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Perspectives on ‘open’: A dialogue about access, collaboration, and career advancement

Perspectives on ‘open’: A dialogue about access, collaboration, and career advancement

Thank you. Good afternoon and as I just said
we are really happy to see you all here. We are excited about today’s talk which you see
the title of behind us here, Perspectives on ‘open’: A dialogue about access, collaboration
and career advancement. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you our two distinguished
speakers Erin McKiernan and Town Peterson. Dr. Erin McKiernan is currently a post-doctoral
fellow at the department of Psychology at the Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo
Canada and visiting scholar at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She received
her masters and doctorate degrees in physiological sciences at the University of Arizona. Erin
works primarily in experimental and theoretical Neuroscience and is active internationally
in advocating for open access, and open data, open science, and women in science. Town Peterson
is a University of Kansas distinguished professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and senior
curator at the Biodiversity Institute which many of you know is the Natural History Museum
just across the street. He earned his masters and PHD at the University of Chicago and has
since built a remarkable corpus of scholarship including a patent, books, and several hundreds
of articles in pier reviewed journals. Additionally Town serves on dozens of local, national,
and international acdemic committees. His research focuses on aspects of the geography
of biodiversity. Particularly on tropical ornithology and systematics. And Town is very
active in mentoring graduate students and post-doctoral researchers and so is not divorced
of the issues career researchers face. So in front of us today, we have two researchers
at very different points in their careers who have both been highly visible in advocating
for openness in their work and that of their colleague. We wanted to break away from the
standard stand on the stage presentation format so Town and Erin will have a dialogue to discuss
the benefits of and potential concerns related to publishing open particularly for early
career researchers and graduate students. So please help me in welcoming them to today’s
talk. **Applause** Just to get the ball rolling I’ll start you with the first question and
then I will sit down and they’ll take it from there. Perhaps you can share with us how
you came to openness as a professional value what pushed you away from doing things the
way they have always been done, and Erin I suggest you start -[Erin] Okay can everyone
hear me okay? Thanks so much for coming, thanks so much for the invitation to be here. So
I guess I got started with open advocacy when I moved to Puerto Rico in 2011 and so I of
course new that access to knowledge was a problem in some parts of the world but I had
experienced it on a very limited level. But when I got to Puerto Rico and I saw students
and faculty there I saw on a bigger scale the problems that people in other countries
were facing in terms of access scientific research. So I worked at a fairly small teaching
college but it was part of the University of Puerto Rico which is the biggest public
university there. And they had very limited funds for subscriptions. Which meant that
we had virtually no access to the newest results in science. This obviously has a big impact
on your ability to do research, and the most heart breaking thing for me was watching my
students. So I was working with a lot of undergraduates who are just starting out in research, forming
their new interestes or passions in particular subjects trying to find out more and they
kept hitting these paywalls, these roadblocks, they weren’t allowed to have access for a
huge percentage of the scientific literature and for them this was very frustrating and
on my end I saw how this was slowing down their learning and slowing down their training
process. I saw how frustrating it was for me as a teacher and for my colleagues to go
thru this. In about a year I moved to Mexico, and had the same ideas reinforced. I worked
at an institute of public health which was federally funded but had very limited funds
for subscriptions, so I think in total the access to the literature in that institution
was about 140 subscription journals. Considering we have around 30,000 in the world this is
a very tiny percentage of the literature, and did not include some of the major journals
like “Nature of Medicine” “P.A.N.E.S” things that workers and researchers in public health
need to have access to they need to see the latest results that are being published in
these journals, and they didn’t have that. Of course that was a huge limiting factor
in both their ability to carry out research and their ability to train their students.
So for me seeing that first hand was the point at which I decided I had to make a commitment
to share both my own work and also try and convince other researchers this is a thing
that we should be doing, something we should be actively working on by increasing access
to public knowledge. Not just within universities, not just within institutions, so there are
a lot of people outside of academic institutions that need access as well and aren’t getting
it. I think the more that we can raise that awareness the better off we will be, yeah. -[Town]
So perhaps my experience is quiet parallel. In graduate school I ended up spending quite
a bit of time in Mexico and ended up spending a couple of months trying to write up a couple
of papers in a lab with some good friends in the National Autonomous University and
really it was a very frustrating experience. Because data, knowledge to date and literature
were essentially all completely off limits to me, to us. So over and over and over again,
my colleagues and I found ourselves saying oh I guess we will have to wait and get a
copy of that paper, or oh I guess we will have to wait and see those specimens or find
out where someone in the past had caught this species so it was very limiting experience
especially back 25 years. Chapter two of my beginning in openness was actually only
about 10 years ago when a family member ended up in the hospital in pretty serious condition.
I needed to know about a particular sort of brain damage very quickly and deeply. Unfortunately
in that part of the family I am the medical adviser which means that they’re in really
bad shape. So I’m trying to go to the primary literature and literally I had to drive back
from the hospital in Kansas City, and go to my office because only in my office could
I see 2/3rd 3/4s of the literature I needed to see. Finally more on a fun note, I was
talking with a colleague downtown a number of years ago and I thought “Oh I really need
to show this colleague a figure from a paper I wrote a couple years before” and I’m in
a coffee shop downtown and I do what we all do in our offices all the time. You just go
to the journal site and pull up your paper, and I was given the opportunity to type in
my Visa number and pay $35 and but get this, for access to my own intellectual product.
I found that to be very very shocking. Because it was something that I had done and it was
something that I had worked on for years and years and yet somebody else was charging me
money for access to my own work. So that aligned with a lot of movement here at KU, both in
the provost office and in the libraries. I am looking around the room and looking at
some old companions in arms about these issues. It was five ten years ago it was quite a fertile
ground on which to start thinking a lot about open access. So there are a couple perspectives
for you on why “open” now essentially what we will do is I am going to take the opportunity
to ask Erin a bunch of questions and at a couple points in this process I will give
you all a chance to ask questions as well. But essentially the theme Aida and Josh set
this up is I am the old guy at my career and Erin is the young person at the beginning
of her career but hopefully what we can do is do a little bit of reflection on how to
design the beginnings of a career and I’m looking around the room and seeing a lot of
people that are grad students, post docs, early faculty, so this is a little bit of
experience to toss to you all about what things you can do to kind of optimize the hard work
that you’re going to do regardless. So to start this off, Erin you are kinda at the
end of the student phase and at the beginning of the the I’ll call it professional phase
I took the opportunity of looking at your Google Scholar profile twelvish major publications,
your research is where it is and it some senses you can’t speed that up. I know you do pretty
intensive experimentation and modeling. Being where you are as you go into this next chapter
of your professional career, how do you build a name for yourself as a young scientists?
