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Video on Open Access including Rob Deaner

CLAS Acts March 2019

Monthly newsletter of the college for the TT faculty

CLAS logo

Video on Open Access featuring some CLAS Faculty


The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.

~William Arthur Ward

There should be a badge for having survived February.  Thank you for your resilience.

At our most recent meeting of the CLAS Student Advisory Committee, we asked how things went from their perspective during the week-long campus closure.  They were very complimentary to the food services and rec center for being open on modified schedules and reserved special kudos for the library being open and the student workers who reported to their jobs there.  Like you, they prefer to hear about closures the night before when that is possible.  They really appreciated those professors who stayed in touch and helped set their expectations about how they intended to deal with cancelled classes, upcoming exams, changes to syllabi, and so forth.  There was also a combination of understanding and disappointment about the cancellation of the President’s Ball.

The students gave us their views on a couple of other topics.  They wanted to urge us to schedule upper division required classes (especially those of one section) at times that did not conflict with the available electives.  Many on the committee have double majors and noted how difficult senior year schedules could be to manage. 

The students appreciate all efforts that can be made to help them find research opportunities.  Some noted having approached ten faculty members by email but to have had replies from few of them.  They praised efforts to encourage faculty to describe their research interests on their website profile pages or to have websites describing the work and outcomes of their labs.  In particular, they valued having access to publications by former student members of the lab team.  They had praise for OURS as a great resource in matching their interests to faculty.

It is now, thankfully, March, and the siren song of spring break calls.  Also this month is the Faculty Council’s “Out-of-the-Box Metacognition” series of events.  They’ve recruited a number of co-sponsors in order to bring in speaker Dr. Saundra McGuire, a nationally recognized expert on metacognitive strategies in teaching.  I ask that you reward these efforts with a great turn out.

I have open office hours when I take myself to another part of campus Tuesday, March 12, 2019 10am-12pm 234 LHH.  Contact Roxanne Mol if you’d like an appointment.

Sabbatical Showcase is on March 28 this year.  Come hear the reports of the governance committees as well as my thoughts on the academic year and beyond. 

Have a restorative break and a great last half of the term.  


Chewing on Open Access

As faculty in CLAS and around the university know, rising textbook and journal costs have meant that faculty and librarians have been taking an even harder look at the potential of open access (OA) to address the burden on students and university budgets.  For a considerable time, open access has also engendered a lively debate in most disciplines about everything from patents to sustainability to ensuring quality of journals in which faculty research is published.

This simulation of a lively discussion by email aims only to bring some specifically Grand Valley voices to this discussion so that CLAS faculty can hear the experience of their own colleagues on the potential and challenges of open access. 

As Donovan Anderson (MLL and CLAS Assistant Dean) recently wrote, “Our intention is to encourage discussion in CLAS about OA and to inform about the options that are available and the resources that Grand Valley has to support faculty who seek to publish in quality, peer-reviewed open access journals. Not least of all we think that taking part in this discussion about OA is one small way we can support University Libraries as they respond to the realities of dramatically rising subscription costs.”

Lissa Tallman (BMS) notes the difference in the OA funding model, “I have published in open access journals several times … and I have typically chosen to do so because it tends to give my work a wider audience because there is no paywall.  To me, that's the major benefit of open access.  The publishing system as a whole profits off of free work from academics in terms of writing, reviewing and editing open access journals have the same issues as for profit journals.  The only difference is that academics pay to publish rather than libraries paying for subscriptions.”  

Kyle Barnes (MOV) notes the juggling act that funding OA publishing can be for particularly active researchers: “I’ve utilized the Open Access Publishing funds through CSCE/Library several times which is helpful to have. However, OA costs are very high and the funds we are currently allotted at GVSU basically only support 1-2 papers per year even though I think use of these funds is relatively limited.  For someone like me that has published 5+ papers a year this gets difficult if I’m targeting an OA journal for a particular paper.  I had one circumstance where I had two papers accepted for publication in OA journals about a week apart even though I submitted them almost 6 months apart (gotta love the peer-review process like that).  I utilized the Publishing support funds at GV but it only covered about 1.6 of the two papers so I had to utilize professional development funds to pay for the other .4 of the paper.  Which subsequently tapped out my Prof Dev funds, and I had no money to pay for professional development opportunities or conferences.” 

Al Steinman goes on to point out that, “Obviously, [OA] can be a benefit from the broader scientific perspective, in providing access to researchers in regions where journals are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.  Of course, the downside of that is it results in a self-filtering approach to available literature based on the authors’ (or institution’s) ability to pay OA fees. But another angle, less explored at least among researchers, is the movement within publishing to require OA.  Now we delve into the question of academic freedom.  As an AE for a Wiley journal, I admit a certain amount of being coopted, but feel I remain reasonably objective on this issue.  Nonetheless, it is one that deserves some attention, and one that I believe Matt [Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator, GVSU Library] has commented on before in public fora.” 

To Al’s points, Matt Ruen responds,

There’s definitely a way in which the author-pays model may be replacing a paywall-to-access-research with a paywall-to-publish-research, and that’s a problem! Even the best-intentioned and best-implemented waivers for ‘developing’ countries leave out a lot of scholars whose institutions have limitations. I am pleased to see a small but growing contingent of open access champions talking about this inequity, alongside experiments for funding publishing.

