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Archive for the ‘academic publishing’ Category

I’m a graduate member of a nearby university library. I used to nip in regularly to check their book history journals (per Z) whose recent issues, along with other journals, were shelved on open shelves on the ground floor. When I nipped in the other day – albeit after some time since the last time, and since a library redevelopment project – I found that recent journals were now on the main shelves, not in a separate section as before. But not the per Z journals I was looking for, which, like most of the other Z (book history) books, are stored locked away in the library store, not on open access.

The librarian I spoke to initially said “We have electronic subscriptions to some of these”, but of course, as I pointed out, I have no way of accessing these. As is common with university libraries such electronic subscriptions are restricted to staff and current matriculated students, and other members of the library, including life graduate members like myself, have no means of accessing them. But increasingly university libraries provide electronic subscriptions as the only means of access to journals, with no paper copies shelved. This is fine for staff/current students, but no good for external readers, including independent scholars like myself. I understand the restrictions are imposed by the copyright holders / publishers, and individual universities rarely negotiate for wider access.

I was told I could order up recent copies of the issues I wanted through the computer system. That’s fine in theory, except that when I used to scan them on the current journal shelves I would look through dozens of journal issues at a time: both recent issues of a number of book history journals, and some older issues published since my last visit. I can put individual requests for them, but doubt the library system will like the numbers I would ask for. And I’m not even sure what all the relevant titles are: again with them on open shelves I could scan through them quickly and easily. Now I need to know what they are all called, and I’m not sure about that. Plus I need to arrange recalling all of the required issues in for a time I know I will be back in St Andrews.

Of course I am lucky to be able to access another university library nearby, as an honorary research fellow. Indeed I asked for that fellowship after finishing my PhD in order for me to continue to have good access to library journals, in particular electronic journals. But Dundee University doesn’t subscribe to the same range of journals as St Andrews, and in particular misses out a lot of book history journals which I could only access locally at St Andrews. And are now locked away in the library store, rather unhelpfully.

Still I should be grateful they are getting them at all. But it’s requiring a lot more organisation for me to see them than in the past. And I wonder if it means that these journals will be read less, now they are not on open shelves. And that in itself might lead to an argument being made by libraries for reducing their subscriptions/numbers held.

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I woke this evening to a very welcome email, telling me that one of the journal papers I submitted in November had been accepted. Both readers really liked it, and recommended acceptance, subject to relatively minor revisions that I’m very happy to make. This was particularly satisfying because a previous version of this paper was rejected by another journal, admittedly after they had sort of accepted it, subject to them doing major editorial changes. But then their main editor died, and they couldn’t put that much work in it, so rejected it. I picked myself up, and reworked it as one of my #AcWriMo challenges in November, using the first journal’s readers’ comments as guides to what needed to be reworked. The result was a much better paper, which has now been accepted by a different journal. It will probably be published in 2014, so after another paper published in 2013 that will make it my 5th published paper as a single author academic historian. Fab! It’s also really good news because it’s another PhD-derived paper that had to be submitted by 1st April 2013 to wherever accepted it to avoid me having to pay costly open access fees under the new rules. Big phew!

Meanwhile my chapmen piece is moving on well, and I’ve also been making progress in transcribing the library borrowing registers I want to work on for another proto paper. I did the latter while watching some TV and films over the Christmas period: laptop on my lap, with digital images open in front of me, and a text editor window open to type in the transcript to. Got things done that way.

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Charlotte Mathieson has written an excellent blog post about Open Access, based largely around a panel discussing it, including representatives from RCUK and other bodies. It is well worth reading, not least for the alarming picture it paints of RCUK refusing to engage with academics who have concerns. In particular Charlotte writes:

The response to these questions, particularly by RCUK’s Thorley, was strikingly dismissive and refused to engage in any debate from the floor. As I tweeted at the time, it seems that any real consideration of these issues will be retrospective, the key message now being “we’re going to transfer what works for STEM subjects, see if it works, and if it doesn’t then maybe we’ll start to take these issues seriously”. While I’m not unwilling to accept that many of the concerns raised might turn out to be easily addressed during transition period, it seems wholly irresponsible to be entirely unwilling to engage in debate. If vast numbers of arts and humanities researchers are raising concerns about OA, then surely dialogue and discussion around these issues is more productive than shutting the door on these questions.

Truly alarming, and shows the need for continued campaigning and complaining by researchers who are concerned.

