Jenseits von Infrastruktur. Neue Aufgabengebiete für Bibliotheken in der akademischen Publikationslandschaft

We built much of the infrastructure to publish academic content digitally and in open access. What are the next steps?

Dieser Post ging aus einem Vortrag für die Jahresversammlung der AG Informationskompetenz Schweiz hervor, die unter dem Titel “Publikationsdienste in Bibliotheken – was, wann, für wen?” am 25. September 2017 in Bern stattfand.

Ich habe das große Glück, dass ich seit einigen Jahren als Chef vom Dienst und Mädchen für alles im Publikationsbüro des Heidelberger Exzellenzclusters Asien und Europa direkt an der Schnittstelle zwischen Autoren, Technik, Bibliothek, Open Access und Verlagen sitze und somit einen guten Eindruck davon bekomme, welche Herausforderungen und Möglichkeiten sich für alle Beteiligten in der sich rapide ändernden wissenschaftlichen Kommunikationslandschaft ergeben.
Die meisten Fragen, die an mich gerichtet werden, haben entweder mit akademischem Schreiben auf Englisch zu tun (was ich seit vielen Jahre unterrichte) oder sie betreffen unsere Publikationsinstrumente, die wir seit 2009 am Cluster „Asien und Europa“ aufgebaut haben: unsere elektronische Zeitschrift Transcultural Studies, unsere Buchserie bei Springer, die seit 2010 erscheint, und eine neue Open Access Gold Buchserie, die wir im 2015 gegründeten Universitätsverlag heiUP publizieren. Während ersteres ein klassisches Beispiel ist für eine Kooperation von UB und Wissenschaftlern, die eine neue Zeitschrift auf OJS auflegen möchten, suchten wir für die erste Buchserie von Anfang an eine flexible Open Access Lösung mit einem renommierten Verlagshaus.
Wir entschieden uns für Springer, denn 2010 war dieser Verlag (wie in mancher Hinsicht bis heute) unter den führenden was Open Access betraf. Der Weg den wir  vereinbarten (dies war noch einige Jahre vor Springer Open anlief) erlaubt es uns die Bücher nach fünf bzw. vier Jahren Embargozeit als PDFs auf unserer Webseite zum Download freizugeben. Das ist eine eher ungewöhnliche Vereinbarung, die so vermutlich auch nicht ewig weiterlaufen wird, aber es erlaubt uns die Inhalte unserer Buchprojekte noch innerhalb der Laufzeit frei zugänglich zu machen.
Das dritte Publikationsinstrument entstand vor drei Jahren im Zuge eines Pilotprojekts, das die bereits angesprochene Gründung des Open Access Verlages heiUP unterfütterte: eine zweite Buchserie, diesmal komplett im Open Access Gold. Aufbauend auf die Arbeitsabläufe, Kooperationen und Erfahrungswerte, die wir in der Entwicklung und Produktion des E-Journals und der Springer Serie gesammelt hatten, wagten wir in einer engen Zusammenarbeit mit der Uni Bibliothek den Schritt in die Produktion von Open Access Gold Büchern vor Ort. Wir haben es bei diesem Projekt nicht nur geschafft Open Access Bücher ins Netz zu stellen und einen Universitätsverlag zu gründen, sondern auch zur Infrastruktur des Publikationsprozesses beizutragen: zum einen durch die Entwicklung eines XML-basierten Produktionsprozesses und zum anderen durch eine innovative Darstellung der HTMLs. Die Ergebnisse sind Open Source, das Projekt ist abgeschlossen, die Buchserie ist angelaufen, der Verlag ist gegründet und auf das zweidimensionale Interface bin ich besonders stolz.

Nun gibt es ja die weitläufige Vorstellung: if you build it they will come und wenn man sich die Bauwut betrachtet, mit der wir und zahlreiche andere findige Leute in den letzten Jahren digitale Instrumente und Werkzeuge rund um die akademische Kommunikation geschaffen haben, dann sollte man meinen, dass die verschiedenen Kommunikationsabläufe jetzt – weil leicht zu handhaben – akzeptiert und weit verbreitet sein müssten. Die Wirklichkeit sieht aber nach wie vor anders aus.

Es ist trotz aller Entwicklungen immer noch so, dass viele Wissenschaftler unengagiert und bisweilen sogar uninformiert sind über die Möglichkeiten, die ihnen offenstehen und über die Herausforderungen, die sie meistern müssen um international konkurrieren zu können. Dazu gehören Open Access und die Nutzung digitaler Werkzeuge ebenso, wie die nicht unerhebliche Hürde des Schreibens in einer anderen Sprache für einen Publikationsmarkt mit fremden Gepflogenheiten. VIelen Wissenschaftlern ist einfach nicht bekannt, was in der akademischen Kommunikationslandschaft passiert, welche Mechanismen dort zugange sind und was mit den Inhalten geschieht, die dort abgebildet werden.

Das hat verschiedene Gründe: Der wichtigste Faktor ist nach wie vor das Prestige-Gefüge in der Wissenschaft, aber auch der Zeitmangel spielt eine Rolle und vor allen Dingen der Mangel an Kommunikation – nicht nur was die Überzeugungsarbeit zum Publizieren im Open Access betrifft, sondern auch die Wahrung der eigenen Interessen. Gerade Jungforscher haben oftmals keine Ahnung was sie in Vertragsverhandlungen beachten sollten; es geht eher darum in einem relativ namhaften Verlag zu veröffentlichen, egal wie und zu welchen Konditionen, damit die für die nächste Bewerbung wichtige Zeile auf dem Lebenslauf steht.

Quelle: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/whos-downloading-pirated-papers-everyone

Das Ignorieren der Umstände, die Forschungskommunikation ermöglichen, fängt jedoch schon viel früher im wissenschaftlichen Kreislauf an, man denke zum Beispiel an Sci Hub.  Die Zugriffszahlen sind enorm, dabei sind sich viele im Wissenschaftsbetrieb nicht darüber im Klaren, wie prekär dieser „schwarze Open Access“ ist. Die politische Situation dieses Guerilla-Unterfangens ist alles andere als einfach und damit gibt es so gut wie keine Garantie auf Zugriff, Nachhaltigkeit, oder Langzeitarchivierung. Das ist allerdings zweitrangig, denn – egal wie fatalistisch es sein mag – es geht den Usern vor allem darum einfach und schnell auf Material zugreifen zu können.

