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Science and Technology Section (STS): Sci Post Repository: Sci Post 2016

This is the repository for STS's Sci Posts

What is Scholarly Communications?

This is the first post in a new series: Scholarly Communications Investigations (SCI)!


SCI is a initiative developed by the STS Scholarly Communications Committee, and inspired by the STS Discovery & Access Committee’s excellent “Inside Science Resources” project. Members of our committee will research and write short posts about various scholarly communications topics from a sci-tech library perspective. Through these regular email posts to the STS listserv we hope to promote discussion, and facilitate the professional development of STS members in the broad area of scholarly communications.



What is Scholarly Communications?

The term “scholarly communications” (SC) has been a buzzword in academic libraries for the last decade or more. Many libraries have created Scholarly Communications Librarian positions, and reorganized entire library units under this term. It is now commonly incorporated into subject/liaison librarian job descriptions and responsibilities too. But what exactly do we mean by this term?


The ACRL definition:

“Scholarly communication is the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs.”


So, SC refers to the activities and issues surrounding how scholars (in any discipline) communicate with each other about their research. SC has been around as long as there has been researchers disseminating and discussing research! So what has happened in recent years to make this a library buzzword? The answer is likely pretty obvious: the Internet has happened.


The SC arena has become increasingly complex in the last few decades with the rise of the Internet and the explosion of new technologies and tools for online communications. This has revolutionized how everyone communicates - not just researchers! The Internet has also made open access to scholarly materials possible. Open Access (OA) is perhaps the largest topic under the SC umbrella - so much so that the terms OA and SC are often used interchangeably.


However, SC is much larger than just OA. As the ACRL definition points out, SC is about the entire system: from creation of scholarly works to the eventual archiving or preservation of the products. And not just for articles but for many types of output - including research data (another recent buzzword in academic libraries!).


So how is all of this relevant to us sci-tech librarians? Year after year, STM journals are the highest priced of all disciplines. Such unsustainable pricing is one of the main drivers of the OA movement. Also, the sciences have led the way in a number of innovative, and highly successful, developments in scholarly communications such as the pre-print repository arXiv, the OA journals of PLOS, and the SCOAP3 journal flipping initiative. And, the passionate debates on metrics for research assessment (see DORA) are arguably of most relevance to researchers in the sciences.


Keeping up with the complex and fast-paced SC landscape is daunting - but we hope this SCI project will help! Some of the topics we plan to explore with you over the coming months include: new forms of peer review, Creative Commons licenses, and author IDs (such as ORCiD).


Further Reading:

·       ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit: - A website of tools and resources to support libraries’ SC activities and outreach efforts.

·       Peter Suber’s excellent book: Open Access - Suber is a well-respected authority on Open Access, and this is a highly readable and succinct book.

·       IO: In the Open: - A new, multi-author blog on SC topics by librarians.

·       The Scholarly Kitchen: - This is an active, multi-author blog run by the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Definitely a publisher’s perspective, but widely read and influential.

·       There is an active ALA email list on Scholarly Communications topics: - But beware, the conversations can get heated and some people find it unwelcoming. However, I mention it here because I still find value in the discussions. And now a Code of Conduct is being developed to address the concerns many have raised recently.


Author of this post:

DeDe Dawson

Science Liaison Librarian

University of Saskatchewan

Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Author Identifiers

Author Identifiers are unique identifiers associated with a person. They provide a means to associate works with their creators in a consistent way, much as those works might have their own Digital Object Identifier. This provides benefits in terms of disambiguation between authors, provides a means for researchers to maintain a profile with links to all of their works, and integrates their profiles into other parts of the Scholarly Communications ecosystem. Some examples of platforms are ResearcherID, owned by Thompson Reuters, and ORCID, which is provided by an independent non-profit organization.


Personal names are often insufficient for proper attribution in scholarship. Ambiguity exists between authors with the same name, and some journal or database formatting rules can create ambiguity by only recording an author’s given name by initials. In such cases, an Author Search returns many hits for the wrong individual.

Alternately, misspellings during data entry, alternate transliterations of an author’s name from one alphabet into another, different publishers having disparate rules for how to use initials for given names, or cases when authors change their name can make it difficult to pull together all records for one individual due to their works being listed under a variety of names.

Author Identifiers provide a unique, consistent string for each individual regardless of any of the above problems.

