Resources to help determine the quality of Open Access journals

I recently had to compile a list of what to look for in an OA journal at work, and I thought I’d publish it here too.

Here’s the list of things I use to determine if it’s a ‘good’ OA journal:

My personal take of what to look for is any journal that solicits articles on its web front page, in larger or equal type to announcing its most recent issue, is problematic, and worth a further look to see if it is legitimate.

Audrey Angelo, and my path to librarianship.

scan20100406_162920The following is text from a talk I gave at the Aoraki LIANZA AGM, when we were asked to share stories about librarianship.

The photo behind me is my mother, Audrey Jean Angelo-Duncan, and I’d like to take a few minutes to talk to you about her, and tell you the story that started me on my path to becoming a librarian.

My mum was many things. She retrained, like me, in her mid 40s, first getting school certificate and going on to becoming a kindergarten teacher here in Christchurch. Before then she had been a stay at home mum – but not a stay at home woman. When she got to London in the late 1950s the biggest town she had been in was Christchurch – and that had been passing through to board the ship that took her to Europe. Mum and Dad were from Southland – Dad from Gore, and mum from Mataura. They left as soon as they had the opportunity. In 1960 they bought a VW beetle, and drove it from London back to NZ – following what became the hippy trail: Yugoslavia, Persia, Afghanistan, India, over to Australia, and then to NZ.

She had a great sense of humour, and she was adventurous.

She was a smoker. She smoked all her life, until her late 50’s, when she stopped, so she had emphysema in her later years. It killed her in the end, and it caused a lot of health problems on the way.

The moment I want to talk about is after she had a mastectomy for breast cancer. She was pretty stoic about that: the recovery rates were good, and though she had breathing problems, she had a good life. She told me the worst thing she expected from having the mastectomy was going aqua jogging afterwards. I suggested a prosthesis, but her concern was more about the fact that unbalanced with only one boob she would just spin in the water.

After the operation she never wore a prosthesis when she went aquajogging.

A few months after the mastectomy her health started to go down hill. She couldn’t get enough oxygen into her bloodstream, and it got so bad she was admitted to the ICU.

I’m not sure if you’ve been in the ICU, but its an amazing place. Big screens, hooked up to sensors had all of mums vital signs measured in real time. A nurse was with her all the time. She wasn’t getting better. I called my Brother to come down from Hamilton, and we took turns sitting with her reading Alexander McCall Smith books about generously proportioned women who were adventurous and brave. A year or two afterwards I was recognised by some of the ICU staff who had been listening as intently to the stories as we had been reading them. You forget that you’re never alone in hospital.

The problem was oxygen. Mum just couldn’t get enough into her blood. She had been a smoker, and her lungs were damaged. She had been on courses of prednisone, and she even had a breathing thingy at home, a machine that humidified the air for her.

I walked into the ICU three or four days after she had been admitted, and the atmosphere had changed. Mum was looking a little better, and more responsive. The nurses seemed relieved. Some of the doctors took me aside and said that the problem hadn’t been with mum’s lungs after all. They were pretty certain it had been a bad reaction to herceptin – a very rare side effect from a normally really useful anti cancer drug she had been given to reduce the chance of relapse. Aas they were talking I looked over and saw a printed journal article lying beside mum’s notes. The article, the single one in the world, that talked about the side effect. The authors were German, and had published somewhere that had been picked up by Ovid.

Someone, one of the ICU doctors maybe, and done some research and looked up mum’s symptoms and history. And they found the answer.

In Dunedin the University Medical Library and the part of the hospital the ICU are in are connected over a street by a bridge. I remember thinking that maybe someone in the library had helped, I knew they often did. I thought about the system that means they could find the article, the databases and the search tools, and the digital literacy required, and I thought, I want to be part of that. I want to help. I want to be a tiny part of the system that means that someone else’s mum gets a diagnosis, or a treatment, or at least some comfort from knowing what’s going on.

