for researchers who feel the services provided are of value to them and this makes sense in their context, and this will improve the prospects for some open access journals. By leaving the decision about how to use funds to the researchers this gives market incentive to spur competition. For example, researchers using their own grant funds that could otherwise be directed to other purposes have far more incentive to seek a good price, or even to ask whether such services are really necessary, than researchers accessing block funds otherwise unavailable to them (e.g. the UK approach). Being forced to make such decisions about whether to pay APCs, hire research assistants, or fund travel and conference expenses gives scholars a needed incentive to reconsider the whole publishing system. As far back as 1994, Odlyzko wrote about the impending demise of the scholarly journal. The stickiness of the current system developed and primarily suited for print publication and physical delivery is far from optimal in the internet age
  • the harmonization of the policy for all three granting agencies will facilitate education and compliance
  • the policy includes an open data policy for specific data under CIHR funding. This too is wise. We have only begun to consider the issues surrounding opening access to data with many different types of research, such as the primary rights and policies of third party organizations that researchers work with, confidentiality and other rights of human research subjects. At this point, my perspective is that to open up research data what we need most is support and infrastructure, an appropriate role for the university library, with careful development of policies over time that will likely be discipline and situation specific.
No policy is perfect, and here are my suggestions for improvement:
  • Researchers should be required and not just strongly encouraged to deposit a copy of their research in a Canadian open access repository, even if they have published in an open access journal or deposited in a disciplinary repository. The only way we can ensure ongoing preservation and open access to the results of Canadian-funded research is by keeping a copy of the works in repositories over which we have control. Journals come and go; whether open access or not, there is no guarantee that a journal will remain available forever. Open access journals can change their business models. Funding for a disciplinary repository maintained elsewhere could dry up.
  • 12 months is too long. The permitted embargo should be shortened to 6 months, with a view to eventually elimination.

Odlyzko, A. (1994). Tragic loss or good riddance? The impending demise of scholarly journals. Journal of Universal Computer Science 0:0. doi 10.3217/jucs-000-00-0003

My response to the tri-agency draft policy is posted here.

Monday, February 09, 2015

May 2014 survey of DOAJ journals charging APCs

Just published in MDPI's Publications!

For further background on this suite of research projects see the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons project page.

Abstract: As of May 2014, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed close to ten thousand fully open access, peer reviewed, scholarly journals. Most of these journals do not charge article processing charges (APCs). This article reports the results of a survey of the 2567 journals, or 26% of journals listed in DOAJ, that do have APCs based on a sample of 1432 of these journals. Results indicate a volatile sector that would make future APCs difficult to predict for budgeting purposes. DOAJ and publisher title lists often did not closely match. A number of journals were found on examination not to have APCs. A wide range of publication costs was found for every publisher type. The average (mean) APC of $964 contrasts with a mode of $0. At least 61% of publishers using APCs are commercial in nature, while many publishers are of unknown types. The vast majority of journals charging APCs (80%) were found to offer one or more variations on pricing, such as discounts for authors from mid to low income countries, differential pricing based on article type, institutional or society membership, and/or optional charges for extras such as English language editing services or fast track of articles. The complexity and volatility of this publishing landscape is discussed.

Citation: Morrison, H.; Salhab, J.; Calvé-Genest, A.; Horava, T. Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 2015, 3, 1-16.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Dramatic Growth of Open Access: 30 indicators of growth beyond the ordinary

There has been a remarkably constant growth rate of scholarly journals since the 1600’s (De Solla Price, 1963, p. 17). Mabe (2003) calculates the average annual scholarly journal growth rate at 3.46% per year from the 1600’s to the present day, with an increase to 4.35% from 1946 to 1976 and subsequent fall to 3.26% after 1976.
This issue of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access highlights 30 indicators of open access growth that are beyond this background growth of scholarly works - in many cases far beyond, with a range of percentage growth from 5 - 89%. In some cases, high percentage growth reflects early start-ups (low starting figures), but in other cases there are very high growth rates on resources that were very, very large to begin with (these are the highlighted numbers below). Note that some numbers are rounded for ease of understanding; if precise numbers are required, please download the full dataset from the DGOA dataverse.

