Conference Paper: Claims About Benefits of Open Access to Society (Beyond Academia)

Citation: Elhassan Elsabry. (2017). Claims About Benefits of Open Access to Society (Beyond Academia). In Expanding Perspectives on Open Science: Communities, Cultures and Diversity in Concepts and Practices: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Electronic Publishing. Chan, L., & Loizides, F., eds. IOS Press: 34-43. (link)

This study aims to fill a gap in the literature by figuring out the benefits of OA outside of academia.

As the author notes, few studies have been carried out in this area, largely because it’s difficult to gather these data, and–to a certain extent–difficult to even figure out what the benefits might be.

Although the author does intend to try and measure the success of these benefits at some point in the future, this study does not attempt that. Rather, it consists of a review of OA documents (statements and OA declarations; government policies; editorials in journals about OA) to find what they consider “the purpose behind supporting Open Access” (35).

For each of these documents, the author selects keywords about either the benefits of OA or who the beneficiaries of OA are. (The figures in the article are a little unclear about which is being measured, as the first is set out differently than the second and third.)

Interestingly–although perhaps not surprisingly–the author’s study found some differences between the various groups.

While journal editors focus more on benefits to “researchers themselves (e.g. citations, visibility, copyright ownership, etc.)” government policies care more about benefits like “globalization of science, reproducibility, transparency, etc.” (42).

Although the results are interesting, the study doesn’t share any particular insights about them or about OA in general. This is perhaps to be expected from this sort of preliminary study, but it is nonetheless a little disappointing.

Book: Open – the philosophy and practices that are revolutionizing education and science

Citation: Jhangiani, R.S., & Biswas-Diener, R., eds. (2017). Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science. London: Ubiquity Press.

This collection of essays on open education, open science, and open access, charts the ways the three movements overlap and the impacts they have had—or can have—on education, science, and scholarship.

The collection is split into three sections: Introductory essays describing the history, philosophy, and potential impact of “Open” movements; an “Open Practices” section which contains practical advice and best practices; and a series of case studies.

The editors of the book describe it as “expert commentary on the history, current trends, and future of open education and science (6), and the contents do not disappoint. The range of topics covered in the various chapters, and their focus on practicalities rather than theory, make this a useful text for anyone with an interest in OA or its related “Open” disciplines.

Of particular interest is an essay by F. Dastur, “How to Open an Academic Department” (163-178), which sets forth three guidelines in helping to overcome resistance to change around Open Access and Open Education in your own academic department. Other case studies and “Open Practices” essays will also be relevant and useful to anyone looking to establish a movement toward more open education at their own institution.

Book: Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Communication – Implementation

Citation: Smith, K.L., & Dickson, K.A. (2017). Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Communication: Implementation. Creating the 21st-Century Academic Library. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

This book of collected essays considers OA from a very specific viewpoint: Academic libraries that want or need to implement OA initiatives at their institution.

Although that’s a relatively narrow focus, a number of very different aspects of OA are considered, among them: copyright and authors’ rights, OA pay-to-publish models, electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs), open data and metadata, and OA publishing of undergraduate research.

A number of the included essays fall into the case study structure fairly typical of academic library research, with insights that–while fine–may be difficult to replicate at other institutions or in other situations. A few are also fairly basic reviews that will be helpful to librarians new to scholarly communication, but not so useful elsewhere.

On the other hand, there are a number of pieces like Zeller and Stenberg’s “Faculty Require Online Distribution of Student Work: Enter the Librarian”, which take a more broadly practical approach to the topic. Zeller and Steinberg’s article, for example, includes a series of appendices librarians can use as checklists when making undergraduate work available under an OA license.

Despite some of its essays being average in execution, the book as a whole is a useful read for the practically-minded librarian with an interest in scholarly communication.

OASiX: An Open Source Tool for Showcasing Open Access Research

This post is a little different than most of my posts on AOA. Rather than a review of someone else’s work, it’s here to announce the release of a piece of OS software I’ve been working on titled OASiX (Open Access Showcase in XML).

