Thursday, February 27, 2014

The dramatic growth of BioMedCentral open access article processing charges

The average article processing charge for BioMedCentral journals requested from the University of Ottawa (uO) Library's author's fund increased 27% from 2010-11 to 2012-13. The 15% increase from 2011-12 to 2012-13 is 10 times the rate of inflation. 

The data indicates that this reflects increases in journal prices rather than changes in which journals uO authors publish in. For example:

Globalization and Health (a BMC journal)
  • 2010-11: uO paid an APC of $1,300 US. Assuming this reflects a BMC membership rate in effect at this time (15% discount, that's still less than $1,500 US.
  • 2011-12: uO paid APCs at 2 different rates: $1,425 US and $1,715 US
  • 2012-13: uO paid APCSs at $1,670 and $1,715 US
  • The BMC rate listed on BMC's own website as of Feb. 27, 2014 is $2,155 US from:
An increase in APC from $1,715 US to $2,155 US in the last year is about a 25% increase in the APC for this particular journal. Currency fluctuations could account for about one-tenth of this increase (see below for calculations), and the modest inflation rate would account for about a 1.5% increase. This still leaves more than a 20% increase in price above and beyond currency variations and inflation.

Currency variations UK pound sterling to USD, based on Bank of Canada daily and 10-year currency converter.
  • UK pound sterling to USD conversion rate:
  • Jan. 2011: 1.5586
  • Jan. 2012: 1.5654 (.0043 increase over 2011)
  • Jan. 2013: 1.6254 (.0383 increase over 2012)
  • as of Feb. 27, 2014: 1.6691 (.02688 increase over 2013)
  • Total increase in value of UK pound sterling in comparison with US dollar 2014 / 2011: 7%
Public Library of Science (PLoS), by contrast, has kept prices for their journals at exactly the same rates during this time frame. PLoS' achievement of a 23% surplus during this time frame indicates that this was done without financial sacrifice. While I continue to call on the not-for-profit PLoS to actually lower their prices to facilitate the transition to open access, the remarkable contrast between PLoS' holding the line on prices and while BMC raises their prices at rates far above inflation is worth noting.

Thanks to Jeanette Hatherill and the University of Ottawa Library for posting the Open Access publication rates in the uO institutional repository. This dataset contains the amounts paid for through the library's author's fund for open access article processing charges from 2010 - 2013. Watch for further calculations and release of my calculations spreadsheet as part of the open access article processing charges series.

This post also illustrates the value of open data. By posting this data for open access in the University of Ottawa's institutional repository, uO is making it possible for me to conduct research like this that could be useful to uO's own decision-making processes in future. Let's hope this post inspires others to follow uO's lead and share their data, too.

This post is part of the Open access article processing charges research series

Commenting is now open on this post. Please note that this is a scholarly blog and comments are expected to be of scholarly quality, e.g. anonymous comments will not be posted and any potential conflicts of interest should be evident to the reader (for example, if you are involved with a journal or publisher that relies on the open access article processing fee model, please say so).

Open access article processing charges series

This post gathers posts on my open access article processing charges research.

The variability of the open access article processing charge

Forthcoming research: tracking open access article processing fees

Open access publishing by APC: dominated by the commercial sector

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Open access and scientific research: towards new values (international conference call for papers)

A call for papers is now open for an international conference called Open access and scientific research: towards new values, Tunis, Nov. 27-28, 2014. Version français ici: Libre accès et recherche scientifique: vers de nouvelles valeurs
The deadline for extended abstracts (2 pages) is March 30, 2014.  I am honoured to be a part of the scientific committee for this conference, organized by the research unit "Digital Library and Heritage" of the Higher Institute of Documentation (ISD), Manouba University, Tunisia, in partnership with The National University Center for Scientific and Technical Documentation (CNUDST), Tunisia.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Research Conversations - transitioning to open access

Vous invite - Invites you
à assister à une conférence - to attend a presentation
Date: jeudi le 13 fevrier2014
Heure: 12h – 13h15
Locale: Lamoureux (LMX) salle: 407

Transitioning to open access
Heather Morrison
(École des sciences de l’information,
Université d’Ottawa

All welcome - no charge, no need to RSVP.

Researcher Biography

Heather Morrison is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies with an extensive background as a speaker and researcher in the areas of scholarly communication and open access. Heather completed her doctorate at Simon Fraser University in 2012, entitled Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age, after a distinguished career as a professional academic librarian in the world of library consortia, coordinating province-wide purchase and sharing of information resources and services in an electronic environment.

Open access to scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles is an unprecedented public good with the potential to “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” (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).

A dilemma for open access is how to transition economic support for scholarly journals from a subscription / licensing basis to supporting the production of journals so that they can be open access.  This is particularly critical for small scholar-led journals (independent journals and small society journals), as many have limited resources. Heather will talk about her current and emerging research in this area, which includes the theoretical framework of the knowledge commons, macro analysis (global journal article production and expenditure by libraries), collecting and analyzing data on open access article processing charges, interviews with scholarly journal editors about the resource requirements of scholar-led publishing and the infrastructure costs of new library / university publishing operations.

