A Brief Introduction to Open Access Journal Publishers

“Types of OA Publishers” by Annie Johnson is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

This week is Open Access Week, a yearly international celebration that aims to increase awareness about open access (scholarship that is free to read and reuse). Most academic work is locked up behind a paywall, available only to those who are affiliated with a college or university. One way researchers can make their work more widely available to readers is by publishing in an open access journal.

Some of the largest publishers of open access journals are actually commercial publishers you’ve probably heard of, like Elsevier and Springer Nature. SAGE, De Gruyter, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley also publish open access journals.

Nonetheless, there are a growing number of exclusively open access journal publishers whose names may be less familiar to researchers. Here’s a brief run down of some of the major open access publishers you might encounter:

Exclusively Open Access Non-Profit Publishers

eLife
eLife is a non-profit OA publisher/journal that was founded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust is 2011. They publish scholarship in the life and biomedical sciences. Some articles published in eLife include ancillary materials, such as the decision letter from the editorial team with suggestions for improvement, as well as the authors’ response to that letter. Peer reviewers may also choose to reveal their identities to authors. In addition to traditional journal content eLife runs a magazine which includes editorials, interviews, and podcasts. eLife is one of the most prominent publishers to criticize the journal impact factor. As a result, they do not report on or promote this metric.

PLOS
Founded in 2001, PLOS (Public Library of Science) is a non-profit publisher that publishes seven journals. Its flagship journal, PLOS ONE is known as a “mega journal” because of the large number of articles it publishes (22,054 papers in 2016 alone). In 2014 PLOS implemented a new data policy, in which they require that all researchers make the data underlying their work fully available.

Exclusively Open Access Commercial Publishers

BioMed Central
Based in the United Kingdom, BioMed Central (BMC) was founded in 1999 and publishes over 300 journals. It is now owned by Springer Nature. Temple University Libraries is an institutional member of BMC, and automatically covers 50% of the total APC for all Temple researchers who submit.

F1000 Research
F1000 Research is a scholarly publication platform that was founded in 2000. It is known for its use of open peer review. F1000 Research publishes posters and slides in addition to scholarly articles.

Frontiers
Frontiers Media was founded in 2007 and is based in Switzerland. It currently publishes sixty-three open access journals in a range of disciplines.

Hindawi
Hindawi is an open access publisher based in London. It was founded in 1997, although it did not become an exclusive open access publisher until the 2000s. Hindawi currently publishes over 400 journals.

MDPI
Founded in 1996, the publisher MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) is based in Switzerland and publishes 203 open access journals, mostly in the sciences.

PeerJ
Launched in 2013, PeerJ is a publisher of two journals: PeerJ (which focuses on the biological, medical and environmental sciences) and PeerJ Computer Science. They also have a repository for preprints, called PeerJ Preprints. In the beginning, PeerJ relied on a membership model to make money, in which authors would pay one fee and they could publish for free in PeerJ for the rest of their careers. They have recently changed their model so that authors can pay an article processing charge (APC) instead of purchasing a lifetime membership.

One last note: all the publishers profiled here are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics, and their journals can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Advice for First Time Book Authors: Tailoring Your Approach


Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash.

The following is a guest post from Aaron Javsicas, Temple University Press Editor-in-Chief.

“It depends.” That’s my advice for first time book authors. Maybe it doesn’t sound terribly helpful, but it’s true (and I do try not to leave it there). It depends who the author is and what her goals are. It depends who the press is and what its strengths are. It depends who the intended reader is.

Roughly speaking, book publishing is divided in two main categories: academic and trade. There are many shades in between these two poles, and also other categories — professional books, for example — that tend to fall outside this binary. But these are the main ones. Academic books include research monographs written for a relatively small audience of specialists, textbooks for course adoption, and books by academics that advance scholarship but are also written in an accessible, expansive way which can make them useful for upper level undergraduate courses and some general readers. “Trade books” means general interest books; these could be fiction or nonfiction, but they are aimed squarely at the general public.

