23 December 2012

Can Google Alerts be trusted?

The notion of trusting Google becomes more and more unlikely. I've been using the Alert service since December 2011 to monitor the news on e-books, in the expectation that we might get some funding for research on the subject. However,when I started to analyse the data recently, I discovered that there appears to be a maximum count of 45 items in any one Alert - in fact in 36 out of 59 days examined so far this was the case - and no day exceeded 45 items.

Using the service to try to discover trends in news reporting, therefore, is made impossible, since one will never know the "true" number of items published, or even discovered by Google's spiders. As far as I can discover, there is no information on the Alerts site about any such limitation. When one couples this problem with the further difficulty that Google covers much more of the US news than anywhere else in the world it become difficult to treat the service seriously.

03 November 2012

The U.S. election

It would be comforting to believe that the American people could not be so stupid as to elect yet another right-wing millionaire bent on destroying what is left of the public sphere, but, sadly, history teaches us otherwise. After Reagen's disastrous handling of the economy (and his abandonment of the 'balance' rule in the media, which allows Fox News to pour out its poisonous rubbish), which saw only the rich getting richer, Clinton managed to turn things around and actually leave an economy in credit. All that was swept away by Bush, whose sole political aim seemed to be to keep his rich friends happy. Obama has had Congress stacked against him, preventing the implementation of perfectly sensible strategies for dealing with the mess left by Bush, and now it seems that half of the voters in the USA want to trust the management of the country to another Republican. From outside the USA this seems unbelievable, but it seems that memories are short in the USA - this guy didn't manage to do enough to get us back on track, so let another muffin-headed playboy have a go! What has all this to do with a foreigner, you might ask? Well, Bush's mis-management of the economy and de-regulation of the financial service industry brought about the collapse than now sees a number of European countries on the rack - do you imagine that they want another Bush?

19 October 2012

Information Research - reader survey

I've been conducting a survey of Information Research readers. For various reasons the respondents are largely self-selected, so no thorough statistical analysis is possible. However, 58 persons report having published in Information Research and one of the things I was interested to learn about was the extent to which authors are being pressured in their institutions into submitting only to certain 'high quality' (i.e., high Impact Factor) journals.

Twenty-six of the respondents said that they were subject to such pressure (51% of those responding to the question) and, of these, twenty-one, or 81%) said that Information Research was on the list of recommended journals.

I am fundamentally opposed to the idea that only high Impact Factor journals publish 'high quality' papers, but, given the trend, it is good to know that the quality of contributions to the journal is recognized. Perhaps the availability of this kind of information will provide a lever to exert some pressure on those institutions that do not at present recognize the quality of the journal.

06 October 2012

The Apple Maps disaster

What on earth possessed Apple to dump Google Maps in favour of its own system, which they appear to have bought from a Canadian company without any due diligence? If any quality testing had been done it would have revealed the numerous problems that people have already experienced. Apparently, if you live in New York, or San Francisco, it's fine. Anywhere else and you are likely to find that noted local landmarks don't exist, or have moved 20 miles down the road. I'm no apologist for Google and there is always the problem, as we have seen with iGoogle, that the company can pull a service without any regard for how many people depend upon it, so perhaps Apple is right to find an alternative. But finding an alternative without adequate testing is so sloppy as to make one wonder whose decision it was. As an example of the problems: the city of Boras in Sweden is about the 7th biggest in the country and yet Apple Maps can't locate the public library - although it does so without difficulty in other parts of the country, and it does locate the art gallery, which is in the same building. (It has to be said, however, that Google Maps locates it about a kilometer away in a temporary location it moved from a year ago.) The restaurants and cafes shown are out of date and the university is shown in three locations, one of which is completely wrong - the location of one of its schools, the Textilhogskolan is not shown at all, although it is the leading textile school in Sweden and is in a separate location. In other words, if you live in New York - fine; if you live pretty well anywhere else in the world, go back to Google Maps in your browser and wait until they have their own app for the iPad.