-[Erin] So I should clarify. First in the interest in transparency, as you know Google
Scholar tracks some things that are not peer reviewed articles. So I actually in terms
of my peer reviewed articles only have four. But a lot of those other outputs are posters
or presentations, or articles written in various media outlets. I think its great Google Scholar
tracks those too, because we know our scholarly output is not only peer reviewed articles.
But for me, I’m not going to be publishing a high volume. That’s not the way I am going
to be creating visibility for myself. I have also made a commitment to not publish in certain
closed access journals, like I won’t submit any work to Nature or Science or Cell or anything
like that and so that’s also not the way I am going to create viability for myself. So
the way I have done this is by just being very open with my work. Which I think is actually
an excellent way to build a name for yourself. It sounds so simple but really the idea is
in those early stages, the more readers you can get, the more people you can get looking
at your work the better your visibility the quicker you build a name for yourself. Even
if the volume of your work is not that large. I have kinda integrated a few different approaches.
One is first of all publish in an open access journal. That idea is just again the more
people who can read my work the more potential for them to see the possible impact or cite
that work. Then integrating that with a social media approach so tweeting that work out,
tweeting those links out. Copying various researchers that I know are in the field using
particular hashtags that I know others in the field are searching, that has actually
a really good way for me to connect with researchers I might not have connected with and get them
to know a little bit about what I’m doing. Another aspect has been blogging. I write
about my research on my website. What I try to do there is not just write for neuroscientists.
Because hopefully my work can have an impact outside that immediate circle of academics.
But if you’re going to have that impact you have to write in terms that everybody
can understand. So that has actually been an excellent exercise for me, in not just
making my work accessible but understandable. Opening it up in other ways, writing in terms
that everybody hopefully can understand. So between kinda those three things, I think
that I have managed to increase the visibility of my work. Again I don’t work in a high profile
field either. So I was doing a lot of work in *inaudible*. Well you know, there’s a limited
group of people in the world that care about fruit flies, but again you can reach out to
people that you might not have connected with if your work is open and being discussed openly.
I have found potential collaborators as well through my blog and through Twitter that I
might not have found otherwise. So that has been a very effective approach for me. -[Town]
So you and I both work in biology, but in kinda different extremes of the field. I tend
to work on geographic scale, as I assume you tend to work on microscopic scales. So I didn’t
really know much about your field. I got onto the internet and started playing. With Google
Metrics, there is not a category for Neuroscience. So I looked for the one that seemed closest,
and that was biophysics. I guess you could potentially imagine yourself in a department
of Biophysics at some point. Erin- Yea in fact I will be entering soon a department
of physics under biophysics. So that’s actually what I’m going to do. -[Town] So here is
your arena of journals. Number one according to Google Metrics, is Biophysical Journal
owned by Elsevier. Number two, Current Opinion and Structural Biology. Owned by Elsevier.
Number three, Biochemical et Biophysical acta, Elsevier. Number four, Sournal of Biomechanics,
Elsevier. -[Erin in the background] I’m sensing a pattern here. -[Town] Number five,
I’ll get to a little bit of variation in a moment. Biochemical et Biophysical acta another
version, Elsevier. Annual Review of Biophysics is from Annual Reviews. Also of like reputation
to Elsevier as far as openness. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology Elsevier.
And so finally in eighth place, Photochemical and Biological Sciences Royal Society of Chemistry.
I don’t know if you do stuff about light. -[Erin] Not so much. -[Town] So given your,
I mean essentially we first heard about you when Aida came back from a meeting and said
“There’s this woman working in Mexico who has to never publish in Closed Access Journals.”
What are you going to do in that field? -[Erin] Yeah, so I can add a little bit to that. In
the field of neuroscience, I’m not sure how exactly these fall in rank. But I can tell
you that in general terms Nature and Science are at the top of that list. Not so far down
is Nature Neuroscience and Neuron, Elsevier. And several other journals in there are closed
access in the top ten at least. So there are a lot of closed venues in my field and unfortunately
a lot of people who believe you have to publish in to be successful. I don’t believe that.
I think there are a lot of excellent options. So there are a lot of PLUS journals, there
are a lot of BioMed Central journals, Hindawi journals, that are fully open access and there
are a lot of other journals, not necessarily Elsevier, that are not fully open access but
have great liberal, what we call “Green” open access policies. That means you can publish
in their journal, it’s not open access through their journal but you are allowed to archive
a copy in some type of open website, open repository, your own institutional repository.
And that’s another way for people to be open with their work. I have chose not to go that
route because I think its really important to invest my time and my resources and my
effort in supporting fully open access journals that are working to increase openness in my
field. But so far I haven’t had a problem finding venues so I have published BMC Neuroscience.
That’s been great. I’ve published in Peerj, I find them to be fantastic. I’ve submitted
although not yet successfully work to Plos One. So I put together, this was very important
for me earlier on in the stage was, to put together a list of my publishing options.
To say, here are all of the journals in which I can publish my work, was is their licensing
look like? What are their publishing fees? You know that list has served not only as
a good resource for me but also as a resource to share with my mentors, my P.I’s my collaborators.
And say when they come to me and say “wow you have refused to publish in any Elsevier
journal,” because I have. I signed that boycott to say I won’t publish in any Elsevier journal
even if its open access. “Well where are we going to publish?” I have that list ready
to show collaborators. And to show them how many options there are. If they are also concerned
about impact factor, I’m not a fan of impact factor I don’t think this is a metric that
says anything about quality but I know there are a lot of people out there that are concerned,
because this is still metric being used in evaluation. So I put together another list
that had journals with moderate to high impact factors. Just to show collaborators and P.I.s
well hey, we have a lot of options. I haven’t had a shortage of options to publish in. I’ve
been fortunate in that sense. -[Town] So every so often, in your career you come across
some result that’s really really snazzy. And either you will be tempted or maybe not you,
maybe all of your colleagues, will be tempted to send it to Science or Nature. And I’ve
published in Science and Nature, it’s been awhile. But I can tell you the publicity and
the visibility is really good. They do the publicity very well. What do you do? You know
especially when all your colleagues are like no no no, this is a science paper. -[Erin]
So I can understand that pressure and I can understand that temptation. Especially for
early career researchers wanting to make a name for themselves. I think one important
thing that I do, is have before we have the science or the major research. Before we have
any result, I sit down and discuss with collaborators. Look, you need to know this is my pledge that
I have made both publicly and personally. This is my policy this is where I am willing
to submit and this is where I am not willing to submit. Speak now or forever hold your
peace. So are you willing to collaborate with me under those conditions? Of course they
have that opportunity to then say “well you know what if we got a science paper like result?”
