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June 11, 2008

Enterprise adoption of Open Source software

Writing about web page http://www.cio.com/article/375916/Open_Source_is_Entering_the_Enterprise_Mainstream_Survey_Shows/

Adoption of Open Source (OS) software in the private sector would now be roughly on a par with commercial software according to this survey among 328 IT and business executives and managers, though not necessarily as many corporations, which was conducted in late April 2008 by CIO.com.

It would be interesting to have a comparative survey of the Higher Education (HE) sector. I suspect in HE the policy making, and indeed strategy formulation, about OS procurement might also be lagging behind actual implementation.

“About a quarter of corporations (27 percent) have a formal policy in place regarding open-source applications, though 18 percent expect to adopt such a policy in the next 12 months.”

Interestingly also, enterprise use of OS software seems to range widely in terms of the level of in-house customisation work that is applied to the software. Yet a significant proportion of use would be simple and straightforward instances of OS software being used as a finished product that you can plug and play.

“While more than half of enterprises use open source today, the degree of intimacy with the philosophy varies quite a bit. Companies may often (43 percent) or sometimes (24 percent) treat such applications as, well, just free software; they run the application but don’t even look at the source code.”

This suggests at least two things.

Firstly, there is quite a lot of OS software around which is good enough, i.e. mature enough and with enough support, to be used out-of-the-box and without much ado. This is OS software that turns out to be virtually cost free in comparison with commercial licences that would also take staff time to implement, administrate, and work around to suit if at all possible.

A few examples of OS or free software that come to my non-technical mind could fall in this category and seem appropriate for HE: LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP), OpenOffice, Sakai, Moodle, Firefox, Zotero, Liquid XML, etc.

Secondly, managers responsible for procurement decisions need to have the technical knowledge to be able to identify OS solutions and evaluate them, estimating the different costs involved in each particular case. Costs will depend on maturity of software, staff time and range of technical skills that will be required for implementation, solidness of support community, outsourcing fees, and importantly the forthcoming features chartered on the roadmap of developments for that software.

This second point directly impinges on one of the strategic challenges currently faced by University Libraries and especially by those not yet converged with their IT departments. How to shift the skills balance of their staff at all grades so as to keep up with the fast pace of an information environment that is increasingly technology driven?

In this context one should think the role of procurement support agencies like the JISC OS Watch is becoming indispensable. Maintaining a current awareness of the OS market and providing expert advice, such role can cover the lag time in skills adjustment to new technological developments.


November 30, 2007

The next wave is rising: university digital presses

Writing about web page http://escholarship.usyd.edu.au/index.html

University digital presses seem one of the obvious strategic areas of development for university research libraries. In his strategic analysis Lewis (2007) draws attention to the shift from purchased to Open Access content and suggests that libraries should also shift their focus from purchasing to curating digital content, yet avoid the temptation to add no value by doing no more than complacently free-riding on OA content curated elsewhere.

Little wonder then that the latest ARL Bimonthly Report (no. 252/253 of June/August 2007) focuses on the state of university publishing and the evolving role for research libraries in the delivery of publishing services.

Digital presses may well be the next widespread development in universities. Librarians are well placed to do the electronic publishing and curation, in collaboration with academics doing the authoring and editorial.

An example of a previous wave is the use of virtual learning environments to leverage electronic media for e-learning. This is now widespread.

Open Access Institutional Repositories are a current wave. Universities have been setting up IRs in order to organize their research outputs for Open Web access and have them readily available for audit purposes (an IR consists of a deposit policy, or mandate, besides the technical set up of the actual digital archive).

Equally the development of OA IRs can be seen as part of the larger wave towards university presses, since OA IR content can effectively be overlaid with editorial control. There is not a huge difference between a well-established overlay journal and an electronic journal.

The Electronic Law Journals project at the University of Warwick is only one of many instances of academic departments already publishing their own electronic journals.

Overlay journal is a useful term for a range of web publications resembling an electronic journal. An overlay journal is basically an electronic newsletter consisting of table of contents hyperlinked to the full text of each item, plus the editorial work and peer review validation that distinguishes it. The full text articles may be hosted in an IR or in other electronic repositories or digital archives.

Just as an overlay journal can easily transition into an electronic journal, any IR may become one step in the development of a university digital press. Whilst university digital presses are the logical direction for this evolution, Research Support in libraries is also expanding beyond literature search and bibliographic management to cover the publication and curation of research outputs.

And where does all this leave the current commercial electronic publishing industry? Publishers and vendors alike will take the opportunity and offer their technical expertise in the different operations of the e-publishing process as separate services, becoming publisher-services businesses and probably not without some consolidation of the industry.

In fact, OA journal publishers are already charging for submission instead of charging for access. This could eventually tip over in a global flip to the OA business model, according to an idea floated by Ingenta’s Mark Rowse (Hane 2003) and elaborated by Peter Suber (2007).

Of course, university digital presses need not be limited to publishing journals, or even research monographs. E-publishing of undergraduate text books could also become part of the collaboration between academics and their libraries.

The obvious benefits to the institution from having its own branded university press are impact and reputation, besides any savings resulting from not having to purchase publications written by its own faculty. All the elements already exist and have already come together for those who were early, e.g. the University of Sydney Library with its Sydney eScholarship

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Hane, P. (2003) Stable and Poised for Growth. [Interview with Mark Rowse, Ingenta’s founder and CEO]. Information Today, 20(11).

