Open Access: A Collective Ecology for AAA Publishing in the Digital Age

Authors: Alberto Corsín Jiménez, Dominic Boyer, John Hartigan and Marisol de la Cadena

Abstract: Just over a year ago Cultural Anthropology went Open Access. It has been an exhilarating experience, which has seen the journal engage new publics and conversations as well as explore new intellectual and editorial possibilities. For those involved in the running of the journal, it has also demanded a steep learning curve. We, as members of the board of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, thought it would be a good idea to put some of these lessons down in writing while responding to a recent memorandum (5/4/15) to section presidents, journal editors, and section treasurers, which recapitulated the AAA’ history of scholarly publishing. As we write, Michael Chibnik (the editor-in-chief of AA), has published an editorial expressing his hesitation about an open-access solution for American Anthropologist.1 We take this opportunity to reply to Chibnik’s text too.

We offer here three brief reflections on why our experience with Cultural Anthropology has reassured us that Open Access is the future of scholarly publishing. First, we draw attention to the fact that Open Access offers perhaps the most robust model for managing the AAA journals’ portfolio in accordance with its history of collective responsibility. Second, we offer some insights into the changing landscape of scholarly publishing in the digital age. Last, we remind readers that Open Access is, perhaps above all other things, a moral and political decision.

Citation: Corsín Jiménez, Alberto, Boyer, Dominic, Hartigan, John and de la Cadena, Marisol . “Open Access: A Collective Ecology for AAA Publishing in the Digital Age.” Dispatches, Cultural Anthropology website, May 27, 2015.



Source: Open Access: A Collective Ecology for AAA Publishing in the Digital Age

Looking into Pandora’s Box: The Content of Sci-Hub and its Usage

Author: Bastian Greshake

Abstract: Despite the growth of Open Access, potentially illegally circumventing paywalls to access scholarly publications is becoming a more mainstream phenomenon. The web service Sci-Hub is amongst the biggest facilitators of this, offering free access to around 62 million publications. So far it is not well studied how and why its users are accessing publications through Sci-Hub. By utilizing the recently released corpus of Sci-Hub and comparing it to the data of  ~28 million downloads done through the service, this study tries to address some of these questions. The comparative analysis shows that both the usage and complete corpus is largely made up of recently published articles, with users disproportionately favoring newer articles and 35% of downloaded articles being published after 2013. These results hint that embargo periods before publications become Open Access are frequently circumnavigated using Guerilla Open Access approaches like Sci-Hub. On a journal level, the downloads show a bias towards some scholarly disciplines, especially Chemistry, suggesting increased barriers to access for these. Comparing the use and corpus on a publisher level, it becomes clear that only 11% of publishers are highly requested in comparison to the baseline frequency, while 45% of all publishers are significantly less accessed than expected. Despite this, the oligopoly of publishers is even more remarkable on the level of content consumption, with 80% of all downloads being published through only 9 publishers. All of this suggests that Sci-Hub is used by different populations and for a number of different reasons, and that there is still a lack of access to the published scientific record. A further analysis of these openly available data resources will undoubtedly be valuable for the investigation of academic publishing.

Citation:  Greshake B.Looking into Pandora’s Box: The Content of Sci-Hub and its Usage.” F1000Research 2017, 6:541. (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.11366.1) .


The Open Access Movement and Activism for the “Knowledge Commons”

Author: Jackie Smith

Abstract: Over the last 25 years, the publication industry has seen a more than 70 percent growth in its scholarly content. Yet today, far fewer companies control the bulk of publication. By continuing to publish in traditional ways, sociologists are participating in the enclosure of the knowledge commons, whether we intend to or not. As the American Sociological Association begins its own OA journal, members need to be informed about the issues at stake. Many scholars may be attracted to the ideas and values behind OA. Yet, this means a fundamental re-thinking of the publishing industry and groups like the American Sociology Association that rely on revenues from publishing.