Keeping the likely audience for the “Scholarly Communication @ Temple” blog in mind (see “audience,” below), my comments here apply mainly to academic book authors seeking an academic publisher.

Audience: Speaking of audience (see above), it’s important to decide who you think will really read your book. It’s not uncommon for scholars to believe their books will attract a wide readership beyond the academy, and to pitch their projects to editors in these terms. It’s certainly possible! And I would never discourage authors from seeking wider audiences — writing to be read is a good thing. But at the same time, targeting your core audience is crucial, and being realistic about this audience tends to build your credibility with editors considering your project. In your proposal, I recommend you identify your book’s primary audience and explain why you see it that way, and then describe and argue (with evidence) for any secondary audiences.

Main point: What is your main point? What questions are you asking? What arguments are you making? This probably all sounds painfully obvious. But I promise you, it is often painfully missing. Or buried on page 9 of the proposal. Try to wave a flag, right at the top of your proposal, making crystal clear what the purpose of your book is. This will go a long way toward smoothing your path with editors, peer reviewers, editorial boards, and even, when the time comes, marketing and publicity staff.

Short and long description: Related to this, editors and other press staff will very much appreciate it if you’re able to provide a brief, one paragraph capsule description right at the top of your proposal, before you get into your more in-depth project overview. Especially at this early stage, it’s helpful for press staff to have a short description easily at hand as they pass the project around within the office for initial feedback.

Method: What kind of evidence will you marshal to support your claims? Again, this is an obvious one, but it’s also an opportunity to shine. Academic editors tend to be fairly knowledgeable, and if you have used an interesting experimental design, or if you have generated a creative data set, or if you have managed to land an impressive batch of interviews or gain access to an important but under-used archive, make sure to highlight these and describe what’s special about them.

Approaching an editor: Just as it’s important to know your likely readership, it’s also important to approach presses that are most likely to be interested in your work. Not all presses publish in all disciplines. Ask colleagues in your field about their experiences with different presses. Look at your bookshelf and see which presses appear there most. Consult the AU Presses Subject Grid. Check out presses’ websites and look for the page that describes each editor’s list areas. Then, once you’ve identified the right editors, it’s ok to send a short initial inquiry via email to confirm whether your topic is of interest. Or, you can just go ahead and email your proposal. Hopefully you’ll hear back shortly.

Marketing: Will you be an active author on the sales and marketing front? What can you do to help sell the book? What mailing lists can you access or help the press access? Are you prepared to appear at book signings, to deliver lectures, and to promote the book at conferences as opportunities arise? Are you open to appearing on TV and podcasts, writing op-eds, and sitting for radio interviews, and do you have connections that can help make this happen? If the book is appropriate for classroom adoption, which specific course titles should sales and marketing staff target? Do you know specific instructors who you believe will adopt the book? An active author can make an enormous difference to book sales, so publishers will be interested to see what you can offer along these lines. I strongly suggest highlighting this in your proposal.

Best foot forward: You don’t have to be finished when you approach an editor. Editors expect see drafts, not a finished product. That said, it’s important to put effort into making your proposal and draft chapters as appealing and easy to read as possible. If you’re converting a published article into a book chapter, go ahead and convert it before you submit your project — don’t, for example, leave the article abstract at the top of the chapter. Get rid of typos from your proposal. More broadly, try to put yourself in the editor’s shoes, be respectful of his or her time, and make reading the proposal the smoothest and most enjoyable experience possible (see “short description” above).

Multiple submissions: If you’re going to submit to multiple presses, be transparent about it. Some presses require an exclusive first look, some don’t. But all will want you to be transparent about your plans.