What is OASiX?

OASiX is a lightweight software tool which allows users to create and update a research (or other) showcase by editing and uploading XML files. OASiX runs on JQuery, AJAX, and XML, and its HTML files are responsive.

You can access source code and download the tool at https://github.com/scbaker/OASiX, and see a live demo at http://www.wou.edu/~bakersc/OASiX/index.html

screenshot of a showcase created using OASiX software
Sample OASiX showcase

Why Does This Matter?

In the past few decades, libraries have moved beyond their traditional roles of collecting and storing purely physical items such as books, now providing access to electronic materials through databases and other web-based resources. In the academic realm, many libraries also host Open Access (OA) journals or repositories of scholarly data and publications produced by their institution’s faculty members.

Unfortunately, promoting and disseminating OA work produced by faculty generally requires an institution to have a certain level of fiscal or financial support. Commercial showcase products are expensive, and often require an annual subscription, as they are hosted on the vendor’s servers. Open Source (OS) alternatives, while technically free, carry “hidden costs” like work-hours, and require the institution to have on staff someone who can make any required customizations or upgrades.

OASiX (Open Access Showcase in XML) aims to fill the needs of institutions which would like to showcase faculty work, but have neither the budget nor the advanced technical knowledge required by commercial or other OS products. All you need in order to use OASiX is a web site which allows you to upload files, and the ability to edit and create XML files.

Using OASiX

OASiX is intended to be a low-tech, high-efficiency alternative to expensive commercial repositories and more complicated OA repositories. Because it does not manage file uploading by default, it is best thought of as a way to showcase faculty work. However, if you have server space to host your own files and do not need to restrict access to them, OASiX can also be used as a repository.

Getting started

To use OASiX, you’ll need the files and directory structure located in the OASiX GitHub repository.

You’ll also need access to a web server, or some other web-accessible place to put your showcase.

Once you have both these things, simply copy the files to your server and you’re done. Anyone pointing their browser to your URL will now see the default OASiX Showcase, identical to the one on the demo page.

Adding and modifying content in XML files

Unless you live in a strange parallel universe where departments are labeled things like “Department of Functional Organization” and people have titles like “Alphabetizer,” you’ll probably want to modify the content of the default showcase.

OASiX is built to make this as easy as updating a few XML files. Each showcase includes the following XML files in a folder helpfully labeled “XML”:

  • creators.xml – A list of the creators whose works you are showcasing. Includes contact information, a biographical statement, a place to link to a photo, and name, position, and relevant department names. The file contains an example creator, Creator AB, who can be deleted.
  • works-ABC.xml – This example file lists the works by the showcase’s example creator, Creator AB.
  • works-TEMPLATE.xml – A template file for adding new creators to the showcase.
  • admin/settings.xml – Allows you to update settings for your showcase, including contact information, a list of departments, and basic showcase information like the title and about and footer text.

Updating Repository Information

The first step to readying your OASiX showcase for the world is to update the admin/settings.xml file to accurately reflect your institution.

In this file, you’ll enter the name for your showcase and an “about” statement, the institution you’re associated with and their URL, and footer text and an icon.  All of these fields are optional, but the more information you can give about your situation the more useful (and findable!) your showcase will be.

Other important information on this page include Administrator contact information for when things go wrong and a list of departments.

The list of departments is essential to OASiX’s operation, so be sure to fill out this section with the departments at your institution.