A few years later I was given the opportunity to retrain, and like my mum, I took it. Now I have the privilege to work with people who believe in open access to information, in making the results of all medical trials available. Sometimes people think I’m a bit predictable when it comes to the solutions for fixing the currently broken scholarly publishing business model. That’s OK. But I don’t come from some ivory tower position. Its because that open access saved my mum’s life. She died a few years later, from the trouble with her lungs. She’d be proud of what I’m doing now.

50 shades of questionable – predatory publishing redux.

I’ve been supporting a group of postgraduates who edit a long lived New Zealand Journal, NZ Natural Sciences We are talking about moving it onto our ‘lightweight journal publishing model’ platform in due course, more of which later.

I’m really proud to support the current editors, Katie and Brendon.   This is a journal that has run since the 70’s, edited by a few postgrads, who then enter academia and mentor others in running it.  As well as being an outlet for new research, it gives postgrads a taste of reviewing, editing and soliciting new work, which must be invaluable for their skills as research authors.

We have traversed some really interesting territory as we prepare to migrate the journal.  Applying modern licensing retrospectively (CC-BY, o’course), talking about preservation, and wondering what the hell to do with a statement from copyright New Zealand.  (Answer: its not a bill.  Its money.  Not that you could easily tell from the statement).

I laid out the options to the ed. team.  You could use something like Hindawi or Scholastica to host the journal, but you’d need a revenue stream.  And it was that, the way to get funds to support the publication, which is currently free as its just a bunch of files on a departmental web server at the moment and a google site, that caused a level of complexity they didn’t want to deal with.  And quite right too: adding a treasurer, accounts, tax, and all that stuff detracts from the aims of this exercise.  Editors change from year to year, and keeping commercial relationships with service providers is a big part of what journals do now.

So it was fascinating when they forwarded me an email from Exelely.  It was a cold-call to the editors asking if they would be interested in letting them host the journal, for a fee, which would be paid for with Article Processing Charges (APCs).  Its a pretty standard business model: the heart of so called Gold Open Access.  Exeley have an interesting offering, providing a lot of the commercial services you’d expect.

The question that bugged me though, as up front and open as Exeley appeared, is what seperates them from a ‘predatory’ publisher?  I’d rather call the phenomenon  ‘questionable’ publishing, as its never really clear cut who qualifies as predatory. What level of service from a publisher qualifies them to make profit from scholarly communications?  There are obvious lines you can cross: for example, hijacking, where a journal that emulates another so closely you can’t tell the ‘real’ one from the predator.  How about double dipping, where a journal collects APCs and charges journal subscriptions at the same time?  The IEEE make it really clear that they reduce subs for organisations that contribute APCs.  Elsevier, not so much.  Then there is Exeley.

I have an opinion that any profit made from the work that government pays for (and occasionally industry) is wastage in the system.  An inefficiency when improved with allow more money for the actual research, the stuff that makes our world progress.  Money taken away from creating new knowledge.  I realise that this could be carried reductio ad absurdum, especially when you start thinking about equipment, but consider that in NZ, at least, universities don’t pay goods and services taxes.  Why would the government collect its own money back?  Now that the nominal cost of reproducing data is approaching zero, and storing it is becoming cheaper [1] making a profit from this seems questionable.

After a few night sleeping on it I realise what my problem is with Exeley.  Its for-profit.  That, in my mind, makes it questionable.  Not predatory, as they don’t seem to be profiteering, but I’ve recommended to Katie and Brandon that they don’t follow up on their offer. Its entirely up to them of course.  if Exeley was a non-profit and belonged to the Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Association,  and its code of conduct, then I’d be far more likely to tell them to take a closer look.  As it is, we have a good solution for the NZ Natural Sciences journal that will meet most of their needs, and we can provide it for free.


[1] Dear archivists, yeah, I know.  Disk and maintenance ain’t free.  But I’m making a point!


Research parasite?

Iparasites have a slightly more relaxed attitude towards the research parasite discussion.  As we all know, a recent NEJM editorial called those who used other researcher’s data research parasites.  The blowback was instant.  Twitter went into its normal self-righteous explosive mode, and a few quick blogposts basically forced the authors into restating their positions.  Not change them, just restate them.