Physical details: Have a sense of the physical properties of your book – what is the word count (including everything — main text, notes, bibliography, etc. — except for the index, which comes later and can’t be counted yet). Generally speaking, publishers think in terms of word counts, not manuscript page counts. How many illustrations will you include? Is black and white ok? Will your project need any special treatment from the production department – an unusual trim size, text set in a specific way, colors or symbols to avoid on the cover? All of these details can affect how much the book costs to make and for readers to buy, and are therefore important for the publisher to know.

Book publishers are busy people. So are authors. But the more effort you put into these initial stages of the project, the easier and more enjoyable the publishing process should be for all involved, including you. And always keep in mind that publishers want to publish books. We like books, we need books, and we don’t enjoy saying no to books. But we do need a clear reason to go forward with your book.

From Blog Post to Book: An Interview with Kenneth Finkel

 

Kenneth Finkel is a Professor of History at Temple. His new book, Insight Philadelphia: Historical Essays Illustrated will be published this month by Rutgers University Press. The book is based on a series of blog posts he first wrote for PhillyHistory.org. He recently spoke with Scholarly Communications Specialist Annie Johnson about how he turned his blog posts into a scholarly book.

How did you get started writing for PhillyHistory.org? Did you know when you started blogging that you wanted to eventually write a book?

As I say in the acknowledgements: “In 2011, Deb Boyer, Azavea’s…project manager, asked if I’d write a letter to support PhillyHistory.org’s nomination for an award by the American Association of State and Local History. The blog won kudos, and a few months later, I wondered if I might join the team as a guest contributor. (No stranger to blogging about Philadelphia, I had published at two previous venues: WHYY’s first foray into the medium, The Sixth Square [2006–2008], and Brownstoner Philadelphia [2010].) My first entry at PhillyHistory was on August 11, 2011.” I always figured that if this worked out, I’d try and see if it would or could become a book. I remembered that [writer] Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and other books, once had a blog with a subtitle declaring that intention. It seemed like a good idea – to parse out the task of book writing over hundreds of weeks…

What do you like about blogging?

There’s a rawness and an independence in the approach to blog writing, especially as it’s not peer reviewed. (Still, I try and hold myself to higher standards.) I could have chosen to rework ground already covered, things I knew from past research. But what I like most is the challenge of doing research for each and every post and revealing and presenting previously unknown or previously unconnected facts. I’m not sure many others see blogging this way, or use it this way, but for me it has been an ongoing challenge with built-in rewards of discovery. I’d be bored otherwise and would have stopped posting a long time ago.

Another essential thing that has kept my interest alive is the choice of images from PhillyHistory.org. Hunting down compelling, viable images with stories to tell–images that in most cases have not been previously researched or published, has made this 7-year project a constant treasure hunt.

Has blogging made your academic writing better?

Hard for me to say. My writing has usually been aimed more for the public. I think blogging has had an impact on my writing, forcing me to choose and develop ideas and commit to conclusions sooner than later.

The amount of preparation and planning involved in developing and writing any post has always struck me as something shaped by academic-level commitment. To my mind, this is academic writing, not because of the format but because of the approach. I literally have lists with hundreds of ideas. (I always like working from a deep well.)

The question is: Have I said anything new about Philadelphia in this work? I like to think I have. As I say in the preface: “Philadelphia’s unique and persistent sense of past and place is captured and refreshed.” In this book, those sensibilities are newly informed and newly reshaped, providing grittier, more bottom up intersections with the past. That level of openness and honesty may be more appealing than some past histories. I like to believe we need meta narratives as much as we need narratives. Together, they make for a broader approach to understanding the past.

How did you find a publisher?

After one false start (see below), Micah Kleit of Rutgers came to me with the idea, which I was very pleased about. It started with email, then coffee with Kleit (formerly of Temple University Press, now director at Rutgers University Press). There’s nothing better than being wanted.

Were you concerned that publishers wouldn’t want to publish a collection of writings that was already available for free online?

My false start (mentioned above) with another publisher came after about 75 posts. I approached a publisher I had previously worked with and sent them links to what I thought were outstanding pieces. The response was something like: “Good posts, they read like a blog. It’s not a book.”