17 September 2012

Information Research and browsers

Not being an Internet Explorer user it has taken me some time to discover that this browser doesn't render the Information Research pages correctly. It seems that IE is not fully compatible with HTML5. I use a Mac and find that the pages are fine with Firefox, Safari and Chrome - but I can't account for what happens with IE . Both Firefox and Chrome are OK in Windows, so get yourselves a better browser if you find problems with IE :-) Given Google's attitude towards its iGoogle users, I can't recommend Chrome, but Firefox is fine. Unfortunately, Safari 6 is not supported for Windows and it seems that Apple is not going to produce a Windows version - a pity, I find it a very good browser for the Mac and use it in preference to anything else.

11 September 2012

Why isn't everyone using genuine open access?

I have just been writing the editorial for the new issue of Information Research, to be published on Thursday. In the course of doing this I decided to take a look at the Google Analytics data for the site and I find that the top page of the site (http://informationr.net) had almost half-a-million hits in the past twelve months, while the top page of the journal (http://informationr.net/ir/) had close to 800,000. The most hit issue was volume 8 number 1, with more than 50,000 hits, and the most hit paper was one by Chun Wei Choo, on environmental scanning - more than 31,000 hits. According to the counter on the page, the paper has had a total of 190,345 hits and Google Scholar tells me that it has 158 citations, giving a cites/hits ratio of a little more than 1,200. Some day I must do a thorough study of this relationship :-)

However, what is the point of this? Well, in total, Information Research and its individual papers, plus the book reviews (which aren't counted in the process) must be totalling more than two million hits a year. Individual papers are getting thousands of hits and in some cases tens of thousands of hits and, if we can generalise (which we can't!) from the Choo case, for every 1200 hits you are getting a citation. And you can check on this with the counter information and the link to Google Scholar provided on the site.

Can any other journal in the field boast this kind of exposure? If not, why aren't you and other academics demanding the genuinely free and open mode of access that I call platinum! No author charges and no subscription charges give you maximum exposure of your work to a world-wide audience - and yet you continue to publish in commercially managed journals that close off your work from the world at large unless you pay for it to be open. Is this crazy economics or what?

02 September 2012


When I was teaching (it seems aeons ago!) I used to share with students the little conceit that photocopying was an alternative to reading. I proposed that some osmotic process meant that when a photocopy was put in a bag or a briefcase to be "read at home", something strange happened. Although the photocopy was never actually read, the information content leaked into the bag, and migrated through the handle up into one's brain.

The same thing may be happening with e-books: it is so easy to download all those books you feel you ought to have read, from the Gutenberg Project site. There they nestle (if that's what the zeros and ones can be thought of doing) in the memory of your iPad or e-readers and, because you know that they are immediately available for reading, you never actually read them. But you know them, because you've read about them. Somehow, also, there's an information leakage from the device into your brain and before long you find yourself deleting them because you no longer need to read them.

Giving up on Google

Google's abandonment of the millions of users of its home page feature, iGoogle, is a wake up call. The company motto of 'do no evil', is clearly a sham, as it's adventures in China and other matters have indicated. This event, which has angered thousands of people who have taken to the online forums to express their dismay has resulted in not a single response from the company, telling us, loud and clear, that it is just another corporate giant that can't be trusted to continue to deliver what we've come to rely upon. So, what is it like to do without Google? As it happens, not bad.

I have now switched almost entirely: instead of iGoogle, I now use Protopage and I find that I like it more and more - it makes iGoogle seem rather old fashioned and clunky.

I'm also in the process of switching from Gmail to Outlook.com - at least I know that Microsoft is just as likely to screw me as is Google, but when it is expected, I can live with it.

I have been using Chrome as my primary browser, but, now that Safari has the same kind of "omni-bar" (address and search box in one), I no longer use Chrome and have switched permanently to Safari.