Der Wandel der Kommunikationslandschaft und die Rolle der Bibliotheken

Tom Friedman Up in the Air (2009-2010), Tom Friedman Studio, CC-BY-SA

Es wäre aber völlig falsch, das Problem allein bei den Forschern zu suchen; es wurzelt nämlich viel tiefer. Der enorme Wandel in der wissenschaftlichen Kommunikation betrifft alle, die in diesem Metier zugange sind – ob sie dies nun wollen oder nicht. Dabei ist es durch die schnelle Veränderung keinem der Beteiligten möglich, eine auch nur mittelfristige Strategie festzulegen. Waren z.B. noch vor zwei, drei Jahren die großen Verlagshäuser damit beschäftigt eine Open Access Strategie zu entwickeln, oder im Fall der ganz Tüchtigen, eine Open Access Strategie festzuzurren, so sehen wir heute wie sich große Häuser wegbewegen von den Erstpublikationen und sich neu fokussieren auf Infrastrukturen und Daten.

Wir befinden uns also in einem dynamischen System, in dem sich alle Vorzeichen und Annahmen immer wieder ändern. Trotzdem kann man sagen, dass Open Access mittlerweile soweit ist, dass viele infrastrukturelle Anforderungen überwunden sind: es gibt viele technische Instrumente, mit denen man die verschiedensten Publikations- und Kommunikationsprozesse bewerkstelligen kann. Es geht jetzt darum, Verbindungen zu schaffen zwischen Technik, Fachcommunities, Förderungseinrichtungen und der weiteren Gesellschaft. Kurzum, es ist wert einen Versuch der Stabilisierung zu starten. Und dieser Versuch geht am sinnvollsten von den Bibliotheken aus.

Wollen sie jedoch nicht nur Knotenpunkt der akademischen Informationsverwaltung sein, sondern zum Fanal für alle Beteiligten in der Wissensproduktion avancieren, dann müssen Bibliotheken zunächst zwei Aufgabengebiete abdecken. Beide liegen jenseits der Infrastruktur: es gilt kluge Angebote zu entwickeln, die die Entwicklungen in den Campus hineintragen und eine durchschlagende Kommunikationsstrategie, die das ermöglicht. Man sieht bereits  Bibliotheken, die diesen Weg beschreiten. Ein Beispiel ist die Anpassung der Personalstrategie, wie man an folgenden Stellenausschreibungen sieht.

Personelle Veränderungen. SFU Vancouver Stellenausschreibung vom August 2017

Personelle Veränderungen. SUB Göttingen Stellenausschreibung vom September 2017

Personelle Veränderungen. TIB Hannover Stellenausschreibung September 2017

Angebote wie diese sind wichtig. Allerdings reichen sie nicht wirklich aus, um den Wandel zu ankern. Aus der Fragmentierung der Wissenschaftslandschaft sind nämlich große Probleme in der Kommunikation und der Kollaboration erwachsen. Wir arbeiten, gerade in Deutschland, in einer Struktur, die oftmals Brückenschläge und Verknüpfungen erschwert, gerade wenn es um die Autonomie in der Beurteilung, Erstellung und Bewertung von Inhalten geht. Ein Beispiel: als wir vor einigen Jahren einen Schreibservice in Kooperation mit der Graduiertenakademie für auf englisch verfasste Dissertationen ins Leben riefen, bekamen wir unerwartet starken Gegenwind von einem Professor aus dem STEM Bereich, der sich regelrecht empörte über die Anmaßung unsererseits, auf irgendeine Art in die Inhalte seiner StudentInnen eingreifen zu wollen.

Petrus Spronk, Architectural Fragments, Photograph by Alan Levine, CC-BY-SA

Mit dem Angebot alleine ist es also nicht getan: Kurse, Dienste und die dazugehörigen Stellen sind nur ein logischer zweiter Schritt, der auf die bereits erfolgte Erstellung des technischen Instrumentariums folgt. Der dritte Schritt wird der wirklich große: wir brauchen ein konzertiertes Herangehen an die Kommunikation, das in vieler Hinsicht einen Sinnes- bzw. Kulturwandel auf dem ganzen Kampus erfordern wird. Dazu ist viel guter Wille erforderlich. Für die nötige Überzeugungs- und Aufklärungsarbeit brauchen die Bibliotheken hier Rückhalt nicht nur von Wissenschaftlern, sondern auch – und das ist ganz zentral – von der Hochschulleitung und der Politik.

Das wird eine formidable Aufgabe, denn bei unserem Thema geht es nicht so sehr um Forschungs- oder Lehrinhalte, sondern um ein Metathema, das seit Jahrzehnten zersplittert und oftmals hinter vordergründigen Inhalten verschwunden ist: das Handwerk des Schreibens, der Vorgang der Publikation und, vor allen Dingen, die Räson hinter beidem. Dieses Thema gilt es neu zu entdecken und beherzt anzugehen und zwar nicht nur auf institutioneller, sondern auch auf höheren wissenschaftspolitischen Ebenen. Wenn sich auch hier einiges in den letzten Jahren getan hat, so führt bis zum Abschluss des Wandels in der wissenschaftlichen Kommunikationslandschaft gewiss noch ein langer, verschlungener und steiler Weg.

Aber fahrende Scholasten schreckt das ja nicht. Also, wie man so schön auf Russisch sagt: Вперед!

Ein Angebot das man nicht ablehnen kann. Warum Wissenschaftler Open Access wählen.

This post is based on a keynote address delivered for the Jahresversammlung 2017 of the VDB Südwest at Freiburg University on Friday, June 23rd 2017.

Als ich vor acht Jahren dem Heidelberger Exzellenzcluster „Asien und Europa im globalen Kontext“ beitrat, war mein erster Auftrag eine wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für das neue Forschungsfeld der transkulturellen Studien aufzubauen. Diese Zeitschrift sollte auf der Open Source Plattform OJS laufen, von der UB gehostet werden und im Open Access erscheinen. Es galt also ein Herausgebergremium zu bilden, Arbeitsabläufe zu entwerfen, die Technik zu meistern, ein Team an Lektoren, Designern, und Programmierern zusammenzustellen, und selbstverständlich Manuskripte von Wissenschaftlern einzuwerben.

Die Akquise war damals und ist bis heute nicht einfach, aber der Gegenwind, der mir 2009 entgegenschlug, hat sich etwas gelegt. Beruhend auf meinen Erfahrungen der letzten Jahre, bietet dieser Post die These an, dass Wissenschaftler sich heute aus drei Gründen für Open Access entscheiden: Zwang, Eigennutz und Gemeinwohl.

Etwas Hintergrund

Seit 2009 hat sich viel getan. Bibliotheken und Archive haben inzwischen weltweit mit zahllosen Digitalisierungsprojekten den wissenschaftlichen Umgang mit Forschungsmaterial komplett verändert. Auffindbarkeit von und Zugriff auf verschiedenste Materialien online wird von Wissenschafltern heute quasi vorausgesetzt und ihr Forschungsverhalten hat sich dementsprechend angepasst. Um Kenneth Goldsmith zu bemühen: “If it doesn’t exist on the internet, it doesn’t exist.” 