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I’ve blogged previously here about my concerns re the UK government and UK research councils’ implementation of Open Access for academic journals. Thanks to a colleague at Dundee University I’ve just been alerted to a very detailed blog post written on behalf of a number of influential historians expressing their concerns. It echoes many of my own, and is worth a read for anyone interested in the issues that are alarming many in the academic community, particularly in humanities where the economic model is quite different from sciences, research tends to be conducted in a different way (with resulting financial implications), and there is a substantial number of independent non-affiliated researchers (like me) who still want to publish in academic journals.

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My latest journal paper was published last month in Scottish Historical Review. It’s derived from part of a chapter of my PhD thesis, and looks at book ownership in Scotland in the late 18th century using a local case study of after-death inventories. For a more detailed description see the abstract on the SHR website.

I’d seen the PDF copy last month. Of course I was familiar with the text, but it was really nice to see it laid out in a new format for the new journal. But it’s even more exciting to hold the print copies, which I received today, and to flick through the journal. My husband was very impressed and commented: “It’s a proper journal paper! Goes on for ever! Pages and pages!” He also marvelled at the number of footnotes (80) in my paper, which is far more than he is used to in the science papers he reads (he is an academic science researcher).

On the downside a little typo crept into the author biography which I didn’t pick up on proofreading. Not my typo, but introduced either in editing or typesetting. Very minor though. And I haven’t spotted anything else wrong. I picked up on 17 things to be corrected when I proofread the journal paper prior to printing, and was really relieved to manage to spot that many things (some my fault, others introduced at editing, others at typesetting) given that I had to proofread during a hospital chemotherapy infusion, juggling all the bits of paper one-handed while hooked up to a toxic drip coming into my left wrist. I’d hoped to proofread in the days before then, but the proofs were delayed, and it was either proofread during chemotherapy or not manage it in time, given how ill I knew I would be post-chemo over the subsequent week.

Anyway it’s lovely to see it in print and to hold the physical copies. It’s my third single-authored history journal paper. I have earlier publications from my computer science postgraduate days, but those are co-authored, and my contributions to them were relatively small. I’m far more proud of my history papers, as a single author, and particularly proud of this latest one, given that it has been published in probably the most eminent journal in Scottish historical research. For an independent scholar, only two years post PhD, that is an enormous achievement.

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[This is a blog post I originally posted on Google+ some months ago. But it’s still relevant now, not least for me as I try to beat the deadline to submit certain papers, or I’d have to pay a very hefty fee to have them published under the required open access rules.]

I’ve been increasingly concerned by the UK government and research councils’ plans to switch to insisting on open access for UK-funded research output. On the one hand I think open access to academic journals is a very good thing. But I have grave doubts about the model they’ve chosen. It’s not going to stop institutions having to subscribe at great cost to journals, otherwise they’d miss international contributions. And there is going to be an additional cost added, pushed primarily onto authors, for paying for open access provision. Estimates of this new cost vary, and the cost will vary by journal, but 2000 pounds per article is frequently talked about. The trouble is this money has to come from somewhere. For people in university environments or applying for new research grants it’s possible that their employer or funder will support them, although this will put a greater financial burden on the public purse which the taxpayer will ultimately have to pay for eventually. But there is also a long tradition of independent research, particularly in the arts and humanities, and many independent scholars who do not have access to such funding support for publishing costs. Such scholars may have benefited from research council support during their PhD, as I did with my AHRC-funded part-time PhD. Thus any output from their theses falls under this new scheme. But they did not get extra money to pay for unanticipated future publishing costs. So they will have to shoulder any such costs out of their own pocket. This is going to badly reduce the number of such scholars who can afford to publish, and they will also be restricted in terms of which journals they are even allowed to publish in. It’s hardly good for the future of scholarly publishing and getting your research “out there”. Incidentally don’t assume that funded PhD people got large pots of money and can afford to pay 2000 pounds per article, especially if non-university employed. My AHRC award paid for my tuititon fees directly to the university. Only in the last couple of years of my part-time PhD did I get a very small maintenance grant. There is nothing left over to pay for these new publishing costs. And if you do hope to work in academia it’s ever so important to publish. But can everyone afford to?

For the UK Research Councils’ announcement about this new policy see here.

And for concerns expressed recently (October 2012) by the President of the Royal Historical Society see here.

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