And for a search engine, Duckduckgo is proving to be perfectly satisfactory (in spite of its silly name). I like the uncluttered presentation of results and, again, this makes it look rather more sophisticated than Google. And Microsoftk's Academic Search, serves as a reasonable alternative to Scholar.Google.

So, now is the time to switch, folks: let's give Google a kick in the pants to remind it of its commitment, still standing proud on its company page:
#1: Focus on the user and all else will follow.
Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line.
How's that for irony!

27 August 2012

Thoughts on open access - again

The BOAI forum has had a number of posts regarding the RCUK decision on funding open access through author charges. Today's Independent, in an article on the UK Health (!) Secretary caving in to the fast food industry, has a comment from Professor Simon Capewell, who served on the Health Secretary's Public Health Commission when the Tories were in opposition:
It is breathtaking that when deciding on public health policy in relation to food you should be sitting around the table with the very people who make large amounts of money from selling this stuff.
Does that remind anyone of anything?

11 August 2012

"Do no evil"?

There were a couple of bits of news the other day that relate directly and indirectly to Google (which is currently taking a lot of flack for its decision to abandon iGoogle, used by millions of people as their home page). First, there was the announcement:
Google is to pay a record $22.5m (£14.4m) fine to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US after it tracked users of Apple's iPhone, iPad and Mac computers by circumventing privacy protections on the Safari web browser for several months at the end of 2011 and into 2012.
The fine is the largest paid by one company to the FTC, which imposed a 20-year privacy order on Google in March 2010 after concerns about the launch of its ill-fated Buzz social network.
and the other:
A petition demanding that Google pays its “fair share” of tax has attracted nearly 40,000 signatures in just two days as anger over the internet giant’s avoidance of tax in the UK grows.
The petition began as a direct reaction to revelations which emerged this week showing that Google paid the Exchequer £6m on a turnover of £395m last year.
This suggests that Google's aim to "do no evil" is nothing but a marketing slogan and, like most such slogans has no real effect on what is just another big corporation intent on maximising profits at the expense of others. And among those who suffer from the tax avoidance of the bankers and major corporations (Amazon is another that manages to pay less tax in the UK than it ought to, by channelling sales through an offshore company) are children. How about these statistics, Larry (Page) and Jeffrey (Bezos):
The proportion of children living in poverty grew from 1 in 10 in 1979 to 1 in 3 in 1998.
Today, 30 per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty.
The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world
This is what your tax avoidance contributes to.

10 August 2012

Unpaid work

Like most academics I get frequent requests from commercial publishers to review papers and manuscripts of books. For the latter some meagre payment is generally offered and, unless the author is a personal acquaintance, I decline. In the case of journal papers I now have a standard response:
"Thank you for your enquiry: my daily rate for this kind of work is £400 and I estimate that what you require will take a couple of day's work. If you would confirm your acceptance of this rate of payment, I shall be happy to oblige."
Needless to say, I usually hear nothing more :-) Now, if we all replied in this manner, I wonder how long the commercial domination of scholarly publishing would last? I will, of course, review papers for genuine open access journals, i.e., those that levy neither subscriptions nor author charges.

29 July 2012

"Open Access"?

It seems that the research funders have capitulated to the pressure of the Finch report on scholarly publishing:

JISC and Wellcome Trust: Request for Proposals for a study into how best universities can be supported in dealing with new open access demands.

The Finch report has stated that universities will have to be increasingly efficient in the way they pay for open access publishing in the form of article processing charges (APCs).

In other words, author charging is now the officially accepted way of achieving so-called 'open access' which will be open only to those who can pay the vastly inflated charge to allow their papers to be viewed by all. And, given that commercial publishers are profit-oriented above all other considerations, we can guess that, if you can pay the fee, your paper will be accepted, with a nod to quality by finding referees who are prepared to say, "Well, it's not perfect, but..."

The signs that this is happening is found in the quality standards applied by those newly emerged "open access" publishers whose journals are filled with papers from the developing world, because the authors themselves or their institutions can find the dollars to exercise their feet in the academic rat race. The spam generated by these publishers is such that I have had to have delete filters in my e-mail to get rid of them—the spam filter doesn't catch them for some reason.

