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August 21, 2018

Where in the World…?

Over the weekend I had a brief discussion with the other Dr Johnson in my house, who was asking me various questions about Exchanges, its metrics and readership. Okay, truth be told I started the conversation by wondering aloud about various aspects of our multiple audiences [1], as it’s a topic never too far from my mind, even on a road trip to the far south of the UK. I should mention, Mrs the Dr Johnson is a remote-sensing satellite and environmental monitoring specialist at another Midlands university, and I suspect tends to perceive the world through a geographic lens. Hence the construction of her question and interest. I’ll confess it wasn’t something I could immediately answer while driving down the M40, beyond making an assumption that our to-date core audience was located in and around Warwick, and perhaps Monash, given our concentration of editors and authors from those locations.

GA Map of the WorldAs I’ve discussed before, one of my (many) ambitions for Exchanges is to broaden the range of its audiences [2], and thinking about what we can find about the current audiences isn’t a bad place to start. I’ve two principal tools at my disposal for gathering this sort of data: Google Analytics (GA) and the Open Journal System’s (OJS) inbuilt statistics generator. The former looks a lot slicker and can churn out some pretty illuminating graphics at the click of a mouse, the latter’s UI and outputs are a lot more ‘web 1.0’ - in that creating a custom report is not a facile exercise and the platform spits out reams of largely unformatted, hard, numerical data. Both tools have their places in my working practices, for example at times it’s handy to have access and manipulate raw data, and GA doesn’t make scraping that in its entirety quite as easy. Conversely, when I need an illustrative graphic in short order for a presentation or report, GA is the tool I turn to.

The $64,000 question: does their data correlate? The answer is yes…and no. Broadly there’s some alignment, but the figures each one has presented me with are reasonably different in exact value if similar in relative magnitude. Given the issues with generating comparable data over the same period [3] it comes as no surprise to me that variance in ranking beyond the ‘big three’ UK, USA and Australia [4] exists. Perhaps more interesting are those countries which appear in one but not the other analytical tool’s top 10.

Geographic Ranking by Accesses to Exchanges (2013-2018)

Google Analytics Open Journal Systems
1 United Kingdom United States
2 United States United Kingdom
3 Australia Australia
4 India Vietnam
5 Canada France
6 Vietnam Russia
7 Germany Germany
8 South Korea South Korea
9 Philippines India
10 Italy Italy

(countries appearing in both lists highlighted)

This might suggest, given GA has been running for less time than OJS’ current platform, that Canada and the Philippines are new and expanding audiences for Exchanges, with France and Russia diminishing. However, the precision in the time spans over which this data was gathered are both too limited to make such sweeping conclusions [5]. It is pleasing to see some non-Anglophone usage though in both charts, especially considering our sole language of publication is English.

Anyway, no matter the deeper implications of this very light touch look at Exchanges’ user statistics, I think I’ve at least answered part of Mrs Dr Johnson’s question about from where in the world our usage has originated. Naturally, this beggars another question which I can’t immediately answer: where SHOULD our audiences for the journal be coming from? As always, answers in the comments below please…



[1] Readers, authors, potential authors, stakeholders and more…I’m still work on defining these

[2] Does the ISS have an ISP I can track? If it has, another mission is to get this journal read in orbit!

[3] These issues are multiple. For examples, with OJS, when we moved to the newer version last year this, regrettably, seemed to ‘reset’ the statistics for the platform. We’ve a back record of these, but it’s no longer possible run off a complete set since the journal began. Likewise with Google Analytics, we’ve not had this running the whole time the platform has been up, so there’s going to be a temporal discrepancy there too. Added to that neither platform counts or creates its statistics in the same way, without a LOT of lengthy post-processing and normalisation, for normal usage there are always going to be disagreements on the ‘exact’ magnitude of visitations. Just one of the reasons as a qualitative researcher, I tend to maintain a certain analytical cynicism wherever ‘statistics’ are used to justify something: there’s always likely flaws, assumptions and simplifications in the underlying data acquisition methods!