How did you choose which posts to put in the book?

Maybe the toughest aspect in the transition from blog to book was finding and then building narratives. I wanted the essays to flow and build to something greater than the sum of the parts. Some posts, often written years apart, fell in line with one another, providing a stronger basis for each other’s point. Other posts stood along the way didn’t make as much sense. It was painful to leave some treasures behind.

Did you revise any/all of them?

Every one was revised for one reason or another. I and others found more mistakes and inconsistencies than I am happy to admit. A few posts needed more work than others.

Was the book peer reviewed?

Yes, the university press held this to their usual high standards, and for that I am grateful.

Do you think blogging is becoming an important way for scholars to communicate?

Of course it is–and has been for some years. Blogging is the most conservative of the social media platforms.

What advice do you have for other scholars who are interested in starting a blog or writing for an existing blog?

Work with images, if at all possible. The blog medium is incredibly image friendly and can broaden your appeal. Expect to work harder than you imagine. Don’t worry about readership, but extend yours and build your own following by using other social media. I post links and images to my new work on Facebook and Twitter. And find your voice as you keep posting, month after month, year after year.

Thank you Professor Finkel!

All About Impact Factors

“Impact” by Dru! is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

This week, Clarivate Analytics released its annual Journal Citation Report, which includes new and updated Journal Impact Factors (JIF) for almost 12,000 academic journals. In case you’re not familiar, the JIF is based on the average number of times a journal’s articles were cited over a two year period.

Impact factors are a relatively recent phenomenon. The idea came about in the 1960s, when University of Pennsylvania linguist Eugene Garfield started compiling his Science Citation Index (now known as the Web of Science), and needed to decide which journals to include. He eventually published the numbers he had collected in a separate publication, called the Journal Citation Report (JCR), as a way for librarians to compare journals (JCR is now owned by Clarivate Analytics). Now, impact factors are so important that it is very difficult for new journals to attract submissions before they have one. And the number is being used not just to compare journals, but to assess scholars. JIF is the most prominent impact factor, but it is not the only one. In 2016, Elsevier launched CiteScore, which is based on citations from the past three years.

Academics have long taken issue with how impact factors are used to evaluate scholarship. They argue that administrators and even scholars themselves incorrectly believe that the higher the impact factor, the better the research. Many point out that publishing in a journal with a high impact factor does not mean that one’s own work will be highly cited. One recent study, for example, showed that 75% of articles receive fewer citations than the journal’s average number.

Critics also note that impact factors can be manipulated. Indeed, every year, Clarivate Analytics suspends journals who have tried to game the system. This year they suppressed the impact factors for 20 journals, including journals who cited themselves too often and journals who engaged in citation stacking. With citation stacking, authors are asked to cite papers from cooperating journals (which band together to form “citation cartels”). The 20 journals come from a number of different publishers, including major companies such as Elsevier and Taylor & Francis.

As a result of these criticisms, some journals and publishers have also started to emphasize article-level metrics or alternative metrics instead. Others, such as the open access publisher eLife, openly state on their website that they do not support the impact factor. eLife is one of thousands of organizations and individuals who have signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which advocates for research assessment measures that do not include impact factors. Another recent project, HuMetricsHSS, is trying to get academic departments, particularly those in the humanities and social sciences, to measure scholars by how much they embody five core values: collegiality, quality, equity, openness, and community. While these developments are promising, it seems unlikely that the journal impact factor will go away anytime soon.

What do you think about the use of impact factors to measure academic performance? Let us know in the comments.

Making Peer Review More Open

“Marginalia” by Open Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Traditional peer review relies on anonymous reviewers to thoughtfully assess and critique an author’s work. The idea is that blind review makes the evaluation process more fair and impartial–but many scholars have questioned whether this is always the case.

