On giving a talk about Open Access in my department

Earlier this month I gave this talk in my department. It is basically a summary of two blog posts that I wrote in October during Open Access Week (Open Access Week: a researcher's perspective part I and part II), and I had given a similar talk in November in an Open Access workshop organized by the Helmholtz Association. But because this time my audience (researchers and clinicians in a university hospital) was less knowledgeable about Open Access, I added a few introductory slides in the beginning.

The discussion is usually the most interesting part, and this topic certainly has a lot of material for discussion. Interestingly, we talked mainly about the problem of copyright. Even though anybody who has ever submitted a paper to a (non-Open Access) journal has signed a copyright transfer agreement, the implications of this were not really clear to most people in the audience. Reuse of a figure or table in an academic seminar usually falls under fair use, but many journals still require a (free) permission.1 And using the same figure in a medical conference can cost several hundred dollars, and it doesn't really matter that you are one of the authors of the paper (slides 15-17 in the presentation). Some of my colleagues have run into issues with copyright, usually when the talks of a conference were later redistributed on a CD or website.

Unfortunately there wasn't enough time to discuss some of the other issues raised in the talk, e.g.

  • Why can't our Medical School Library afford an institutional subscription for Cell?
  • Why is there no institutional repository at our university?
  • Why is it very unlikely that we will have a mandate for Open Access in Germany in the near future?
  • Why has the Impact Factor become so important in Medicine?

The seminar was also interesting in that this was one of the rare occasions where I talked publicly in my department about some of the topics that I regularly write about on this blog. I always felt that most of my colleagues don't really care about these topics, and that they probably think I should rather spend my time working on the next paper or grant. I haven't gotten much feedback after the talk, but maybe I should reconsider that position.

1 Many journals use Copyright.com, which makes this process straightforward.

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4 Responses to On giving a talk about Open Access in my department

  1. Borya Shakhnovich says:

    I think that these are very interesting points.
    I would like to address some of them.
    Why is there no institutional repository at our university?
    – Because there is no platform for such a repository. People will not go and create their own unless they see a personal benefit to it, and because its hard to have fragmented, silo-ed repositories.
    I think the solution would be to create a global repository that everyone is using.
    Why has the Impact Factor become so important in Medicine?
    – Because this is the only way currently to gauge the interest of an increasingly large community to a published work. In order to diminish the impact of the citation factor on science, a viable alternative has to be presented. What is that viable alternative and what would be the benefits of using it?
    Borya Shakhnovich
    CEO Orwik.com
    http://orwik.com/people/borya

  2. Martin Fenner says:

    Borya, thanks for your comments.
    _Because there is no platform for such a repository._
    “PubMed Central”:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/ (and PMC Canada or UK) aim to be a centralized platform. But they are currently neither available in Germany, nor are they intended to be used by universities. And PubMed Central only hosts papers in the life sciences. We are a long way from a global repository.
    Many universities use the “DSpace”:http://www.dspace.org/ or “Fedora”:http://www.fedora-commons.org/ platforms to host their institutional repositories. The neighboring universities FH Hannover, Münster and Göttingen have institutional repositories.
    _What is that viable alternative and what would be the benefits of using it?_
    Alternatives to the Impact Factor have been frequently discussed on this blog and elsewhere. Article-level metrics is one alternative that I mentioned in the talk.
    The thought that the Journal Impact Factor is not simply an indication for the quality of a paper published in that journal, but is a number that can be added, multiplied, divided, etc. with the Journal Impact Factor of other papers seems to be particularly predominant in Medicine.
    Our institution adds the Impact Factors of all papers written by a particular researcher in a given year. First and last authors are assigned one third of these Impact Factors and female researchers receive 150% of that number. These calculations are difficult to follow.

  3. Joanna Scott says:

    > female researchers receive 150% of that number
    I don’t know a lot about this subject, but that’s a really fascinating point. Female researchers get points solely for being female? Is this common practice in institutions? And do these annual totals have any discernible impact on career progression in the institution or outside?

  4. Martin Fenner says:

    In my institution paper authorship of women is evaluated as 150% since 2003, and these evaluations are used for funding by our university.
    The 2008 report on the role of women in our university (German version “here”:http://www.mh-hannover.de/fileadmin/organisation/beauftragte/gleichstellung/downloads/Gedruckte_einzel_VersionDruckerei__2__01.pdf) shows that 17% of new full professors and 30% of new associate professors are female, which is an improvement over the under 15% a few years ago. 64% of medical students and 40% of the physicians in our university hospital are women, but less than 10% of the attendings/consultants, and no increase in the latter number compared to 2002. There are a lot of number in this report, but it looks like the percentage of senior female researchers is slowly increasing.