Well then I would say, I won’t submit there I think we have a lot of other options. Are
you ok with that? And they can decide at that moment to walk away. To this date I have not
had a collaborator walk away under those conditions but I think it’s very important that those
discussions happen early. Because, if you then have that result and you already had
that discussion, there’s not conflict there. People came in with that expectation that
this is the way things are going to go. As far as the high profile on publicity. So I
think it’s really interesting that most recently that there was a new discovery in
the field of ancestral humans. They made a big discovery and they could have published
that in Nature or Science, and I believe they published in eLife, if that correct? Am I
remembering that correctly? They published in a fully open access journal and they got
a huge media response to it. Huge. So I don’t think it’s true anymore to say that high profile
research should only go to Nature or Science, should only go to those closed access journals
and those are the only ones that can give us kinda this big splash this kinda big impact.
I think there are several examples, I think there was another one in dinosaur research
a few years ago, where they published not only the article in a fully open access journal
but they published the data and several things online. And the response to that in the media
was amazing. I think it helps when the public can not only read the Medias description but
can actually go and access that article themselves and check the new sciences. I think that’s
a very important aspect of interacting with the public. I think we see some very nice
journals in the open access space like eLife, that are doing very well in promoting very
high profile research to the public. -[Town] So there’s a phrase, sometimes I don’t like
it, “Publish or parish.” Which is to say, yeah we’re all under some level of pressure
to get those papers out there. Maybe you’ve got a couple chapters of your dissertation
you’d still like to get out. I’ve got a few papers that I would really like to finish
them up but never get them done. If I want a raise I should probably just leave the state
of Kansas, but it would also help if I were publishing actively. As you crank your lab
up, wherever you crank it up. You’re going to have more and more activity. You will have
your students, publishing. Some of my students are here. About a quarter of the visits I
get from my students each day are I’d like to go to this conference can you help me with
$600? I try and make sure the answer is always yes. Then the next student is like I need
$800 so I wonder could you comment a bit bout doesn’t this get expensive? Give that a lot
of the open access journals, what’s the average $1400 doesn’t that get beyond you
especially as you have a group of five or six really active students? -Yeah so cost
is definitely a concern for a researcher moving into the open publishing world and I’m going
to apologize to people who were in the lunch session because I am going to repeat myself
little bit here, I think that there are a few factors involved here. One is that we
have to get rid of this idea that open publishing only means open access journals. That’s a
personal commitment that I made. But that is not something I would force on anybody
else. I think it is perfectly legitimist to say, publish in the journal you think is right
for your field, your budget, your lab. As long as you make a free copy available somewhere.
Right, your institutional repository, an open repository, your own website. Make that work
accessible. It doesn’t matter where it was originally published as long as it is accessible
in some form. I think the current estimate is something like 80% of journals will allow
you to self-archive some version of your work openly. So that shouldn’t be a restriction.
So in that case if there is a journal you really want to publish in and the cost is
zero great. Go ahead and do that. You can be open with your work at a cost of zero dollars.
I think that first of all that is a very important thing to point out. Second of all, there are
a lot of especially new innovative, publishers. Digital born coming onto the market, that
have found a way to optimize their submission process their production costs, so that they’ve
estimated the cost for producing the single article is around two or three-hundred dollars.
And their article processing charges reflect that. So maybe it costs you one to three-hundred
dollars to publish an article. I don’t think that is unreasonable and in fact in some places
publishing in a closed access journal costs you more. Because there are submission fees,
there are page fees, in my field a particular journal that will go unnamed has charged $500
per color figure. So if I have a full manuscript with several color figures that can add up
very very quickly to more than it would to cost me to publish in an open access journal.
And usual those open access journals, because they are digital only, they don’t have any
fees on color figures. So that’s another myth, that publishing in these closed access journals
is necessarily free. It’s often not. So zero cost options, low cost options I don’t have
a research budget let alone a publishing budget so I can’t pay these high APCs and I think
we should be encouraging publishers to bring those down. And the way that I’ve survived
publishing openly is using a few different option. One being these low cost publishers.
So Peerj has been a great option for me. It’s a $99 one time membership fee, and you can
publish one article a year for life assuming it passes peer review. For me, when I first
to Mexico I was teaching High School mathematics. You can imagine that the salary was not particularly
high, and I still wanted to publish my work, and that $99 fee was something that I could
easily pay out of pocket and continue to publish in a high quality journal in an open fashion
without it breaking my bank account. Then other one I’ve used is Institutional Memberships.
A lot of institutions have memberships to particular journals like BioMed Central or
Peerj. So I worked at Arizona State University and they had a full membership with BioMed
Central I managed to publish an article there for zero dollars out of pocket to me. A lot
of institutions have OA funds. I know this institution has an OA fund that will help
their students and faculty publish openly. So look for those resources, talk to your
libraries because a lot of the time the libraries can help you find those funds and there are
data bases, Nature, has a great page online where you can search whether you funder has
a policy or whether your institution has a policy to help you pay for those open fees.
So I think there are lots of different ways, lots of different resources for people to
tap into, lots of different options. For me at least so far, even working on a very very
limited budget cost has not been a limiting factor publishing openly. -[Town] So I’m
going to ask you one more question then I’m going to see if people in the audience have
some questions and then I’m going to ask some more questions for you. We’ve got essentially
laid out till 4:30 everybody so we’ve got plenty of time for some interchange. Just
to kind of round out our first round of questions for you, at some point you will be a full
professor or an investigator or tutor. You will probably end up changing your hair color
like I did, you know. What’s academic publishing going to look like? Will it be journals still?
