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January 05, 2012

ebooks and academic Libraries

Writing about web page http://ow.ly/8gnxF

Terry Bucknell's presentation on combined book and journal deals for libraries summarises publishing change: http://ow.ly/8gnxF

Some key points from his presentation:

- "If it’s not online it doesn’t exist"... students are using e-journals because they are available. A huge simplification of Terry's point is that in the past, journals were for researchers and books were for undergraduates. In the electronic world, "Discovery tools search books & journals together" so undergraduates can find content appropriate to their need.

- MARC records with tables of contents and blurbs of books included are helping users to find materials on the Library catalogue. Publishers providing chapter level metadata help to make the book chapter as discoverable as the journal article.

- Liverpool's collection policy is to go for electronic wherever possible, to favour DRM free stuff (ie books where users can print more than one chapter!) and to support current teaching and research, not to build a collection for the long term. Liverpool don't buy content when it is published but when it is needed because in the electronic environment, items don't disappear from availability like in the past when print books when out of print.

- Liverpool don't use the same kinds of funding formulas as other University libraries, where book budgets are based on departments and numbers of students, etc. They kept creating new pots, top slicing from their faculty/department budget allocations for new researchers, etc and decided to change their funding formula altogether: they have one budget for purchases and one for subscriptions. They try not to distinguish between journal and book subscriptions.

The University expects the Library to spend throughout the year rather than saving up and negotiating with departments to buy big collections at the end of the year, so they need to have a larger pot in any case and this larger single budget removes the need to get departments and faculties to reach agreement. They like to buy whole electronic collections from publishers as this is efficient for them and is easy for users to understand.

- Lots of libraries are interested in Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) but Terry seems to prefer taking on a whole collection with a negotiated level of access.

What sorts of deals should publishers be offering to academic Libraries?!


December 15, 2011

Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: journals

Follow-up to Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: books from Library Research Support

This is the second (final) part of my write-up of the Springer Authors' workshop, held on 30th November 2011 at the Research Exchange. The workshop itself covered a great deal more than the themes I have picked out here and these are my own highlights.

What type of journal does Springer publish?

Springer publishes many journal titles (visit their website for details: here is a link to their Author Academy), including some society journals which cover the same subjects as their own titles. Authors and readers in that subject can benefit from Springer's involvement in both journal titles, ensuring that they are complementary to each other.

Types of journals published by Springer include:

  • Society journals
  • Professional journals
  • Review journals
  • Open Access / Hybrid journals

Choosing a journal: Impact factors

Authors may want to use impact factors (IFs) as a guide to the quality of a journal: there was an interesting slide of the mean impact factors for different subjects, with 1 being average for Economics and 3 for Biomechanical Methods, for example.

Impact factors alone don't help much to differentiate between journals because you need to know what's good for your own subject area, and quite often all the journals you are interested in are likely to be around the same whole figure, as impact factors are displayed on Web of Knowledge to three decimal places. So you'll probably need to consider a lot more than just impact factors as an author:

Choosing a journal: Other factors

  1. Different impact factors. This wasn't a part of the workshop but I recommend authors to read about the different types of impact factors and journal rankings available, so that they an understand which "score" reflects the features of most relevance to them. The traditional two year impact factor published by Thomson Reuters in their Journal Citation Reports is the one most often referred to, but it is certainly not the only one you can look up, for a journal.
  2. Look out for download rates advertised on publisher websites. I don't think it is possible to actually browse, filter or sort journal titles by download rates on SpringerLink, but you can see which articles in a journal are most downloaded on the journal home page at Springer, because these are available for free and they show the actual download numbers of these most highly downloaded articles. This sort of thing might help you to differentiate between two journals if you can't quite choose!
  3. Rejection rates: see section below...
  4. Time to publication: see section below...
  5. Not only journals: some other routes are described below.
  6. Marketing resources and activity of the publisher, for your work.

Of course there are lots more factors than this, some of which were covered in the Springer workshop itself and some of which I cover in my own workshop. But anyway, these are some key points.

Rejection/acceptance rates

My notes say that authors should expect a rejection rate from high quality journals of around 70% and that any drop in this rate has a corresponding drop in impact factor of the journal, and that the impact factor drops quite significantly before the rejection rate does fall below 70%.