Author Profiles

Additionally, Author Identifiers can offer researchers a way to keep tabs on all of their own output and make it easy for others to access it. ORCID, for example, creates a profile page for all of their users. In these profiles, users are encouraged to provide links (DOIs or simple URLs) to their work. This gives authors a place to manage their scholarly output. But the profiles can also be made public, allowing other people to find all of an author’s work without being required to search separately in multiple places. Since links are not specifically tied to, say, a journal index, this broadens researchers’ exposure by allowing them to link to projects that might not have been indexed in such places.

Further Integration

As Author Identifiers are more widely adopted, they are being incorporated into other systems. ORCID IDs are now linked to author profiles in article databases like Scopus, and ResearcherID is fully integrated into the Web of Science family of indexes. Scopus has an online tool that allows authors to quickly link their ORCID profile with whatever disparate Author Profiles Scopus has automatically generated over a researcher’s career (for various name spellings or author affiliations as the researcher has moved, for example). This can ensure that the Scopus author analysis tools, such as the calculation of h-indexes, is working from the full set of data for the author. As funding agencies, data repositories, or other parts of the research ecosystem incorporate Author Identifiers, it will become easier for later researchers to follow the connections between all aspects of scholarly output.

Further Reading

Official ORCID site:

How Author Identification Can Reduce Name Ambiguity:

An initiative to address name ambiguity: Implementing ORCID at a large academic institution:

ORCID Doesn't Have to Be Hard: Practical Tools for a Simple Implementation (ALA 2016 Poster with further links):

Author of this post:

Jesse Garrison

Science & Technology Librarian

Iowa State University

Ames, IA

Deceptive/questionable/”predatory” journals

Deceptive/questionable/”predatory” journals

The term “predatory” (or “deceptive”, or “questionable”) is generally applied to a subset of open access journals which collect fees from authors but do not provide peer review and editorial support for scholarly publishing – or even misrepresent the journals themselves – in return.  It is important to note the term “subset” here.  Not all open access journals impose article processing charges (APCs), nor are for-profit journals immune from imposing them.  APCs are a recognized business model in publishing.  Even the most reputable journals have published research that has had to be retracted.  Wikipedia defines predatory open access publishing as “an exploitative open-access publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals (open access or not).”  


Beall’s List

The term “predatory publishing” was first employed by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver.  He began his research after noting the large number of unsolicited email requests to submit papers to or serve on the editorial boards of journals with which he was unfamiliar.  (I suspect all faculty members receive these – I know I do.)  He started publishing Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers – focusing on open access publishers - in 2010, determined using a set of criteria now in its third edition.  A study published in BMC Medicine in 2015, using a sample of journals from Beall’s List, showed that the number of articles published in these journals increased from 53,000 in 2010 to 420,000 in 2014.  Beall is not without his critics, and it has been suggested that the term “predatory” be retired.  It should be noted that while the list itself is named Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers, Beall refers to it on the “List of Publishers” section of his web site simply as Beall’s List with the subtitle “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”.  Beall’s criteria provide an excellent framework to evaluate an unfamiliar journal as a publishing venue, and the list itself can be a starting point if a faculty member asks about a journal.


Scholarly Publishing Response

In 2014, the ISSN International Centre implemented new guidelines for obtaining ISSNs, including requirements for minimum issue content and refusal of an ISSN assignment if misleading information has been provided.  Also in 2014, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) – which explicitly uses the term “questionable” instead of “predatory” - implemented new criteria for compliance with best practices and publishing standards In order for a journal to be accepted.  Codes of conduct for members have been developed by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)), the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), and the International Association of STM Publishers (STM).  COPE, DOAJ, OASPA, and WAME have collaborated in the publication of Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, which form part of the criteria for evaluating membership applications.


Do You Want to Publish in This Journal?

Beall’s List is an example of a “blacklist” – i.e., you might not.  Examples of “whitelists” (with criteria for inclusion) are the DOAJ and membership in an organization like OASPA.  A concise checklist of questions to ask yourself when evaluating a journal is available from Think. Check. Submit.  Finally, use plain old common sense and look at the journal web site.  If (for example) the turnaround time between submission and “peer reviewed” publication is practically instantaneous, there is little or no published content, and/or the claims to an impact factor prove false, you don’t.  No reputable scholarly publisher would ask you to publish or to join its editorial board via SPAM email.