Repositorien gehören nunmehr zum Profil vieler Forschungsbibliotheken. Was die Infrastruktur betrifft, so steht damit der sogenannte grüne Weg des Open Access offen. Aber auch Erstveröffentlichungen im Open Access (dem sog. Goldenen Weg) haben an Bedeutung gewonnen: In den Naturwissenschaften gehören Megajournals wie BioMedCentral, PeerJ, Elife oder auch PLOSone zu den besseren Adressen und auch die Verlage ziehen mit. Gerade die großen Häuser bieten ihren Autoren inzwischen eine Open Access Lösung an. Es rentiert sich ja auch – zumindest noch – da durch sog. Author Processing Charges die marktwirtschaftlichen Interessen der Verlage gewährt sind.

Auch die Forschungsparameter haben sich verschoben: Förderungsinstrumente und Forschungseinrichtungen erwarten immer öfter die Veröffentlichung von unterstützten Forschungsergebnissen im Open Access. (s.u.) und auch rechtliche Verschiebungen können nicht ausser Acht gelassen werden. Den Streit um die Angleichung des Urheberrechts verfolgen wir alle sehr gespannt. Deutschland hat inzwischen ein Zweitverwertungsrecht, das vielen zwar noch zu zaghaft ist, aber immerhin. Einige Zeitschriftenartikel können nunmehr ganz legal nach einer Embargozeit auf Repositorien eingestellt werden.

These: Drei Beweggründe bringen die Wissenschaftler dazu im Open Access zu publizieren: Zwang, Eigennutz, Gemeinwohl

Zwang

Von staatlicher bzw. Landesseite her ist in Deutschland die dezidierte Einforderung von Open Access noch etwas zögerlich. Die DFG, obgleich sie sich sehr stark für Open Access einsetzt, hat noch immer kein strenges Mandat und bei den Förderungsinstrumenten des Staates und der Länder ist es ähnlich. Anders ist die Lage jedoch bei unabhängigen Forschungseinrichtungen wie Max Planck, Leibnitz, oder Helmholz. Auch internationale Drittmittelinstrumente wie ERC und Horizon 2020 Programmen, Wellcome Trust, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ziehen die Daumenschrauben an. Es wird in den Richtlinien bereits eine Veröffentlichung der Ergebnisse im Open Access vorausgesetzt. Bei Nichteinhaltung kann es zu Problemen bei Folgeanträgen kommen. Das ist ein Angebot, das ein Wissenschaftler schwer ausschlagen kann, denn für heutige Forscher sind Förderungsinstrumente von existenzieller Wichtigkeit. Drittmittel sind ein sine qua non für eine erfolgreiche akademische Karriere, mehr noch, ohne Drittmittel stünden zahlreiche akademische Karrieren vor dem Aus. Das lässt den Wissenschaftlern nicht viel Spielraum.

Es gibt selbstverständlich Widerstand. Akademiker sind ein streitbares Volk – das sollen sie ja auch sein – und somit stoßen die Bestrebungen von offizieller Seite nach einem Open Access Mandat – sei es der Staat oder die Universtiät als Einrichtung – in Deutschland gerne auf Protest. Man denke zum Beispiel an die Normenkontrollklage gegen die „Satzung zur Ausübung des wissenschaftlichen Zweitveröffentlichungsrechts“ der Universität Konstanz, die Ende letzten Jahres eingereicht wurde. 17 Hochschullehrende der Universität Konstanz klagen gegen deren Satzung die ihre Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler zur Nutzung des Rechts auf Zweitveröffentlichung verpflichtet. Die Kläger sehen darin einen Verstoß gegen das Grundrecht der Wissenschaftsfreiheit (Art. 5 Abs. 3 GG). Die rechtliche Klärung dieser Frage wird wegweisend sein für die weitere Entwicklung des Open Access in Deutschland.

Eigeninteresse

a) Rechte

Wenn heute ein Wissenschaftler bei einem Verlag publiziert, so verliert er üblicherweise bei Unterschrift des Vertrages die Wiederverwertungsrechte an seinem Werk. Er darf es nicht übersetzen lassen, erneut publizieren, verschicken, oder in modifizierter Weise anderswo unterbringen ohne die Genehmigung des Verlages einzuholen.

Was immer wieder verwundert ist, dass sich selbst gestandene Wissenschaftler nicht darüber im Klaren sind wie weitreichend der Verlust der Rechte am eigenen Werk ist. Viele setzen sich wenig mit ihrem Publikum und dem Schicksal ihrer Inhalte auseinander. Es ist fast so, als ob die Publikation bei einem Verlag das eigentliche Ziel der Forschung ist und nicht die ideale Verwertung und Verbreitung der Ergebnisse. Es ist daher essenziell, gerade junge ForscherInnen darauf hinzuweisen, dass sie ihre Rechte am eigenen Werk – seien es Daten, Aufsätze, Programme, oder Bücher – in Open Access Publikationen mit einer Creative Commons Lizenz behalten können und dass das von Vorteil ist.

Es wäre unfair und auch nicht unbedingt hilfreich, die Verlage als zweidimensionale Bösewichter abzustempeln. Bei vielen Verlagen steht die Rechteverwertung der Inhalte im Zentrum des Geschäftsmodells – nur wenige wagen einen Schritt weg vom lukrativen Long Tail hin zu einem APC Modell.

Die meisten sträuben sich gegen die Veränderung, und Verlage investieren lieber in Lobby-Arbeit in Brüssel und Berlin um den Status Quo zu wahren, als sich auf das existentielle Risiko einer Umstellung auf Open Access einzulassen. Das ist wohl ein weiterer Grund, warum die Open Access Entwicklung relativ zäh vorangeht.

b) Distribution

Zurück zum Eigeninteresse. Es ist, wie gesagt, erstaunlich, dass sich akademische Autoren wenig Gedanken machen, für wen sie eigentlich publizieren. In den STM Fächern jagt man zwar dem Impakt Faktor nach – was eine ganze Reihe wissenschaftspraktischer Probleme mit sich bringt– aber in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften scheint die Publikation tatsächlich oft noch Mittel zum Zweck zu sein. Aber auch hier gibt es wenigstens ansatzweise Veränderungen und das liegt an der digitalen Kommunikation im Allgemeinen und an den Sozialen Medien im Besonderen.