Citation: Smith, Jackie. (2014) “The Open Access Movement and Activism for the Knowledge Commons.” American Sociological Association Footnotes, May/June 2014.


Reimagining the Digital Monograph: Design Thinking to Build New Tools for Researchers

Authors: Laura Brown, Alex Humphreys, Matthew Loy, Ron Snyder, Christina Spencer


Abstract: Scholarly books are increasingly being made available in digital form, joining in the print-to-digital transition that scholarly journals began well over a decade ago. Ten years of innovation have produced tremendous benefits for authors and readers of journal literature, and certainly some of this innovation is applicable to the digital migration of monographs. But the long-form scholarly argument presents some very different challenges, and its online migration is still in many ways in its infancy. The platforms that make monographs available to users often offer little in the way of specialized functionality for the different ways that scholars and students use these books. The JSTOR Labs group, an experimental product development team at JSTOR, undertook a user research and design process in order to better understand the wide variety of needs, behaviors, frustrations, and ambitions users bring to the task of reading scholarly books online, and to explore possible new paths to unlocking the value of the long-form argument in a digital environment. This paper is intended to do three things. First, we discuss the kinds of uses that readers have for scholarly books, and the opportunities for improving the usefulness of books for those purposes in a digital environment. These emerged from ethnographic research we carried out with a variety of readers of digital monographs and with a small working group of scholars, publishers, librarians, engineers, data scientists and user experience designers that we convened in partnership with the Columbia University Libraries in late 2016. Second, we discuss the design thinking process that we used to explore the landscape, how the group identified problems to solve, and how together we selected one opportunity ripe for new feature development that the JSTOR Labs team could prototype. Third, we describe the process we used to develop that prototype, and introduce the tool that we built, which we are calling “Topicgraph.”


Citation: Brown, L, Humphreys, A, Loy, M, Snyder, R, Spencer, C. (2017) Reimagining the Digital Monograph: Design Thinking to Build New Tools for Researchers, A JSTOR Labs Report – DRAFT FOR COMMENT




When is an article actually published? An analysis of online availability, publication, and indexation dates

Authors: Stefanie Haustein, Timothy D. Bowman, Rodrigo Costas

Abstract: With the acceleration of scholarly communication in the digital era, the publication year is no longer a sufficient level of time aggregation for bibliometric and social media indicators. Papers are increasingly cited before they have been officially published in a journal issue and mentioned on Twitter within days of online availability. In order to find a suitable proxy for the day of online publication allowing for the computation of more accurate benchmarks and fine-grained citation and social media event windows, various dates are compared for a set of 58,896 papers published by Nature Publishing Group, PLOS, Springer and Wiley-Blackwell in 2012. Dates include the online date provided by the publishers, the month of the journal issue, the Web of Science indexing date, the date of the first tweet mentioning the paper as well as the publication and first-seen dates. Comparing these dates, the analysis reveals that large differences exist between publishers, leading to the conclusion that more transparency and standardization is needed in the reporting of publication dates. The date on which the fixed journal article (Version of Record) is first made available on the publisher’s website is proposed as a consistent definition of the online date.

Citation: Stefanie Haustein, Timothy D. Bowman, Rodrigo Costas. (2015). When is an article actually published? An analysis of online availability, publication, and indexation dates. In Proceedings of the 15th International Society of Scientometrics and Informetrics Conference (pp. 1170–1179). Istanbul, Turkey.


‘Total cost of ownership’ of scholarly communication: managing subscription and APC payments together

Author: Lawson, Stuart

Abstract: Managing subscription journals and open access charges together has created challenges which may in part be dealt with by offsetting the two revenue streams against each other. In order to do this, it is necessary to have reliable financial data about the extent of the two interacting markets. Jisc Collections has been undertaking data collection regarding universities’ article publication charge (APC) expenditure. This process is difficult without a standardized way of recording data, so Jisc Collections has developed a standard data collection template and is helping institutions to release data openly. If available data become more comprehensive and transparent, then all parties (libraries, publishers, research funders, and intermediaries) will have better knowledge of the APC market and can more accurately predict the effects of offsetting.

