Are there winners and losers in the VSNU-Elsevier Open Access deal?

Open Access logu
Open Access

This week it was finally announced that the Association of Dutch Universities (VSNU) and the publisher Elsevier had reached an agreement on a continuation of the Big Deal for access to all Elsevier journals combined with a transition to Open Access publishing for researchers at Dutch Universities.

In actual fact there is no deal yet. There is an “agreement in principle” and “details of this 3-year agreement, which is to start in 2016, will be finalized in the near future“. That is the reason why so few details are discussed in the accompanying Q&A.  We only know that by 2018 researchers at Dutch universities are able to publish some 30% of their articles in Open Access. How we reach this 30% is not explicated. Nor the journals that are involved in this part of the deal. Which subject areas? Hybrid journals only? Or does it include the Gold open access journals from Elsevier as well? Just a few questions that need clarification. I am not going to speculate to answer these questions.

I want to turn the attention to a quick internet poll which was held by @MsPhelps who won in this deal, Elsevier or the VSNU

In total some 59 persons did cast their vote, and the large majority (69%) voted in favour of Elsevier, the remainder for the Dutch Universities. A major problem with this poll, is that we don’t have the details yet as @HugoBesemer indicated, so how can we judge who the winners or losers are? My idea is that the Rest of the World won. The Dutch universities have shown that it is possible to strike a deal with Elsevier with major steps to Open Access publishing in toll access journals. Similar to the Springer deal in the Netherlands, which was followed bij comparable deals in the UK, Max Planck Gesellschaft and Austria, it is highly likely that this deal with Elsevier will follow in other consortia negotiations as well. Dutch Universities and Elsevier have shown way. The way to go with the big deal. Flip from a subscription based model to a  based on Author Processing Charges.

How Google Scholar Citations passes the competition left and right

Google Scholar logoLast Thursday Google Scholar Citations went public. It was to be expected. Since August the product has been tested by a few (blogging) scientists. We only had to wait patiently for it to be released to all scientists. Last Thursday the moment was there.

Was it worth the wait? Yes it certainly was. Google Scholar Citations really excels at finding publications you completely forgot about. But even then, there are still –obscure- publications that even Google Scholar doesn’t know about. You simply log in and deselect those few publications that don’t belong to you. You can make searches to find publications that Google has overlooked. You get a comprehensive publication list quite quickly. Well when your name is not too common, that is. How it works for very common names, Korean scientists jump to my mind as well as John Smith, I don’t know yet. But so far nothing new, Ann-Will Harzing’s excellent Publish or Perish software already did this. What is new is the fact that Google Scholar Citations keeps the citations and publications automatically up to data and allows you to publish your own publication list on the Web with the citations and some crude citations metrics.

The two major competitors in this arena are Thomson Reuters with their ResearcherID and Elsevier’s Scopus which has their Scopus ID. With both services you can identify your own publications and assign them to a unique number. IN this way you can create your unique publications list with citation metrics as well. The main disadvantage compared to Google Scholar is their rather limited resource set. Thomson Reuters WoS “only” covers some 10,000 scholarly journals a set of selected proceedings and of recent only 30,000 books. Scopus has nearly double the number of journals but stays behind in proceedings and covers hardly any books. Google Scholar certainly covers more, but we still don’t understand what is included and what not and sometimes have our doubts about currentness of Google Scholar. The larger resource base, including books and book chapters, of Google Scholar makes will make this service more attractive for social scientist and scholars in arts and humanities studies.

On top of the smaller publication base on which these services are based, these two competitors each have their own particular disadvantage as well. You have to maintain you publications list in Thomson Reuters Researcher ID yourself manually. Each time you publish a new article, you have to add it to your profile yourself. Looking around, I see that most researchers are a bit sloppy in this respect. You can however, make your publication list and the citation impact publically available. see for example my meagre list. Scopus on the other hand, maintains your publication list automatically (albeit it made some serious mistakes in this area in the past, but they seem to have improved this service). But, and this is a big but, you can’t publish you properly curated publication list with citations publically on the Web. They used to have 2Collab for this, but since they stopped 2Collab they haven’t come up with an alternative mechanism to publish your publications list with citation impact on a public website. A real pity.