Aber natürlich sind längst nicht alle Forscher online aktiv, im Gegenteil. Sogar viele Jungforscher engagieren sich kaum online, sei es in Communities, Blogs, oder den sozialen Medien. Das ist einerseits gut, denn soziale Medien und Blogs fressen Zeit, die wiederum beim Schreiben, Forschen und letztendlich beim Leben fehlt. Allerdings ist es durchaus so, dass sich das Feld der Wissenschaftler spaltet in die, die digital engagiert sind und die die es nicht sind. Letztere tun sich damit keinen Gefallen , denn online werden nicht nur Informationen zu Förderungsmöglichkeiten, Stellenausschreibungen und Konferenzen ausgetauscht; es ist auch eine ideale Möglichkeit die Distribution der eigenen Forschungsergebnisse voranzutreiben. Open Access Publikationen erlauben es dem Wissenschaftler genau dies zu tun und zwar ganz legal, denn das Hochladen auf Academia.edu liegt, um es vorsichtig auszudrücken, in einer Grauzone, wohingegen man mit Open Access Publikationen nichts falsch machen kann.

Gemeinwohl

Der dritte Teil meiner These, der das Gemeinwohl als Beweggrund sieht, ist auch der Angenehmste und wichtigste: Das Gemeinwohl ist letztendlich der wirkliche Grund warum man das Angebot einer Open Access Lösung nicht ablehnen kann. Denn wenngleich Zwang und Eigennutz stark in der Entscheidung der Wissenschaftler für Open Access ins Gewicht fallen mögen, so muss doch letztendlich die gute Sache ausschlaggebend sein. Um das Gemeinwohl ging es in der Open Access Bewegung ohnehin von Anfang an. In der Budapester Open Access Initiative liest man Folgendes:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds” (BOAI)

Mit anderen Worten, Open Access ist grundsätzlich eine ethisch motivierte Bewegung, in der es darum geht, Erforschtes allen Menschen zur Verfügung zu stellen, zum Wohle der globalen Gemeinschaft. Damit regt Open Access Wissenschaftler zur Selbstreflektion an: Für wen und wofür wird geforscht, wem gehören die Ergebnisse und wer soll Zugang zu ihnen bekommen? Kurzum welchen Auftrag hat die Wissenschaft und welche Grenzen akzeptieren wir?

Conclusio

Wie weit sind wir nun gekommen seit dieses hehre Ziel 2001 gesteckt wurde? Open Access Befürworter sind ungeduldig, und ich verstehe und teile diese Ungeduld. In einer Welt, in der dreißig Sekunden Downloadzeit ewig dauern, mag es tatsächlich etwas viel verlangt sein, sich nach zwanzig Jahren zufrieden zu geben mit den bisherigen Entwicklungen.

Andererseits müssen rechtliche und existentielle Fragen von Forschern, Verlagen und Einrichtungen geklärt werden und das braucht seine Zeit. Verlage bangen um ihre Existenz; Forscher kämpfen härter als je um Stellen, deren Vergabe oftmals auf dem Prestige der Zeitschriften und Verlage beruht, in denen man veröffentlicht; Bibliotheken sehen sich plötzlich völlig neuen Aufgabenbereichen gegenüber. Es wäre aber verkehrt zu sagen, dass wir nicht vorankommen: Die Infrastruktur für Open Access Publikationen im grünen wie im goldenen Weg ist weit gediehen und viele Wissenschaftler sind für die Vorteile des Open Access weitaus offener geworden als sie dies noch vor zehn Jahren waren.

On the Oxford Dictionary’s Choice of “Post-truth” as the Word of the Year.

What a mess: Turns out my enthusiastic use of Facebook over the last years ended in a semantic cul-de-sac. Like millions, I handed over my personal interests, preferences, and personality traits (“which Sherlock Holmes are you?”) to an invisible data-glutton who diligently digested all my information and spewed it back at me in the form of a tailor-made feed where I found little to disagree with. Recently, my time to read newspapers became ever more scarce, while the convenience of finding “all I need to know” on FB lulled me into a false sense of security. Now it is clear that what I had considered to be “the situation” turned out to be an incredibly skewed vision of reality. Like so many after Trump’s election and Brexit, I am shocked to realize that I have no idea any more what is true and what isn’t. As of today, the jargon expression I’d been using for a while to describe this state of affairs has become an official word with a pedigree: post-truth.

What does this mean for scholarly communication? Here, too, the foundations of what is and what isn’t true have been shaken. Peer-review has taken a hit as a bastion of quality control; the reproducibility crisis put a dent into the credibility of STEM research. The humanities and social sciences have been grappling with the post-modernist legacy of “there is no truth” for decades.

What is left? Technology? Possibly, but we need to ask ourselves whether we are building things for the betterment of life or because we want to hand over more and more tasks and thus responsibility for our lives to non-human intelligence. What is at the end of that rainbow? The discussions will have to continue!

Perhaps truth (absolute or otherwise) is over; nevertheless, if we want to co-exist peacefully, we will have to agree on what we consider important and beneficial to all. Rebuilding a social consensus is going to be very difficult and a lot of work. We will have to reestablish the meaning of concepts such as “democracy”, “freedom”, “security”, “privacy”, “community”, or “accountability”. We will have to continue to improve the way we disseminate and vet information and research results. And, as I argued yesterday, we will have to get better at communicating our work to everyone – not just those within our algorithmically curated information-bubbles.

Help Us, Academia, You Are Our Only Hope.

Yesterday, The Scholarly Kitchen’s David Crotty reflected on the presidential omnishambles in his piece “The US Election, a Need for Curation, and the Power of Story”. He offers two points: the first – which is well taken – tackles the role of Facebook and its information bubbles built by algorithms.

Crotty’s other point is the lack of a narrative for scholarly publishing. He writes:

We are notoriously poor at telling our story. We know we do something valuable, but what we do is often subtle and unseen, and when we start describing it, we get lost in the details and the caveats. At that point, we’ve lost our audience.

For the last decade and a half, we have been trying to counter an argument that all publishers are greedy corporations, reaping massive profits, and bent on stopping cancer patients from reading about their conditions. Or one that publishers steal the hard work of researchers and then sell that work back to them at exorbitant prices. Neither of these arguments is particularly true, but both resonate emotionally. That’s hard to counter with wonky charts showing declines in cost-per-use or cost-per-citation or an in-depth explanation of the peer review process. Rooting for a self-declared Luke Skywalker over someone they’re accusing of being Darth Vader is much easier to get behind than understanding the subtleties of a complex service industry.

While the bit Crotty describes as “not particularly true” is, well, debatable, the rot in scholarly communication runs much deeper. “People of this country have had enough of experts”, opined Michael Gove just before Brexit. At that moment, scholarly communication was handed the bill for failing spectacularly at making itself understood, relevant, and persuasive. This is not just due to pay walls or too many facts to make a convincing case; the bitter truth is that an increasingly incomprehensible ivory tower – and the academic publishing industry is part of it – has utterly disconnected from the wider public.