This is probably a good guiding principle for authors to know what to expect, especially for those in Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) disciplines, although I would expect a handful of exceptions and a little variability and of course PLoS One springs to my mind as a blog article at the Scholarly kitchen from 2010 reported that they have an acceptance rate of nearly 70% and a "stunning" impact factor of 4.351. I checked the latest IF of PLoS One and it's at 4.411

I usually warn authors that when/if they find out rejection rates, they may need to check what this actually means: for some journals it is the number of articles turned away in total and for others it is the number turned away after peer review, even though they also turn articles away without peer review. Articles sent back for revision are probably not be counted as rejected, even though authors may feel that they are not being accepted!

Catherine Cotton suggested that the rejection rate without even peer review might be as high as 50% of articles, and that authors could avoid such rejections by making sure that their article is within the journal's advertised aims and scope, and by following the instructions for authors. Some editors with thousands of articles to wade through might reject an article for not being formatted properly. It sounds a little harsh but it makes sense if your journal is inundated: authors who are determined to get published should fit their article to the journal they are approaching.

Tips for getting accepted

Other than ensuring that your article fits the aims and scope of the journal and is formatted according to instructions, you can:

  • Make your abstract exciting! Explain what your article brings to knowledge in this area.
  • Include a covering letter tailored to the editor/journal you are approaching.
  • Make it easy for the editor to notice and remember your article.

I'm not sure how to achieve the last tip exactly, but I guess if you can introduce yourself to an editor at a conference or any other opportunity, and perhaps make a good impression then it might help a little.

There were also some interesting slides on plagiarism and ethical considerations for authors, around how they should be careful of how they slice their own work for publication: authors should be sure to read submission agreements

It all takes time...

Authors can look out for advertised "Time to first decision". This is the decision as to whether the article is put into the peer review process or not, and is only advertised by the very top journals at the moment.

Springer take an average of three weeks from acceptance to publication (OnlineFirst), and this includes 7-8 days for the author proofing stage. This is only an average figure: authors should really be looking at the time taken at the journal they wish to be published in, but perhaps this average will give them a perspective as to whether things are taking longer than usual!

Other routes to take/work you can do!

  • Become a peer reviewer if you can because this will:
  1. raise your profile with a journal publisher: it demostrates that you contribute ,
  2. increase your understanding of the publishing process,
  3. bring cutting edge research to your attention before it is published,
  4. and it could be a step towards getting onto an editorial board.
  • But if you do peer review, you should know that editors can see data about how long you take to review and so on, so make sure you use it as a way to show your commitment and time management at its best!
  • Create/edit a special issue or section for work that doesn't fit well in the mainstream journal scope. This will raise your profile as you will get to write the editorial. It will also be good experience for understanding the publishing process. To get such an opportunity you will need to be able to demonstrate that can co-ordinate the work of other academics and get stuff done, so experience of having organised a symposium or similar event might help.
  • If you organise a symposium, then you could also seek to get the proceedings published.

Look out for:

  • SpringerVideo - a bit like YouTube but for serious content. Another channel for disseminating your research?
  • SpringerTheses - a series which is a publication route/competition for the best PhD theses.
  • SpringerBriefs - for scholarly items longer than a journal article but shorter than a book
  • Author mapper - great for tracking which authors have co-authored with others in Springer journals.
  • Springer Images - an image library: some free content but also plenty more that you can pay to use!


  • Latex Search - search for equations in scholarly texts. Not so relevant to authors but still pretty nifty!
  • SpringerExemplar - a tool in beta at present, where you can look up words in scientific context and track them as trends in Springer's scholarly literature.

December 13, 2011

Springer Authors' workshop at Warwick: books

We invited Springer to run an authors' workshop in the Research Exchange on 30th November. I learnt lots... this is a summary of the stuff relating to book publication, with some of my thoughts and extra links thrown in. More to come on other themes!

why write a book?

It can make your name in your field, even if it isn't going to be a publication that will count towards the UK's Research Excellence Framework.

Also, don't forget that books are now being included into a citation index published by Thomson Reuters, publishers of Web of Knowledge and the Journal Citation Reports which have held so much sway over the journal publishing sector with their impact factors based on citations data. Books also accrue citations on Google Scholar, and so they are certainly not to be dismissed as a career-raising way to publish your work: you will be able to track those who cite your book(s) and others may also do this in future.