Let’s say we’re talking somewhere between 10 and 20 years into the future. **[Erin]
Gosh I hope it doesn’t take me that long to get tenure.** I didn’t say tenure I said full
professor. – [Erin laughing] I know what’cha mean. I’m not sure I have a great answer for
that question. I think we are seeing a lot of innovation in the scholarly publishing
space, and we are certainly seeing people in the open space saying let’s burn it all
down and start over. Let’s just get rid of all the journals. I’m not necessarily advocating
that approach. But I think one thing I would like to see us move away from in the next
10 years in this idea of static publishing. So we publish an article, and it stays that
way for ever and ever and that’s the end of it. No research doesn’t work that way first
of fall. So we need a scholarly publishing system that kinda reflects the more dynamic
nature of research. So I think we have seen some interesting kinda of beginning innovation
into the idea of living documents. So if anyone is familiar f1000 research, they did this
thing called living figure which they’ve piloted, where they’ve published the article with the
original data set, but the figure is such that anybody can add their data set onto that
figure and it changes over time. With the new data that gets added to it so there are
version controls so you can go back to any particular date and see how that looked. Each
one of the groups that adds new data to that figure, gets a contribution they get their
own doi I believe. So the results are evolving over time within this scholarly format and
I’d like to see that happen with a lot more of our formats on a bigger scale. To have
these evolving docs to have the idea that a research product is never really finished.
How often do we actually finish a project and say yeah I have no more questions I am
completely done with that and just walk away. That doesn’t really happen that often. So
I would love to see more publisher or even more open source developers working on getting
that type of reality to be more widespread in the next 10 years. -[Town] That’s a very
good comment because it’s been 25 years since I finished my PHD yet I keep waiting for that
project to end, and it never does. -[Erin] Yeah, that’s not how science works. And
it doesn’t always work linearly either. Okay we go this way, and we see something and that
creates a new question and now we go this way so we create something that sorta represents
that kinda sarcastic nature of research it would be great to see. -[Town] Of course
all the doctoral students are thinking “Oh No I thought this was over in a few more years.”
Any questions from the audience for Erin? Yeah? -[audience member] so my question is,
what about when you’re asked to provide a review for an article, kinda the flip side
of it. I’ve wondered about this, because on one hand you are providing a service for your
colleagues but on the other hand you know you can be kinda of contributing to the system
that you have difficult contradictions with. -[Erin] Yeah so that’s a good question.
So I personally, in addition to pledging to share my own work. Have pledged to dedicate
my editorial or review time to fully open access journals. So if I get an invitation
that’s not from an open access journal I will turn them down and I will tell them why I
am turning them down. I think that is also important that they hear that I am turning
you down because I don’t believe you are doing the right things in terms of opening up scholarly
communication. I would say that that’s something I encourage a lot of people to think about.
You know whether they are ready to take that step because this is time that we invest.
We are not paid for this time, this is our volunteer work, and it’s extremely valuable
time. We should make sure that we are donating that time to people we believe are promoting
the same sort of causes that we support. -[Town] Question from Aida. -[Aida]Thank you, this
has been wonderful so far. But I wondered Town, if you’d like to address any of the
questions or I can pick out the final one that you asked Erin; and what would your answer
be for 10, 15, 20 years, what would you like to see the scholarly publishing world be like?
-[Town] Perhaps I’m kinda less vision on the horizon level, but certainly one tendency
that I see already is that journals per say become less and less crucial. You know 25
years ago, and a lot of people in the room will remember this. You would wait for the
next issue of the several key journals in your field. For me it was the AUK and the
Wilson Bulletin. All these crazy sounding bird journals, you know there’s the Bulletin
of the British Ornithologists Club, which was you know the best journal to just sit
and read. So I would every Friday afternoon make my way to the library and go and sit
for a few hours and read thru the most recent issues these these crucial three, four or
five journals. And that’s going away pretty quickly. Because, not only do we have our
disciplinary journals. But then we have these kind of general journals. In my field, its
evolution, ecology, things like that. These kinda of high end journals where one paper
in 20 is something in my area of interest. But that’s probably one paper per issue
that I really need to pay attention to. Now what we’re seeing are these journals that
kinda cut across science. PLOS one, Peerj elife, things like that and so they’re not
in any way packaged by theme or discipline except in these really broad disciplines.
And so kinda following that trajectory, it feels like what matters is the digital object.
So, I guess my view 10, 20 years into the future is that we will probably have gotten
beyond this theme of thematic packaging. And that instead we will get to a different level
which will be packaging based on magnitude or is this **feedback from bumping mic** a
short research not or a big monograph. And that will involve getting rid of these pesky
impact factors. Probably a lot of you have heard about impact factors, but you may or
may not know of, Ill throw it out there just to save Erin the trouble, impact factors are
a game that is run by one of the competitors. Its a publishing firm, Thomson Reuters. That
decides on the impact factors. And they have a formula. But the formula can be played with.
So really you’re, imagine a soccer game where only one team gets to do the referring. It’s
not going to be a fair game. But worst yet, those impact factors are at the level of journal.
So if you publish in Science its got to be an important paper. And surely there are papers
in Science that have been cited tens of thousands of times. And there are other papers in Science
that never get cited. Or are just wrong. Quality of your work is not reflect in the impact
of the journal where you publish it. Some of the most crucial papers in science have
been published in journals that have no or low impact, according to Thomson Reuters.
So I’m guessing 10 20 years into the future we are beyond all that. And that our impact,
without any capital letters, in our field. Will be decided on based on I think what it
is how many descendent papers come out of the papers we publish. You know, sometimes
you throw and idea out there and that’s the end of it. And other times you throw an
idea out there and it gives rise to dozens of future projects in your own lab and also
in other peoples labs and I would hope that we get to a point we are dealing with measures
of impact along those lines. You look like you have something you want to say. -[Erin]
I do. So I have a question, in terms of, well I was going to ask you that. So in the future
let’s hope we move away from this packaging idea, this label of its quality or not quality
depending on where it’s published. Which I think has been very detrimental to science.