The thing is, good writers are incredibly rare in academia and editors are by now seen as a luxury most publishers cannot afford. Both exist almost in spite of a system that on the one hand is insatiable when it comes to new content but on the other considers rhetorical skills and the craft of writing to be a given. Yes, there are writing programs here and there, additional courses offered by graduate academies and the like, but the fundamental skills of communication have not really been at the core of our education for a long time. And now it shows. We get lost in technicalities, unable to clearly convey the bigger picture and relevance of what we do. We cannot thrill, excite, and stimulate a wider audience with our discoveries because we never really learned how to formulate and produce a good story. Our tales are boring, disjointed, and more often than not a stylistic nightmare. Who wants to read this stuff?

While the hour is late to own up to this, it is good that we realize the problem not only in the US and Britain but also in Europe. Here too the concern over a missing narrative is manifesting itself. In yesterday’s Forward the Commons! A unifying political vision for Europe the authors call for a positive counter-narrative:

The crisis of the European Union begs for new, unifying and constructive narratives – alternatives to the right-wing populist and nationalist wave that is getting fiercer every day. A commons approach holds the potential for a unified vision towards an alternative economy, a Europe from the bottom up and an ecological way of life.

It remains to be seen whether such a vision will convince those Europeans who are already under the spell of the fear-mongering, anti-intellectual tales of “us vs. them” that characterize so many of our right-wing demagogues. The would-be authors need to remember that a good story needs conflict and a hero, a familiar structure and a touch of magic. Take Trump’s slogan “Make America great again”. Its disconcerting genius lies in the fact that it distilled all these elements into four words.

But finding these crucial structural ingredients will not be enough. To quote Pulitzer, the authors of an alternative narrative will have to:

Put it before them briefly so that they will read it,
Clearly so they will appreciate it,
Picturesquely so they will remember it,
And, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

It is foolish to think that such skills just somehow appear. They need to be learned. Enter another crucial element of any good story: the mentor. Who other than academia can fill the role of the Merlins, Gandalfs, and Obi Wan Kenobis? If scholarly publishing once more considers the readability of content as an important hallmark of quality and academia rediscovers its duty of preparing folks with the communicative tools for a reflected, well-informed life, then we may be able to at least adjust the narrative and look to brighter days ahead.

The Dust Still Hasn’t Settled. Reading the Results from Science Europe and Global Research Council Surveys

Last month Science Europe published a survey report on Open Access Publishing Policies in its Member Organisations. Based on two surveys conducted in 2012 and 2014 respectively it casts light on the progress – or lack thereof – in the implementation of #OA across the disciplines.
The data for the report is based exclusively on information provided by Research Funding Organisations and Research Performing Organizations who participated in both surveys. While methodologically this is a sound decision, it considerably limits the representative value of the exercise. A glance at the participants shows that most information was culled from (Western) Europe. With the exception of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, Eastern Europe is absent from the survey. Considering that the 2014 survey was of global scope, the reach of the results shrinks even more.
Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction. Considering the ongoing fluctuation of the publishing landscape, the breakneck speed of technical developments, and the recent political upheavals that may yet play a role in the further pursuit of transnational open access to research, it is helpful and encouraging to see the first steps toward an overview coming from the very organisations who, in my opinion, hold the key to the success of the transition.
The report conveys a sense of direction and awareness of pressing issues, such as supporting new initiatives or establishing technical standards, which are crucial in the steps ahead. On the other hand, it also becomes clear that the mills do grind very slowly indeed: there is little more than encouragement and suggestion – we are still a far cry from a pan-European (leave alone international) Open Access Policy with bite.

Outsourcing Editing? Part II

Last fall, I wrote about the financial challenges of quality copy editing. The post grew out of having to develop a new editing workflow and a sustainable business model for our local publications. My plan was, as I wrote in October, to pursue contracts with some of our long-time freelancers and one or two additional providers. They arranged for a series of editing samples that tackled an excerpt from one of our typical texts. The quality was good and the price seemed fair but while we were negotiating, my erstwhile strategy was overtaken by developments within the university administration, which made outsourcing a lot more complicated.

With this change of administrative goalposts came the realization that we would have to produce Issue 2/2015 of our e-journal Transcultural Studies completely in-house because we would not be able to reorganize the outsourcing workflow in time for publication. It was only the second time we had to handle everything from submission to publication without the assistance of a freelancer. However, we did well: When we went live just before Christmas it had become evident that our team, consisting of two copy-editors, one layout-specialist and two assistants (all on part-time student assistant contracts except for one copy-editor who holds a 50% editorial assistant position), had grown enough to accomplish the production (read: from copy-edit to publication) of a book-length project (130 and 289 pages respectively) in about seven weeks. This includes two rounds of changes by the authors, as well as the production of pdfs (InDesign) and an html version.

After some internal discussions with the powers that be, we decided to shelve all negotiations with freelancers and instead test our internal workflow further with a larger manuscript. The project that became our next guinea pig contains some 25 essays of varying length and uneven linguistic quality, written—like most of our submissions—in English by non-native speakers. In short, this project was several times the size of the e-journal issue we had just tackled.

The task really stretched our capacities: First, we learned that our project management needs fine-tuning. There were redundancies due to oversights and varying competencies. We format according to the Chicago Manual of Style and some team members are more familiar with it than others, which translated into repeated rounds of checking. This is no big deal for an essay or two, but when there are two dozen essays to edit, this can consume many hours. Further developing copy-editing skills is therefore high on our agenda.

Second, there are divergent approaches to editing within the team. Some edit with a more pedagogical bent because they usually deal with student papers. Others come from a publishing background and approach problem solving in a more fait accompli way. The former may tell the author the nature of their mistakes, while the latter offer a take-it-or-leave-it alternative formulation instead. Both approaches have their merits and we will have to find an editing style that combines the best of both without prolonging the overall publication process.

Last but not least, we grappled with the question of how perfect a manuscript can get before it goes into layout. It is part of a good editor’s skill set to know when to let go and come to terms with the fact that no manuscript will ever be flawless. All editors have to weigh between production costs and perfect formulation and formatting. In all my years on the job, I have never been in a win-win situation when it comes to this. Something always has to give. How much that is or when the right time has come to let go is something that as a team we have to agree on.

In the end we took too many hours for the copy-edit. It would have been undoubtedly cheaper to outsource the task to a freelancer for a fixed price. But I consider the difference as an investment. As we hone our skills, we will get better and faster and thus more cost-effective. Since the next excellence initiative is around the corner and the tremendous challenges of publishing competitive English-language output in the humanities and social sciences by non-native authors is unlikely to go away, an experienced resident editing team will be able to offer indispensable support not only to in-house  publication projects, but also to resident scholars who wish to place their work with high-profile international publishing houses.

We received the next book manuscript a couple of weeks ago for copy-edit. Let’s see how much we have improved. Part three on this topic will follow.