Further Reading

Web sites:

Committee on Publication Ethics site:

Directory of Open Access Journals site:

International Association of STM Publishers site:

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association site:

Scholarly Open Access (Jeffrey Beall’s site):

Think. Check. Submit. site:

World Association of Medical Editors site:



Beyond Beall’s list: better understanding predatory publishers:

The dark side of publishing:!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/495433a.pdf

Predatory publishers: peer to peer review:

Some perspective on “predatory” open access journals:

Who’s afraid of peer review?:


Author of this post:

Betty Landesman

What is Creative Commons Licenses?

For sci-tech librarians, and for librarians in general, it can be argued copyright law is one of the most confusing issues we face. It’s a web of frequently asked questions, such as “Is this fair use?” and “What rights do I have as an author?” Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which aims to clear up some of this confusion. According to their mission statement, “Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.”

To carry out this mission, Creative Commons created licenses as a balance between copyright’s “all rights reserved” restrictions and the true intentions of the work’s creator. They do not replace copyright. With these licenses, the author can let people know how they can share, use, and build upon their work without facing copyright infringement by following certain conditions. It is important to remember the author can only let users have these rights if they still hold the copyright, or the new copyright holder (often a publisher) has agreed to allow the author to use one of these licenses. Creative Commons uses a “three-layer” design for its licenses that can be explained as a legal code for lawyers, a common deed for humans, and a machine readable code for computers.

All Creative Commons licenses are comprised of at least one of four possible terms (definitions are provided by the Creative Commons website):

·         Attribution (BY) -- You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

·         Share-alike (SA) -- If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

·         Non-commercial (NC) -- You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

·         No Derivative Works (ND) --  If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

These terms combine to form six commonly used licenses which are each represented by a button and acronym (The graphical buttons can be found on Creative Commons’ website):

·         CC-BY (Attribution alone)

·         CC-BY-SA (Attribution + ShareAlike)

·         CC-BY-NC (Attribution + Noncommercial)

·         CC-BY-ND (Attribution + NoDerivatives)

·         CC-BY-NC-SA (Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike)

·         CC-BY-NC-ND (Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives)

Creative Commons also provides the CC0 tool which allows licensors to place their work in public domain, waiving any copyright.

All of these common licenses require attribution. Creative Commons recommends using the acronym TASL to remember the best practices for attribution. This acronym stands for Title, Author, Source, and License.

·         Title – What is the name of the material?

·         Author – Who owns it?

·         Source – Where can I find it?

·         License – How can I use it?

When attributing be sure to point out which of the six licenses is being used and provide a link to its respective web page. For example, CC-BY’s description can be found at

For sci-tech librarians, there are numerous publishers using Creative Commons licenses. A few of these include PLOS (Public Library of Science), BioMed Central, Hindawi, and Nature Publishing Group. For authors, Creative Commons has created an online tool to help licensors decide which license is best for them. It can be found at

Further Reading: - Creative Commons website, licenses, FAQ, their projects, and other information can be found here. -- List of internet resources for science which use Creative Commons licenses. -- Interview with Puneet Kishor, Project Coordinator for Science and Data at Creative Commons, about CC and Science Commons. -- Examples for attributing CC-licensed materials. -- CC licenses put in simple terms by an attorney. -- As of 2014, there are 882 million Creative Commons-licensed works, this site lists a few of the more notable ones.

Author of this post:

Tom Steele

Science and Technology Cataloger

University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK, USA

How OA benefits authors (talking points to persuade adoption) ?

When I outreach to faculty members about Open Access I lead with, "Do you want greater citations and increased impact for your research?" Authors can gain these benefits by either publishing Open Access or taking 5 minutes to archive their research in an Open Access repository.


Greater Citations

Open Access research is freely accessible. This not only means more people can read research — but also more people can cite the research. Numerous studies have shown there’s a potential citation advantage for Open Access research. For example, a study on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that Open Access articles were on average cited earlier and more often than non-Open Access articles. Additionally, a study on cytopathology journals found that authors attain a comparable or slightly higher citation rate by publishing in an Open Access journal. The Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research funder in the United Kingdom, also reported that Open Access articles they have funded were downloaded 89% more than non-Open Access content.