The presentation will be primarily in English with discussion welcome in either English or French.


Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002).

This presentation is part of the ongoing ÉSIS Research Conversations series co-organized for 2013/14 by myself and Dr. André Vellino.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

e-lis: a model for the world?

E-LIS is the open access archive for library and information science (LIS). My perspective, as an open access advocate, former member of the E-LIS editorial and governance teams and current passionate supporter of this initiative, is that E-LIS is an excellent illustration of good practices in open access, library and information science, and global collaboration in action. E-LIS provides a venue for LIS authors and journals to meet open access requirement policies that are increasingly common among research funders and universities. On the flip side, services like E-LIS, by providing this venue, make it easier for decision-makers (journals, publishers, research funders and universities) to develop open access policies, by removing one of the potential objections (i.e. no venue).
Open access literature, according to Suber (n.d.), is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions”. Open access was defined in 2002 at three major international meetings, held at Budapest, Berlin and Bethesda; the resulting definition is called the BBB definition of open access (Suber, n.d.).
The first of these meetings was the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) (2002), which in addition to defining open access, developed a visionary statement which from my perspective is less often quoted, but of greater significance, particularly in the context of global communication and information policy. The words are carefully crafted and beautifully expressed, and so repeated here in full:
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 (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).
E-LIS exemplifies the spirit of the Budapest vision, in my opinion. The E-LIS
team consists of the generous hosting and support services provided by the CILEA consortium in Italy, a governance team including E-LIS co-founders Antonella de Robbio and Imma Subirats, whose work in this initiative I have described earlier on the OA Librarian blog (Morrison, 2005a; Morrison, 2005b), and volunteer editors from around the globe. Information about E-LIS can be found on the E-LIS About page which includes a statement that dovetails with the BOAI vision: “Searching or browsing e-LIS is a kind of multilingual, multicultural experience, an example of what could be accomplished through open access archives to bring the people of the world together”. From a personal perspective, to me this is a major and refreshing change from the typical western-centric focus of most search engines found in North American libraries. Not every archive is fully open access, however E-LIS has a strong commitment to open access and does not accept works unless the full text is openly available.
            The global E-LIS team can work with any language that LIS scholars might wish to use to participate in this initiative. Currently 22 languages are supported; all works are expected to have abstracts in English. English and Spanish are the most common languages. Most of the works in E-LIS are peer-reviewed journal articles, and many other types of works are of similar scholarly quality, such as refereed conference proceedings and theses, as described by Morrison, Subirats-Coll, Medeiros and De Robbio (2007) in an invited, non-refereed article in The Charleston Advisor.
            As explained in BOAI (2002), there are two basic approaches to open access, open access publishing or making works open access in the process of publishing, sometimes known as the gold road, and open access archiving, making works open access through archives or repositories, sometimes called the green road. There are two major different types of open access archives, institutional archives (or repositories) and disciplinary or subject repositories. E-LIS is an example of the latter. Some of the best-known subject open access archives are PubMedCentral, arXiv (for physics, math, computing science and related disciplines), and the Social Sciences Research Network. Seamless searching and full-text retrieval are key attractions of subject based archives.
Libraries are frequently the host of their institutional repositories or archives; for example, see the Canadian Association of Research Libraries’ (n.d.) Institutional Repositories page.  From my perspective, this presents a challenge to E-LIS as a subject archive, as libraries working to build and support a local institutional repository may see deposit in a subject repository like E-LIS as extra work at best and as competition at worst. It is my hope that in time LIS professionals, once institutional repositories become the ubiquitous service that I hope and expect they will become, will return to the vision of the “unprecedented public good” of a global, multilingual and multicultural service like E-LIS, and work to cross deposit all LIS articles in BOTH the local institutional repository and E-LIS, and that, in time, E-LIS will not only be a good option for searching for LIS scholarship, but the first, and often the only stop.
Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), 2002. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Canadian Association of Research Libraries. N.d. Institutional Repositories Project.
Website. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Morrison, H.; Subirats-Coll, I.;  Medeiros, N. and De Robbio, A. (2007). E-LIS: the Open
Archive for Library and information Science. The Charleston Advisor vol. 9, n. 1. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Morrison, H. 2005a. Antonella de Robbio. OA Librarian. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Morrison, H. 2005b. Imma Subirats Coll. OA Librarian. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Suber, P. n.d. Open access overview. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from

This post was developed as an example of a case study for ISI Global Communication and Information Policy class. It's intended as an example of a work that is good enough but could be improved with more writing, less quoting and self-citing, and more of a literature review. However I wanted to post this here to share this perspective of E-LIS as a model for achieving the vision of BOAI. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Creative Commons CC-BY confusions

This discussion on CC Mixter illustrates some common confusion about CC licenses, in this case CC-BY. The first commenter asks whether it is considered legal or ethical to take songs that have been licensed as CC-BY and compile them into an album to sell. These three commenters appear to agree that this is legal. The first commenter is not convinced that this is ethical. The second commenter suggests that while this might be legal, it would make a lot of artists mad as they likely did not understand the implications when licensing their work CC-BY. I bring up this piece of anecdotal evidence as this fits my own experience that people using CC-BY licenses do not necessarily understand the implications of doing this. I would also like to argue that the name "Creative Commons" is somewhat misleading as the cultural notion of a commons is more akin to a common resource or set of resources that is shared by a community in an equitable way, while the CC licenses facilitate exploitive as well as community use. 

