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.

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!

More News from the OA Publishing Fund

Joshua Klugman, Associate Professor of Psychology and Sociology, is one of the latest recipients of the Libraries’ pilot Open Access Publishing Fund, which provides financial support to Temple faculty who publish their research in open access journals. Klugman’s article, “Essential or Expendable Supports? Assessing the Relationship between School Climate and Student Outcomes” was just published by the open access journal Sociological Science. Sociological Science was launched in 2014 by sociologists from Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and other leading universities. The journal aims to get cutting-edge sociological research out in the world as quickly as possible.

Klugman’s article contradicts the findings of the influential book, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago (2010), which argues that school climate has a significant impact on students’ academic outcomes. Klugman finds that a better school climate does not make much of a difference when it comes to outcomes like test scores and graduation rates. He concludes, however, that it could be that school climate matters, but that it is just very difficult to measure. As a result, Klugman suggests that schools might think twice before spending significant time and resources on climate surveys.

We asked Professor Klugman why he was interested in making his work openly available. He told us: “My article has important things to say to school administrators and policymakers (namely, they should not waste their time and money on school climate surveys). Sociological Science is a reputable journal, run by top sociologists, and the fact it is open access means these decision-makers can access my article and come to their own conclusions.”

To learn more about Professor Klugman’s research, read his recent interview with Temple’s College of Liberal Arts. To learn more about the Libraries’ OA Publishing Fund, click here.

Owning Your Impact

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“Measure a thousand times, cut once” by Sonny Abesamis is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Scholars are routinely called upon to demonstrate the impact of their research, whether for tenure and promotion, or for grant and fellowship applications. Traditionally, citation counts and journal impact factors were used to determine research impact. Today, there is widespread acknowledgement that both of these metrics are seriously flawed. One recent study, for example, showed that men cite their own papers 56% more than women (which means some men may have inflated citation counts). Another study pointed out that publishing in a journal with a high impact factor does not necessarily mean that your own work will be highly cited. Still, it’s clear that traditional metrics are not going away. Just last December, the publisher Elsevier launched their own journal impact calculator, CiteScore.

Metrics can cause significant anxiety among scholars. While such anxiety is understandable (no one wants to be reduced to a number), the more proactive a scholar is when it comes to documenting their impact, the better off they will be. Scholars should learn to take control of their metrics, and use them to craft their own story about their research. There are four main ways to do this:

First, build and maintain your online presence. Make sure your faculty profile on your department page is up to date. Register for an ORCID iD and use it. Create profiles on various academic social networks, and on Google Scholar. Consider having your own website. Join Twitter and connect with colleagues around the world.

Second, make as much of your work openly available as you can. People can’t cite or talk about your work if they can’t read it. Publish your research in open access journals, or post a preprint or postprint to a disciplinary repository. Can’t do either of these things? Figure out alternative ways of sharing your scholarship. Blog or tweet about research in progress. Use Figshare or Slideshare to call attention to unpublished scholarly output. Or, ask your publisher if you can share a small part of your monograph (such as the table of contents) on an academic social networking site (such as Academia.edu or ResearchGate).

Third, keep track of your citations. Regularly check your citations on Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar. But be skeptical of the results, particularly if you are a humanities scholar. Edited collections, for example, are often not indexed. New journals may also not be indexed. Ultimately, your best bet is to do your own research on who is citing you by searching the appropriate databases for your field (such as JSTOR, Proquest, or Google Books). Once you have a list of all your citations, dig a little deeper. Quantity matters, but so too does quality. If you can show that you are being cited by leaders in your field, or by scholars from outside your discipline, you can make a stronger case for your impact.

Fourth, pay attention to altmetrics. Altmetrics can provide you with more details about your research impact than citation counts alone. Most sharing platforms make it easy for you to see how many people are viewing or downloading your scholarship (disciplinary repositories usually offer scholars similar analytics). Sign up for ImpactStory to help keep track of what people are saying about your work on social media. Try searching the Open Syllabus Explorer to see the frequency with which your book or article is taught and what related work is taught alongside it. Here again, however, it’s important to remember that existing tools can only tell you so much. You must do additional research to really find out all the ways in which your work is being used.

For more information on enhancing your impact, check out the Library’s guide to the topic.