 

Outsourcing Editing? Part I

I recently tweeted a question:

The question came to me after resurfacing from several intense months in the editorial office, where my team and I had been working at a fever pitch to complete an array of challenging publishing tasks: We produced two very demanding issues of our flagship publication Transcultural Studies, developed the content for Heidelberg University’s first MOOC, built the workflows and much of the website for heiUP, the university’s open access publishing house, which will be launched this fall. There were workshops and courses, conferences, one book series to be set up and another to be maintained, manuscripts to be edited, layouts to be created, reviews to be written, funding to be considered, not to forget business models to be tested.

Particularly the latter brings up the issue of whether editing academic manuscripts is necessary and affordable. While I firmly believe that good editing is at the core of good publishing (as I have argued elsewhere), the fact that most publishers, open access or for-profit, offer little of it, is irrefutable. (See for example the recent article by Lorenz M. Hilty “What do academic publishers still offer?”). But if publishers do not engage with the content they publish, how can they produce quality?

Hence my tweet. However, as I lifted my head above the parapet to survey the academic publishing landscape, I noticed that something was slightly different. It seems there has been a recent increase in the number of editing companies offering to plug the hole in the publishing workflow where in-house editing once took place.

This development is interesting insofar as it suggests that the need to secure quality control remains undiminished, while the financial responsibility for ensuring it is being thrown around like a hot potato. Many publishers let their authors pay for editing, either to maximise their profit or because they cannot stem the costs. The rationale is often peculiar: they may be shouting “we are the biggest,” or “most ethical,” or “most prestigious” publisher, but do not wish to pay what it costs to ensure those claims amount to more than posturing. So the solution is to saddle the authors with the bill. Some funding bodies may help cover some of the costs, if that kind of quality control is part of an APC for an open access publication for example, but if an author needs their manuscript edited, even after it was accepted for publication, chances are they have to pay for it out of pocket.

There are some exceptions: initiatives like Language Science Press or The International Journal of Dream Research recruit the community of a discipline into the production of their output. Then there are models where some editing is done on campus by students who are schooled and employed as assistants by the institution’s publishing branch, like Athabasca University Press. Heidelberg University is investigating this latter possibility, too. Last, but by no means least, it will be very interesting to see how The Open Library of the Humanities will fare with their new model. Most manuscripts, however, are edited during countless unpaid hours invested by journal editors, researchers, colleagues, and students.

Enter the editing companies. They make big promises, such as “quick turnaround,” “editors with university degrees,” “seasoned editors,” “guaranteed quality,” and feature countless exuberant, 5-star reviews along with impressive lists of customer names. That sounds amazing, not just to the lone author who is trying to get her book or article into the best possible state, but also to those managing journals, book series, or small publishing ventures, who consider outsourcing this aspect of quality control.

Editing, particularly copy-editing, is hard, time-consuming, at times soul-destroying work, so for those of us, who have some budgetary wiggling room, the often reasonably priced offers promised by these companies are a welcome option in a world where publishers no longer assume, or even give a damn about, the responsibility of editorial quality. It so happens that developing a sustainable business model falls within my remit as managing editor, which means I will find out more.

Starting this week in Hall 4.2 at the 2015 Frankfurt Bookfair, I am contacting some of these companies to see what kind of offers I receive. My sample will be a projected turnaround of several books and 4-6 journal issues that need editing work of various depth: from thorough copy-edits (including non-Latin script materials, bibliographies, and the like) to quick proof-reading.

I will analyse editing samples, engage in price negotiations, and discuss delivery times to form an opinion about whether editing companies can be trusted with some of our workload in the future.

I also hope to get input from colleagues and you about experiences with outsourcing editing, so I can place my results in a wider context. Once I have numbers, samples and feedback, I will write Part Two. Should be informative. Stay tuned!

Are We Trading Quality for Affordability? Concerns for Open Access Gold

During the recent #OAT14 in Cologne, the 8th annual Open Access Days of the German speaking countries, a niggling doubt crept into my overall impression of progress and streamlining in Open Access undertakings. Regardless of the distance we may have covered over the last decade or so, I am beginning to wonder if we are all too ready to trade “quality” for “affordability” when producing Open Access Gold publications.

The conference’s contributions demonstrated that open access is growing up. And that is good! The panels may no longer be filled with starry-eyed calls for change. Instead, discussions now focus on issues of long-term prospects and feasible (read: slow) next steps.

And yet, and yet. As open access gold takes these next steps I wonder how much is left behind to accomplish them. Take books, for example. There has arguably never been a comparable opportunity in the history of mankind’s pursuits in the humanities and social sciences to expand and redefine its preeminent genre. And arguably, the very raison d’être of all academics is to produce the best possible intellectual work based on the most thorough research that in turn follows the most rigorous analytical standards. I assume, perhaps naively, that those involved in open access gold publishing are not only aware of these two premises but that it informs their work. I further assume that this includes the custodians of knowledge, i.e. librarians, who now face the tremendous challenge and opportunity of giving academic publishing a home on campus again. But something about this conference gave me the impression that my assumptions are just that: assumptions.

What I realized during these two days in Cologne is that frugality may very well end up overriding quality standards. Most open access pursuits in the publishing of books seem to include everything but content: platforms, layout, metadata, DOIs, archiving, distribution, amazon – it is all there, except editing, which, apparently, is no longer the job of publishers, but authors, book-editors, or series-editors. They are the ones who are supposed to look after “publishability” (if there is such a word), peer-reviews, copy-edit, and proof-reading. And while this is certainly one way of imagining it, my experience tells me that it cannot work. Again, it may be a case of naivity, but editing is – at all these levels – not something anyone can do on the side; it is a profession. A good editor is crucial if a text is to reach its full potential.

Besides, today’s academics already have to wear too many hats: they teach, research, are in committees, publish articles, books, funding-applications for projects (which, if the bid is successful, they also have to run); they convene and participate in conferences, review, evaluate, advise, administer and, sometimes, they even get the time for field-work or explore a new field. At the same time, the pressure to get a job is getting increasingly intense as is the pressure to perform outstandingly in all areas if you want to keep the job you have (beyond the expiry date of your contract) or to get the next gig. Can we seriously, on top of all this, expect academics to also perform as their own editors (press-, series-, book-, managing-, copy-, and layout-)? That smacks of passing the buck and ignoring the elephant in the room: publishing is not just broken in terms of pricing. It is also broken in terms of production and quality standards.

Many trade-publishers have shaved off editing not because the manuscripts have, miraculously, become flawless but to maximize profit-margins. Today, most “editors” are merely making sure the cogs of the (mostly automated) publishing process stay oiled and cheap. The development of the content has fallen by the wayside in favour of profit. Astonishingly, this amputation has apparently remained unnoticed judging by the fact that academics, somewhat sheepishly, accept this lack of engagement with their texts along with the ridiculous over-charging and the loss of their rights as authors. Somehow we bought into the deal that if we want a well edited text, we need to organize and pay for it ourselves while the publishers ensure the happiness of their share-holders.