A special congratulations is in order to arXiv for recently surpassing the milestone of over 1 million documents. Note that these 30 indicators likely underestimate the growth of open access beyond the ordinary by a large factor, as this series focuses on just a few indicators of macro level growth of open access. To continue the momentum in 2015 open access advocates are encouraged to remember the vision of open access as unprecedented public good and not get caught up in the minutiae of implementation. Although the focus of this series is the numbers, a special mention to an exceptional open access policy recently announced by India's departments of Biotechnology and Science and Technology which represents a new model OA policy for the whole world.

Open access indicators with percentage growth above the 3.5% background growth of scholarly works in 2014
  • 89% growth - over 38,000 more journals that are free-to-read: the libraries collaborating on the Electronic Journals Library service added 38,865 journals that are free-to-read in 2014 for a total of 82,363 journals that can be read free of charge. This figure encompasses not only the fully open access, peer-reviewed journals included in DOAJ, but also the many journals that are free to read after an embargo period or that are of interest in an academic context without necessarily being peer reviewed. 
  • the Directory of Open Access Books was hopping in 2014, adding:
    •  863 books for a total of 2,482 (53% growth) 
    • 25 publishers for a total of 79 (46% growth).
  • the Internet Archive added:
    • 1.7 million texts (29% growth) for a total of 7.3 million texts
    • 107,000 movies (23% growth) for a total of 1.7 million movies
    • 400,000 audio recordings (22% growth) for a total of over 2.2 million concerts
    • 61 billion webpages (16% growth) for a total of 435 billion webpages
    • 12,000 concerts (10% growth) for a total of over 100,000 concerts
  • Highwire Press added:
    •  24 completely free sites for a total of 113 completely free sites, a 27% percentage increase 
    • close to 160,000 free articles (7% growth) for a total of close to 2.4 million 
    • 13 sites with free back issues (5% growth) for a total of 280 sites
  • the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) service added:
    • 12 million documents (21% growth) for a total of 68 million documents
    • 500 content providers (18% growth) for a total of over 3,000 content providers
  • PubMedCentral added
    • 483 journals (20% growth) that deposit selected articles for a total of  2,897 journals
    • 214 journals (18% growth) with immediate free access for a total of 1,402 journals
    • 180 journals (18% growth) with all articles open access for a total of 1,201 journals
    • 51 journals (18% growth) with some articles open access for a total of 338 journals
    • 224 full participation journals (16% growth) (all articles added to PMC) for a total of 1,618 journals
    • 250 actively participating journals (15% growth) for a total of 1,904 journals
    • 400,000 items (14% growth) for a total of 3.3 million items
    • 26 journals that deposit NIH-funded articles (10% growth) for a total of 299 journals 
  • DOAJ added:
    •  240,000 articles searchable at article level (15% growth) for a total of 1.8 million articles 
    • 12 countries (10% growth) for a total of 136 countries
    • close to 400 journals (7% growth) searchable at article level for a total of over 6 thousand journals
  • RePEC added 50,000 downloadable items (14% growth) for a total of 1.5 million items
  • Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) added:
    • 55,000 fulltext papers (13% growth) for a total of 483,000 papers
    • close to 60 thousand abstracts (11% growth) for a total of close to 600 thousand abstracts
    • 27 thousand authors (11% growth) for a total of close to 270 thousand author
  • arXiv added close to 100,000 documents (11% growth) for a total of over a million documents
  • OpenDOAR added 175 repositories (7% growth) for a total of 2,729
For full data, see the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Dataverse:

A call to remember the vision of open access in 2015

As open access moves further and further from idea to reality, it's all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of implementation: the procedures of developing open access archives, journals, books and other works and the development of the technology and services to make it happen, and to make the works attractive to use. In the process of developing OA initiatives, it may well be useful to develop and implement a variety of standards, new metrics and technical procedures. But in the process let's not confuse the means with the ends - let's keep our rationality rational (Morrison, 2012) and focused on the goals that we really want to achieve.

