Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Opening up scholarly information at the University of Illinois at Chicago"

Presenters: Nancy John, University of Illinois at Chicago; Edward Valauskas, First Monday;Mark Mattaini, Behavior and Social Issues; Mary Case, University Librarian, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Time: 2:55 PM - 3:55 PM Thursday July 12, 2007. Place: in SFUHC Fletcher Challenge Theatre Abstract & Text

In tandem, the presentations reveal how committed idividuals and the University of Illinois at Chicago created the infrastructure to facilitate journal publishing and conference management using OCS and OJS. Individually, each of the presenters revealed their roles and experiences in the process to heighten our understanding of the possibilities and challenges.

Why did the library get involved? Mary Case explains that libraries are emerging forums in partnership with public demand and professional services. Libraries have been on the cutting edge for some time venturing into fields of website design, archiving and publishing journals. They are also a vital part of the scholarly communication cycle, facilitating academic goals in communicating findings, establishing precedent, building reputation and fostering community.

As open access grows as a response to the rising costs generating from the traditional publishing model, libraries have a new role -that of electronic publisher and information provider extending beyond the scope of local communities. Mary Case sees that libraries will feature in the migration of journals to open access, facilitating and maintaining the increasing demand of datasets in the sciences and social sciences, as well as theHumanities with e-text and primary resources. Often the necessary network infrastructure already exists in the universities, as support for teachers and researchers. Libraries have critical roles to play within their universities and the need to stay revelant includes:

  • educate about copyright and open access
  • encourage faculty to retain rights
  • build cost-effective infrastructures to make literature available for scholars, teachers, researchers
  • build relationships with faculties and support research skills
  • look at long term issues and sustainable models as new systems evolve

What are the incentives for the journals?

Mark Mattaini then discussed his experience as editor of Behavior and Social Issues –a peer reviewed interdisciplinary journal that features advanced human social behaviour through the natural science of behaviour. The primary interest in this journal is around social justice human rights and environmental issues.

Since its conception in 1990, the journal has looked for scientific support for progressive values , and, never being a paying proposition, the scholars took it over and created an on-line version in 2001 thinking it would provide more exposure. The library (Mary Case) then asked if they would like to be an open access test case. The following represent a few of Maittati's points regarding the ositive results of using OJS:

  • visibility up 125% – impact and exposure growing
  • enhanced interface and indexing
  • provides quality online presence
  • advances possibility of moving toward electronic only – doing both is expensive

He also brought up some of the pragmatic questions posed by their Editorial board, such as - "is OA realistic and will it be valued in a capitalistic society"? While Mark Mattaini sees open access is a social justice issue, he can also respond to such a question by suggesting that there are financial and practical advantages of upholding side of the public good - certainly the increased exposure profits the institutions involved as it does the published authors. There are considerations of royalties and production work involved, he cautions.

The presenter addresses some key considerations in creating on-line journals. For example, sustainabilty is an issue as the journals are often dependent on the passion, the dedication and the competency of volunteers. Another question to ask is how committed is the University and the scholars to open access? For our neighbours to the south, the issue of government funding being tied to corporate interests is always a concern, as well. Other questions include:

  • will the journal lose credibility?
  • is the interface easy to use?
  • how will the increase in load for faculty and technical staff be dealt with?

Above all, Mark Mattaini stresses the need for communication and collaboration; he found the library support and guidance during and after the migration to be essential.

Edward Valauskas followed up on the importance of library and technical support, as he traced the migration process of his journal First Monday – an on-line journal on the forefront of the open access movement - to OJS. Since its inception in May 1996, the journal is dedicated to research and peer review, featuring 1009 authors representing various institutions from 30 countries.

Originally this innovative journal was published in Copenhagen through Munksgaard, steadily growing to require 8 editors and an 18 member board. First Monday has always been free to access, but there were voluntary subscribers in its first year. By 1997 the journal went into the open access model and Valauskas was able to buy the journal from Munksgaard, and, as the founder moved to Illinios, so did the journal. Through OJS the journal is now read by people from over 182 countries – 40% from North America, 30% from Europe and 30% from the rest of the world. Valauskas is inspired that a third of the readership comes from countries that couldn’t have accessed the journal through traditional means.