I have seen some really good and sophisticated discussions online, but a point that seems obvious to me hasn’t floated past my reading list.  If you don’t work with other people’s data, then you have no idea how useful it is.  Its like an English department that only writes novels, and never reads another authors.  Until now, the research framework has always been about experimentation and the creation of data.  I know this is a huge overstatement, but look at the heroes: John Snow, The Large Hadron Collider, Einstein.  They create theories, test them against new data, falsify, rinse and repeat.  However, we have moved past a point of data scarcity – data is now abundant.  This is a fundamental, honest to god Popperian paradigm change.   Its not surprising some people who have invested their entire careers playing (and playing well) in a game that has suddenly changed its rules are going be very reactive.

Maori Folk Tales of the Port Hills

This little book, published in 1923 by James Cowan, is a collection of material given to him by Hone Taare Tikao (sic) (Hōne Tāre Tikao).  It has a lot of stuff about Whakaroupo, Rapaki and the harbour basin from pre European contact.

I’d like to digitise it and make oit available as a wee personal project, and I’m going to blog about the process.  I can see there are a number of issues I’m going to need to work through.

The law.  This is has been published in 123, and the author died in 1943.  As far as I’m aware this puts the book in the public domain, but I’ll run that past a real legal person.

Permission.  I’ll need to get permission from the University of Canterbury Library to use their copy of the work, and to use their book scanning equipment.  I suspect if I have all the other things sorted.

I’ll also need to get permission from the local Iwi, Ngāi Tahu, to reproduce Tikao’s image (which is in the book) and reproduce the stories that are in it.  Though I reckon the words themselves are unemcumbered by law, but the stories belong to the land, and the people of it.  I’m going to talk to some people at the national Library about ways of approaching this, and I hope to talk to people at the Rapaki Marae.

The goal is to produce the text to put into various repositories, and make it as available as appropriate.

Even the tiny amount of work I’ve done so far shows me that the author and the narrator were fascinating men.  Hopefully this wee project will help people study them further.

Submission to UNZ on Copyright and Digital Convergence

Anton Angelo
Research Data Co-ordinator
University of Canterbury Library

14th October 2015

Academic research works by explicitly free sharing of information, and any friction introduced into the process decreases its efficiency, in turn reducing the return on investment we make into any kind of research.

I don’t have a sophisticated position on the harmonisation on the various reuse provisions “Fair Dealing” and “Fair Use” within the TPPA actors.  As librarians we are expected to have a clear understanding on practical issues around this, and the current situation means we are unable to offer advice and guidance for the medium term.  It is not just uncomfortable for us personally; it could lead to a position of liability for our organisations as we make research outputs available.

As librarians we are the sharp end of the balance between providing adequate protection for copyright holders to exploit their creations, and access to research to our community, and the wider academic world for material that they have paid for through taxes.

I am concerned that there will be more corporate interference in access to publically paid-for research, just as business models are starting to change to an Open Access model where organisations sponsor and patronise profit and not-for-profit businesses to provide publishing platforms for research analysis and data.  Corporate organisations have a responsibility to provide a maximum return for their shareholders, but not at the cost of reducing access to tax-payer funded research.  Library budgets are at such low levels that they cannot afford to purchase the research outputs of record their own organisation has funded in the first place.

This is one element of the friction against efficient research I was talking about above.

The second issue is not one of established objective regulation, but the chilling effect of extended copyright provisions has on sharing research in the minds of researchers themselves.  Copyright is not well understood by researchers, even with the best efforts of librarians and records offices.  It is a tangential field to research proper, part of the game of scholarly publishing.  As (mostly media) businesses protect their output more and more closely, to the point of employing third party bounty hunters to find infringements to prosecute, researchers become more concerned about protecting their property, to the point of being overly sensitive.  This adds yet more friction to research efficiency for no reason other than fear of breaking some misunderstood rule.  “Because copyright” has become the standard response for a number of perverse behaviours, including supervisors recommending to students to hide their postgraduate research for a number of years, not to make work available on institutional repositories even though it is legitimate to do so, and stifle sharing and collaboration between institutions.