And who's to blame: ultimately, it is the timidity of the academic authors themselves. Instead of grasping the opportunity offered by the technology, they wait until someone does it for them; instead of collaborating to bring about change, they sit around and wait to be overwhelmed by it, instead of acting against the silliness of restricted journal lists for submission, imposed by their institutions or departments, they mildly grumble, but go along with it.

I consider myself very fortunate, as the Publisher and Editor of Information Research - a genuinely open access journal, to have gathered together a group of Associate Editors, copy-editors and referees, who contribute their services freely in return only for the personal satisfaction of aiding the open access movement. But ours is not the only field where this is possible: it can be done in any field and it will be to the eternal shame of academe if genuine open publishing does not take root.

Of course, the Finch working party is also to blame: with three members from the commercial publishing industry was the result going to be any different? And I must confess that I had never hear mention of Dame Janet Finch, either as an academic administrator or as a sociologist before this. Her field was family and kinship in modern Britain, and exactly how this fitted her to chair a Working Party on scholarly publishing is a mystery... or perhaps not, she is clearly one of the 'great and the good' who could be relied upon by Tory ministers to deliver the answer they wanted.

25 July 2012


I've had Flight to Arras by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on my shelves for some time, with excellent illustrations by Laurence Irving, and I finally got round to reading it. On the surface it is about a pointless reconnaissance over the enemy lines to Arras, at the beginning of the Second World War, but it is also an exploration of self-discovery under the most fearful of circumstances.

Such insights are timeless, of course, and so are some of the more trenchant observations of society. He comments:

It is society and not the mood of the individual that should ensure equity in the sharing of the goods of this world. The dignity of the individual demands that he be not reduced to vassalage by the largesse of others. What a paradox—that men who possessed wealth should claim the right, over and above their possessions, to the gratitude of those who were without possessions!
So much for Friedman and trickle-down economics :-)

24 July 2012

How to write - Trollope's advice

Having enjoyed my travels through the complete works of Anthony Trollope, I turned my attention to his Autobiography (which I can thoroughly recommend as an entertaining read - although it does help to have read his works before you turn to it). He devotes a chapter to the art of novel writing, which he allied to the work of the ordinary tradesman, perhaps appropriate, given his approach to the whole business, which involved writing at least a thousand words before breakfast, so that he could then devote his time to his job in the Post Office!

In that chapter, he writes:

Any writer who has read even a little will know what is meant by the word intelligible. It is not sufficient that there be a meaning which may be hammered out of the sentence, but that the language should be so pellucid that the meaning should be rendered without an effort to the reader—and not only some proposition of meaning, but the very sense, no more and no less, which the writer has intended to put into his words.
This is a principle that could serve any author well; whether they be novelists, diarists—or academic authors. Having recently had to read a number of documents prepared for European Union bids, I have to say that the language of all of them is so far from pellucid that it could be described by almost any adjective from misty to downright pea-souper fog!

Contributors to Information Research should print out that paragraph from Trollope and keep it in front of them whenever they get down to writing.

09 July 2012

iGoogle - petitions

If you are an iGoogle user and don't want to see it disappear, sign up to these petitions: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/dont-kill-the-igoogle-webportal.html?utm_medium=RSS http://www.change.org/petitions/google-keep-igoogle-alive#

04 July 2012

High-handed Google

A linked popped up on my iGoogle page this morning telling me that it is to be abandoned with effect from November 2013. The relevant page in the help system tells me that this is because:
With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time
Where on earth do system developers get their crazy ideas from. A raft of different apps, which run on specific browsers, is no satisfactory alternative to iGoogle, which runs on any browser. As far as I can tell, there has been no consultation with the users of iGoogle to determine whether or not they continue to find it useful. In other words, instead of being concerned for the views of users, Google is just another big commercial organization which makes decisions for its own internal reasons and not for those who use its products. As for the need for 'something like iGoogle' being 'eroded over time', I continue to find it useful and hope that someone gets a campaign together to get Google to change its mind.