I think the academic freedom question is a complex one. On the one hand, mandates from funding agencies or from institutions do constrain the choice of publishing venue for academics, but I think it’s important to view those constraints in the context of the many other constraints that scholars experience on a regular basis, in terms of publishing choices (tenure & promotion requirements, chasing “prestige”) or in the hoops one has to jump through in order to receive grants from a funding agency.  Personally I’m all in favor of funding agencies choosing to set conditions on their grants that match the agencies’ mission, purpose, or priorities. I would be more concerned about institutions requiring publishing in open access journals, but fortunately the institutional policies that Harvard, the UC system, and other institutions have established work a bit differently, and their authors still have complete freedom to publish in any venue.

Matt welcomes the discussion, noting, “It’s just as vital to engage critically with open access concepts as with the status quo of scholarly publishing.  For my part, I’m certainly happy to have a deeper discussion, and maybe there’s even potential for some sort of roundtable, point/counterpoint commentary, or other way to have an “open” conversation!” 

Matt has also indicated, “Sure, I personally am a strong advocate and supporter of open access, but I think it’s absolutely essential that we engage critically with both open access ideas and with traditional scholarly publishing models. We’re living amidst massive changes in the ways information is created and shared, and the more we discuss all of these changes, the better able we will be to adapt and find good paths forward.  Plus, hearing about GVSU scholars’ concerns, questions, or points of difficulty with OA (etc.) will help me and the Libraries do a better job supporting you all.”

Wolfgang Friedlmeier (PSY) brings an editor’s perspective:

I am editor of an OA journal (Online Readings of Psychology and Culture) that differs from most OAs as it is free for authors and readers, and I have published some articles in OA journals, e.g. Frontiers and Sage Open.

Yes, OA is a threat to the associations and their memberships, because the attraction to become a member was based on getting free access to the related journal/s. With OA, membership needs to be driven by other motivations and associations look for ways to make such membership attractive beyond the journal as they are worried by declining membership. Associations could switch to an OA model and some already start a hybrid model.

Yes, OA has another threat, namely the fact that there are so many predatory journals who have no interest in quality whatsoever but solely to make money. However, the landscape can be already well distinguished and researchers can avoid these potential traps.

Yes, OA was and is seen more critically as the peer-review process is deemed less rigorous than in journals of the traditional format. I review both types of papers (OA and traditional journals), and I have the impression that several OA journals are implementing more and more similarly strict peer-reviews as traditional journals in my area of psychology, e.g. Frontiers, PLOS ONE, even Sage Open improved the process over the last years. Sure, the rejection rate may not be as high as in traditional format sometimes; the pressure of rejection came by the backlog of accepted papers so that some good articles were not accepted.   

Yes, OA is seen a threat to equality as some researchers may not be able to publish as they have to pay out of their pocket as their institution does not take on the costs. Most journals waive the fee for researchers from low-economy countries, and institutions take on the costs for the researchers. The GVSU library was in the game early and supported this opportunity. The fees still vary strongly ($300 to $2000 per article) but will surely change over time.  

Beyond these critical points, OA has many advantages and seems to be the model of the future. Many traditional journals start becoming hybrid, i.e., adding OA options to their journal.

A big advantage is visibility, flexibility regarding length, and time. Newly accepted articles can be published immediately as the electronic publication does not require to wait for several articles to fill a volume or even to postpone it as many other articles were already accepted. The page number and number of articles is more relaxed as there are no printing costs involved. The audience has immediate access to this new information whereas the old model often postponed publication for another year!

OA articles will be more often cited in the future and maybe they already are. Even researchers are procrastinators and if I search for literature and find immediate information and access compared to having no access and waiting until I get it, I surely will include the OA information but maybe not the traditional one if it takes me too long. The visibility of OA publications also refers to the fact that you can jump back to the article online anytime, which is sometimes helpful when you want to cite the article in a paper at a later point and you aim to refresh the reading. You may not have saved the traditional source, not be able to find it or even have discarded it. This may not sound so relevant but over time it will make a difference.

Finally, thinking beyond the scientific community and also beyond the classroom, these OA articles will be much more read by a non-scientific audience than any article in traditional journals. Especially practitioners are not willing to pay a lot of money to access recent scientific information but free available information will be more likely consumed. So, these products reach out much deeper into society than any traditional scientific publications, and may therefore have much more impact on potential changes regarding perspectives, beliefs, and behaviors; and in this sense this form of publication is more democratic than the limited access model.

 Wolfgang’s psychology colleague Robert Deaner adds,

 I would like to add a comment about one of [Wolfgang’s] points, namely about OA journals, compared to traditional journals, being lower in quality, easier to publish in, or predatory in charging fees. I agree that this may be broadly true or at least that this perception is common.

As [Wolfgang] intimated, faculty, units, librarians and administrators need to look at each OA journal on a case by case basis, because many OA journals are high quality but many are not.

 I’d also like to add that this cautious approach should apply to publishing in traditional journals as well. Many journals run by the major publishers consist of poor quality articles that are rarely or never cited or read. These are not predatory journals in the sense of one scholar paying them      $2,000 to publish their article. They are predatory, however, in the sense that the publisher is selling a subscription to the poor-quality journal (along with hundreds of others in the bundle) to an institution and the institution's faculty and students are not truly benefitting from the journal. The pros, cons, and practicalities of bundled journals is a different and important topic.

My point, however, is just that we should resist the view that “traditional journals are high-quality; OA journals are low-quality.” That is just not the case.

This discussion provided particularly perspectives from biological sciences, chemistry, and psychology.  That is not to suggest that other disciplines are not engaging this topic with challenges specific to their disciplines. This article in The Scholarly Kitchen provides a useful introduction to the recent history of the historical discipline’s engagement with open access (OA) policies.

In a profession full of disruptive changes, open access represents both the potential for everything from a more democratic scholarly environment to concerning cost shifting, so we hope you find it helpful to learn more about the perspectives of those who have grasped the nettle.