[4] These make up 58.4% (GA) or 77.7% (OJS) of all usage

[5] It is possible I could make the data collection time frames marry better, but I’m still developing an understanding on how OJS works ‘under the hood’ in this respect. Something to return to at a later date, perhaps.

June 28, 2018

Radicalising OA: Initial Post–Conference Thoughts

Writing about web page

Theatre signThis week I attend the 2nd Radical Open Access (OA) Conference: The Ethics of Care (#radicalOA2), hosted by The Post Office (no, not that one) at Coventry University [1]. I was a little surprised to discover this was only the second radical OA conference, as I had attended the previous one a few years earlier during my PhD journey. I had rather assumed I’d missed a few in-between events during, but turns out I hadn’t, which was to my considerable delight. I was attending in part to support my ongoing research interests in the open academic publishing field; alongside seeking inspiration, insight and stimulation as an editor. In both these respects the conference delivered.

As with all good conferences, I made and renewed acquaintances with valuable peers, alongside being able to remind myself I’m not the only one railing at inequities within legacy and open access publishing environs [2]. It was also refreshing to be reminded how much I still don’t know about this evolving field and how much there is to understand, alongside uncovering some great practice and theory around OA along the way. I have the slight advantage that I came to OA as a practitioner first and a researcher second, and continue to have a foot in both camps. It certainly helps to have my more pragmatic, workaday instincts talking to me, alongside my idealist and ideological ones, when decoding and reflecting on what was discussed.

That said, I’m still in a process of post-conference reflection. There was so much good stuff packed into the two days, I suspect it will be a while before I fully process this into an enriched understanding of the discussions. One advantage which will help with these intellectual processes, alongside my own copious notes and extensive tweeting via personal and professional avatars, were the session pamphlets published alongside the conference. These were available for purchase during the event, but naturally are also freely available on the web. I’ll be going back over these pamphlets with some not inconsiderable interest over the next few days, along with following up on more than one of the articles and texts speakers recommended.

Key takeaways were many, but the few which really resonate in my memory are:

  • The terminology ‘predatory publishing’ is increasingly considered either weasel words, pejorative or quite simply loaded with culturally intolerable semantics. The impact of some ‘predatory OA’ tools in diminishing non-global north or non-Anglophone OA publishing and research discourse, is a lamentable outcome. Terming them trash or fake journals seemed more acceptable labelling.
  • The intertwined abuse of ‘authoritative’ metrics and trash titles, was an utter eye opener. I’ve never been a fan of metrics [3], but the conference has introduced me to a greater conceptual lexicon and rationale for their inadequacy as proxy measures.
  • Exciting, non-linear, multi-media and iteratively quality assured publications are a possibility (although there’s considerable work ‘under the hood’ required to make a ‘definitive’ output, where one is desired).
  • Skype presentations can broaden your speaker geographic reach while making limited demands on travel budgets and individual time. However, as an approach it diminishes the opportunity to engage with the speakers informally for delegates. And the less said about the technical risks of degraded audio-visual playback the better.
  • I still am no clearer what the term ‘poethics’ actually means after 90 minutes of discussions! [4]

    Once I’ve been back over my notes, I’ll attempt to draw together some deeper conclusions on how all of this ‘radical’ discourse might have some direct and concrete implications on how/why/where we take Exchanges over the coming years. As always, watch this space as I continue to explore our own corner of the scholar-led OA publishing field.


    [1] In what was the hottest location I’ve been to in this country for some time. 27C outside, was a refreshing change from the interior temperature. However, the food was excellent and the conference content well worth enduring the slight discomfort.

    [2] I talked a bit about the ‘subversion of OA by the neoliberalised university’ in my thesis.

    [3] To the degree that I once talked myself out of a promising post during the interview when asked my opinion on the measurement of academic esteem.

    [4] File this alongside my derth of comprehension on hermeneutics, structuralism and phenomenology

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