Electronic format: e-books

Springer are really going for e-book publication and if you're an author with a current book proposal then, if it is accepted for publication by Springer, it's more than likely to become an e-book. Springer's e-books are published in html and pdf format now, and we can look forward to ePub format next year.

Why do we want ePub? Well, it's an open standard format and it's the format used by iPads, Sony ebook readers and others to help you in handling the text so that you can download an entire text and read it comfortably. Kindles use a proprietary format instead of ePub, which is why folks buy all their Kindle content from Amazon... but that is for another blog post!

E-book download statistics from the University of Liverpool's study indicate that books published in all years are well used, whilst the traditional publishing cycle would see older titles selling less and less well, dwindling into ignonimity with age! So, e-book publication looks like a good option for authors who want to ensure that their work is going to be available to scholars in the (at least slightly) longer term.

Before e-books, scholars have had to visit libraries and archives that have carefully built and curated print collections of valuable knowledge waiting to be discovered, and to hunt down their own copies in second hand book shops! Now it seems that e-books will open up access to scholarly research, making it more easily discoverable and readable, although I'm watching with interest to see how we can handle longer term preservation issues for e-books.

Future generations may miss the joy of discovering gems while browsing shelves, but I'm sure that they will have their own joys instead. Perhaps one will be finding the one thing of true value amongst the plethora of digital information we are now busy creating!

Rise of a new kind of research monograph?

E-books could also be the answer to the reported decline in monograph sales. I couldn't find the THE article referenced in the workshop but it's been written about many times that publishers nowadays might only expect to sell around 200 copies of a research monograph. This study by CIBER at UCL covers such themes: there are many likely reasons for such a decline, such as the restrictions on Library budgets just as journal subscription costs have risen so much. Others have pointed to the consequences of the RAE and REF in the UK and other countries' similar exercises such as the ERA in Australia, and their emphasis on journal article publication. I believe that it might also be because of the plethora of research to be published and the guys from Springer did point out the rise in research outputs from South America and Asia these days: these can increasingly be found online.

Whatever the reason for the decline in traditional research monograph publication, that it exists is a problem for authors who wish to get published because publishers have not been so keen on investing in monograph publication, but the e-book offers hope to book authors because publishers are interested in this kind of publication.

I am intrigued as to whether author agreements for e-books are as favourable for authors as the traditional print publications: are the same kinds of agreements used? Something I might investigate one day!

E-books offer new types of format and possibilities. Springer have launched a different series called "Springer Briefs" for publications of around 50-125 pages: this would not normally be considered long enough for a monograph (200-250 pages would be more normal, for a Springer book) but it's too long for most journal articles so there are new possibilities in the electronic format. This is one of the simplest variations on a book that is possible in the electronic environment, in my view, and I've always thought that e-book readers rather restrict the possibilities for research books in electronic format, but again, it's a space that I'm watching with interest!

print on demand & copies

In theory, with print-on-demand, books need never go out of print again and we could have lots more print copies of books floating around as they will be made affordable through library subscriptions. This is the model available at the moment with Springer. Libraries like ours at the University of Warwick subscribe to Springer's ebook material and our members/readers can access that material online at no cost to themselves but they can also pay to have a print copy created especially for them, if they want one. Since the intellectual property has already been paid for by licence then the fee paid by the reader for a print copy is not astronomical: approximately £22, apparently. It's a price that sounds good in comparison with some text books which can cost upwards of £100 but also not good in comparison with many titles available on Amazon for your Kindle! And not good when you're a cash strapped student struggling to find your University fees...

For old titles, second-hand bookshops are still likely to be cheaper, and I never thought to ask at the time whether the print-on-demand copies might be passed on to others on the second-hand market. They have their own separate isbns so they would be identifiable from any traditional print runs of the same title.

When it comes to saving and downloading copies for your personal use from e-books, Springer are fairly generous in comparison with some other e-book publishers, in not applying restrictions. Readers ought to still be respectful of copyright laws, but it's nice that Springer aren't creating so many barriers.