03 July 2012

Project for a Master's dissertation?

Here's a possible project for a Master's dissertation.

All papers in the journal now have a new link to Google Scholar to determine how many citations it has had. I had previously used a method that worked, but Google seems to have changed things so that they no longer work, so I've changed all of the papers to the new method.  I'd be interested to know how often this link is used by people, since it can be a very useful way of finding out about more recent literature on the same subject.   I have analysed the citations to papers for Volume 12 No. 1, which happened to have some of the ISIC conference papers in it. The fifteen papers had a total of 170 citations, ranging from 0 for a couple of papers to 40 for another. Self-citation accounted for 14% of the total. The most frequently occuring journal was Information Research with 22 citations, followed by ARIST with 6, and JASIST and Journal of Documentation with 5 each. In total, 54 journals were cited, along with  15 conference papers (6 of which were in Proceedings of ASIST). Nine citations were found in books (usually compilations of chapters, rather than monographs) and there were 8 citations from articles in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Thirteen citations were found in PhD theses, and there was a sprinking in unpublished papers and PowerPoint presentations. Publications were in nine languages: Chinese, English , Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. A sign of the times, perhaps, was that the most-frequent, non-English language, was Chinese, with a total of six papers.

I don't have the time to do this for all issues of the journal, but I think it would make a nice student project to take a reasonable number of issues and expand my pilot study.  Any takers?

01 May 2012


HTML5 is the standard that was never supposed to be needed.  W3C promoted XML as the new Web standard but, understandably, it failed to take off.  Why?  Too complicated to implement and, hence, too expensive for the majority of organizations with a Web presence - not to mention individuals with home pages.  So, the folks at Opera got busy with preparing a draft version of HTMl5, which was eventually picked up by others and finally accepted by W3C as inevitable.

There's general agreement that HTML5 has an excellent set of features, including the ability to play video without needing third-party software like Flash, and Canvas, its drawing feature. However, the new tags are also thought to be very valuable in enabling a greater definition of page layout. Some of the new tags have been referred to as 'semantic' tags, but I'm afraid this isn't the case.  There is no such thing as a semantic tag in HTML5.

The tags that are said to be "semantic" include <header>, <footer>, <section>, <nav>, <article> and one or two more - some of which are not yet formally accepted (indeed, HTML5 as a whole is not yet formally accepted as a new standard).  Let's look at what "semantic" means; the OED is quite brief in its definitions: "Relating to signification or meaning" and "Also (the study or analysis of) the relationships between linguistic symbols and their meanings".

15 March 2012

The new RCUK guidelines on open access

The new guidelines from the RCUK reveal a certain amount of dithering over the issue.  First, there is the usual conflation of 'open' access and author-charging, with no suggestion at all of preferring genuinely open journals that do not require authors to pay for the inclusion of their papers, nor any notion that Research Council funds might be used to support 'platinum' open access of the kind practised by Information Research. The fact that we are now in our 17th year of publication ought to be enough evidence that the model can work, and direct subsidy from the research councils would encourage the development of similar journals.

Secondly, there's a lack of consistency over the embargo period, with different councils tolerating different periods of time:

No support for publisher embargoes of longer than six months from the date of publication (12 months for research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)).
The fact that, presumably, agreement could not be obtained suggests that the AHRC and the ESRC are in deeper thrall to the publishers than are the science, medicine and technology councils. And the fact is that any embargo period is a contradiction of the Councils' avowed aim of ensuring open access to research findings.  Given the pace of developments, especially in science, a six-month embargo period could mean that researchers in developing countries in particular proceed in research directions that would prove unproductive in the light of research published within that six-month period.