Lewis, D. (2007) A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century. College & Research Libraries, 68(5), 418-434.

Suber, P. (2007) Flipping a journal to open access. SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 114.


November 22, 2007

Early evidence of Open Access citation advantage still useful

Writing about web page http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html

Does OA self-archiving of articles that are later published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals actually increase citation of these articles? Definitely yes and the body of evidence keeps growing and increasing in sophistication.

Steve Hitchcock rightly notes “citation analysis is specialised and difficult”. However, the “simple example” he then provides actually shows this is an understatement!

As the field of scientometrics develops and bibliometric studies become more specialised, it may also become more difficult for the non-statistician to understand the research conducted. This is why it is perhaps not a bad idea to keep referring to earlier studies if they are more digestible for the lay person.

A good starter would be this poster presentation (Brody et al., 2004) accompanied with this article (Harnad & Brody, 2004) and with this paper (Hajjem, Harnad, & Gingras, 2005) as the main course. Thankfully all these remain on the menu in Steve Hitchcock’s bibliography (Hitchcock 2004).

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Brody, T., Stamerjohanns, H., Vallières, F., Harnad, S., Gingras, Y., and Oppenheim, C. (2004). The effect of Open Access on citation impact. Paper presented at the National Policies on Open Access (OA) Provision for University Research Output: an International meeting. Southampton, 19 February 2004

Hajjem, C., Harnad, S., and Gingras, Y. (2005). Ten-Year Cross-Disciplinary Comparison of the Growth of Open Access and How it Increases Research Citation Impact. Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Data Engineering, 28(4), 39-46.

Harnad, S., and Brody, T. (2004). Comparing the Impact of Open Access (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals. D-Lib Magazine, 10(6).

Hitchcock, S. (first posted 15 September 2004). The effect of open access and downloads (‘hits’) on citation impact: a bibliography of studies


November 05, 2007

Why university libraries should promote OA resources more than paid–for resources

Writing about web page http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/spec300web.pdf

The 2007 survey of Open Access Resources has finally been published as SPEC Kit 300 (SP300) by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). A four-page Executive Summary is freely available.

It would make sense for libraries to make promotion of OA resources to teaching staff a priority, but most (75%) of the respondent libraries are not promoting OA resources any differently than other resources, with several respondents saying they promote paid resources more than OA resources. According to the summary, “OA resources have a lower priority in general and libraries have a hard enough time getting patrons to use paid resources”.

Why this focus on promoting paid-for resources? If resources are not used, their subscription cannot be justified and the library’s budget could be reduced accordingly, would be the obvious answer. Nevertheless this defensive rationale could be short-sighted.

The more OA resources that libraries can provide for researchers in addition to any paid subscriptions, the richer the library’s resource provision in support of research and therefore, the more added value the library is providing to the research mission of the institution. This ARL survey does a good job of describing the library work associated with providing such added value through OA resources.

Let us now speculate that the more popular OA resources become among academics, both as authors and readers, the greater the proportion of OA journals in their recommended readings for students, and therefore the less the pressure on library budgets to keep up with escalating journal subscription prices and the more money left to buy print monographs for researchers and text books for students.

In the UK at least, a large proportion of the library budget typically goes into buying multiple copies of undergraduate key-text books, copies which are never enough to satiate students’ assumptions about their library’s stock.

Why not make consultation with faculty about particular OA resources a priority of liaison?

If libraries are caught in a vicious circle of promoting paid-for resources to academics, the academics then including these resources in reading lists, and then the library not being able to afford resourcing those reading lists, whose fault is it?


April 03, 2007

Open, Open, Open… Access: getting published, discovered and read

Writing about web page http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/guidance/authors.html#whatoa

Open Access (OA) is about researchers getting maximum exposure for their research. What better way than to make research freely accessible to everybody?

Publishing in OA electronic journals is one way to do this. There are reputed OA journals with a high citation impact, but not every research paper is necessarily going to find a place in a suitable OA journal.

Self-archiving in a repository is another way of getting exposure. There are of course subject repositories, for subject-relevant research produced in any institution, and there are institutional repositories as well, for any research produced in the researcher’s institution.

Not all subjects will have a decent repository somewhere. So, the easiest way for researchers to get exposure for their research and therefore maximise the chances of it getting read and cited is to use the institutional repository (IR) of their employing institution.

Yes, it is as simple as that. The IR manager takes care that the repository data about the paper is optimised in such a way that makes it discoverable by those searching around the topic.

Or is it not so simple? Authors should not have to sign off their right to self-archive their research for the sake of getting published by a particular journal. The RoMEO directory allows authors to compare the copyright policies of different journals or publishers and then check directly the most updated version of the policy by linking directly to their sites.

Funding bodies are increasingly mandating self-archiving of the research they fund. A list of these is kept on the JULIET pages, besides the information of RoMEO.

Many academic researchers will also be doing some teaching. There are initiatives to provide open access to course materials.

One such initiative has coined the term Open CourseWare. An example of an institution going Open on its teaching materials is MIT: http://www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/news/2184062/mit-puts-entire-curriculum


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