Although, perhaps one of the biggest barriers of all to electronic content could be that libraries won't be able to share their collections with walk-in users in future, if they are mostly electronic. Retired academics, conference attendees and researchers from other institutions here to access our archive are not going to be able to access all these e-book titles under many current Library licencing arrangements. Although I can't comment on Springer's licence arrangements as I haven't read them: it's just a general concern about e-books that I have.

discovery of e-books

We've had e-journal access for some years and the Springer presentation pointed out that whereas most e-journal accesses are coming from search engines, most e-book accesses are coming from library catalogues. Good news for libraries, perhaps: our role as guides to information seems to be continuing, but I am watching Google Books and Amazon developments very carefully! (Not part of the Springer presentation, but Amazon are apparently selling more e-books than print books in the US: Guardian article on ebook sales)

writing a book proposal

Some tips from the workshop:

  • include endorsement(s) for your book from prominent scholars in the field in your proposal
  • know the market: who might buy your book? Is it going to be a text book, or for professionals, or a reference work, or are you looking at a monograph to be sold to libraries and why might they buy it?
  • know related titles and other content.

What kind of book are you proposing?

  • part of a series?
  • a monograph where you are the sole author?
  • an edited book?
  • a reference work?

copy editing: costs to the author?

Assuming that your book proposal is accepted, you cannot expect extensive copy editing from Springer. They don't want to interfere with the intellectual content, so if you can produce polished text yourself then great, but if not then you might wish to pay for someone to copy edit your work.

Also, if your book is going to be published in a traditional print run and you want colour illustrations then this is a cost that publishers like Springer may pass on to you as the author. If you can be happy with black and white or with electronic only, then perhaps it won't be a cost.

Finally...

Springer offer a discount of a third off the cost of their books, to their authors: if you're an author, it sounds like it is worth investigating, and I believe they said that it applies to authors of journal articles as well...


September 22, 2011

Sage publisher: consulting with Libraries

I attended Sage's "Library board" on Tuesday. It was good to meet with the other librarians there and to share experiences with them and also to hear more about Sage's work. I've separated my notes into those two areas, below.

Library stuff:

I found the University of Leeds' reading lists/multiple copies policy interesting: their academics put reading lists onto the institution's VLE and then a custom built system uses these lists to check against the Library catalogue that there is at least one copy of every book. The way they decide to purchase additional copies is through monitoring the reservations on books, and they order more copies on a "just in time" basis. There was much discussion of "Patron Driven Acquisition". Also known as "Patron Led Acquisition": Universities of Sussex and Northampton use these kinds of systems for ordering new book stock.

Electronic content is creating issues for libraries where online course content links directly to items online and libraries ought not to cancel their access to those items because they have become integral to the course... except that libraries don't always know that such links have been made! This is especially crucial at the OU where courses are delivered remotely and where their library is getting rid of print. Tracking such links in course content is likely to be a priority for many libraries in the future, as more and more of our content is provided online.

Librarians reported that our role is not only about providing services in these days of restricted budgets, but also about proving the value of those services. Researchers need to be provided with skills to critically evaluate not only content but also the tools or "products" available to them, rather than being taught how to use each database or source available to them. There are simply too many tools for a librarian to know about and teach every tool a researcher might use.

Sage stuff:

Sage reported that their textbook programme is growing. Sage have always been strong in the social sciences and they are expanding into Medicine and Engineering. They are investigating "innovative new library products". I noted that this is "products" and not "content", and the difference between content and a product as I see it, is the service and functionality around the content that enables readers and researchers to access it and exploit it to best effect. I believe that librarians have a lot to offer publishers in the development of such products, but also to researchers in terms of ways to get the most from the sophisticated new products which enable new kinds of research possibilities, keeping researchers up to date with the latest in information management techniques and tools.

Sage are offering community sites for researchers: I had a quick look at their Methodspace (http://www.methodspace.com/) which I could probably investigate further. It adds to the clutter of sites and tools online competing for researchers attention, in my opinion, but I guess researchers will vote with their feet!

Sage Journals Online is being made available on a mobile phone friendly site (some titles are already available: the rest wil be by the end of this year), which users can log into via Shibboleth, which is the mechanism that all Warwick's resources are accessed via nowadays, in any case.