The biggest laugh of all is occasioned by the Council's claim:

Free and open access to publicly-funded research offers significant social and
economic benefits. The Government, in line with its overarching commitment to
transparency and open data, is committed to ensuring that such research should be
freely accessible.
In fact, as the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee noted in its report, "Free for all"
It is discouraging that the Government  does not yet appear to have given much
consideration to balancing the needs of the research community, the taxpayer and
the commercial sectors for which it has responsibility. (Paragraph 22) 
and the Government of the day ignored the Committee's recommendations and no Government since then has done anything at all to pick up on those recommendations.  This is called "buttering up to the government" - let's not disturb the status quo too much, lads, otherwise our peerages and knighthoods may be at risk. And, as far as governments of all descriptions are concerned, the same applies - let's not disturb business too much, otherwise where will we get our highly paid, non-executive directorships when the electorate turn us out of office?

The lack of real progress towards genuine open publishing - let's forget 'open access' since it allows bodies such as this to fudge the issues - is down to matters such as this - self-interest on the part of both politicians and research council leaders, timidity on the part of university administrators, and fear on the part of the academic community at large.

13 March 2012

An interesting 'infographic'

Readers might find this graphic display of the development of means for organizing information of interest:


01 March 2012

The browser wars

It's quite a while since I posted anything on the browsers used to access Information Research, but my attention was drawn to this by one of counter services I use.  Way back, Internet Explorer had the lion's share, with, if I recall aright, more than 80% of the hits.  Things have changed:

IE - all versions - 39.2%
Firefox - all - 26.2%
Chrome - all - 13.2%
Opera - all - 1.2%

Phone browsers - all - 1.2% (Nokia contributes 0.8%)
Miscellaneous browsers and bots - 16.4%

That leaves 2.6% missing - lost in cyberspace.

If Msoft is no longer quite so dominant in the browser business - a fact largely due at this point to the success of Firefox (although Chrome is beginning to bite), in the operating system world it is a different picture.
Windows (all versions) - 75%
Unknown  -  16%
Mac OSX  -  4.0%
Linux  -  3.4%
Phone OS  -  1.6% (led by Sybian - Nokia - with 0.8%)

There are a couple of interesting things to note here:  Linux is almost as popular as OSX - possibly having to do with the computer-oriented part of the readership of the journal; and the fact that the mobile OS do not figure very largely. Presumably Windows will get a further boost, given the new connection between Nokia and Microsoft, but the iPhone and the iPad appear to be very little used by readers of the readership.  My guess is that the use of IOS - Apple's mobile OS - will grow, given the sales success of various versions of the iPhone and the iPad - but they have a long way to go, even to reach the 3.4% 'market share' of Linux.

18 February 2012

Penguin and e-books

I wonder how long it will take for Penguin to discover that if its e-books are not available through public libraries, its sales of books in general will decline?  Library loans are often viewed by publishers as lost sales, but they would be better to regard them as marketing for their products.  Just about all the evidence suggests that people who borrow books, buy more books than those who don't use the library. Penguin's action looks like the act of a company seeking decline, rather than growth!

30 January 2012

Apple's textbook dream a false dream?

There's a very interesting exploration of Apple's ideas for a textbook revolution over at ZD-Net, which draws attention to some of the real problems associated with the idea of handing out iPads to all kids in the US school system.  Most of the discussion that follows doesn't really take issue with the basic arguments, other than to suggest that the suggested cost of $27.5 billion for the hardware is pretty insignificant given that the total cost of K-12 education in the US is $536 billion - forgetting the crucial question, What do you stop doing in order to spend $27.5 billion.  Personally, I think the arguments against using the iPad are pretty strong and I suspect that the real market for books created with iBooks Author is going to lie in higher education, business and industry.  The typical book in these areas is not going to sell as many copies as, say, a new algebra text, but it will be a very quick way for authors to get their books into the market place.