First Recipients of Pilot OA Publishing Fund Chosen

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The Libraries support Open Access publishing in a number of different ways. Recently, we launched a pilot Open Access Publishing Fund, which provides money to help Temple researchers cover the costs associated with publishing in an Open Access journal. We are happy to announce that our first recipients of the fund come from Laura H. Carnell Professor of Physics Xiaoxing Xi’s research group. You can read their article, “MgB2 ultrathin films fabricated by hybrid physical chemical vapor deposition and ion milling,” published in the most recent issue of APL Materials, here.

The paper’s lead author, Narendra Acharya, took the time to tell us a little bit about the group’s work: “Magnesium diboride (MgB2) is a superconducting material that allows electricity to be passed through it without any loss unlike in normal wires we use in households. Due to the unique property of this material, it can be used in various sensitive electronic devices. Our particular goal was to grow and fabricate a very thin MgB2 film. This thin film is then used to make hot electron bolometers and superconducting nanowires. Hot electron bolometers are used in astronomy to detect invisible radiation called THz frequency (this frequency is similar to a radio signal but more difficult to detect) coming out of our galaxy or interstellar bodies. By detecting these THz frequencies scientists can get information about any elements or molecules such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, or water present in any planets or solar system in our galaxy or beyond. If present, these elements may signify the possibility of life. Since THz frequency is emitted by many materials, these devices can also be used to detect various materials in a security check system. Similarly, superconducting nanowires can be used to speed up satellite communication. In our paper we present the growth and preparation of ultrathin MgB2 film for use in such devices. At Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists have already demonstrated an improved performance of these devices by using our films.”

The authors told us that they wanted to submit their work to APL Materials because it is a highly regarded new journal in the field. In addition, they liked the idea of making their research freely available to people across the globe, especially because MgB2 ultrathin films have many potential uses.

Congratulations to all the authors on this innovative research! Be sure to check back with our blog in the future to learn about other recipients of the fund.

New Pilot Open Access Publishing Fund

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“Teaching Open Source Practices, Version 4.0” by opensource.com is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

We are excited to announce that the Libraries have established a pilot Open Access Publishing Fund for 2016-2017. The fund is open to all Temple tenured or tenure-track faculty members. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students may also apply, as long as there is at least one tenured or tenure-track faculty member listed as a co-author on the article.

The Libraries’ goal in starting an Open Access Publishing Fund is to promote new forms of scholarly communication. There are a rising number of high-quality open access publishers whose business model depends on the fees they collect from authors (often referred to as article processing charges, or APCs). Authors are increasingly interested in making their work available open access, as it helps them reach new and wider audiences. However, the costs involved can be a deterrent. We hope this Fund will help remove this financial barrier, encouraging authors to experiment with new and innovative publishing models. Over fifty universities across the country currently maintain some kind of Open Access Publishing Fund.

Authors with a journal article that has been accepted or is under consideration by an open access publisher are encouraged to apply. Authors simply fill out a brief application with their information, a copy of the article, and a copy of the journal acceptance letter (if available). Funds will be available on a first come, first served basis. The Libraries will aim to make a final decision regarding the application within two weeks’ time. If the request is approved, payment will be made directly to the publisher, upon receipt of an official invoice from the publisher. The Libraries cannot reimburse authors.

Some details to note:

Applicant Eligibility

  • Applicants must be a Temple University tenured or tenure-track faculty member OR a postdoctoral fellow/graduate student with a tenured or tenure-track faculty member listed as a co-author.
  • Applicants with external grant funding that could cover, either in whole or in part, the cost of any publication and processing fees are ineligible.
  • Applicants must agree to deposit a copy of their publication in our Digital Library.

Publication Eligibility

  • The publication must take the form of a peer-reviewed journal article.
  • Publications in “hybrid” open access journals will not be supported.
  • The journal must be listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
  • The publisher must be a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), or clearly follow the membership criteria of the organization.

Additional Limitations

  • Applicants may request up to $1,500 per fiscal year.
  • Funding will cover publication and processing fees only. Funds may not be used for reprints, color illustration fees, non-open access page charges, permissions fees, web hosting for self-archiving, or other expenses not directly related to open access fees.
  • For applicants who have not yet submitted for publication, requests will be conditionally approved awaiting official acceptance by the publisher. All conditional approvals will expire six months after notification. Applicants must provide a copy of the acceptance letter before the invoice is processed.
  • Fees are pro-rated for multi-authored articles. That is, if more than one author from Temple applies for funding support for the same article, the APC will be divided equally. Co-authors not affiliated with Temple are not supported.