But assuming that we do. I mean currently a lot of our evaluation are based on this
idea of packaging. You know not just the impact factor but the prestige is sometimes associated
with that impact factor of where you publish. So if we move away from that packaging then
how are we evaluating people? And then you say the number of descendent papers. But I
was thinking of kind of, one of the extreme examples. So take the Wakefield paper on the
MMR vaccine right. That has launched a number of descendent papers so to speak. But not
because the science was good. In fact on the contrary. Because it was very bad. It was
fraudulent. But we have spent you know how ever many years trying to show it was fraudulent.
How would you kind of, um quantify these issues in terms of, well a large number of descendent
papers doesn’t necessarily mean your science was good. In fact it might mean the opposite.
How do you deal with evaluation metrics? -[Town]That one paper had quite a bit of impact. Again,
not because it was a great paper but because it was a greatly bad paper. But after you
publish something like that. You probably don’t publish many more of the same sort.
-[Erin] That’s true, especially if they run out of… **inaudible** -[Town] So I think
it’s kinda of like you know in rock music if you look back the 60’s and 70’s. There
were people who had a dozen platinum albums and there were people who had one top forty
song. That’s not my usual set of comparisons is it? **laughing** who’s made the bigger
contribution to music? -[Erin] But do you know, that requires a certain longevity of
career to see that right. And we have early career researchers here. So how, and this
is something that I struggle with so I’m asking for guidance to is, how do you kind of evaluate
people who have kind of just started their career, who don’t have those longevity measures
in place and how can we kind of recommend to administrators tenure promotion committees,
ways in which we could better the evaluation metrics for early career researchers? -[Town] I
think very clearly, it’s a matter of being multi factorial. We had a search a few years
ago in my department. The search committee said, we had 35 applicants which if you define
a search rather narrowly you get 30, 50 applicants. So they had 35 applicants, and of these applicants,
5 or 6 of them had major science papers. So they defined the short list on that basis.
And I think it was a big mistake. Because you’re using a single event and a single metric.
So I personally at the level of picking my graduate students for example, it’s really
good to see a published paper. Somebody who’s an undergraduate and has managed to publish
or somebody’s a masters student and has published a thesis it’s a very good sign. It’s not
the only good sign. But when we’re searching for a new faculty member, or when we’re looking
at somebody at promotion to associate professor which brings tenure, I really think it’s
a matter of getting multiple lines of evidence. So yeah I’m hoping their not publishing just
in the journal of Kansas Academy of Sciences, nothing against the journal Kansas Academy
of Sciences. I’m hoping they’re publishing in let’s say challenging forums. And certainly
PLOS journals can be quite challenging, which is to say I’m not saying Science and Nature,
just high end forums. I want to see the persons work be central to current discussions. Yes
we have a wasp… Its probably been genetically modified
to have a rather fatal venom. So I want to see multiple lines of evidence. Especially
the father you go into your career. You know full professor, I want to see you being. Invited
to give plenaries and see you being recognized on an international scale not just on a national
or regional scale. So the bad news is for promotion tenure and highering committees
its more work. -Therese no quick fix. -[Town] There is no easy metric where you say “ah
32.8, no. 35 yes. So that was kind of in the middle of our opportunity for the audience
to ask questions one more question before I go back to my list. Gorege. -[Gorege]First
one is, whether you see a role for the conventional journals published in paper by the big houses.
Not the journals published by learned societies and things like that. That I believe will
keep being serving being valuable, whether you think, that in that future that you were
imagining. Is there room for this, Elseviers and Blackwells and Willsons thats the first
part. The other question is, I would like to admit a slightly contrarian opinion on
this ideal paper which keeps evolving. Which in my view is some sort of perpetual state
of present and I don’t see the history and I really would like to see the history of
the idea and the history of that data set, what was thought 20 50 years ago and then
later. And if we allow it to keep evolving all the time, maybe there is a way to keep
the history but it’s going to be much more difficult. -[Erin] So I’ll just address
the second part. So um, I would like to see version control on these living documents.
So similar to what they are doing with the f1000 figures. Yes that figure evolves with
new data sets but you can go back and track it to any particular day prior and see what
it looked like and so I’m not advocating at all that these documents would evolve without
any type of history. They should have history. But we fortunately have really great tools
for doing that. I mean anyone who’s worked with Get or Gethub, we have the tools for
documenting that version control. And in fact now we have doi versioning, so each versioning
gets a new doi and can be very carefully tracked. So all of that history is preserved. But I
agree that it is key, the history is preserved along with the dynamic nature of the document.
The first part of the question. So I’m not going to advocate necessarily for taking down
particular publishers. Do we still have that wasp drone anywhere? But I think there is
a place for them if they can innovate. If they are willing to innovate if they are willing
to work with researchers and give them the type of resources they need and open up the
literature then I am happy for them to stay. If they are not willing to innovate and all
they are wanting to do is keep their old business model and locket it all down, they have to
go. That’s my view. -[Town] You did use the word paper. I know you do, this is the
man who insisted on having a child blackboard installed in his office when he moved here.
I really don’t see much sense in paper journal publications anymore. Simply, the circulation
and production coasts, there really is no excuse for that. Electronic digital documents
are so much more agile, they can be shared so much more broadly and much easier. I mean
you’re from a developing country, didn’t you always suffer for the latest issue of Ecology
or Journal of Theoretical Biology when your colleagues in the U.S. or Europe… -**inaudible
response** I just had to go to the university with the complete collections. Now I realize
I was in horrible misery. **inaudible response** -[Rich] So I don’t **inaudible question**
-[Town]So this is somebody I just taught a course with on writing proposals to the National
Science Foundation. And Rich’s question is how do I comment on student’s drafts. And
that is generally on paper, or at least on early drafts. And that is for a really good
reason. If I go through a word document and correct it then the student’s temptation
will be just hit “accept all changes”. But if the student made the same error 50 times
and has to correct that error 50 times, then probably unless the student is not that bright,
he or she will think about “oh that’s why I had to do that 50 times.” So I think that’s
a different issue Rich. That’s a teaching thing. But I have bought myself an iPad now
so at least for later drafts I do a lot of the editing not in Word, but on a PDF so the
student still has to go back and make each of those changes individually. All of my students
are looking at me like “Town I hate you!”. -[Erin]I just want to make one comment on
the paper issue. So I agree with you that publishers need to move into the digital age
but one thing that I do see in institutions in Mexico is that the subscription prices
for a paper subscription vs. an online subscription, are far lower. And that has allowed some institutions
to at least have a single paper copy in the library that all of their researchers can
access and get copies from. Whereas the online subscription prices are completely out of
their range. Now I think publishers could change that but at least that paper option
has been the only option for some institutions in Mexico and I imagine other parts of the
world. But the problem is that the pricing is set up that way, it really shouldn’t be
set up that way. -[audience member] Yeah I was just going to add that, sorry I’m yelling
at the mic, that the end of print publication isn’t the end of reading in paper, right.
