UNT Open Access Symposium, 2016

The University of North Texas recently held the 2016 Open Access Symposium on May 19th and 20th.

This year’s theme was “Open Access at the Tipping Point” and I think the presenters did a good job of showcasing this idea.

In this post, Open Access is frequently abbreviated OA.


THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2016

The symposium begin with a joint keynote address (joining the OA symposium and the Library Publishing Forum) from University of California press’s Dan Morgan. He spoke on two different projects run by the UC Press, Luminos and Collabra.


  • A monographic publishing service.
  • Structured using the same standards of traditional publishing including a high quality editorial board and peer review.
  • Aims to make monographs more immediately available.
  • No single entity bears the cost.
    • The press, author(s), and possibly library share the total cost.
  • The books are free electronically, but can be purchased print-on-demand.
  • The books currently on the site are both born-Luminos titles and those were converted to OA after their original publishing deals were written.
  • Since creation, Luminos’s print-on-demand sales has equaled previous regular monograph sales.
  • However, because it is an OA publisher (even though the rigors are the same) many deans and school administrators are saying to not publish here.
    • This has caused much strife between OA supporters and traditional academia.


  • An open access journal
  • Launched in January 2015
  • Works on the Article Processing Charge (APC) model
    • Their charge is $875 for each article
  • The APC can either be used to pay the author or be put-forward toward the wavier fund. This fund can be used if the APC cannot be paid.

 General Comments

  • OA is all about transparency
  • One of the best manufacturing houses to work with is Ubiquity Press
    • They have a completely transparent model of pricing
    • They will only charge for the individual services used and are open to negotiation
  • OA is an outcome and not a path
    • Not everything is known at this point
    • It is not a peer-review process
  • We need to work on getting the word out about OA so that people will understand it is a good platform.


FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2016

The next day began earlier than originally scheduled because of a last minute addition to the schedule. Alexandra Elbakyan, founder of Sci-Hub, agreed to speak via Skype from her home in Russia.

  • Considered by some to be the Edward Snowden of science publications.
  • Sci-Hub shares journals and articles that are typically locked behind paywalls of major publishing houses.
  • The service gained massive support through user donations.
  • She wants to keep the service completely free.
  • She has received much criticism because of her subverting the traditional publishing model.
    • Simply put, she takes “donated” user names and passwords of current subscribers and uses their paid access to provide free access for all.
  • She has also been accused of breaking intellectual property laws.
    • Her response to this is: How can knowledge be property? Ideas should be freely shared so that everyone can benefit.
  • The foundations for her ideas on property and for Sci-Hub itself come from communism.
    • Ideas and knowledge should not just benefit the rich.
  • She is not wanting to create a revolution. She is just stealing on a small scale in protest, while ultimately striving for equality.
    • Her ideas on theft:
      • It is respectful and ancient, the Greek god Hermes is the god of thieves.
      • Theft is about opening communication.
    • Ultimately she said that she wants to create the open flow of communication and ideas in the sciences because the more open they are, the quicker knowledge can grow and progress.

After this session, which caused some mumbling around the room since much of her talk was on communism and stealing, the symposium moved on to Friday’s keynote address. The talk was given by Johan Rooryck, a linguistics professor, about his work with OA and the OA linguistics journal, LingOA.

  • Under traditional publishing models “[Authors] do all the work and [publishers] get all the profits.”
    • Journals call all of the shots, from style, to price, to distribution.
    • Publishers work alone, libraries and researchers work alone.
    • The end user of the information pays for access.
  • Under a fair OA publishing model.
    • Researchers call the shots.
    • Publishers, libraries, and researchers/authors all work in collaboration.
    • The producers of the information pay for production.
    • End user pays nothing.
  • LingOA
    • It is collective of linguistics journals.
    • It uses Ubiquity Press (for many of the same reasons as stated above in Thursday’s keynote.)
    • Glossa is their primary journal.
      • LingOA has enough money to run Glossa for five years.
      • LingOA is acting as an incubator for the journal.
      • After the 5 years it will transfer publishing to the Open Library of Humanities.
        • The fee to use ALL of the Open Library of Humanites is less that the subscription cost of one traditional journal.
      • The incubator model (as they used with Glossa) is the best was to start a new OA journal.
    • When creating / moving a journal to OA.
      • Make is discipline specific.
      • This will work best if you discipline is already OA friendly.
      • Have enough money at the start so that there are no author facing charges.
      • Start with an incubator model and then move it to a consortium.
        • Similar to Glossa

The next presenter was Rufus Pollack, founder of Open Knowledge International. His main topic was wanting to get people to not only think about open access, but also open research.

  • Pollack mentioned he wrote a blog post about Open Scholarly Publishing.
  • The free use of curated data and results is important, but the open access of the data used to obtain those results is also important because scholarship is all about building on others work and discovering something new.
  • There is some initial cost to OA, but authors, researchers, libraries, and publishers can all work together to make that cost small an accessible to all.
    • An OA journal of the future should be a curated list of quality titles.
  • Online information is different from physical information.
    • After the first copy, online information is almost free to reproduce.
  • He wants everyone to be an activist for open access and open knowledge.

The final presentation I went to before lunch was a panel about sustaining open access. It was moderated by Ron Chrisman, and included the presenters: Kevin Stranack, Daniel Paul O’Donnell, and Nancy Maron.

Kevin Stranack spoke first.