Download a copy of the application form here.

Questions? Contact Mary Rose Muccie (maryrose.muccie@temple.edu).

 

 

What to Know About “Predatory” Publishers

predatorypublishers

“Little roar” by Becker1999 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

UPDATE: Since this post originally appeared, Beall’s List has been taken down.

Recently, the term “predatory” publisher has become a buzzword among many in academia. “Predatory” publishers run online, open access (OA) journals that will accept almost any paper submitted. They offer little in terms of copy editing or peer review. Journal websites may include false information about impact factors, editorial board members, and other affiliations. “Predatory” publishers often spam authors via e-mail to encourage them to submit their work.

These publishers profit from this scheme by charging authors various publication fees. Authors are willing to pay such fees because of the “publish or perish” culture of academia. They are usually unaware that they are dealing with a “predatory” publisher, or may not become aware until their article has been published.

The term “predatory” publisher was coined by controversial librarian Jeffrey Beall in 2010. Beall currently maintains a list of suspected “predatory” publishers on his website. Because not all “predatory” publishers on Beall’s list are alike (and in fact, some may not be predatory at all), many scholarly communications experts prefer to use the terms “questionable” or “low-quality.”

In addition to Beall’s List, a number of high-profile stings have tried to expose the questionable practices of these publishers and their journals by submitting nonsense or significantly flawed papers. One Harvard medical researcher, for example, submitted an article to 37 questionable journals entitled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?: The Surgical and Neoplastic Role of Cacao Extract in Breakfast Cereals.” The actual text of the article was randomly generated. 17 journals accepted the paper, promising to publish it if he would pay the $500 fee. Of course, it’s important to note that this is not a problem limited to OA journals–traditional subscription journals have also been known to publish faked work. To see a few examples, check out the blog Retraction Watch, which monitors all of the retractions in scientific journals.

Whatever you want to call them, hundreds of “predatory” publishers do exist, and according to a 2015 study, the number is growing rapidly. Last Friday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made it clear that they are paying attention to this phenomenon: they filed a complaint against well-known “predatory” publisher OMICS Group. OMICS Group publishes over 700 open-access journals in a wide variety of disciplines, from business and management to chemistry to political science. According to the FTC, OMICS Group is not upfront with scholars about the publication fees its journals charges. In addition, OMICS Group journals do not allow authors to withdraw their articles. The FTC also pointed out that a subsidiary of OMICS Group runs scam conferences where they advertise the appearance of academics who never agreed to participate.

So exactly how concerned should scholars be about this phenomenon? In general, “predatory” publishers are not a huge threat to most scholars, especially if you do your research before submitting your article to a journal or agreeing to serve on a journal editorial board. Asking your colleagues if they have heard of the journal before is a good first step. Be aware, however, that many OA journals are just starting out, so they may not have the same name recognition as top journals in the field that have been around for decades.

Second, check out the journal’s website. Do you recognize any of the scholars on the editorial board? If so, do they list their work for the journal on their own faculty profile page? Are any author fees clearly stated somewhere (if you are in the humanities, know that most OA humanities journals do not charge any publishing fees)? Remember: just because a journal charges a fee, does not make it predatory. Many reputable OA journals rely on article processing charges (APCs) to recoup their costs.

Finally, check out the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) to see if your publisher or journal is listed. In order to be included in the DOAJ, applications are reviewed by four different people. And in May of this year, the DOAJ announced it was taking additional steps to make sure that the directory is a trustworthy source of information.

Still not sure if the journal you are interested in publishing in passes muster? Contact the Libraries for help.

Project to Watch: SocArXiv

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In a recent post, we argued that preprints are having a moment. Here’s further proof: this week, the Center for Open Science and the University of Maryland launched a new repository for social science research, called SocArXiv (the name comes in part from the well-known preprint repository arXiv). Currently, there is a temporary home for the repository here, with a more robust platform coming in the near future. In addition to preprints, SocArXiv also accepts conference papers, working papers, datasets and code. The project is being led by Philip N. Cohen, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland. The steering committee includes scholars, librarians, and open access advocates.