It just means that I don’t need all the record printed for me. I can pick and choose what
I choose to interface deeply with in paper. And I actually do read that way. I can scan
things digitally and I like that they’re searchable and there are a lot of benefits to being able
to sort of carry them around on a thumb drive or in the cloud or whatever. But when I really
need to deeply interface with a piece of research I need to print it out. I wonder if that will
be true for people who in 20 years, you know our brains are fairly plastic, and you’re
I think in probably in a much better position academically to speak to that than I am. But
will we have, will our reading practices have adapted to being able to interface with digital
in this same way in many of our brains interface with paper? -[Erin] I imagine that that’s
true. I mean if you look at a lot of my students, they don’t print anything out. It’s all digital
to them and they are perfectly comfortable with that. Where if I’m going to submit a
manuscript, my personal manuscript, I still need to print it out and write on it with
a pen to be able to see all of my typos. That still needs to happen at some stage of the
process for me. But I imagine that that is becoming less and less common. -[Town] Not
very common for me to defend paper publishing but there is one more advantage to the library
getting the paper copy. If we subscribe to the electronic subscription and then of course
it won’t happen in the state of Kansas, but imagine the state budget where to go down
the toilet. And we have to end some of our electronic subscriptions, guess what! They
are gone. Whereas all of those old… **inaudible audience comment** of course but the more
**inaudible word** of them you, stop your subscription and you don’t own any piece of
it. And of course it depends on the particular contract terms. But you really, there is a
value to having that paper publication. So back to some specific questions. I wanted
to come back to tenure. Instead of looking 10-20 years into your future, we are looking
five or six? -[Erin]It varies a lot. We have a different system but yeah about five
years. -[Town]So… I can very easily imagine some more senior colleagues saying “Why are
you doing so much open access publishing, shouldn’t you be doing serious neuroscience
or serious biophysics? -[Erin]Yeah so I’m in a little bit of an unusual position in
that, I’m in a physics department, well not at Laurier. I’m in a physics department, if
anyone knows that physics has sort of solved the open access problem a long time ago. So
they have an open repository called Archive. In various branches of physics, 80-90 percent
of the literature is published there before it ever gets to a traditional journal. So
if you talk to a lot of physicists they are like, yeah what’s the problem? We make everything
open, we solved that. What are you guys doing? What’s wrong with you biologist? So I don’t
think that I will get a lot of push back in that sense within my particular department.
I do get push back when I speak to other neuroscientist. Because they do say, where are your Neuron
papers? Where are your Nature and Neuroscience, where are your Journal of Neuroscience papers?
Those are all closed access journals. But I think that’s getting less so. So we have
seen a few studies actually in the last few, I think last few months. Where the overall
approval for open access publish and research is increasing. And I think our people are
realizing these are real, rigorous venues. I think one of the things that’s helping change
that is open peer review. So, a lot of people were saying when many of these open access
journals came out well the peer review process in these journals is not rigorous. Well if
you have open peer review you can very easily go and check that for yourself. You can read
those reviews and see how rigorous that process was. And see how long it took and in some
cases see who was reviewing the papers. And I have been using that as a tool to say, if
you don’t think the paper published in Peerj for example, was rigorous, why don’t you go
online and check out what the reviewers had to say. And look at all the changes that I
made because there is version control. So they can see not only the reviewer’s responses
but my responses, all the changes. That helps to increase the credibility surrounding these
journals. I think the more that we are seeing the more that researchers are starting to
be confident in these venues. And the more they are seeing good science published there,
the more they are realizing these are perfectly good publishing venues. So I think that yes
I will get some push back from the more traditional scientists but I think that will get less
and less through my career. And I hope that within five years time that’s really not
an issue. -[Town] So let’s go a little bit deeper on kind of the dark side of open
access. One of my favorite YouTube videos is the Third Reviewer. If anybody wants a
good laugh look for that on YouTube you’ll enjoy it. But right at the end, it’s essentially
a World War II movie about Hitler that’s been subtitled to talk about the third reviewer.
And of course the third reviewer is the one who messes up everything and causes you all
sorts of trouble. And right at the end, in the middle of this long rant about the third
reviewer using all sorts of foul language the comment is “Well I guess we will just
have to send it to an open access journal.” You know I think 10 years ago that was a really
serious problem for this movement. Five 10 years ago even. Where you had the top rank
journals which were closed access and the open access journals of which a few made it
into the higher ranks but not many. And now we got more and more really unique high end
options that are completely open access. So I think the problem is going aware. But we
still have these, what I call parasites you know they tend to be intestinal parasites
in my book. But these open access journals, usually it’s the International Journal of…
in one of my fields the most prestigious journals is the American Journal of Tropical Medicine
and Hygiene. And there’s this American Journal of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, some to
the point of even I got fooled at one point. And apparently what they do is publish some
electronic object and charge you a hefty sum. What do we do about them as kind of a diluting
factor of the importance of this field? -[Erin]So I would say first of all, this vanity publishing
problem is certainly didn’t originate with open access. It’s been around for a while.
I think it in general… Someone was talking about, I get a lot of spam email, yeah delete
those. If journals are emailing you typically not a good sign. There are ways to sort of
protect yourself. If you have never heard of that journal or that publisher don’t go
with them. There are ways, but I think the biggest thing, they are not going to disappear.