Open review has the potential to make scholarship more transparent and more collaborative. It also makes it easier for researchers to get credit for the work they do reviewing the scholarship of their peers. Publishers in both the sciences and the humanities and social sciences have been experimenting with open review for almost two decades now, but it is only recently that open review seems to have reached a tipping point. So what exactly is open review, and what does it entail?

There are two main types of open review: named review and crowd-sourced review. With named review, the names of the peer reviewers as well as their reports are published online alongside the scholarship in question, making them available for anyone to read. A number of open access journal publishers use named review, including BioMed Central, Frontiers, F1000, and eLife. The open access journal Nature Communications allows authors to choose whether or not they want open review. About 60% of them do so. Elsevier recently started allowing peer-review reports to be published alongside articles for a few of its journals. However, peer reviewers do not have to attach their names to reports (and a little less than half do so). Giving reviewers the choice to remain anonymous if they wish, while making the reports open, can be one way to address one of the main critiques of open review: that it will cause scholars to be less candid. Early career faculty might be particularly sensitive to this issue.

With crowd-sourced review, a draft of the article or book is made available online for the public to comment on before it is officially published. This allows for the authors to get feedback from a greater variety of individuals, including people who might never have been approached to be a peer reviewer. One of the first monographs to go through this type of review was Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence (NYU Press, 2010). MediaCommons Press, which hosted this draft of Fitzpatrick’s book, used CommentPress, a WordPress plugin, to facilitate feedback from interested readers. Most recently, Matthew J. Salganik used crowd-sourced review for his book, Bit By Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age (Princeton University Press, 2017). Salganik created the Open Review Toolkit (which uses the annotation tool hypothes.is) in order to help other scholars do the same thing. Crowd-sourced review can occur before traditional peer review, or concurrently. One of the challenges associated with this type of review is letting the world know that the manuscript is online and ready to be commented on. It may require that the author take a more active role in the review process than they are used to. Another challenge is directing readers to leave the type of substantial comments that would be most useful to the author.

In addition to these more formal types of open review, which are usually facilitated by publishers, researchers are also taking it upon themselves to use the web in different ways to solicit feedback on their work. More and more scholars, particularly in the sciences, are posting preprints. Some humanities scholars are even sharing drafts of their work in public Google docs and enabling commenting.

What do you think of open review? Would you be willing to make your peer-review reports public?

Your Preprint Questions, Answered

“Early bird” by Katy Warner is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last year, we noted that preprints were “having a moment.” Since that time, a number of new discipline-specific preprint servers have launched (PsyArXiv, LawArXiv, and engrXiv), and more are on the way (Chemrxiv, PaleorXiv, and SportRxiv, to name a few). In addition, funding organizations, such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, have begun to provide financial support for preprint servers. Still doubt the rising popularity of preprints? There’s even a new app for rating preprints in the life sciences called Papr, which calls itself “Tinder for preprints.”

Are you thinking of posting a preprint? Here are some things you might be wondering about:

What exactly is a preprint?

A preprint is usually defined as a piece of scholarship that has not been peer reviewed or formally published. Many preprints do go on to be published in academic journals. One 2013 study, for example, found that 64% of the work that is posted in arXiv has been published in academic journals. However, there is also small group of scholars who have begun posting what they call “final version preprints.”

Why should I post a preprint of my work?

Posting a preprint allows you to get your research out into the world quickly and easily. That’s good for the advancement of knowledge, but it’s also good because it enables you to position yourself as the originator of a certain claim or technique, even before your article is formally published. Posting a preprint is also a great way to get feedback on your work from others, and make your scholarship even better.

Can I still submit my manuscript to a journal if I previously posted it on a preprint server?

In most cases, yes. A growing number of journals welcome manuscript submissions that first appeared as preprints. BioRxiv, for example, has a manuscript transfer process which makes it easy for researchers to submit their preprint to over 120 scholarly journals. That having been said, there are still a few journals that consider the posting of preprints to be “prior publication.” Make sure to read the policies of the journal you are interested in submitting to. Wikipedia also has a list preprint policies by journal.

