Thursday, July 25, 2013

Commercial reuse of published scientific papers: It's all about reuse

Two books have been recently discussed quite vigorously online: A Rant on Strawberries, Open Access Licenses and the Reuse of Published Papers and Apple Academic Press: Predatory publisher of scholarly books.  The publisher Apple Academic Press (Apple AP) combines freely available open access articles on a common topic into books, which sell for about $100.  Without informing the authors of the papers.

In the first book no citations to the articles appeared anywhere in the book (Apple AP claims that this was a mistake) and in the second the references where given at the end of the book under "Authors Notes".  Much has been written about how sleazy it is in comparison to what commercial publishers do.

However, two important comments in the original blog posts have, in my mind, not really been discussed.

C.W. Schadt writes:
Anyway, Im not sure who to be more upset with.  The editor and publisher that (re)published the article, or myself for not noticing the reuse clause in the open access license.  From now on I vow that I will pay closer attention to this, and it may influence where I end up submitting future papers.
Rosie Redfield writes:
My colleague and her co-authors are outraged; they had no idea that this commercial reuse was permitted by the standard agreements.  In principle the authors should have read the fine print, but as advocates of open-access publishing I think the onus is on us to make sure that the copyright agreements are in accord with authors' reasonable expectations and wishes.
To me this sounds like both fundamentally disagree with the commercial reuse granted by the CC-BY license used by the journals and would rather publish under the CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-NC license.  I hope I am wrong; but in case I am not: publishing under anything other than CC-BY or CC0 is really bad for science and society.  Here are some reasons why:

What is a viral license?
CC-BY and licences; we must not get it wrong. I offer some clarification
Why CC-BY? 

I think this quote sums it nicely:
This just won’t do. It’s not open access. To quote Heather Piwowar’s pithy statement once more, “We do basic research not only to know more, but to do more”. Non-commercial licences impede the use of research, and that’s not to the benefit of wider society.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Excellent advice on teaching from Carl Wieman

I recently came across to excellent sources for teaching advice.  One is an article by Carl Wieman in Change Magazine called Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?  The other is the Instructor Guidance page from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at UBC. 

In the latter link I especially like Best Practice number 2:
Omit everything that is not necessary. The shorter the assignment is, the more likely the students will actually read it and focus on the key material. Some instructors believe in longer, less focused, readings from which the students are expected to extract the relevant material. This is an unrealistic expectation for a first exposure to the material.
This point is discussed further in Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education:
Reducing Cognitive Load
The first way in which one can use research on learning to create better classroom practices addresses the limited capacity of the short-term working memory. Anything one can do to reduce cognitive load improves learning. The effective teacher recognizes that giving the students material to master is the mental equivalent of giving them packages to carry. With only one package, they can make a lot of progress in a hurry. If they are loaded down with many, they stagger around, have a lot more trouble, and can’t get as far. And when they experience the mental equivalent of many packages dumped on them at once, they are squashed flat and can’t learn anything.  
So anything the teacher can do to reduce that cognitive load while presenting the material will help. Some ways to do so are obvious, such as slowing down. Others include having a clear, logical, explicit organization to the class (including making connections between different ideas presented and connections to things the students already know), using figures where appropriate rather than relying only on verbal descriptions and minimizing the use of technical jargon. All these things reduce unnecessary cognitive demands and result in more learning.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

It should be "illegal" to write this proposal review

Like everywhere the success rate for research proposals in Denmark is around 10%.  This leaves review panels with the unenviable task of rejecting some proposals simply because there is not enough money, and not because the proposal is deficient in any meaningful way.  This happened to me a lot last year.  One of the proposals I re-submitted got the following review last year:
Your application was found very worthy of support.  This means that your professional qualifications, your CV, and your project was of such quality and character that it would have been funded had there been sufficient funds.
This year, the very same proposal was rejected with the following justification (emphasis, mine original at the end of the post.)
Reasons for denial:
Independent Research Council | Natural Sciences in its treatment of your application emphasized the importance of the evaluation criteria defined in the notice you were looking for in relation to, and weighted your application against the other applications that your application was in competition with. In comparison with the applications receiving funding, found strands that your application does not have quite the same degree: 
• demonstrate that your scientific production within the project area is on the same very high level. It appears from your CV that your publications within the project's subject area are not, to the same extent, published in the most respected journals.
The difference in CVs was four new publications, all in PLoS ONE. Did I not get funded because I published in PLoS ONE?  Well, probably not, since I didn't get funded the first time either.  I think they merely grasping at any old straw when de-selecting the last 20-30% of proposals. Never-the-less it is a completely non-sensical justification unworthy of anyone who call themselves scientists, and should be "against the law", i.e. against council policy, much like it now is in the UK:
When assessing proposals for research funding RCUK considers that it is the quality of the research proposed, and not where an author has or is intending to publish, that is of paramount importance.
Anyway, glad I got that off my chest.  Now on to bigger and better things.
Original Danish text
Begrundelse for afslaget:
Det Frie Forskningsråd | Natur og Univers har i sin behandling af din ansøgning lagt vægt på de vurderingskriterier, der fremgik af det opslag, du søgte i forhold til, og vægtet din ansøgning mod de øvrige ansøgninger, som din ansøgning var i konkurrence med. I sammenligning med de ansøgninger, der fik bevilling, fandt rådet, at din ansøgning ikke i helt samme grad: 
• dokumenterer, at din videnskabelige produktion inden for projektets område er på samme meget høje niveau. Det fremgår af dit CV, at dine publikationer inden for projektets fagområde ikke i helt samme omfang er publiceret i de allermest anerkendte tidsskrifter.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Paying for PeerJ articles ... is easy

The PeerJ pricing scheme can seem a little confusing at first but it is actually pretty easy to use in my experience.

We recently submitted a paper, which is now accepted!, and we have just submitted a new paper. I am the corresponding author on both and pay for all the authors.

When we submitted the first paper I simply made a free account on PeerJ and submitted the paper. When the reviews came back I decided that it was very likely that they would accept the paper so I paid $99 for a basic membership for all the authors (Martin, Luca, Casper, and myself).

We have now submitted a second paper.  Martin, Luca and myself are co-authors together with Julie, Christian, Werner and Allan - but Casper is not a co-author this time.  Below is a screenshot of one of the pages I see on my PeerJ account when I log in (it also contains email addresses, which I have censored).

As you can see PeerJ makes it very easy for me to see how much I have to pay for each co-author. To pay, I simply check the appropriate action boxes and click an "upgrade now" button further down the page.  Of course, I'll wait for the reviews before making a decision.

I assume the web-page will also keep track of the date of the last submission by a particular co-author so that, for example, Casper can publish another article for free next year without needing to upgrade.

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