Ensuring strong provisions for Fair Dealing are fundamental to be able to criticise, review and expand on previous work.  Any uncertainty on the ability to do so is not just a blow to the high minded ideals of academic freedom, but a sheet anchor on research and innovation in a very practical sense.

A good response to these concerns is a policy change for all NZ funded research to be mandated to be published immediately as Open Access.  This would create a level, clear and unambiguous regulatory platform which would remove fear, uncertainty and doubt over access to publically funded research.  In some cases extra funding for research institutions would be required to sponsor commercial platforms, but the reduction in the price of subscriptions through libraries would offset that to some extent.

This model has been developed and is operating in the UK, and for all state funded research over a certain amount in the US.  NZ will be at a considerable disadvantage if it does not follow suit.




I love my podcasts…  people occasionally ask for recommendations, so here are my top five (currently)

99% Invisible – a very pleasant study on design topics.  Roman Mars enthuses me about whatever he’s talking about.

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review.  Easily the best film review radio show, and probably best podcast of all time.  Like two married men bickering about pretty much anything.  Deeply entertaining.

In Our Time – BBC Radio 4‘s podcast hosted by Melvin Bragg and three experts on pretty much anything.  Phyisics, Hisotry, Literature – the one on Fairies got a few people of a certain age quite excitable.

You Are Not So Smart.  Social psychology based on the idea that we are prtty much clueless.  And biscuits.  Love the biscuits.

Criminal – A US podcast about criminals, talking to them about their crimes, or a type of crime in general.  Compelling.

There are tonnes more: BBC Friday Night Comedy (especially the News Quiz), NPR’s Wait wait, Don’t tell me, ABC’s Science Vs.

You can search for these in iTunes, or use any podcast program you like (Pocketcast on Android is my favourite)

Three things that indicate you can get rid of your Institutional Repository

I’ve always thought the IRs were temporary.  They are a messy beast: part archive for Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs), part publishing platform for grey scholarly material, part journal back-end.  We will always need archives, but will Libraries need to put resource into storing duplicate, inferior, copies of scholarly journal articles?

What I’m writing about are the victory conditions for librarians who thought that, like I do, IRs were a tool to challenge the business model of profiteering academic publishers.  I don’t have a problem with a commercial service working to provide services for academia, but I do have an issue when the world’s knowledge is being artificially restricted to only those who can pay, in a system of ever increasingly higher prices.

So, when should you pull the plug on IRs?

1) When there are no article database subscriptions anymore.  The move to Open Access is gathering pace, and when the end user doesn’t have to pay to read any article, then there is no need to hold a separate copy in the repository.

2) When journals pick out articles already available, edit and curate them.  There will always be a use for an editor.  Overlay journals that combine already existing OA articles into volumes and issues based on specific themes and disciplines will carry the seal of quality that top journals do now.  They may even be the same journals.  Peer review will be both crowd sourced, like reddit, and confidential, as the ed board might have a few suggestions to make before they publish your work.

3) When being an active article reviewer is the main way to improve your early academic career.  Sorting through the volume of material on big article and scholarly output aggregators like figshare, arXive, PeerJ, PubMed and F1000, where the economies of scale will muscle little IRs out, will be the role of the junior academic and senior student.  Evaluating method and conclusions, reanalyzing datasets, and generally having a critical mind will replace mindless regurgitation of accepted truths from high-impact journals.

I’m describing a a new take on academic scholarship – large disciplinary buckets of scholarly outputs that are then picked over for gems.  The ability to publish data, and have others analyse it, or reanalyse it.  Having professional academic editors reuse outputs and channel them into streams so that busy researchers get the best bits.  There is no real place for the IR here.  Grey material goes to figshare.  The only thing institutions need to do is archive ETDs, and most IR software is far too complicated to manage just to do that.

I’d love to, but no.