To further grow the momentum in 2015, let's remember the great vision of open access, as expressed in the first paragraph of the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.
Special acknowledgement of a new leading-edge open access policy

The recently announced new open access policy of two of India's science departments represents the best of funding agency open access policy to date and includes important advances. There is a focus on green or open access archives and a call to develop the institutional repository system to implement the policy. This will ensure that the results of research funded by India remains open access and remains available to Indians - there is no substitute in OA policy for ensuring local control. The maximum embargoes are six months in the sciences and one year in the humanities and social sciences. The major advance is inclusion of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment instructing evaluators not to consider impact factor or other metrics in assessing the work of researchers, but rather focus on the quality of the work per se. This is an absolutely critical step in addressing the systemic dysfunction in the scholarly communication system I have described elsewhere (Morrison, 2012), facilitating a shift to rational rationality, a system that is free to prioritize the advancement of scholarly knowledge, the knowledge commons, rather than the imperfect measures people have devised as heuristic devices.


Mabe, M. (2003). The growth and number of journals. Serials, 16(2), 191-197. Retrieved August 27, 2011 from,16,24;journal,26,72;linkingpublicationresults,1:107730,1

Morrison, H. (2012). Freedom for scholarship in the internet age.  Doctoral dissertation, Simon Fraser University, Department of Communication. The second chapter discusses the theme of irrational rationality, drawing from the work begun by Weber. This is also called instrumental rationality, and in brief is our tendency to develop tools, techniques and measures to help us achieve our goals, only to become slaves to the measures.

Price, D. J. d. S. (1963). Little science, big science. New York: Columbia University Press.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 year end Dramatic Growth of Open Access comment post

If you have news about the dramatic growth of open access in 2014 that you would like to share with others, please do so as a comment to this post. This year I'm skipping the usual early year-end edition due to lack of time, but the final year end (Dec. 31) will continue as usual. Please note that I may not be keeping up with of the usual social media for OA, so reader alerts via comments would be most appreciated.

Friday, November 14, 2014

France chooses publisher profits over academic jobs

Updated Nov. 14, 2014 - correction of calculation of academic positions...

According to a leak of the France-Elsevier deal, while France has cut $400 million Euros from the budgets of its academic institutions, at the same time the country secretly agreed to a 5-year $172 million Euro deal with Elsevier. That's a systemic annual budget cut of $80 million Euros and an Elsevier annual payment of $34 million Euros.

I don't have details about academic employment in France. However, assuming the same situation as in North America it is likely that this will primarily impact the employment prospect of new graduates in academia, and/or may cause some professors to accept early retirement. In effect, again assuming a similar situation, this means that many more new academics will accept very part-time, poorly paid positions with little or no benefits or job security than would otherwise be the case.

How big is the problem? Assuming an average full-time academic salary of $100,000 Euros per year, $34 million Euros could fund 340 full-time academic positions (1700 annual salaries over 5 years). Even if Elsevier took half the amount (not unrealistic since the company's current profit rate is close to 40%), that's still 170 full-time academic positions. Note that Elsevier is only of the very large highly profitable commercial scholarly publishers - to assess the full impact of publisher profits on academic work it is necessary to take other publishers into account.

And that's at Elsevier rates - by my calculations, we can flip the current subscriptions system to one that is fully open access, and, if we're smart, at a small fraction of the cost - again by my calculations, the current average spend per article for the DIY academic publishing largely reflected in journals using Open Journal Systems - is $188 per article, just 4% of the world's global library annual spend per article in subscriptions journals. Redirecting this money to academic salaries could do a lot towards revitalizing universities.

If readers have citations to data on academic salaries and/or employment in France, that would be helpful.