How will people find my preprint?

Many preprint servers assign DOIs (digital object identifiers) to preprints, which make them easier to discover (although the popular arXiv does not). In addition, a number of preprint servers are indexed by Google Scholar. Nevertheless, if you want people to read your preprint, you should be prepared to do your own promotion. Use social media to draw attention to your work.

How should I license my preprint?

As the author, you automatically own the copyright to your work. However, adding a Creative Commons (CC) license tells people how your preprint can be reused. Some preprint servers require a CC license for any work that is posted. Others, such as SSRN or Humanities Commons CORE, do not. We recommend adding a CC license to all preprints you post.

Can I cite a preprint?

Yes. If you have evaluated a preprint and find it to useful to your research, definitely go ahead and cite it. Just make sure to note in your citation that it is a preprint. Also make sure you are citing the version that you actually used. One caveat: there are a few journals that do not allow researchers to cite preprints, although this policy seems to be changing. If you are unsure, ask your editor. Writing a grant application? The NIH recently announced that investigators are free to cite their own preprints in research proposals or projects reports.

Have another question about preprints that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments.

2016-2017 Recipients of the OA Publishing Fund

“Open” by Auntie P is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In the fall of 2016 the Libraries launched a pilot Open Access Publishing Fund to support faculty and graduate students who want to publish their research in an open access journal but do not have the money to do so. We have profiled a few of our recipients in past posts on this blog. We are pleased to announce the complete list of 2016-2017 recipients. Congrats to all!

College of Liberal Arts

Eunice Chen, Lauren Alloy, Susan Murray, Jared O’Garro-Moore, Angelina Yiu, and Kalina Eneva, Psychology

Kevin A. Henry and Allison L. Swiecki-Sikora, Geography and Urban Studies

Joshua Klugman, Sociology/Psychology

College of Education

Doug Lombardi and Janelle Bailey

College of Science and Technology

Xiaoxing Xi, Narendra Acharya, Matthaeus Wolak, Teng Tan, and Namhoon Lee, Physics

Xiaoxing Xi, Teng Tan, and Matthaeus Wolak, Physics

College of Engineering

Fei Ren and Bosen Quan

Shenqiang Ren, Beibei Xu, Himanshu Chakraborty, Vivek K. Yadav, Zhuolei Zhang, and Michael L. Klein (Physics)

School of Medicine

Andrew Gassman and Judy Pan

Andrew Gassman and Richard Tyrell

Jian Huang, Chao Wu, and Hong Wang

Parth Rali

He Wang, Baidarbhi Chakraborty, Linda Mamone, Shiguang Lui, and Nirag C. Jhala

School of Dentistry

Vinodh Bhoopathi and Ting Dai

A Few Cues About Peer Review

The following is a guest post from Ryan Mulligan, Editor at Temple University Press.

One way a scholar might come into contact with a university press is through being asked by an editor to serve as a peer reviewer for a book manuscript the press is considering publishing. Peer review is essential to checking the scholarly credentials of the books university presses publish and helps ensure that they will find an appreciative audience and have the bona fides to be assets to the academic community. Here are some considerations you might wonder about if you are asked to serve as a peer reviewer.

Good peer reviewers know that they are writing for two audiences: the press (including its editorial board) and the author. They balance their suggestions for the author with evaluation, and even some summary, for the press’s benefit. It is sometimes useful to clarify, for the editor and the editorial board’s benefit, the background into which the manuscript enters and what is at stake in whatever intervention it seeks to make. Good peer reviews note what is new and impactful about the project and point out any weaknesses in the scholarship. They might consider the manuscript’s suitability for course use, the level of the writing, or what set of scholars and fields constitute the manuscript’s likely audience. Beyond who could theoretically find this book relevant, realistically, if the press published this book, is there an appreciable set of scholars who will consider it their job to read it? Reviewers’ comments should also be useful to the author as they revise the book. Have they considered the relevant counter arguments? Are there relevant sources or alternative explanations they haven’t considered? Have they defined their terms sufficiently? Are they inventing terms that aren’t useful? And then the reviewer might need to play editor. Does the argument flow? Does the organization of the manuscript make sense? As a reader, do you feel confident at a given moment in the text, where the author is going and how the section you’re reading contributes to the overall argument?

