Friday, July 13, 2007

“Living Reviews - Open Access Online Publications”

Presenter: Christina Weyher, Max Planck Digital Library (in the Max Planck Society)
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM July 13, 2007 Place: SFUHC Bank of Nova Scotia Lecture Room


Christina Weyher is the Project Manager for Living Reviews, an open access, on-line only publishing platform for science-based journals, which operates out of Germany. The presenters area of speciality is in information science and she share her experience working in the field of scientific scholarly publishing.

As Christina Weyher discussed the Living Reviews project she draws attention to the importance of having innovative editorial content access through open publication platforms. The publication highlights current research and the challenges that are faced in future research. As interest and visibility are growing, the site now acts as a platform for four key areas: relativity, solar physics, european governance and landscape research. The Living Review portal necessitated certain functions through the library and since 2002 Living Reviews has been supported by the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation as part of the Center for Information Management in the Max Planck Society (ZIM) - non-profit research organisation

What is unique about these journals?

Articles are updated and remain current by authors via open access service. The target group is for the scientific community, but authors are asked to keep the content accessible, so the journals are read by members outside the scholarly community as well. Some of the features of Living Journals include:

  • peer-reviewed articles
  • insightful surveys on research progress in the field
  • guiding readers to pertinent and current iliterature
  • research solicited from experts in the field by an international Editorial Board
  • open access publications
  • 'living articles' meaning regularly updated by the authors to incorporate latest developments and discoveries

In terms of the latter feature, the publication has requirements for updates, usually after two years of submission; a substantional revision review covers recent developments and uncovers any new aspects. After a full peer review a new publication number is generated, but linked to original article through special tracking macro and citation tracking tools. The publication now boasts a fast track revision for minor updates, which usually consist of short notices or the addition of new references. This is reviewed by the subject editor and all changes are tracked.

Online interface and challenges: Some articles are lengthy (which brings to mind Ray Siemen's REKn discussion of how efficient reading need not be the entire document) and require a large amount of space as do the high resolution illustrations that often accompany the submissions. These articles are both in HTML and PDF.

Weyher discussed the need for quality control and how the journal is looking at having referee reports published along with the articles. She also brought up the blind referee model as necessary to provide objectivity. As the portal grows, new considerations and discussions emerge, which also keeps the publishing process 'living' much like the author's submissions.

Open access has brought down barriers and is a key factor in the success of the portal (3000 downloads per month). As all journal context is exposed to search engines, the publication is viable, visible and accessible. The presenter echoed a common theme heard throughout the PKP conference - the need to have enthusiastic, dedicated people involved in an open-access project.

Christina Weyher spoke about the collaboration involved in electronic publishing and the ease with which migration for other journals occurred as they had a successful model to draw from. She also stressed the need for institutional support and the important role that foundations play.

Christina Weyher's presentation illustrated the continuity between current open access models of publishing with the original collaborative process seen in the days of Oldenberg's Philosophical Transactions. In the Living Review model, authors are encouraged to revise and update their findings, making for a collection of relevant and accurate research, reviewed and commented on by peers in the scholarly community. This also meen the publishers and authors are engaged in a collaborative communication as they strive to produce affordable, efficient methods of disseminating relevant scholarly information. In keeping with the democratic principles of open access, the articles are free, and being offered in HTML format lessens the technical challenges in access for users in developing nations, a practice seen in other journals, such as Bioline, and recommended by authors like Subbiah Arunachalam. This lessens the gap of access and heightens the visibility for potential authors from developing countries who wish to submit articles. This project is equitable in that operates as an entry point for graduate students and a collaborative network for experienced researchers, but also remains accessible - in language and cost -to the general public as well. Seeded, supported and published through the foundational support, all publication software is open source and can be used for non-commercial purposes without attached licensing fees. Unlike the traditional journal models, Living Review publishers allows authors to retain copyright. As publishing and editorial services are available to any journals affiliated with the Max Planck Institutes, the platform is expanding as the distribution grows - generating greater visibility for authors and journals alike. Clearly, the shape of publishing and research access is changing and Living Review demonstrates that open source journals can be an economically sustainable option. Maintaining the balance between retaining intellectual property rights and public knowledge is critical, as is fostering positive relationships between publishers and scholars. Living Review is demonstrating a protection of the commons while fostering the principles of innovation and scholarly incentives.

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