What troubles me is that it seems as though this fiscally motivated lack of quality assurance is now being adopted by our new open access publishing-models, the main objective being: keep the costs as low as possible, even if that means replicating the abysmal editorial quality that we have grown accustomed to. What concerns me extremely is that very few in open access gold publishing seem to question any of this.

We are at a turning point not only in the technology that informs our research and the way academic communication functions on an infrastructural level; we are also at a crossroads regards the standards that we want our academic output to fulfill. Books are but one example. As Wolfgang zu Castell showed in his #oat14 contribution “Open Access – mehr als nur eine Frage der Kommunikation,” (Open access – more than just a question of communication) comparable issues plague the very data that we base this output on. He pointed back to Anthony Chang’s “The Dangers of Cargo Cult Data Science,” warned of the pitfalls of opaque data-analysis, and called for transparency of the entire data-pipeline; in fact, he reminded everyone in the room of the scientific method for good measure, something I found equally appropriate and shocking.

Our age should not be remembered for missing the opportunity to combine technological innovation with excellence in publishing quality. It will take boldness to avoid such a legacy. Academics must be bold and publish their work in open access and funders must be bold by providing the funds necessary for the transition (don’t forget the Willinsky doctrine: the money to publish open access is already in circulation). Last but not least: the libraries have to be doubly bold: not only to redirect their budgets to house new publishing outlets but to also invest enough in producing excellent works.

 

Catch!

A few moons ago, just before Easter, Claudie Paye (@naponaps) of the fine blog on Napoleon, Naps, sent us a #bestblog “Stöckchen” (little stick, baton) via Twitter. This is an appeal to answer some questions about our blog and, once we are done, to pass the baton on to other bloggers. The point of this tag-like game is to better connect bloggers. Although we are ridiculously late with our answer, we are delighted to be part of this initiative and will gladly participate – albeit in English, which is our working language, and not in the original German. I took the liberty of translating the questions.

So here goes:

1. Wer bloggt denn hier? Who blogs here?
ZB: This blog is run by Andrea Hacker, who holds the position of Managing Editor at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” at the University of Heidelberg.  In this role, she produces a book-series with Springer, as well as the open-access (gold) journal Transcultural Studies. She is a founding member of the Open Access Tool Alliance, regularly teaches EAP courses to PhD candidates and Post docs, and is currently building a pilot open-access (gold) book series with Heidelberg’s University Library and in cooperation with PKP. One of Andrea’s assistants, Zara Barlas (@z_barlas), also contributes to the blog with regular “Open Access Twitter Reports”.

AH: Zara is much too modest here – she is knee-deep in this blog as well as our other open undertaking: a MOOC on Academic Writing. Stay tuned!

2. Wie und wann ist das Blog entstanden? Was ist die Idee dahinter? When and how did the blog start? What is the idea behind it?
The blog started in November 2013 to do two things: it offers me (AH) a place to formulate ideas and reflect on developments in academia’s open movement. This includes impressions from our own open projects, but also from conferences, conversations and, of course, online readings about open access, funding policies,MOOCs, open data, open science, e-learning, e-publishing, self-publishing, and bibliometrics.

The blog’s second function lies in the collection of our Open Access Twitter reports, which Zara has been collating and preparing for quite some time now.  These reports offer a quick overview of the most pertinent Open Access developments that were reflected on Twitter over the course of a couple of weeks. The entire archive is available unter the tab “OA Twitter Report Archive”.

3. Die drei wichtigsten Grundfähigkeiten, die Du/Sie im Laufe des Studiums bzw. der Promotion erworben hast/haben? What are the three most important skills you acquired during graduate school?
AH: The trick is not to know everything, but knowing where to look it up. Horseback riding. Polish.

4. Lohnt es sich seine Forschungsdaten parallel/nach der Publikation der Dissertation zu veröffentlichen? Is it sensible to publish research data during or after the publication of the dissertation?
Yes! Provability is key to assess research results. Too often we have to take someone’s word and cannot check back to the data to verify what they say. But it depends of course what our dissertation is supposed to do: if you want to publish it in Open Access – perfect: link your data to it and enjoy the full benefit of distribution on a global scale. If (unfortunately) you want to revise it into a book with a trade-publisher or loot it for articles in “prestigious” (read: pay-walled) journals, then perhaps you will be of a different opinion..

5. Rezensionswesen gestern morgen? Whither  book-reviews? Book reviews yesterday tomorrow?
As with the rest of academia, there are great new digital possibilities for book- and journal reviews. We are now seeing a rise in online platforms such as recensio.net or h-net.org. Blogs are also growing as a platform for academic reviews, a prime example of which can be seen at  LSE Review of Books. Reviews will probably continue to flourish in this direction and may even morph into different forms.

6. Warum nutzt Du/nutzen Sie (nicht) akademische soziale Netzwerke (ResearchGate, Academia.edu, …)? Why do you (or don’t you) use academic social networks such as ResearchGate or Academia.edu?
Academic social networks are useful tools to connect with researchers everywhere who pursue topics and interests similar to your own. In addition, academia.edu has the benefit of acting as a platform that enables its users to open up and share their own published works, although there have been some controversies regarding copyright issues! Despite its benefits, academic social networks are greatly limited; the number of registered users on such sites are minuscule compared to other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is particularly important for the academic world, with cases of tweeted academic works receiving more hits than those that have not been tweeted, and tweets being proven as reliable predictors of citations. With over 200 million users the micro-blogging platform, with its hashtag craze, can be immensely useful for academics  and offers a much larger reach than Academia.edu or ResearchGate, with their 8 million and 4 million users respectively. It depends on your preference: the smaller circle or the massive communication environment. Either way: we are really into it!

7. Ändert sich zurzeit die Wissenschaftskommunikation wirklich nachhaltig? Are the current changes in academic communication really a long-term development?
It depends on what is meant by “long-term” and “current changes”. In the last few decades, academic communication has been so dynamic that it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is current; we have new means of communications from one day to the next. However, the shift in academic communication from the analogue to the digital world, and the growing usage of blogging and social networks certainly seem to be something progressive and ongoing. With the snap of a finger (or the clink of a light bulb in some genius’s mind) we will have our next big wave of academic communication through some new software or hardware, but it would almost certainly continue be something digital and something global.

8. Eine interessante Initiative aus dem Bereich „Science Marketing“? What would be an example of an interesting initiative from the area of “Science Marketing”?
We are stumped and have no ideas.