Interested in submitting? Just e-mail socarxiv-Preprint@osf.io from your primary e-mail address. Put the title of your work in the subject line, and the abstract in the body of your e-mail. Then attach the work as a PDF or Word file. Finally, hit send. Your scholarship should appear on the site shortly and you should be automatically registered for an Open Science Framework account. Use this account to go into the page for your work on the site and add any relevant tags. Just make sure that you have the rights to anything you post. If you’re not sure, check your publication agreement or search SHERPA/RoMEO, a database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies. And remember: this method of submission is only temporary. Once the permanent SocArXiv platform is up and running we will update this post.

Some researchers may wonder why they should post their work to SocArXiv, when there are so many other options, including another open access repository, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). SSRN was founded in 1994 by Wayne Marr, a professor of finance, and Michael Jensen, and professor of business administration. It includes scholarship from a range of disciplines, from accounting to economics to political science. The business model of SSRN has always been different than most other open access repositories. Unlike arXiV, which is based at Cornell University and funded by grants and library support, SSRN is a privately-held corporation. While all deposited papers are free for users to read, SSRN also offers paid content to users through its partnerships with other publishers (such as Wiley-Blackwell). In May of this year, a major change came to SSRN when the platform was bought by Elsevier, a large Dutch company that publishes some of the world’s top journals. Elsevier also owns the reference manager Mendeley. SSRN’s management claims that all the scholarship on the site will remain free. They also argue that Elsevier’s ownership will only make SSRN better, providing them with the resources they need to make much needed improvements in the design and functionality of the site. Many scholars, librarians, and other experts, however, are worried. They wonder what Elsevier will do with all the scholarly data it now owns, and how the company will try to monetize that data. Similar concerns have been raised about other popular scholarly sharing platforms, including Academia.edu and ResearchGate. Kevin Smith, the Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas, has called this trend “the commodification of the professoriate.”  SocArXiv, then, offers a non-commercial alternative that puts scholars’ interests first.

New Digital Publishing Platforms Scholars Need to Know About

Digitalbook

UPDATE: The Manifold platform has now launched.

Are you in the process of writing a book or journal article? Have you been thinking about how you might present some or all of your research digitally? Over the past ten years, university presses, libraries, and others in higher education have started building the infrastructure necessary to support the creation of high-quality, peer-reviewed digital work. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided the start-up funds for many of these projects. One of the first digital publishing platforms that the Mellon Foundation funded was Scalar, which was developed at the University of Southern California on behalf of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture. Scalar is currently being used by a number of different publishers, including the University of California Press and Duke University Press, to publish both born-digital scholarship and digital companions to print monographs. Scholars can also use Scalar to self-publish their work. Recently, the Mellon Foundation has funded other exciting efforts in this area. All share a common belief that scholars and publishers need to think beyond the traditional print monograph. Here are four new projects, all currently in development, worth watching:

Vega is a digital publishing platform being developed under the direction of West Virginia University for books, journals, projects, data sets, and other scholarly output. The Vega team is particularly interested in streamlining the production and editorial process for publishers. Unlike some existing platforms (such as Open Journal Systems), Vega will be completely customizable. Look for it to launch in 2018.

Editoria is a digital-first book production platform being developed by the California Digital Library, the University of California Press and the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation. Like Vega, it is designed to simplify the publishing workflow process in order to help lower production costs. A beta version of Editoria is planned for release in late 2016/early 2017.

Fulcrum is a digital publishing platform being developed by the University of Michigan Library and Press. Fulcrum will make it easier for authors who want to link their source material to their scholarship. The resulting digital piece can be published as a supplement to a print book, or can even take the place of a print book. One of Fulcrum’s early adopters will be Lever Press, a new press run by a group of leading liberal arts colleges that plans to publish open access, digitally native scholarly monographs.

Manifold Scholarship is a digital book production platform being developed by the University of Minnesota Press and the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Similar to Scalar, Manifold aims to help authors create media-rich scholarship that is nonlinear and allows for reader feedback. Although the Manifold platform is not yet live, the University of Minnesota Press has begun considering potential book projects.