The best thing we can do is educate academics as to how to protect themselves and get the
kind of warning signs. And again, educate people to the signs of a credible venue. Do
they have open peer review? How long does that peer review process take? If they are
giving you an entire review in 24 hours, I’m pretty sure that is not a rigorous review
process. Almost no reviewers respond in 24 hours. So there are little warning signs like
that and we can educate people. And we should because, this is one of the most pervasive
myths that really kind of serves as a road block to people viewing these journals as
credible outlets. But I think we just have to keep educating ourselves and educating
our peers every time you hear people talking about this problem. Well first of all this
is not an open access problem. This is a vanity publishing problem it’s been there for a while
and these are the ways you can protect yourself. And I think that’s all we can do. We are not
going to wipe them off the planet just like we are not going to wipe you know any type
of venue where there’s a potential for profit there will be parasites in the system. That’s
just the reality, but we have to educate ourselves and see the warning signs of these. -[Town]
Okay so I’d like to go pretty soon back to the audience and give you the opportunity
for a couple more questions but just kind of one last thing I will ask of you, given
the diversity of social media and other internet platforms. I’m thinking, ResearchGate,
Twitter, Facebook, what have you. For those either beginning professorships this year
or who will begin professorships sometime soon how can you leverage those media those
new platforms to build a really tenure packet? -[Erin] I would say first of all don’t try
and do them all. Cause that’s going to be overwhelming and you will also risk, you will
also risk looking distracted and looking like you are spending way too much time building
your social media profile. So you have to balance that. So I would say if you are going
to pick any, have a personal website and have a twitter account. So those, I don’t use,
I mean I have, I probably have an account and ResearchGate I don’t use them.
I don’t use them. And I don’t find them particularly useful for my personal use. But I have found,
having a personal website and having a Twitter account extremely useful. For networking,
for getting the word out, finding collaborators, explaining my research. Those have been indispensable.
So how do you use those with a tenure packet it’s much harder. And I’ll tell a true story
here. I haven’t been up for tenure review but I have been up for a particular evaluation
in the sense that we have a national system of investigators and several other evaluations
that happen in our institutions in Mexico. And the question always comes what do you
put on your C.V.? So do I include altmetrics? So for people who aren’t familiar with altmetrics
these are kind of alternative scores. So how many times has my article been tweeted or
bookmarked or sent out, how many people have linked my blog things like that. You can log
all of those but I was told at some point in my career, don’t put those on your C.V.
Because there were certain people that said you will look distracted, you will look less
legitimate so you have to balance those. In some departments, that can work really well.
If people are **inaudible** to those types of statistics those types of measures in other
departments that can work against you. But I would say, the first step is to track them.
If you don’t know what those scores are you can’t use them. So there are things like,
I use impact story. Has anyone here heard impact story? So the idea being to show your
real impact rather than your impact factor. They have this great motto that says “I am
more than my age index.” You looked up my Google Scholar, my age index is very very
low. But I don’t think that represents my full kind of impact in the scholarly world.
So impact story lets you put, all of those impact all of those products on there. Not
just your articles but your blog posts your slide dex, your code outputs whether you shared
a data set. All that stuff that comes out of being an academic, you put that on there
and they are tracking it for you. How many people are talking about this in the social
media venue? How many people are using this? How many people are citing it? How many people
are linking back to it? And to give you a fuller picture, you can take assuming they
are imitable, take that as part of your application to a job or you application for a grant or
your tenure packet and say, “Okay so you guys are using this statistics that fine. But I
don’t think they show you the whole picture, here’s my whole picture. Whether they decide
to use that or not, that’s their issue, well it affects you as well but I think you can
track them for yourself and you can use them whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I think we should be encouraging tenure and promotion boards, hiring committees to be
considering some of these alternative metrics. To be looking at more than an age index or
an impact factor. And hopefully those things over time become more accepted. -[Town] I
actually don’t have personal website or twitter account **[Erin jokingly] Come on** But that
last point you made is actually a really good one. Several people here in the audience are
at the senior level and are on those promotion and tenure committees, and a very useful thing
that we can do is to ask the questions about article level activity. Which is to say, you
know Mary published 10 papers and John published eight. And Mary had two science papers and
John didn’t, you know whatever. But instead of just asking what journals were those publications
we can also ask the article level metrics. Which I think a lot of people are coming to
see as more, more meaningful. So remember that those of you who are on promotion and
tenure committees, ask those questions about how people’s articles are being used, communicated,
passed on, shared bookmarked, downloaded etc. etc. So just with the last few minutes that
we have left some more questions from the audience. -[Audience member] So my question
has to do with your impact your impact beyond the university research committee. I’m speaking
as someone from the libraries and not experiencing what you’re experiencing. But if, if you wish
to have impact beyond just other researcher but in practice. I guess it’s a comment and
sort of a question to see if I’m assuming correctly, I would assume that the blog posts
are important for that impact as practice. So if you’re getting into evidence based medicine,
evidence based practice, and other fields like social welfare and… I’m blanking, but
if you get into those practices, I would think that your research would be extremely important
if it’s being tweeted. If your blogs are being noted, and that’s not going to be evident
in citations. So doesn’t that have some merit on committees as well? -[Erin] I think it
should. I mean patient advocacy groups is a really good example. You’re working in public
health you and you want to reach patient advocacy groups twitter is a really really good way
to reach those groups. But, as you mentioned, the scientific article as we currently have
it, is not a really good way to communicate science. It communicates sciences within your
little niche. But it does not communicate well with people outside that circle. And
so the blog posts or some other form of communicating your science in a way that those groups that
are outside your academic circle, are going to understand and be able to use I think is
hugely important. So I don’t know if you guys know that there’s a tool called Up Goer 5
online so this only has the, is it ten hundred? Thousand? Most common words in the English
language, and you’re only allowed to use those words. So one exercise that came out was can
you write about your science only using those words? So the first time that I tried this,
Ill paste a scientific abstract of my work into this thing. It highlights red whatever
words are not allowed. Red solid block of red. So said Ill grab the blurb from my website.
Because I know I worked to make that more accessible in terms of language. No. Still
all red. [Tired sounding] Okay. It took me a really long time to be able to describe
my research just using those words. Now obviously you know, patient advocacy groups, they’re
capable of understanding more extensive vocabulary than this, but I think it’s a really good
exercise in how do we communicate our science in terms that other people can understand?