August 02, 2011

ePublishing and ePublications – social media and scholars

Writing about web page http://www.digitalist.info/2011/07/12/social-media-and-the-academy-part-1/

One of our Academic Support Librarians, Emma Cragg has a great blog and she's written about a recent conference on this theme, in two blog posts. I've linked to part one, from where you can link to part two as well. Topics covered at the 5th Bloomsbury Conference on ePublishing and ePublications include the Virtual Research Environment; executable papers where you can add your own data to a paper which applies the same methodology and generates a new paper; academics who blog; libraries in this digital, connected world; PLoS online journal features; Mendeley.

Read all about it on Emma's blog!


July 15, 2011

Orphan works: who owns the copryight?

Writing about web page http://zine.openrightsgroup.org/hargreaves/orphan-works:-the-cultural-heritage-perspective

This online article offers a good overview of the orphan works problem facing those who are diligent in trying to track down copyright owners before making copies. It is also something that we get enquiries on from time to time in the Library and in the Modern Records Centre, when we have items in our collection that others want to copy.

Basically, we don't own the copyright, even though we might own the items, so we can't grant permission for your school publication or scholarly article or whatever piece you're producing to include that image from the ancient black-and-white photograph or crumbly old journal! If it's that old, it might be out of copyright, of course... that's another story.

We are likely to face the same problem when it comes to content in the institutional repository: Warwick's own WRAP does not require that copyright is granted to the University, nor can visitors to WRAP make copies of the items in there, excepting as copyright law already allows. No licence is granted to the reader. It is literally an online archive: a place to find and consult stuff.

People often misunderstand open access and believe that it means that the items can be further copied. Some open access repositories do have a deposit agreement incorporating a copyright licence which might grant further copying. Some open access journals do make content available along with a licence which allows copies to be made for certain purposes. But open access does not mean copyright free!

Getting authors to grant copyright upon deposit was one hurdle too far when we started with WRAP: it was deemed to be difficult enough to persuade them to deposit at all. It is something that we always hoped to introduce to the deposit process later though, as more authors became aware of and used to the concept of institutional repository deposit. In the digital age it seems to be more important than ever that we can record and assert copyright. I'm a huge fan of Creative Commonslicences.

As we get used to this complex copyright environment then I think it will become more realistic to expect people to grant licences upon deposit of content and to read the agreements they're signing when they use online hosting services, and perhaps event to vote with their feet by avoiding services which claim too much. One day, orphan works might become a problem of the past, even if it will only be because global corporations which provide our Internet tools have claimed it all for themselves ;-)

What confuses me most is actually the items which are old enough to be out of copyright but where an extension has been granted. But as I said, that's another story!


June 30, 2011

Getting published

Writing about web page http://www.uk.sagepub.com/journalgateway/getPublished.htm

I used this title for a workshop that I ran for research staff earlier in the year. I ran similar sessions for PhD students as well, although I called them Disseminating your Research and included some consideration of blogs and microblogs. I'll be re-designing these sessions over the summer and hopefully they will run again next academic year in some guise or another.

I really like Sage's author gateway and they have a section by this title. I think there's an awful lot to getting published beyond what either I or this guide could cover, but I also hear that the secret to getting published can be summed up in one word: Persistence!


June 06, 2011

Alt–metrics – aren't bibliometrics enough? What are you talking about?!

Writing about web page http://www.academicproductivity.com/2010/alt-metrics-a-manifesto/#more-2053

The blog entry I've linked to is a really good summary of reasons we need to move on from bibliometrics alone and the changes that are happening in the scholarly publishing processes. A worthwhile read!


March 28, 2011

Do you know your publishing rights?

Writing about web page http://www.open-access.org.uk/

"Recently, some publishers have sought to negotiate directly with universities and research institutes on the terms and conditions under which the authors can deposit manuscripts of their own papers into repositories..."

This is an excerpt from a statement by the UK Open Access Implementation Groupwhich you can read in full at: http://213.133.67.199/open-access/?page_id=258

Who sould negotiate over publication rights for an author's work?!


January 18, 2011

Reasons for Open Access: "Publishers withdraw 2500 journals from free access scheme in Bangladesh

Writing about web page http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d196

This story, as reported in the BMJ illustrates exactly why we need open access and the publishers' reassurances that they support developing countries with free access and special subscription deals are not all to be taken seriously. They are in business to make money and they are not organisations for the public good!

Open Access publication is the only way to make content available for free at the point of reading. There is a lot of information about Open Access publishing on the library's website at: http://go.warwick.ac.uk/lib-openaccess


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