Naturally, as an open access journal, search engines, such as Google, play a large role in enhancing visibility. Although the journal tracks how many readers are accessing the resources, the interest focuses more on what materials are being read; most traffic is related to archival materials as opposed to the newer editions. Since using OJS platform, the journal has 6 times the original readership, largely from the community of scholars.

Edward Valauskas points to additional benefits of the OJS system, which include:

  • a simplified production process
  • greater transparency in editorial and review processes
  • increased readership
  • continuous production as an advantage to readers and authors

There are sustainability issues as the journal, with no budget, is entirely dependent on volunteerism. Along with increased readership, there is also increased submission, and this can create turnaround lags. While success can create challenges in work load, Edward Valauksa sees future use of OJS and has plans to experiment with new features such as audio interviews and translations.

Nancy John brought continuity to the presentation in discussing how the open access publishing - using both OJS and OCS brought together the institution, the campus computing center, the library, the journal editors and staff together as a community. She spoke candidly about the lessons learned and the value of showcasing local faculty, and establishing the role of the library in informing the public about copyright and open access, as well as developing a digital repository.

The UIC support of on-line journals emerged from communication with faculty and staff about the need for software that exeeded 'PDFS on a Web page'. They spoke of concerns around: quality, quantity, academic freedom, IP concerns and the need for campus support in editing and archiving. The initiative or program began with First Monday and Behaviour and Social Issues and more are on the horizen. Nancy John then provided some areas to consider when setting up such a program:

  • forming partnerships require time and constant communication
  • the work/time involved - right now they are 6 years behind in digitizing
  • back issues require creating PDFs and revising HTML
  • the need for plans - both back and current issues
  • improved metadata, reader tools, archiving tools
  • increased communication with authors and editors regarding publication/issue planning
  • consideration of peer review processes
  • management of submissions

What to avoid: not testing the software adequately during migrations and not taking time and technology issues into account when planning. Other lessons learned – timing is everything; you may need to spend more effort in areas you don’t expect; clarify and reclarify your expectations; outcomes are often unexpected but nearly always pleasant.

Some important benefits: Nancy John points to the ease with which migration can occur using OJS and that they have done little to customize system as it meets their existing needs. Of great interest is that through using OJS, UIC has been contacted by other institutions and journals interested in forming partnerships (at least 6 new journals under consideration). The visibility factor is attracting attention to the institution as well as the journals and authors. It's also important to note the benefit to the community - both locally and globally as the journals support not only scholars and researchers, but students and other community members as well.

One of the most important lessons learned is that collaboration is the key to success and UIC has certainly proved that it is possible in this showcase of how libraries, scholars, U technology systems and OJS can work together.


As previously mentioned, these presentations demonstrated the necessity of collaboration and communication. Bringing the practice of publishing back to the democractic principles of the creative commons, open access options straddle principles of economic access as well. While the Kaufman Willis group remains cautious about the economic feasibility or increased visibility generated through open access models, the UIC model certainly opens a window of creative possibility and promise. Indeed, traditional publishing is in a state of flux, yet the new models are flourishing and gaining both public and scholarly appreciation. As Mary Case and Nancy John reveal in their paper the restrictive practices of monopoly publishing prompted the need for alternate sources of scholarly platforms, as well as selection and review processes. Listening to the issues in digitizing back articles brings Steven Harnad's argument of self archiving to mind as this might have eased the process and is certainly prudent practice for all authors to follow. As First Monday's readership suggests, having articles available in HTML also bridges the gap for the growing numbers of users from developing countries grappling with technical challenges in bandwith. This is in keeping with the philosophy behind Mark Mattaini's journal, Behavior and Social Issues and equity and accessibility issues identified by authors such as Subbiah Arunachalam. So, clearly we have an example of how local and global communities benefit through open access models and principles.

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