Citation: Lawson, S. (2015). ‘Total cost of ownership’ of scholarly communication: managing subscription and APC payments together. Learned Publishing, 28(1). doi:


The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era

Authors: Larivière V, Haustein S, Mongeon P

Abstract: The consolidation of the scientific publishing industry has been the topic of much debate within and outside the scientific community, especially in relation to major publishers’ high profit margins. However, the share of scientific output published in the journals of these major publishers, as well as its evolution over time and across various disciplines, has not yet been analyzed. This paper provides such analysis, based on 45 million documents indexed in the Web of Science over the period 1973-2013. It shows that in both natural and medical sciences (NMS) and social sciences and humanities (SSH), Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis increased their share of the published output, especially since the advent of the digital era (mid-1990s). Combined, the top five most prolific publishers account for more than 50% of all papers published in 2013. Disciplines of the social sciences have the highest level of concentration (70% of papers from the top five publishers), while the humanities have remained relatively independent (20% from top five publishers). NMS disciplines are in between, mainly because of the strength of their scientific societies, such as the ACS in chemistry or APS in physics. The paper also examines the migration of journals between small and big publishing houses and explores the effect of publisher change on citation impact. It concludes with a discussion on the economics of scholarly publishing.

Citation: Larivière V, Haustein S, Mongeon P (2015) The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502


Three Things Scholarly Publishers Should Know About Researchers

Author: Rapple, Charlie

Abstract: “A couple of recent posts on this blog have been aimed at increasing researchers’ understanding of publishing and publishers. As it happens, around the time they were posted, I was in the middle of a series of interviews with researchers, and they in turn were flagging challenges that they wished publishers understood better. I thought therefore it might be useful to summarize and paraphrase some of the main points raised, along with thoughts about how such issues might be addressed.  This is a snapshot, a starting point for further discussion, not a comprehensive list. Further contributions from researchers are welcome in the comments.”

Citation: Rapple, C. (2016.) Three Things Scholarly Publishers Should Know About Researchers | The Scholarly Kitchen [blog]. The Scholarly Kitchen.

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Opening the Black Box of Scholarly Communication Funding: A Public Data Infrastructure for Financial Flows in Academic Publishing

Authors: Stuart Lawson, Jonathan Gray, Michele Mauri

Abstract: ‘Public access to publicly funded research’ has been one of the rallying calls of the global open access movement. Governments and public institutions around the world have mandated that publications supported by public funding sources should be publicly accessible. Publishers are experimenting with new models to widen access. Yet financial flows underpinning scholarly publishing remain complex and opaque. In this article we present work to trace and reassemble a picture of financial flows around the publication of journals in the UK in the midst of a national shift towards open access. We contend that the current lack of financial transparency around scholarly communication is an obstacle to evidence-based policy-making – leaving researchers, decision-makers and institutions in the dark about the ­systemic implications of new financial models. We conclude that ­obtaining a more joined up picture of financial flows is vital as a means for researchers, ­institutions and others to understand and shape changes to the ­sociotechnical systems that underpin scholarly communication.

Citation: Lawson, S., Gray, J. & Mauri, M., (2016). Opening the Black Box of Scholarly Communication Funding: A Public Data Infrastructure for Financial Flows in Academic Publishing. Open Library of Humanities. 2(1), p.e10. DOI:


Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences

A draft report to the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, but relevant to the larger Open Access community.

Author(s): Solomon, David J; Laasko, Mikael; Björk, Bo-Christer

Abstract: This report identifies ways through which subscription-based scholarly journals have converted their publishing models to open access (OA). The major goal was to identify specific scenarios that have been used or proposed for transitioning subscription journals to OA so that these scenarios can provide options for others seeking to “flip” their journals to OA.

Citation: Solomon DJ, Laasko M & Björk BC. (2016). Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences. Draft report to the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication.


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