And this is something that we’re not currently training graduate students or post docs in
particularly well. In fact we are encouraging jargon A LOT. And jargon is this, this hallmark
of whether you belong to the in-group that’s talking like this [changes tone to sound sophisticated]
OK that doesn’t make you look more intelligent just makes your science less accessible. And
I got that quote from somewhere but I can’t remember where it’s from. It’s very poignant
in the sense that there is open access. And then there is terms of the actual language
that we are using. And I think that is hugely important to not forget. -[Town] Just blogging
doesn’t do it. Because you can have blog posts that are, still unintelligible. To me the
big challenge is can you explain it to somebody who’s not in academia at all. Or an English
professor. Nothing against any English professors, my dad was an English professor and he would
challenge me to explain to him what the hell I was doing in my research. But I have sectors
of my family. One sector is primary school teachers. And another is a bunch of business
people and a third is kind of working people. And it’s a big challenge of you know, “Town,
what is it that you do?” And if you can’t explain it to that uncle who is a boiler maker,
then you probably can’t explain it to much of anybody from the broader world outside
of academia. And that’s that’s scary. There’s an academia specific benefit as well. If you’re
restricted to your own, in-crowed jargon, you are probably going to be pretty bad at
finding exciting collaborations. You know, I’m and organismal biologist. My in-crowed
is across the street in the biodiversity institute. If I can’t explain what I do to a neuroscientist,
or a psychologist or a humanist or a librarian, we probably can’t get beyond, hi my name is
Town, to anything of any interest that is academic. And some of the most exciting things
I’ve done in 23 years, is cross department. So learning how to talk outside your box is
crucial also for yourself. Not just for educating the broader public. Another question. -[audience
member] Can I go? **[Town] Sorry, I’m sorry!** So we are recording this for use in our undergraduate
speak project which will be a documentary film about open access at KU. And it focuses
specifically on the role that undergraduates can play in this conversation. So I was hoping
that you could take a moment and talk specifically to the audience who will eventually see that
film again our audience is undergraduates and specifically, undergraduates who don’t
necessarily see a future for themselves in the scholarly publishing system, why this
should matter to them, why they should care, how they can get involved. -[Erin] That’s
a great question. So I think, I mean in my experience, of all the groups that I go around
to, students and post docs and faculty. Students are actually one of the most passionate and
one of the most effective advocacy groups for open research and open science in general.
You know a lot of them have grown up in a file sharing era, in a digital era. And many
of them are starting to think about a lot of social justice issues. So you were saying
this is a social justice issue. This is an issue of access to knowledge as a human right.
And I think a lot of undergraduate respond to that. They understand that is a concern.
They want to make a difference. They are in that stage where they want to have a real
impact on the world. And I think this is somewhere that they can have that impact. Students are
in a good position because, they can organize. There are student government groups, there
are all kinds of student groups on campus. And one speaker that we had, at OpenCon last
year, this is a conference for students and early career researchers. Said one of the
reasons I’m in a powerful position is I am a consumer. I am a paying customer of this
university. And so if I come to a provost or someone in and administrative position.
And I say this is an issue that is important to me, open access open textbooks. Right,
they have to listen. These are there, that’s the academic body, that’s the life blood of
the university. So I think that undergraduates are in a perfect position to be able to say,
this is important to me, I would like you to listen to me and we are going to take some
action on this issue. And we have seen that be incredibly success with student groups,
so they have single highhandedly passed open access policies at their universities. Created
open access advocacy groups for their region of the world. So students are crucial in this.
-[Town] I think anybody who’s going to spend four years of her or his life at a university
is probably not gonna want to walk down the hill at the end of those four years and hear
this big iron door slam shut as soon as he or she loses that KU account. So openness
ought to be really big! You know you come out of here with a Bachelor of Science or
a Bachelor of Arts, you probably will spend your lifetime doing some degree of learning.
And none of us wants to have to go and pay $150 for the text book of the class you didn’t
take. Rather we’d rather see open textbook resources. One may read about on the news
about how five cups of coffee a day are actually good for you or bad for you, or not. **responding
to Erin saying “It’s good for you!” jokingly** Just because you do it doesn’t make it good
for you. But wouldn’t it be nice that one of these people we’ve spent four years teaching
be inquisitive, that they can go and look at the data, right. And you know you may also
find yourself in the sort of situation I found myself where, it’s like you have to become
an expert on a field in a day. You know, in that case it was a medical thing but it could
be any number of things it could be legal whatever. The degree to which academic activity
is behind the paywall of some sort, or just behind a selfish wall, is knowledge that is
off limits to you, and I would hope that KU grads and other undergraduates around the
world would be, the community that would be the most desirous of not ever running into
those walls. So I think we are running low on time so let’s do one more question maybe
because I pointed in this direction, and then I think we can continue discussions informally.
-[audience member] Well I think you have already answered this question to an extent but I
was just hoping you could comment in a general sense on the relationship between your open
research and the general public construed very broadly. Does it change the sense of
who you’re writing for? Like Martin Eves said on Friday, in his keynote that “Wikipedia
is the fifth largest driver of traffic to scholarly articles” and I’m curious, are you
writing still for the research community with the expectation that other people may read
it or are you really writing for the public sort of in a general sense. -[Erin] Yeah so
I think in thinking about theses accessibility issues for research, it’s made me think about
how I write my articles differently and also this issue of mega journals right. So it used
to be you were often submitting to a discipline specific journal in which everyone would understand
your jargon, and now that is not the case. So If I submit to Peerj not everybody in that
journal or that works for that journal or review for that journal is a neuroscientist.
And so those two factors kinda of made me think a lot more carefully about how am I
writing not just my blog posts or my tweets but my scientific articles. So in my last
article I made a concerted effort to write in a more accessible way, and I don’t know
how successful I was I was with that. If I put it into it would still probably be all
red, maybe 80% red this time. But, it’s definitely been something that I’ve been thinking
about now in going back to my scientific articles. Is there a way I can explain this with less
jargon and less just fancy speak that’s unnecessary you know? That also happen when I decided
to share a data set that was underlined in one of these articles and that also got me
thinking about accessibility. So dumping my spread sheet with all my horrible coded genetic
jargon doesn’t make any sense to anybody that’s not in that tiny little circle of jersofila
researchers, right. So I had to find a way to translate all of that into something that
somebody else could understand and use. Because otherwise what’s the point of putting my
data online if nobody can use it. So I’ve been thinking a lot about not just articles
but data and even potentially notebooks. There’s now people putting their lab notebooks online.
Can you write that in a way that somebody else could understand it, right? Because hopefully
when you leave the lab, five years later somebody comes on and somebody wants to do the same
experiments or similar they can go back and understand that, because otherwise why do
we have those lab notebooks there? So it’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about
in terms of language spanning all our research outputs.

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