24 January 2012

iBooks Author

I see that there's a view that books prepared with Apple's iBooks Author software are not taking full advantage of the possibilities for interactivity.  In fact, it is easy to understand why that might be the case - it is simply extremely expensive and time-consuming to take advantage of the features.  For years now, publishers have been loading a good part of the production process on to authors by demanding photo-ready copy in computer files and cutting down on in-house staff to increase profits.  No doubt many readers will have noticed one effect of this - a significant rise in uncorrected errors and typos in texts. Most publisher will simply not have the kind of multidisciplinary (and multimedia) team to take advantage quickly of Apple's new offering.

I can see the use of interactivity in school textbooks - and probably also at undergraduate level - but there will be many kinds of book for which interactivity would probably be a time-consuming and little used add-on to the text. Trying to squeeze in multimedia and interactivity when all the reader needs to do is to read, would be a waste of time.

20 January 2012

OA again

A couple of weeks ago Heather Morrison had an entry in her blog on the economics of peer-reviewed repositories vs. subscription-based publishing.  As many have noted before, the economics of the situation are obvious: the former approach would be much cheaper for institutions than the latter.  However, I don't see it happening.  Sixteen years ago, when I started Information Research it was so blindingly obvious that academics could create and publish their own journals at relatively modest cost that I assumed that in ten to fifteen years, open access would be the norm.  It isn't, because a number of things get in the way.

First, few (and increasingly fewer) academics have the motivation and the time to start up new journals - and yet new journals are being created continually and edited by the same academics, with contributions reviewed by the same academics.  In other words, they have time and motivation to work for publishers, but no time or motivation to work for their academic community. I don't see this changing since, before all else, humans are driven primarily by self-interest.

Secondly, it has so far proved impossible to get the message across to university administrators that the present system costs them money that could be redirected to better use.  Essentially, the idea is too radical and if vice-chancellors, rectors, etc. are any one thing, it is not radical.  They'll happily shuffle around departments and create new faculties or disband them, but ask them to take a really critical look at the present system of scholarly communication and its alternatives and they'll shuffle back into their holes.

Thirdly, governments everywhere are at the beck and call of business.  If a business sector tells the minister that a move of OA will cause the loss of n thousand jobs, the minister will rapidly back off, whether the business proposition is true or not.  Faced by a determined business lobby, ministers are wimps.  In any event, certainly in the UK, none of them has any knowledge of the academic research process and scholarly communication.

So there we have it: no drive from below, no support in the middle, and apathy and capitulation to the forces of the market at the top.

The situation is not helped, of course, by the recent crop of dodgy 'publishers', relying on the desperation of those who cannot get their work published in the established journals to pay for inclusion in a new international journal of this and that.  The number of OA journals as recorded in DOAJ may be ever increasing (standing at 7,431 today), but a significant proportion of those are author charging journals, and not 'open publishing' or 'platinum' model, and I doubt whether 10% of the remainder will be around in another ten years.

Ultimately, I believe, the present subscription/author charging model will collapse, but, sadly, it is unlikely to do so as a result of the actions of academics.

18 January 2012

Guide to resources on research methods

I've maintained for some years a set of pages pointing to resources on research methods. However, updating and link-checking has now ceased for some time and I think it is time to remove it from the site. However, if there is anyone out there who would like to pick it up and continue to provide it, I'll be happy to pass on the files. Alternatively, since it does get listed in other places, I'd be happy to have someone take over as Editor and ensure that it is up to date. Anyone interested?

The word is "corruption" I think

An interesting item on how Elsevier and other publishers are trying to kill the USA's PubMed Central appears in a blog from evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen.  The story is of a bill introduced by a Democrat congresswoman who just happens to get her campaign money from Elsevier: so, naturally, when the boys come along and say, "Let's have a bill to kill off the means whereby US citizens can access scientific medical knowledge", she's only too happy to oblige.   In any truly civilized country such activity would be deemed criminal but, sadly, this is just one example of how politicians in the US (and increasingly in the UK) can be bought by business interests.   I'm not a US voter, but I'd urge any reader who is to do their best to see that this bill is killed off and, if you happen to live and vote in the congresswoman's district, well, you know who not to vote for next time around!