So Google Scholar easily beats ResearcherID since it updates automatically and Scopus ID because you can make your list with citations publically available. To make your publication list openly available is really recommended to all scientists, it helps your personal branding.

Certainly there are disadvantages to Google Scholar aswell. The most serious at this moment all kind of ghost citations. If you look at the citations to our bibliometrics analysis on top of repositories paper, Google counts three citations. But checking the Leydesdorff citations, a reference to our article is not to be found (of course it should have been there, but it isn’t). 0xDE reported a spam account in the name of Peter Taylor, where they collected various Taylors in a single profile boasting an h-index of 94. That Google Scholar can be fooled has been reported Beel & Grip (2010).

When I was interviewed for our university paper on Google Scholar Citations (in Dutch) I told them: Google Scholar is only about five years old. Give them another five years and they will have changed the market for abstracting and indexing database totally. If only 20 percent of all scientists make their publication lists correct (also editing of the references which can be done to improve the mistakes Google has made) even without making them publically available, Google sits on a treasure trove of high quality metadata. Really interesting to see how this story will develop.

Joeran Beel and Bela Gipp. Academic search engine spam and google scholar’s resilience against it. Journal of Electronic Publishing, 13(3), December 2010.

The changing face of Elsevier Science

The last couple of days I had the pleasure to attend the Elsevier Development Partners meeting. The exact products they are working on might be of interest to some people, but that’s up to Elsevier to announce. But what was really the big surprise at this meeting -which lasted 3 days- was the tone from Elsevier. It was all about open Science. They clearly wanted to open up. There was a lot of talk about sharing information, making mash-ups possible, Application programming Interfaces (API). Elsevier Science wanted to move away from the double barred information silo to become an open solution provider in the scholarly world. If Elsevier is thinking and acting in this direction, then change will become a major issue for the entire scientific publishing industry and that is good news for libraries who want to remain a vital service in the future as well.

This change will take time. It doesn’t happen overnight. But Raphael Sidi just announced the other day on his blog the Elsevier Article API at the programmable Web. So, Elsevier is not only talking, they are acting up on it as well.

Let other publishers follow this example!

Elsevier’s topcited just launched

Where Thomson scientific has already for quite some years the free website ISIhighlycited, Elsevier has launched today (?) a competitive product called TopCited. Albeit not the same, it is clear that the competition is inspiring both companies to come up with new products in each other niches. The databases are effectively a lure to get reserchers interested in the products behind it. TopCited gives an overview of subject-specific top 20 cited articles in the past 3, 4 or 5 years of publication. The underlying database for the citation data is Scopus of course.
I just discovered it, some quick impressions:

  • A time frame of maximally 5 years is a bit brief. I would love to see a 10 year frame as well.
  • I suspect they have some difficulty of determining the research field of article published in multidisciplinary journals such as Nature and Science. They seem to be lacking from rankings, albeit a glimpsed a few. Too few according to my impression.

Later on I will look at this new site more carefully, and will attempt to make a comparison with the competitive Thomson databases.

Do publishers take electronic books seriously?

A while ago John Dupuis did a great post on Ebook business models. In the comments a few additional suggestions were made to improve on his really well thought list of bullet points. Today I ran into yet another addition for his list.

Elsevier send their fourth installment of the Books Connect newsletter. As a Life Science institution we are certainly interested in their new Encyclopedia of Ecology. When you follow the link to the website for this reference work you end up on a site that only refers to the paper edition of this encyclopedia. No mention of an electronic version. This explains the title in the post, does this publisher take ebooks seriously?

When we want to grow the acceptance of ebooks, the reference works are the ideal place to start. Quick reference, fact finding, ideal in the electronic format. Exactly what our users scattered all over Wageningen and far beyond want.

Okay, backtrack for a moment. Look again at the BooksConnect newsletter. There is this banner add on the newsletter that says “available 2008 on ScienceDirect“. have a look at that and you’ll be disappointed again. The encyclopedia is not to be found on the page for reference works nor on the page of forthcoming reference works. Simply it is not there. Which is a pity.

So another bullet on the list for John would be:

  • e-books should be published on time. They should become at least available when the print edition is published. Preferably an electronic edition should be available before the paper edition comes out.