Monday, January 14, 2013

10 things you can do to REALLY support #OpenAccess #PDFTribute

I wrote a post earlier today in relation to the #PDFTribute movement: Ten simple ways to share PDFs of your papers #PDFtribute.  I wrote it largely to give people an outlet and information and ideas about how to better share PDFs of their academic work.  I think the more people share the better.

However, I also got shit from my brother Michael - co founder of PLoS on Twitter about how this is partly a "feel good" action.  I do think he underestimates the surge of anger over the death of Aaron Swartz and the momentum right now in the semi-civil disobedience being seen in the #PDFTribute movement.  But I also think he is right in part. So, I thought I would follow up with suggestions for what people should do in the future to really support full and open access to the academic literature.
  1. Only publish in fully open access journals.  See DOAJ -- Directory of Open Access Journals.
  2. Do not do ANY work for non open access journals. That includes reviewing, suggesting reviewers, etc. 
  3. Cancel all subscriptions to closed access journals. The subscription model is part of the problem. 
  4. Work for open access journals. 
  5. Embrace openness in other aspects of your academic work. See for example Open science - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and Open Humanities Alliance
  6. Learn the difference between "open" and "freely available." See Peter Suber, Open Access Overview (definition, introduction) and Open Access | PLOS
  7. Reward people in job hiring, merits and promotions for their level of openness.  Do not reward them for closed activities.
  8. Lobby for more open access requirements at the Federal, State, and Institutional level.  Make sure they are not mealy mouthed or mediocre. See What the UC “open access” policy should say for example.
  9. Embrace other changes in scientific publishing such as post-publication review that enable more rapid sharing of publications (see The Glacial Pace of Change in Scientific Publishing). 
  10. Read up on what else you can do (e.g., Peter Suber, What you can do to promote open access) and come up with your own ideas.  Oh and share them.  Openly.

Related posts from The Tree of Life

Other ideas? Please post in comments.


  1. Don't forget the Open Access Spectrum!

    PS: Why does almost all of the links here go via It only serves to give them even more info about everything I do…

    1. sorry about the Google thing - quick copying of links - will fix

  2. Number 1. and 2. are sooooo hard for junior PIs, Jonathan! Especially when you are at an institution that is really old-school...

    1. Not buying it Julie. What is the evidence that you would be hurt by #1? Any? And #2 - how could that possible hurt?

    2. Science, Nature, PNAS, etc... as for #2, I would rarely get to do peer review, which I enjoy because I get to find out what lots of people are doing in my field. The exception to this is PLoS and maybe Frontiers (which I don't really like reviewing for because the format is so awkward). Does paying for making your article Open Access count for those of us still trying to climb up the academic ladder and leap through promotion hoops with a bunch of biomedical "why are there so many authors on this paper in this journal I've never heard of" types evaluating our packages?!?

    3. My opinion - everything you can do to move to more open access the better. I sympathize with your plight and with those who wish to support openness but feel constrained by their institutions in some way. But at the very least you should work for change in the system and at your institution. And dig a bit deeper into the story of Nature, Science and Cell making your career. I am not convinced. If you did groundbreaking work and published it in PLoS Biology I would bet you would not have trouble with climbing the ladder ...

    4. I agree it isn't all about those three, but for environmental microbiology, reviewers still look for the other "big three:" EM, ISME J, and AEM. And I have gotten rejected by PLoS Biology twice ;) I'll keep trying.

    5. So - Julie - who is it who looks for the other BIG THREE? And when can I talk to them ...

    6. I'll have them pester you at ASM ;)

  3. DOAJ is completely overwhelmed and unable to update their database in a timely manner. Our journal is just over a year old and still not listed so it's a bad place to send someone to search for OA journals. Do you have a better place?

  4. If I want someone to read and cite my papers (which is what counts, right? )making people aware of papers is half the battle so publish somewhere where people can read it (doesn't actually matter where these days) and get news of the paper out through twitter, blogs, comments, facebook etc. It is proper social democracy at work. If the paper is good it will get cited and retweeted etc. And postdocs and students will pick up on it and cite it. They are the ones who write the publications, bring it to their attention. The publishing model is changing. If you write software as an academic output, give it away with a CC-BY and let the world use it and enhance it. A good tool gets citations. Good data gets citations.

    OK, so I do 'brand' my software outputs and teaching tools - that adds to my institutes 'impact' (big issue here in the UK as impact is about more than N/S/C) and to my profile. But if you want it to be cited, get it onto peoples reading lists.

    My funders are now demanding that my work is OA all the way. I am more than happy with that. Google Scholar doesn't care if your paper is in Biochemistry or BBA. It will be findable, and if it is OA it will be readable, and if it is of suitable quality, it will be citable.

    1. David. I put a lot of time into blogging / tweeting / social media in part to help make people aware of good / interesting open access work ... it takes a little bit of effort but it is worth it.

  5. At the risk of being a social-traitor to the revolutionaries of open access, I don't think that a total boycott of all non open access journals is the best way to go.

    First, there is the boycott of Elsevier, which I believe puts pressure on all the others to avoid becoming in turn the worst publisher out there.

    Second, among traditional journals there are many other aspects for which I have respect, such as implication with scientific societies, efforts to promote interdisciplinarity or new fields, etc.

    Third, when discussing with colleagues who are on editorial boards of traditional journals, I find that many do not care that much about open access (or open source or open data by the way), and I think that joining these boards and interacting with colleagues there is constructive.

    So for now I will publish only open access (caveats: including hybrid journals; for papers where I'm corresponding author), I will boycott Elsevier, but I will also continue to contribute to good community journals published by such publishers as OUP or Wiley.

  6. I think arguing that things like the PDFtribute are just "feel good" actions and only going to a pure Open Access world is worthwhile is like how some social radicals claim that giving to charity is just a "feel good" action and what we really need is a complete restructuring of society to protect the underprivileged. While they have a point in theory, things like self-archiving and giving to charity are practical things that can be done today, rather than just preparing for the Great Revolution that may never happen.


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