You don’t need to be a copyeditor – most university presses will take care of the spelling and grammar in a later stage of the publishing process. But especially in fields that are heavy on technical language and jargon, the press may be dependent on you to make some editorial interventions. I see many reports that offer a main section of broad discussion of the manuscript and then a separate section of more detailed comments that tackles individual errors or points of weakness one by one. Some reviewers like to open up the “Comments” section of their word processor and mark up the manuscript as they go. There’s no way for me as an editor to present those comments to my board, but many authors find this generative, so go for it if you like, but be cautioned that it’s much harder for me to keep your identity as a reviewer anonymous from the author when I pass on these comments.

I’ve seen some effective concise reviews of only a page, but most good reviews tend to be two to five pages, more if they catalogue errors or offer detailed commentary. Some reviews are framed as letters to the editor, press, or editorial board, but most are just reports not addressed to anyone in particular. Some presses, including Temple, have a list of questions they will include when they send along the manuscript for review. Reviewers can consider these questions one at a time in turn or just keep them all in mind as they write a more free-form review. Presses, editorial assistants especially, appreciate when the reviewer remembers to turn in any supporting forms completed with their review. They also appreciate reviewers sticking to their deadlines, but being forthcoming and communicative when they can’t make a deadline.

Let’s talk for just a moment about bad peer reviews! The worst reviews I’ve seen are a couple paragraphs thrown together before deadline that just say “you should publish this book.” That’s not going to help the book get past the editorial board; the press is just going to have to turn right around and ask someone else to write a whole new review. But that doesn’t happen very often. Most commonly, a peer review will disappoint me in that its criticisms boil down to, “this isn’t the book I would have written if I’d tackled this topic myself.” I understand the instinct to write that report. But it’s not useful to the press. You will naturally have certain interests that you would have brought to the study to nudge it in a different direction that would be more exciting to you. Your focus and emphasis might have been different. And your writerly voice would of course have been different. But try to put yourself in the press’s shoes and evaluate what the book does for the discipline, what it brings to the table, and how it could be framed to better accomplish its own goals, which may be different from yours.

I’ve seen peer reviews from scholars of all levels of experience; seniority is no predictor of the quality of a review. The quality of the review comes from the reviewer’s ability to speak to both author and press, consider the book’s realistic impact and audience, evaluate its success in reaching its goals, and offer helpful suggestions for improvement. I hope my own suggestions here are helpful for anyone asked to review a book project for a scholarly press.

For more perspectives on peer review for academic presses, including some of the ways that procedures might vary for different presses, take a look at the Association of American University Presses handbook of Best Practices for Peer Review.

A New Collaborative Model for Open Textbook Publishing

“Supporting OER [open educational resources] means supporting maximum equity and access within education, allowing all students to learn with the up-to-date content, regardless of their economic background” – Cable Green, Director of Open Education, Creative Commons

Adopting open textbooks saves students around the world millions of dollars and allows faculty to share their knowledge globally. Most open textbooks use a CC BY attribution license from Creative Commons that makes it easy to share and adapt the content.

Many aspects go into creating an open textbook, so why not crowdsource talent? That is exactly what is happening with an exciting new model for open textbook publishing created by the co-founders of The Rebus Foundation, a Canadian, not-for-profit organization funded by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Executive Director Hugh McGuire and Strategic Director Boris Anthony have created an online collaborative community called The Rebus Community, to create a global, connected network of open textbook creators. All are welcome to join the community and contribute ideas for open textbooks or to become a contributor. It is the perfect way to support the creation of OER without necessarily having a lot of experience in open textbook publishing. They develop the software and tools to manage the publishing process; all you need to do is sign up! All open textbooks will be available in an open, remixable e-book format supported by Pressbooks.

