Thursday, July 12, 2007

New publishing models for scholarly communication and the Brazilian open access policy

Presenter: Sely M. Costa
Partner: Helio Kuramoto
PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference
Thursday, July 12, 2007
2:55 PM - 3:55 PM in SFUHC
Westcoast Energy Executive Meeting Room
Vancouver, Canada

Sely Costa is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brasilia and can be reached at

The presentation was based on a study of Brazilian online journals using Open Journal Systems (OJS) and of Brazilian open access policies. The idea behind the study was to ask if, using open software, it is possible to implement both the “green road” and the “golden road” in scholarly publishing in Brazil? The “green road” relates to open self-archiving policies, through such resources as Dspace and Eprints. The “golden road” relates to open access publishing, through such resources as Open Journal Systems (OJS) and Open Conference Systems (OCS).

Theoretical Framework
The high prices of journal subscriptions required by prestigious publishers have produced a journal crisis, the result of which has been the bourgeoning new and varied business models for scholarly journals, including open archiving and open access models.

The conventional process of journal publishing is not changing outright because of open access, but a number of patterns in the process are revealed, and questions arise when we talk about open access. Each stage of the conventional process has been called into question by the open access movement, because of new business models. It is unlikely that every journal will become open access, nor is the journal the only communication medium for scholarly communities.

Methodological Procedures and Data
The study performed an analysis of documents, and used both a quantitative and a qualitative approach. It studied 207 scholarly, open access, OJS journals in Brazil, and the Instituto Brasileiro de Informacao em Ciencia e Tecnologia’s (Ibict) Open Access information policies.

OJS journals created per year in Brazil:
In 2004, there were 28 OJS journals created.
In 2005, there were 42.
In 2006, there were 71.
In 2007 (the 1st semester only), there were 66.
The total OJS journals in Brazil as of the end of the study was 207, although Kuramoto (the partner mentioned at the beginning of this blog) told Sely Costa by phone that today, on July 12, 2007, the number has become 230.

The way that OJS journals caught on in Brazil was that, in 2004 John Willinsky presented at a conference. Kuramoto was there and he decided to carry out OJS initiatives in Brazil.

OJS journals in Brazil by discipline:
Science, Technology, Medicine: 62
Social Sciences: 54
Arts and Humanities: 53
Multidisciplinary: 38
Total: 207

OJS journals in Brazil by geographic region:
North: 5
Northeast: 20
South: 82
Southeast: 83
MiddleWest: 17 (Sely Costa’s region)

What is being Done in Brazil in the Open Access Movement
-Carrying out technology prospective studies
-Customizing software (OJS, OCS, Eprints, Dspace, NDLTD)
-Training people (640 people, at 189 institutions)
-Translating/transferring technology (SEET, SOAC (OCS in Portuguese), Institutional Repositories at universities)
-Building portals (data and service providers, such as BDTD;
-Sensitizing the scholarly community and policy makers to the issues and benefits of Open Access (for example, Sely Costa has run two international conferences in Brazil; also Brazil has been the first country to have a bill presented to parliament proposing a mandatory policy for open access).
-Expanding Brazilian initiatives to the Portuguese speaking (ALemPLus project) and Latin American countries (DRIVER)

Some Problems with OJS in Brazil
There is a rapidly growing number of OJS journals being created in Brazil, contributing to the gradual accomplishment of the “golden road,” full open access approach.

However, the study revealed some problems within the open access journal movement in Brazil: 1. a great number of OJS journal titles do not reflect any area, field, topic, or discipline. An academic journal title should reflect the topic in some respect, especially with the creation of so many new journals; 2. discontinuities of publication, wherein some journals are created without studying whether there is enough knowledge production in the area and there will be enough submissions to publish regularly. Some journals publish only one or two issues, then stop; 3. many journals do not disclose information about the submission process and peer review process of the journal, so it is unclear if these process are even happening at all, or how they are proceeding, a lack of disclosure which is unscholarly; 4. although the majority of OJS journals in Brazil are created and maintained by an individual researcher of a university dept/course/post-grad programme, there is a problem with the journals not complying with academic standards, even though they are created in academic environments. The problem is that publishers are not trained in the standards of academic publishing before actually going ahead and publishing with the easy and straightforward OJS system.

Many problems identified are due to a lack of knowledge about scholarly publishing itself, in whatever medium. Although there are technicians developing competence in OJS, none are concerned with or aware of the process of scholarly publishing as a whole.