Dear Anton Findlay Angelo,

Are you the author of work entitled « Who visits academic institutional repositories and why? »?
It was apparently written at the Victoria University of Wellington in 2014.

I’m Robert Wilson from the editorial team of Lambert Academic Publishing.

I believe this particular topic could be of interest to a wider audience and we would be glad to consider publishing it. We would be especially interested in publishing a complete academic work of yours (a thesis, a dissertation or a monograph) as a printed book. Our services are free of charge for authors.

Anton Findlay Angelo, would you agree to receive more information in an electronic brochure?

Thank you in advance.

Robert Wilson
Acquisition Editor

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a trademark of
OmniScriptum GmbH & Co. KG
Heinrich-Böcking-Str. 6-8,
66121, Saarbrücken, Germany /

Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10356
Identification Number (Verkehrsnummer): 13955
Partner with unlimited liability: OmniScriptum Management GmbH
Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRB 18918
Managing directors: Marta Lusena (CEO)

Ooh. They want to publish me. How Nice! I know my genius has been generally under-appreciated (especially by my idiot supervisor and markers), but finally someone has realised my ideas are forward thinking and generally gold-plated.  Hooray!

Oh, hold on.  “our services are free to authors”.  Huh.  This is a book, surely there are royalties involved.  In fact, the more I think about this, it sounds a bit fishy.  I mean, of course my work is worth disseminating, written in words a foot high on the walls of the university I went to, as well as written on grains of rice, for all to admire, but it doesn’t sound quite kosher.  Lets have an investigate…

LAP Publishing   The Publisher   Who are weTheir website looks nice.  All corporate stripy and modern and flat.  That girl has nice eyes.  I wonder if she would be my editor.  Hmm.

They are not on Beall’s list I notice, and that’s because Beall thinks they are not an open access publisher.  He points to a blog post that insinuates that the company is just picking up free content to add to their list, to publish on demand if they get an order from Amazon. That sounds a lot like the Proquest model for selling dissertations they pick up for free.

Oh well, I suppose I won’t hand over my hard earned IP just so someone else can make money out of it.  Now, lets see if I can write a paper for an Elsevier journal…



Endeavour Place III – plans, plans plans.

I was bereft after CJS Construction let us down.  I really didn’t know what to do.  My brother, an architect with his own studio in Hamilton, kindly offered to help out, and over Christmas and the early part of the year put together a set of plans roughly based on the Lockwood design we had already liked.  the results were amazing: a small house with the ability to extend easily in the future, clever use of the slope to create a garage.

A08 RA Section X3.pdf Mike, being the smart guy he his, encouraged us to run the plans passed a quantity surveyor.  QSes can p[rice a house plan to within 10% of its cost.  The bad news was it came out about $100,000 more than we can afford.  Even taking out the $300 toilet roll holders (a big galvanised nail would do me…) it still came in far more than we could afford.  I’m deeply grateful to Mike for the work, and he has a GREAT birthday present coming, but the cost of an ‘architecturally’ built house is beyond us.  The main costs were in labour – simply putting the building together.

The realization, that labour is the enemy (and its not often I say that) put me back to plan B.  Kitsets.  One of the other kitset companies we had been looking at seemed to have a long history, quite a few buildings up, and good feedback on the process.  Even better, Wildwood: the franchise holder hadn’t been bankrupt.  All the groovy new modular housing companies seemed to be run by people who had financial troubles in the past, and we were just not OK with risking that.

sketch1414456457670We approached Wildwood (who build ‘Grove Lifestyle Homes’) and asked them to put a plan together from a sketch I had done in a Wellington hotel one rainy afternoon.

Much to my delight, they didn’t laugh at me, but quickly produced a plan.  A few iterations later we have a set of plans we are really happy with.  The costs are in our range (just)
and are almost ready to be sent for consent.

UntitledWe are yet bend a blade of grass on the section I bought almost a year ago.  The broom has grown, but that’s about it.

The designer has told us that we may be able to do the consents the week after next.  We have a valuer looking at the property as well, and once that’s in we can get a final go-ahead from the bank.  I reckon we might be in by Christmas….