Adding a Creator

To add a creator to the showcase, you will need to modify both the creators.xml file, add their basic information into the creators.xml file as follows:
<creator>
<identifier>A unique identifier for this creator (used to connect the creator with their works-###.xml file</identifier>
<display_name>First Middle Lastname</display_name>
<title>Job Title</title>
<department>Department Name (must be in the Departments list of admin/settings.xml</department>
<email>Email Address</email>
<url>a URL associated with the creator</url>
<image>An image of the creator. If left blank, a dummy image will display.</image>
<profile><![CDATA[A biographical statement about the creator. HTML is okay if you leave the CDATA stuff intact.]]></profile>
<date-added>Date added to the showcase</date-added>
<date-modified>Date last modified to the showcase</date-modified>
</creator>

Each time you add a new creator to the showcase by entering their information in this XML file, you will also need to create a new XML file for them by copying the works-template.xml file and replacing the “template” in the filename with the identifier you’ve chosen for them in the creators.xml file.

Associating Works with a Creator

Each creator has their own XML file for their works.

<work>
<identifier>The identifier of the creator + a number (e.g. ABC001)</identifier>
<title>The title of the work. Use CDATA if the title has an ampersand or requires HTML.</title>
<creator>Creator(s) for the work. Can be repeated to list co-authors.</creator>
<type>Type of the work, using DCMI terms (Optional)</type>
<description>A description of the work. It's best to use CDATA if the description is detailed. (Optional)  </description>
<sources>
<source> (Repeatable)
<title>Title of the journal, website or other source of the work</title>
<date>Date when the work appeared in this source</date>
<format>Format of the source, e.g. print or electronic (Optional)</format>
<paywall>If the source requires a subscription or some other associated cost, mark this with a y. If the work is freely available at the source, mark this with a n. (Optional)</paywall>
<url>A URL to access the work (Optional)</url>
</source>
</sources>
</work>

OASiX in Action

Once you’ve added the information to your XML files and uploaded them to your server, you should see your content appear immediately.

OASiX will automatically generate the following pages for you:

A list of creators, complete with job titles and department relationships

Screenshot of OASIX showing automatically generated list of authors
List of Authors

A list of departments, complete with associated creator names

Screenshot of OASIX showing automatically generated list of departments
List of Departments

A list of published works for each creator, along with a profile page for them

Screenshot showing OASIX page with automatically generated biographical information and list of published works
OASiX Creator Page

All information you added to the settings will also appear in the relevant places, including on the “contact” page, the home page, and the headers and footers.

The Future of OASiX

Although OASiX is functional, it doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles users have come to expect of software in 2017. In the future, I’d like to do more work on an optional administrative interface that allows users to update their repositories through a secured web interface. Other possible upgrades include adding the ability to sort by recency and adding more settings to the Settings.xml file.

I’d also like to enhance the design of the tool, both visually and by increasing its accessibility. (The tool passes WCAG 2.0 at the AA level, but I haven’t tested it thoroughly beyond that.)

Article: Exploring Usefulness and Usability in the Evaluation of Open Access Digital Libraries

Citation: Tsakonas, G., & Papatheodorou, C. (2008). Exploring usefulness and usability in the evaluation of open access digital libraries. Information Processing and Management, 44: 1234-1250. [url]

This article explores the usability of OA digital libraries (DLs). Unlike many articles which feature the evaluation of scholarly websites, which tend to use accessibility-related tools, the focus of this is on usability, specifically with the Interaction Tryptich Framework (ITF), a model for evaluation which considers systems as interactions across various ‘axes’, defined here as usability, usefulness, and usability, between the system’s elements, which in this case are the DL, its content, and the user (p. 1237).

A chart showing digital libraries as interactions along the axes of usability, usefulness, and performance
the Interaction Tryptich Framework for Digital Libraries

Like most articles which examine accessibility and usability, the authors are interested in one particular digital library: E-LIS, a library science repository running on the eprints system. Unlike accessibility-focused articles, at least, the site was measured not through the use of automated tools or testing, but by means of a questionnaire filled out by the DL’s users. A regression analysis was then carried out on each category to get an idea of the general success of each axis.

The authors give some general conclusions about users’ expectations with regards to the usability and usefuless of E-LIS content, but seem to have no specific insights in regards to how the results might be applied more broadly to designing usable and useful DLs which perform well.