Current pilot projects underway include:

The Rebus Community seeks a variety of collaborators for all stages of open textbook publishing and may include everything from chapter authors to peer reviewers and proofreaders. To stay alerted of open calls for contributors, join the Rebus Community forum at http://forum.rebus.community or follow their tweets @RebusCommunity.

Fair Use from a Scholarly Publisher’s Perspective

This week we’re celebrating Fair Use Week at the Libraries. To find out more about the role of fair use in scholarly book publishing, we interviewed Nikki Miller, Rights and Contracts Coordinator at Temple University Press.

Why is fair use important to the Press?
Fair use is important to the Press for a few reasons. From a practical standpoint, obtaining permissions tends to be costly and time-consuming, so fair use allows authors to build upon others’ ideas without the added cost and time expense of gaining permission. Our mission at the Press is to participate in the dissemination of academic discourse, and without fair use, it would make this a lot harder to accomplish.

Authors are generally required to tell their publisher what third party materials they want to use in their book. They are also usually responsible for obtaining permissions. Is this how it works at the Press?
Yes, we have a clause in our standard contracts that states it is the author’s responsibility to gain permission for any copyrighted materials. Though I am always happy to discuss with our authors what material needs permission and offer to help him/her to find the appropriate rights’ holder. It is not always easy to find the rights’ holder so having more than one person searching can make the process quicker and easier.

Do you double-check every single article/image/table authors use to make sure they really have gotten permission?
I do. As soon as an image or text is deemed to be not fair use, I flag it and discuss options with the author. The Press has a standard permission form that we send to authors to send to the rights’ holders; this form grants us all the rights we need to move forward including others that we like to have, such as promotional use. If the rights’ holder has its own permission form, I read it to make sure it gives us all of the rights we need to include it in the author’s publication.

Would you accept a fair use argument from an author? Under what circumstances?
I would only accept a fair use argument for the inclusion of text, never for an image or table. Unless the author uses data from an original figure to create his/her own table, as that qualifies as transformative use. However, I have had authors argue that their usage of copyrighted material is fair use when I think it is not. When this happens, I listen to the author’s argument, and we usually reach a compromise with what to do next. Most of the time this occurs when the ratio of quoted material to analysis is too low, so I ask the author to both cut some of the quote and to add additional analysis to his/her argument.

When analyzing if borrowed material is fair use, I tend to be stricter on the analysis of poetry and song lyrics. This is because a lot of the times poetry and songs are carefully kept under copyright and are usually shorter as works. However, there are times that I deem poetry lines as fair use. In those instances, a very short piece of the poem is included and has a lot of analysis to accompany it. Additional factors I consider with poetry include whether the author is using it as ornamental text in the body of the work and if the author needs the exact language for his/her argument. If it is used for ornamental purposes in the body of the work then I ask the author to remove the poetry.

How do you evaluate whether use of Press content constitutes fair use?
When we receive permission requests from authors to include material from Temple University Press titles in their works, I consider the same four fair use factors as when I evaluate our own authors’ manuscripts and whether the borrowed material they include is fair use or not (purpose and character of the use, nature of the copyrighted work, amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use on the market). If the requested material does not fall under fair use, I grant permission (if TUP has permission to do so) to the requestor. I have received permission requests before for material that will qualify as fair use, and in those situations, I let the requestor know and ask that a proper citation is included in the work.

What do you wish more authors knew about fair use?
I get a lot of notes from authors who think that because they cited borrowed material appropriately that the citation automatically deems material fair use and makes gaining permission unnecessary. Citing has no role in deciding whether the inclusion of borrowed material qualifies as fair use or not. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing. Citing protects an author form plagiarizing, and only granted permission or fair use protects an author from infringing on copyright.

Thank you Nikki!