9. Eine ausgefallene Initiative im Bereich „Bookmarketing“? What would be an example of an extravagant initiative in the area of book marketing?
The temptation to be silly is great but we won’t. Make sure people know about your work – look after your meta-data, spread the news on the networks, go after your publisher to do their job.

10. Generation Praktikum, Generation „Gefällt mir“: zu pessimistisch, zu skeptisch? Was kommt danach? Generation internship, Generation “Like” – is this too pessimistic, too sceptical?
We do not have internships at the editorial office and we don’t want them either. People should get paid for their work! As for the “Like”, “Thumbs up”, “+”, or “favourite” function: it is a very fast and simple way to get a sense of how something is received. This can pay off, for example, on MOOCs. The full potential for this instant digital voting system is still far off and it will be fascinating to see how if can be used in an academic context.

bestblogaward

The way the game goes, we now formulate our own ten questions and pass on the baton to some other blogs we like. So here goes:

I encourage the following bloggers to answer the questions below:

@ernestopriego for epriego.wordpress.com; @martin_eve for Martineve.com; @openaccessarch for http://dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com/; @zbarlas for http://inartandsong.com; and @tolstoysays for http://tolstoysays.blogspot.de/

1. Who blogs here and how did the blog come about?

2. What are the main issues informing the blog?

3. Is the blog post as a genre helpful for developing larger research projects?

4. Freedom of information is always good – so let’s play at augury: whither transparency and openness? (or you can flip it: whither profitability and privacy?)

5. What are the aesthetic considerations for your blog?

6. How do you keep abreast of all the information that is relevant to your project? Can you?

7. Where do you see the most productive and promising developments in academic networking? How do blogs fit into this?

8. Could the growing concern regards surveillance affect the debate of open information?

9. What are the three most important skills you acquired during graduate school?

10. What are you reading at the moment?

So what happens next? If you are so inclined, please

  •  answer these questions – feel free to tweak them
  • include the Best Blog Award-image and link it to the person’s blog post that gave you the award.
  • come up with or recycle ten questions and pass on the best blog “Stöckchen” to up to ten other bloggers.
  • have fun 🙂

 

Beyond the Great Firewall: Gold Open Access Journals in China

The discussions about academic publishing and Open Access, which my team and I follow, take place, to a large extent, on social media networks: Twitter in particular, but also the blogosphere is where the latest developments are often first mentioned, spread, and deliberated. Much of this discourse is carried out in English or other European languages.  This may explain why it has been so tricky for those of us lacking the linguistic skills to learn about Open Access in China.

I had the chance to get a personal impression of the developments beyond the great firewall, i.e. beyond my limited reach on Twitter, Blogger, et al., when I participated in the first Sino-German Training Workshop on Open Access Publishing in Beijing (March 12-13, 2014).

Hosted by the Chinese-Deutsches Zentrum für Wissenschaftsförderung (Sino-German Center for Research Promotion) and superbly organized by members of the National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences under the leadership of its director Zhang Xiaolin, an 11-strong German delegation came together with an 11-strong Chinese delegation and about half a dozen representatives of the publishing industry to introduce, discuss, and exchange information about Open Access gold publishing across academic disciplines. The lecture hall was filled with an audience of about seventy or eighty Chinese editors, librarians, publishers, and students.

Panels discussed hosting, networks and tools, the perspectives of commercial publishers, setting up and managing open access publishing funds, transitioning from subscription to open access models, and re-use and licensing. A collection of most slideshows (some in English, others bi-lingual) can be found here, except the excellent presentation on issues of licensing by one of the organizers, Alan Ku (Ku Liping), which can be found here (replete with a cover shot of the Chinese edition of the book on Creative Commons licenses by James Baker, Martin Eve, and Ernesto Priego)

In his keynote lecture, Professor Zhang offered a comprehensive overview of open access strategies, practices, and challenges in China (See here for an article by him on this issue published in UKSG’s Insights). One of his most pressing questions, which also resurfaced throughout the two days, was “Who will pay for this?” The quest for sensible business models and long-term sustainability is as urgent in China as it is in the West. Another highlight in Zhang’s keynote was the rapid and steady increase of papers, citations, and funding (as % of GDP). China is by now the world’s third most quoted and the second most productive R&D country i.t.o. publications. Zhang also pointed to certain problems, particularly the danger of cyclicality: things that are published in China being also quoted in China and thus skewing the mterics. On the other hand,  the number of publications based on international collaborations have been rising steadily over the last 10 years from 8000 to 30000.

Behind this boost and indeed the considerable number of Open Access journals across China is the staunch support of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Science Library.  CAS announced its pursuit of Open Access in in the wake of Berlin 8 back in 2010 and continuously expanded their portfolio of Open Access journals. The 2012 move to join SCOAP3, so Zhang, had a transformative effect in the STM community. There is also the strong consortium of the National Science and Technology Digital Library (NSTL) which, as part of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, has been playing a key role in securing China’s access to international science publications since 2008 and now is a crucial supporter of China’s open access developments.

Obviously, not all open access gold endeavors coming out of China are part of CAS’ and NSTL’s infrastructure.  Yingkuan Wang, who is managing editor of IJABE, the International Journal of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, showed how a mixture of Author Processing Fees (which can be waived on request), conference organization, and advertisement keeps his journal afloat.

IJABE is running on OJS, which is also what most of the German journal projects presented at the workshop are using. Surprisingly, the Chinese audience and the rest of the Chinese delegates were not really familiar with the platform. When asked how many people in the room know about OJS, only one hand went up.  There was a very lively discussion session at the end of the workshop where the many pros and few cons of OJS were debated by those using the platform on a daily basis (and yes, I may be partial).  Perhaps it was enough to sway some of the Chinese editors in the room to give it a try. At the same time, it was highly interesting to see some of the latest alternatives that Chinese coders are developing.

China’s efforts to participate, organize, and further open access developments in publishing are impressive. Behind it stands a strong competitiveness for excellence and prestige in the global R&D environment.  Index factors, altmetrics, and other indicators of reception and reuse of Chinese research publications play a very big a role. Commercial publishers such as BioMedCentral know this and are already deeply involved in the Chinese research market – or so I gathered from the presentation/pitch in Chinese given by BMC’s Danqing Wang. While this push into traditional research outlets is unsurprising, it is vital that non-for-profit publishing outfits foster and expand their collaborations with Chinese open access initiatives to help curb overpriced APFs and other pitfalls that come with the territory.  I found it reassuring that the Chinese colleagues are as acutely aware of them as we are and just as interested in avoiding them.

I would have loved to tweet about this highly inspiring and interesting event but the great firewall made that impossible.  For the purposes of a productive exchange with open access colleagues in China, I will have to engage in good old fashioned e-mail correspondence, skyping, and hopefully personal contact. We will definitely continue talking!