Given that the article is focused on usability, not accessibility as such, its conclusions may be of limited use to those interested in web accessibility. However, the difference of approach and the exploration of the ITF may be of use to researchers looking to apply different paradigms to accessibility evaluation.

Tool: oaDOI

oaDOI is a recently-launched tool which works similarly to a DOI, by directing users to a perma-link for a given article. The key difference is that oaDOI is OA-friendly: it will direct end-users to OA versions of the article if one is available. [link]

The tool has two parts, a link-generating service similar to bit.ly and other link shorterners, and an API that can be used to implement this behavior in other environments.

Generate an oaDOI link

The link-generating service is simple to use. Just get the DOI link for an article and paste it into the textbox at https://oadoi.org/.

The system will process the request and provide you with an oaDOI link you can distribute to direct users to an OA version of the article, if possible:

oaDOI.org presents a link to OA versions of an article

As seen above, the results page also describes whether the system was able to find an OA version or not, and if so where and how open that version is. The system will also provide a link that contains API information.

API

The API is for more advanced users who wish to take advantage of the system’s ability to find OA articles in other contexts (e.g. in an OpenURL resolver).

The oaDOI API page provides a run-down of functionality and example code, as well as a few use cases of other code libraries and projects which are using the API.

Report: 100 Stories – The Impact of Open Access

Citation: Banker, J-G. & Chatterji, P. (2016). “100 Stories: The Impact of Open Access” (Preprint) Open Access to Scholarly Communication in 2016: Status and Benefits Review, UNESCO (2016). [link]

This report, authored by the CEO of Bepress and a senior employee, ostensibly aims to supplement Altmetrics and other measures by providing a “framework” that shows some of the ways in which institutional repositories can have an impact on readers (“Advancing Knowledge”), authors (“Reputation Building”), and institutions (“Demonstrating Achievements”) (pp. 2-3). This is done by presenting what are essentially 100 short case studies of institutions who use Digital Commons, the repository software owned by Bepress.

Some examples of the impacts the authors present are:

Readers:
Advancing innovation
Improving access to education
Updating practitioners

Authors:
Amplifying scholarship
Finding collaborators
Preserving scholarly legacy

Institutions:
Building reputation
Strengthening recruiting
Professionalizing students

Although these all seem fairly undeniable as things that OA can accomplish, it’s a bit of a stretch to label what the authors have created as a framework, a term which the OED defines as “an essential or underlying structure; a provisional design, an outline; a conceptual scheme or system.”

Rather, the document presents more a list of possible outcomes that can be achieved by using an institutional repository or other system to distribute scholarly research under an OA model.

That’s still a fine and useful thing, and the list of case studies should be of interest to anyone looking to start up an institutional repository.

Ultimately, however, the overselling of the outcomes as a framework, coupled with the obvious incentive that Bepress has to showcase their own product, makes this report feel a bit closer to advertising than a study into the impacts of OA publishing.

Other resource: Open Access Week

Open Access Week is a web-based, international project celebrating OA in all its forms.

The project’s website, http://openaccessweek.org/, includes a list of events, a forum to discuss OA topics, and other resources.

Although the forum and resources are intended for a general audience not already familiar with OA publishing, the project serves a number of useful purposes for librarians/OA practitioners:

  • Allows for a way to publicize your own OA projects
  • Gives a glimpse of what other OA practitioners are doing around the world
  • Provides an opportunity to network

The project is organized by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).

Article: Measuring Altruistic Impact – A Model for Understanding the Social Justice of Open Access

Citation: Heller, M., & Gaede, F. (2016). Measuring Altruistic Impact: A Model for Understanding the Social Justice of Open Access. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 4, eP2132. DOI: http://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2132

In this paper from August 2016, the authors argue for assessing the impact of repositories on two levels: pragmatic and in terms of social justice (p. 2). To this end, they have created a so-called “social justice impact metric” which uses the number of social justice related items accessed and the total amount of international usage from “less-resourced” countries (p. 3).

