Friday, April 27, 2007

No access to my own article

So here's the funny thing about my Naturwissenschaften article: I got an email from Springer yesterday telling me that my article had been published online and giving me a link to the article. But my school doesn't actually get Naturwissenschaften, so the link takes me to a page that tells me I don't have access to the article (or the issue) but can purchase it for $32.00 if I want. Crazy, right? My husband, who is a grad student at a different school (with access), actually had to download the PDF and email it to me. Not only does BU not have online access to Naturwissenschaften, it doesn't even carry it! Sigh.


  1. I guess this raises the issue of my did you choose Naturwissenschaften for your article (doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0250-2)?
    To be fair to the publishers (Springer), they do provide what they term "Open Choice™", which would give you (and your readers) open access to this article. Of course, this comes at a cost (nothing in this world is free). Was this (or would it be) a factor in whether you published an open access article?

  2. Well, it's a good question. The truth is that as a graduate student with no publication record, my main priority for this paper was to get it published in the best (most respected, most cited, highest impact, etc.) journal I could, and in this case that was Naturwissenschaften. I am also somewhat constrained by the wishes of my advisor.

    I certainly think having my paper freely available to everyone (including myself) would be wonderful, but as you noted, this isn't free. The cost to have my paper published as "Open Choice" would have been $3000, which I certainly do not have. I didn't even have the $1150 it would have cost to have my figure printed in color (in the print edition -- it prints in color online).

    If I had a funding source that would pay for this, I would do it in a second. If I had a secure job, a better publication record, or no ego whatsoever, I might have chosen a different journal to publish in, but as none of these things are true, I went with Naturwissenschaften.

  3. If "highest impact" is a criterion, then Naturwissenschaften's impact factor of 1.95 is pretty paltry. The open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology has an impact factor of 4.45.

    I understand the cost issue. I'm at a UK university which is part of a consortium that has BioMed Central membership, hence for me personally it is free. Apparently Boston University was a member, but this lapsed (see BioMed list of members). It would be interesting to know why Boston didn't renew.

    I'm not trying to push open access as such (as editor of a society journal it raises all sorts of issues), I was just curious as to how it had come about that you couldn't read your own publication (a situation which is, in one sense, absurd).

  4. That's why you should not sit on the couch and let things unfold...

    There are things you could do:
    1. Make sure, your institution has self repository set up, so you can post all your publications.
    2. There is no law but individual licences between you and the publisher. Just read the contract, and in most cases they would allow you, if you enter this in your licence, to deposit the publication in your or your institutions' self repository, or even into antbase as one repository for ant systematics literature.
    3. By helping assuring that antbase has all the publications online, we together with other repositories can make a much better case to demand that publicly funded publications, or those from foundations, have to be in open access repositories, because this has developed into a standard.

    The publishers are very much aware of this debate, and only pressure helps.

    4. I agree, if you are for high citation rates, you HAVE to publish open access, because these publications do have a higher citation rate. PNAS is the best example, where the open access publications are at least twice as often cited as those closed in the same issues.

    5. Why not choose the open choice version from Springer (et al.)? It is hilariously expensive, and you essentially feed the USD1,5 to 3K directly into their pockets, because they will offer you the same package in term of labor for you as they would, just that they also offer free access.
    The real important point to remember is to require self archiving in your next contract.


  5. Donat's point about instituional repositories is a good one. Boston has a Digital Research Archive that might be used for your work. Looks like the theology department is the biggest user. It would probably be worthwhile talking to the library about what material they can take. Here at Glasgow our library is trying to get copies of the work university members publish (sometimes in preprint form).

    The other strategy is to put a PDF on your web site, and let Google Scholar find it.

    In any event, the whole question of how scientists publish our work is now a hot topic, and the ant community is playing an interesting role in the debate (I confess, this is one of the reasons I'm interested in ants, although apparently their biology is pretty cool...).

  6. Here is one of the best introduction to Open Access by Peter Suber. He is also running an Open Access News newsletter, well worth reading, even if it is only to get a sense of what’s happening out there.

    If you are interested what the official view of open access to data is, read this guideline by the OECD Declaration for Access to Research Data from Public Funding. It is interesting to see what’s all needed to get truly open access to all our research data and publications.

    It is a long way, and the cultural component is one of the crucial one. There are enough forces wanting to keep this information behind closed door – but we can push it from our side by making all our data accessible and show the value added by using it in our research projects.

    This is another call to get out of your coach and talk to all your colleagues to convince them, that copyrighting their stuff is the wrong way to go, and support the open access movement....