In closing, the presenter briefly went over Ibict’s role in the open access movement in Brazil (although Sely Costa is not part of Ibict, Kuamoto is part of the institution): 1. it is involved in promoting disseminating, and implementing OA initiatives and policies; 2. it has sponsored 5 academic conferences to provide workshops to train people in these systems; 3. in 2006 the Brazilian Open Access Movement issued its manifesto; 4. work has been done with Portugal, and Latin American countries; 5. work has been done with the SciELO people (though they do not want to work with OA people because they believe their positions of leadership are being taken); 6. work with the Brazilian parliament, Brazilian Council of University Chancellors (have met with every university chancellor), learned societies, funding agencies, and researchers.

Comments and Questions:
Comment: People don’t want to switch to Open Access because they want to make money. What they (policy makers) do not see is that problems with the OJS system can be fixed by the general populace, and there need not be secrecy and proprietary software use.

Costa’s response: Yes, I agree. There is a problem with paying for things. From the information side in Brazil, they pay companies to hold conference proceedings, to manage that information, but then they can’t access the information! OCS could have done this for them for free.

Comment (same commenter): There are also human resource problems. People now know about the software, but not about standards of scientific publication in general. Everyone needs training in this area. But three day workshops are not enough to fully train people in all these areas-OJS, academic publishing in general, and the greater philosophy of OA. The problem with the Public Knowledge Project development team is that, in Brazil, we need resources to understand what they at the PKP know already about OA and scholarly publishing. We need PKP chapters around the world to do this.

Link to Open Journal Systems (OJS)

Link to Open Conference Systems (OCS)

Commentary (by blogger)
Sely Costa’s presentation centred on the rapid and accelerating creation of OJS journals in Brazil since the OJS fueled Open Access movement first began in Brazil in 2004, after being initiated by Kuramoto. Her presentation raised points about the counter-productivity of proprietary mindsets and the issue of the continuity of academic standards of publishing. While OJS has taken off and appears to be flourishing in Brazil, the case of Brazil demonstrates that wide implementation of OJS is only one step towards successfully achieving the “golden road” of open access in a nation.

The aim of Sely Costa, Kuramoto, and the Open Access Movement appears to be the establishment of a governmental policy mandating open access in the nation of Brazil. A staunch inhibitor to this aim is the propriety mindset of governmental and institutional policy makers, as well as of academics in general. The Brazilian Open Access Movement has been trying to deal with resistance from government, policy makers, and established scientific research repositories such as SciELO, as well as to spread awareness to scholars about the Open Access movement and its benefits for academic publishing. They have made progress on all these fronts, but continue to face resistance to the changeover to a non-proprietary model of publishing. SciELO, for example, is difficult to work with because they believe the Open Access people are trying to steal their position of leadership in the field of scientific research. This protectionism about reputation is mixed with skepticism about the financial viability of the open access model. Government and university policy makers have a similar skepticism about the financial viability of the open access model, and appear unconvinced by the success of numbers of open access journals being created. The argument in favour of a national policy would be that knowledge distribution and quality increase with open access; however, to convince institutions who think in terms of proprietary economics that knowledge distribution and quality are of greater value than proprietary and financial rights may be difficult. The argument may need to turn to such issues as the cost efficiency of open access, and the overall increase in innovation and therefore of possible economic, profit creating technologies for Brazil.

The other main issue raised in the presentation was one of standards of scholarly publishing in OJS journals. The four problems that Sely Costa found with OJS journals—non-topical titles, discontinuities of publication, non-disclosure of reviewing policies, and lack of academic standards in general—have to do with a lack of training in and knowledge about the long tradition of academic journal publishing standards. The issue arises partly because of OJS’s strength as a free, easy to access, and easy to use system. The technology itself is being mastered in Brazil, but this ease means that old, established channels for publication can be circumvented. The new publications are proving, in some cases, to lack traditional academic standards, such as continuous publication, publicly known review policies, and scholarly editorial standards. The break from the old publication model has shown that that model, although inefficient in terms of distribution, held high and useful standards in terms of the scrutinizing and preparing the work published. Sely Costa argues that these old standards need to be learned and applied to OJS journals, to keep the OJS movement in the continuous tradition of academic journal publishing. It appears that especially regarding the issue of editoral and peer-review processes, which are a crucial check that ensures quality of knowledge, standards must be open and high.

However, it is also possible that OJS will not prove a medium amenable to the exact, proprietary publishing traditions of the past, and that new models and standards might emerge. For example, the idea of continuous publication may fall to the wayside, and new models of “publish when it’s ready” may emerge. In this model, articles would appear in certain fields only when they are available, even if there are gaps in time. The idea of journals in volumes and issues would not be needed. Perhaps, with the high aspirations of the Brazilian Open Access Movement to trigger a national change, achieving and upholding established and strict traditions of academic publishing in open access online journals is crucial for the moment, to convince those used to the proprietary model that Open Access matches proprietary publications in scholarship.


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