After establishing an overview of social justice as it pertains to Open Access (OA), the authors argue that since OA is “a social and public good,” (p. 3), traditional measures of impact as a number of citations or downloads are insufficient. Instead, they suggest measuring “social justice impact,” which shows how an OA repository or publication is likely to affect those otherwise without access to information that has become “vital to success in our information economy” (page 5).

To create their Social Justice Impact metric, the authors measured how often content is accessed by search engines, and how often it is accessed in “lower-resourced countries” (p. 8). Data were measured with Google Analytics, looking at both search engine keywords related to social justice and geographic usage (p. 9). Keywords were pulled from a corpus created by the authors (p. 10), included as an appendix in the report.

Anyone looking for a specific number like those given by altmetrics or journal impact factor will be disappointed by the results of the authors’ analysis, which is more like a method for measuring how often international users access repository content that relates to social justice, with suggestions for how readers might most successfully increase access to social justice related content at their own instutition.

All the same, the argument that providing access to information to those who would not otherwise have it should be a core part of measuring the success of OA repositories is a compelling one. As the authors note, we all too often focus solely on academic impact, and should not forget that broader social good comes out of OA work as well.

Other Resource: OpenDOAR; ROAR

OpenDOAR (the Directory of Open Access Repositories) and ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories) are two similar, but unrelated web sites which list OA repositories. Given the similarity of the two projects, both will be briefly reviewed in this post.

OpenDOAR

OpenDOAR is a project of the Centre for Research Communications at the University of Nottingham in the UK. The directory currently holds information about 3182 OA repositories. The “Find” page which lists results for searches (and which can also act as a browse feature) lists a description of each repository along with its software, number of items (and last update date), subjects, content type, languages, and a list of policies. By default, this page returns summaries. Clicking the “Link to this record” link next to each repository will provide more information about its policies and a little bit more information about the repository and its institution in general, but otherwise this screen is identical to what appears on the brief results page.

Users can instead select that the results be returned as a chart, table, or Google Map. Options for charts including the number of repositories by content, country, type, and other information. These charts can be embedded in other web pages, as described by a powerpoint on the “Tools” page.

Users can also search the contents of repositories listed in OpenDOAR via a Google search page, and suggest that a new repository be added to the directory.

ROAR

ROAR is a project of the University of Southampton, also in the UK, and (as of the date of this post) lists 4322 repositories (more than OpenDOAR in part because OpenDOAR seems to have stricter weeding policies). Users can search for repositories using an on-site search page with a number of options, and can also search for content inside of repositories using a custom Google search (which, at the time of this posting, was not working). Additionally, the repositories can be browsed by country, year, type of repository, institution, and software type.

Clicking the “record details” link next to a repository’s information will provide more details, such as when the repository was created, what kind of content it contains, where it is based, and its number of records.

Beyond just listing repositories, ROAR allows you to create charts and graphical analyses, and export results in various formats. It is, for instance, possible to generate a graph showing the number of known repositories by year in a certain country or topic, making ROAR a useful tool for OA scholars. Additionally, results pages provide not just a list of how many repositories there are for a topic (etc.) but how active these repositories are, showing number of deposited records and so on.

Like many web lists, ROAR allows users to add new records. You will need to create an account if you wish to add yours to the list.

The project notes that (at this time) automated harvesting of repositories is not working correctly, so that the number of articles hosted by each repository is incorrect.

OpenDOAR or ROAR?

Both lists of repositories are slightly different in terms of what they present to the viewer. OpenDOAR seems to do a more effective job of providing a current picture of OA repositories, whereas ROAR provides a clearer picture of their historical numbers. The ROAR web site is also a bit buggy at the moment, and several features do not work properly. OpenDOAR does not seem to have this problem.

Ultimately, both are useful sites for researchers interested in finding OA content or in researching green OA.