CC Mixter discussion: from

First post

So I was having a discussion with someone regarding the CC licensing model and we came up with a situation which seems to be a bit of an ethical dilemma and I wanted to get the opinions of some musicians that create CC content.

So, this is specifically regarding CC-BY licensed work. The situation we were considering is someone compiling a bunch of CC-BY songs into a single album (a mix CD I guess you’d say) and selling that album (assuming they attribute the original artists as required by the license of course).

Now, based on the CC-BY license I am fairly certain that this is totally legal as there are no restrictions on what you can do with the music. The question is, is this ethical?

Comment by CC Mixter discussion participants

Commenter 1:  "It is 100% ethical, because that is precisely what the license is for.

I strongly believe many people would be upset about it; but in most cases that would be because they didn’t understand the full implications of licensing their music as CC-BY in the first place (things like licenses being non revocable, for instance)"

Commenter 2: "Anytime I license something CC-BY, I assume that it will be used for profit by someone else. Sometimes I seek material that is CC-BY so I can add to it and possibly put it on an album… for personal profit".

This post is part of the Open Access and Creative Commons critique series detailing my work-in-progress which is designed to explain important differences between open access per se and Creative Commons licenses which provide useful tools for open access but cannot be equated with open access.

Chang vs. Virgin Mobile

The Chang vs. Virgin Mobile case illustrates some of the complexities behind the CC-BY license. A picture of a minor girl was posted to flickr with a CC-BY 2.0 license, and it was picked up and used by Virgin Mobile in an advertising campaign, without asking the permission of the photographer. The family was not pleased with this and fought this in court, against Virgin Mobile on several different grounds including copyright, privacy and publicity rights, and against Creative Commons for failing to warn against this possibility. The plaintiffs ultimately dismissed the case.

From my perspective, this case raises some issues to consider before deciding that a particular creative commons license is optimal for scholarship.

  •  When people consider the use of a CC-BY license, the potential for negative and not just positive downstream uses should be taken into account. Not every potential downstream user is an academic with a substantial commitment to scholarly integrity. There are pros and cons to each one of the CC license elements. I argue that the best service to potential CC licensors to provide the best available advice about each of the CC licenses, including known pros and cons and informing people that there is no way of predicting in advance every potential kind of use of CC licensed work. Creative Commons comes close to providing good service, but in my opinion fails due to participation in the attempt to deprecate CC's NC and ND license. For an example of this, go to the CC license chooser. If you choose not to allow derivatives and/or commercial use, you will be informed that "this is not a free culture license", while licenses allowing derivatives and commercial use state "this is a free culture license". 
  • Ethical and legal liabilities: this was a family photo licensed CC-BY by the family. The family objected to use of the photo in the ad on the basis of copyright, privacy and publicity rights. If the photo were from a research subject and licensed CC-BY by the researcher, not the subject, there is a strong possibility that the subject would have a case that the researcher's CC-BY license violated a research ethics protocol of a university, research centre and/or funding agency. The bar for informed consent for research subjects is much higher than the bar for an organization like Creative Commons. If the researcher used a CC-BY license because their institution or funding agency required the use of this license, there could be legal liabilities for these bodies as well. I would like to emphasize that while there may be legal liabilities to consider, the ethical issues are more important. If you are using CC licenses on works that others have made substantive contributions to, such as allowing you to use their photos or stories, then you have an obligation to think carefully about the potential uses of the works and providing advice to potential research subjects that allows them to make truly informed decisions about how this work is licensed. 
Summary and conclusion

Creative Commons licenses is the not the simple solution to scholarly copyright that some of us would like to see. There are good reasons for scholars to hesitate to grant some of the rights CC makes available, including derivative and commercial re-use, including ethical and legal consideration. As an open access activist, I am concerned that the push by some in the open access movement for a CC-BY / CC-BY-SA default license for open access is more harmful than helpful to open access. Unleashing the potential for creation of derivatives and commercial use will unleash negative as well as positive benefits. When this happens, scholars and policy-makers who believe that they have been misled about the benefits and downsides of particular CC license elements are likely to be just as unhappy as the young woman and her family in this case were. The purpose of my Open Access and Creative Commons critique series is to try to alert my colleagues in the open access movement about these dangers to open access per se. 

The CC summary or this case can be found here.  The CC wiki page for court decisions is here.