Increased Impact

Open Access publishing provides several ways to increase research impact: 

·       Open Access publications benefit from a longer period of attention that could lead to increased impact and public engagement, such as another scholar further developing on the research, finding new collaborators, a government policy citing the research, or news outlets reporting the research to the public. For example, a 2015 article on autism and the MMR vaccine has been viewed nearly 130,000 times. According to its Altmetric Attention Score, the article was mentioned by 71 news outlets and tweeted about over 2,800 times with 71% of tweeters being members of the public.

·       The previously mentioned PNAS study also concluded that there is indication that Open Access accelerates scientific advancement and aids in translating research into practice.

·       Authors can also further scientific advancement and their impact by sharing their data, which likewise contributes to a citation advantage


Retaining Ownership

An often overlooked benefit to authors is maintaining ownership over their articles. Traditional publishing agreements often require a full transfer of copyright. An author publishing in a traditional journal could be infringing on the copyright of their own article if they post it on their personal website, use the article in a future compilation, or possibly even using the article in their own classroom teaching. Open Access journals typically allow authors to retain their full copyright and maintain ownership.


Author of this post:

Chealsye Bowley, Scholarly Communication Librarian, Florida Gulf Coast University

New Forms of Peer Review - Open Review

Peer review - the bedrock of the academic publishing model and the process that strengthens scholarship by carefully examining new research - is changing. Or at least being augmented. The traditional model is single or double-blind peer-review, where authors do not know the identity of their peer reviewers and the reviewers may or may not know the identity of the author. This process is slowly being supplanted and modified by aspects of open peer review. Open peer review of academic work has been discussed widely, from various points of view, and hopefully this investigation will clarify some issues for STS librarians.


Some definitions highlight varying ideas on the nature of open peer review -

·       Emily Ford "any scholarly review mechanism providing disclosure of author and referee identities to one another at any point during the peer review or publication process."

·       Erin Green "open peer review of scholarly publications takes place in an online forum that is open to either the public or to a particular community of scholars."

·       David Shotton "The whole review process is entirely transparent. Each submitted manuscript is immediately made available on the journal's website. Reviews and comments from readers are welcomed, and are considered alongside the formal peer reviews solicited from experts by the journal. All the reviews, the author's responses, and the original and final versions of the article are published, and the appointed reviewers and editors are acknowledged by name in the final version."


These fairly divergent definitions can mean -

·       That reviewers and authors know each other's identities.

·       That referee comments and author responses are accessible to the reader, even if no reviewer names are revealed.

·       The review process is open to public contributions, or viewable by the public in a post-publication setting.


These possible definitions are not mutually exclusive - a publication could disclose reviewer identities to authors, publish the reviewer comments publicly, and invite post-publication review from readers. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics includes many of these open practices - starting with submission of a discussion paper open to interactive public commentary that also has traditional referee comments. Some aspects are voluntary (such as disclosing reviewer identity), but many features of open review are at work in their process.


Why is the traditional blind review model challenged? Open peer review potentially offers much more rapid publication of results. Putting a pre-print on bioRxiv, operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, offers researchers immediate publication and feedback instead of a long wait for reviews to come back. The anonymity of blind review has been manipulated by fake peer reviewers and reviewing networks. Open peer review potentially offers reviewers public credit for their important scholarly work. On the other hand, scholars in their early careers may want the protection from possible retribution in a small scholarly field. While there are good reasons for traditional peer review, new models of peer review are ultimately driven by researcher interest. For example, Nature Communications  is experimenting with transparent review due to author interest. As librarians for science and technology disciplines, understanding new models of peer review is another way of helping our patrons.


Further Reading:

Some science publishing platforms with non-traditional peer review (links are to the review process):


F1000Research - Brief review of platform guidelines followed by publication and public peer review and revisions.

PeerJ - Editorial review of scientific methodological soundness followed by optional signed reviews and an author option of reproducing the review history.

eLife - Fairly traditional review by editors and reviewers, but a lightly edited editorial decision letter and author responses are always published, so the review contribution and quality is transparent.

BMJ - Medical journal with a fully open peer review of research papers - each article since 2014 is accompanied by the review history and author responses.


Open Peer Review Resources:

Publons - A platform for tracking researcher contributions in the realm of peer review.

Defining and Characterizing Open Peer Review - Solid review of the literature by Emily Ford with a useful list of open peer review characteristics.

Transforming Peer Review Bibliography - If you are interested in the literature on open peer review and would like to know more, this is an excellent list of readings.


Author of this post:

Ian McCullough

Physical Science Librarian

University of Akron

Akron, OH, USA