  • The status quo of publishing is not working.
    • Prices are extremely high.
    • Library budgets are not increasing.
    • Big deals with publishers are not usually great deals.
    • Canadian libraries (all three panelists were from Canada) have the extra struggle of dealing with poor exchange rates.
  • The Article Processing Charge is not working and is disruptive to libraries.
    • APCs favor hard sciences because they researchers get a lot of grants which can cover the money.
    • Humanities do not get large grants if any and the departments or libraries would have to come up with the money.
  • In order to become viable, OA should look to the co-op model.
    • It is based on seven principles.
      • Voluntary and open membership.
      • Democratic member control.
      • Autonomy and independence.
      • Education and training.
      • Collaboration among other cooperatives.
      • Creates a large community and voice.
    • The co-op would include everyone: Journals, Libraries, Funders, Service Providers, Authors, Researchers, etc.
    • Members share all finances.
    • Journals get an income from the membership costs.
    • The more journals that are members the cheaper it will be to produce work.
    • End to traditional opaque journal pricing.
      • Easier for everyone to budget expenses.
    • There is one study about OA Co-ops in existence.
    • There are two OA Co-ops already up and running:

Daniel Paul O’Donnell spoke second.

  • He reiterated that APCs are not a sustainable way for OA journals to operate.
  • He stated that the web was meant to disrupt traditional scholarly publishing.
    • In Tim Berner-Lee’s original diagram showcasing the web, Daniel says that it inherently includes publishing.

Nancy Maron spoke last about monograph publishing. She is also president of the consultants Blue Sky to Blue Print.

  • OA does not need to be focused primarily in journals.
  • Traditional monograph publishing is difficult.
    • Expensive to produce.
    • Sales are slow and difficult.
  • She is currently working on analyzing survey/study results which will show how expensive it is for university presses and traditional presses to actually publish a book.
    • She is looking at every aspect, from material cost, to labor cost, to fringe costs.
  • She will take these results and help publishing firms determine the best and most cost efficient way to become OA.

After a great lunch break, the featured speaker for the afternoon, Brian Nosek, spoke about improving openness in scholarly communication.

  • How researchers work is different, but only one version of the results will get published.
    • The methods and the mistakes are rarely known in their entirety.
  • Traditionally there are incentives for getting research published, but not necessarily getting it right.
  • Brian founded the Center for Open Science (COS).
    • Everything is open and public.
    • Every part of the process is open.
      • From research, to data, to process, to workflows, to results, to publishing and everything in between.
    • This openness allow for other to build on work and expand on work and possibly bring new light to an issue another researcher if facing.
    • The COS works with the Open Science Framework (OSF).
      • The OSF is a dashboard and a repository where researchers can share every step of their process with the public.
      • It allows has functionality to track every researcher on a project so that ever person’s input is recorded.

The next session was about the first step in promoting open access on campus. It featured a panel comprised of Anjum Najmi, Dillon Wackerman, and Phillip Reynolds.

  • The panelists tried to make a very interactive panel by asking questions of the audience. Personally, I found the way they did this confusing and distracting and it made it very difficult to take notes.
  • They said they will distribute the slides they used with their notes on them, and I will link them here once I have them.

The final session I was able to attend was one about up and coming trends of Open Data in Academia and Beyond. This panel was split into two parts, the first on GIS given by Douglas Burns and Allyson Rodriguez and the other on a new project called the Open-Data Button given by Chealsye Bowley and Sarah Melton.

  • GIS Trends and Open Access
    • Geographic Information Systems or GIS was once thought to be a discipline by itself. Now it is considered to be more of a tool used many different areas of science and geography.
    • GIS, as it exists now, is a great way to aggregate geospatial data.
    • ESRI is the premier software and information provider for GIS data, but they are an extremely expensive service.
    • There are some OA GIS providers, but they are still not a robust as paid services.
    • Douglas said that the best OA GIS service at this time is QGIS.
      • It is the most user friendly and models itself closely on ESRI.
    • One really cool thing that OA GIS has brought forward is the site Open Street Maps.
      • This is site allows users to go in an edit street maps instead of relying on a large company to make the changes.
      • Since it is also open access, others can use the data in the maps for other projects.
    • Open Access and Open Data Buttons
      • Sarah and Chealsye are part of a group of students and early career professionals that want to get the word out about OA.
      • This group developed plug-in button for any browser that allows the user to submit a request for the open access of articles or data any time they hit a paywall.
      • The basic idea in using either button.
        • If you find an article you cannot access or within an article if you find you would like to see the data they used, all you have to do it click the button on the top of your browser.
        • This will open a tiny window which will auto-populate with the citation information about the article as well as the author’s email address. Once you manually fill in your contact information and provide a reason for wanting to be able to access this article or data, you click submit.
        • Your submission goes to the Open Access Button team and they compile all the submissions and they advocate to the author on your behalf.
          • They said their emails are personal and professional and not in any way meant to feel threatening or like spam.
        • Once they hear back from the author, they will then email the original requesters will information about the open access article or if the author refuses OA, they will let the requesters know that too.
        • These answers also go into their main database, that way when another person run into the same paywall and clicks the button, they will automatically be redirected to the OA version they need.
      • They are really trying to be a friendly advocacy group and show authors the benefit of OA by providing real example of how it would benefit fellow researchers.

Overall, I found the UNT Open Access Symposium very interesting. I knew little about OA when it started, and while it is still a complex topic, I feel I have a greater understanding of where OA is now, and where it wants to be in the future.

Once the symposium posts the videos and slides for all the presentations, I will make sure to link them here.