Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Open Access Interviews: Jutta Haider

Many of us join causes and movements at different times in our lives, if only because we like to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and because most of us have a healthy desire to improve the world. Unfortunately, movements often fail to achieve their objectives, or their objectives are significantly watered down – or lost sight of – along the way. Sometimes they fail completely.

When their movement hits a roadblock, advocates will respond in a variety of ways: “True believers” tend to carry on regardless, continuing to repeat their favoured mantras ad nauseam. Some will give up and move on to the next worthy cause. Others will take stock, seek to understand the problem, and try to find another way forward.

Jutta Haider, an associate professor in Information Studies at Lund University, would appear to be in the third category. Initially a proponent of open access, Haider subsequently “turned into a sceptic”. This was not, she says, because she no longer sees merit in making the scientific literature freely available, but because the term open access “has gained meanings and tied itself to areas in science, science policy-making, and the societal and economic development of society that I find deeply problematic.”

Above all, she says, she worries that open access has become “a business model, an indicator for performance measurement, tied to notions of development purely imagined as economic growth and so on.”

This is not how open access was envisaged when the movement began.

Haider believes the turning point came in 2012, when the UK’s Finch Report was published. From that moment “open access became gold OA, and gold OA became APC OA.” In other words, pay-to-publish.

The implications of this have been significant, she says, not least because it has allowed legacy publishers to appropriate the movement, and by doing so to continue to control and make excessive profits from scholarly communication.

Open access has also been co-opted by governments and university managers, says Haider, to facilitate “the growing incursions of neoliberal control management into university governance and research policy, and the ongoing privatisation of research infrastructures.”

She also believes that in being moulded to fit other agendas in this way, open access has enabled long-standing and intractable problems in science and scholarly communication to be migrated to the digital world, including science’s Western-bias, and what she describes as its “idealised story of how science progresses and of the role of the scholarly journal article (conference paper, published record)”.

Most significantly, by putting a price on the scholarly paper APC OA has “marketised” science communication in a very direct and negative way.

In short, the triumph of APC OA means that rather than create a fairer and more equitable system of scholarly communication (as advocates promised) open access will leave many disadvantaged and disenfranchised, especially researchers in the Global South. Indeed, for them the situation is likely to worsen rather than improve, since contributing to science will increasingly require having the wherewithal to pay to have your work published, which is difficult if not impossible for many in the developing world. “I cannot fathom how a shift to APC open access becoming the dominant model will work to not further deepen the inequalities with production and contribution to the literature”, says Haider.

Pay-to-publish gold OA has also seen the emergence of so-called predatory publishing. This has amplified the problems of trust in scholarly communication, and many believe those in the Global South are more vulnerable to the predators.

All very disheartening

Those who joined the open access movement in the expectation that it would create a more cost-effective, equitable and efficient research environment will find this is all very disheartening.

However, given the larger political and economic environment in which the research community is inevitably located, says Haider, it is not surprising. “Unless you change the entire economic system and society, there are really not so many options.”

She adds, “Even if the scholarly article were not directly marketised, it would still be part of a system of science that operates within the conditions set by capitalist market economics.”

Nevertheless, Haider believes there are ways of mitigating the worst excesses of this marketisation. “If you [have to] act within the political and economic climate that we have, then community-based crowd-funding models seem to offer solutions that would at least enable you to not have to sell out completely to interests that are not the ones you seek to promote.”

She adds: “[N]ot all business interests automatically work in opposition to morality, equality and fairness. Those working with these large moral imperatives to promote open access, I assume, believe that they are not only mutually compatible, but they are even supportive of each other, in the right circumstances.”

But in order for the movement to move forward in a more benign direction, she suggests, it is important to acknowledge what has happened to open access, and to discuss the issues openly and honestly, especially now that the debate is widening out to encompass open science. “What I hope for is an honest debate on open science, a debate which does not replicate the naivety of the early open access debates, and one where the term is not embraced regardless of who else fills it with whatever meaning they favour, even to the point where it runs counter to making science open in any kind of meaningful way.”

Please read the Q&A with Jutta Haider for a detailed discussion of these issues. It can be accessed here.

For those who prefer paper, a print version of this interview is available here.


dzrlib said...

A very welcome breath of fresh air to the OA debate. I can't resist mentioning the benefits of the 'old system' which featured a reasonable page charge coupled with a reasonable subscription fee. Obviously not perfect but much better alternative to Gold OA.

waltc said...

The necessary reminder: most serious gold OA journals do not charge APCS, and Latin America is a vibrant example that a robust OA publishing arena does not require such fees.

Fair Miles said...

[waltc: Latin America WAS a vibrant example. Now it is a place of resistance, just like others with more attention in the global news (and here we go again…)]

Interesting view on OA history and the underlying problems it built on and/or failed to recognise at the moment (and afterwards). The superficial scenario has completely changed in 20 years so a need for adaptation is no surprise, and powerful forces will always push and pull to transform potential revolutions in new contributors to the status quo. It is always useful to meditate on the weekend events as told by the Monday newspaper.

And thank you, Richard, for this blog. Frequently not 100% in agreement, but I guess that was never the point.

waltc said...

A sidetrack from the interview, but "Fair Miles" doesn't offer anything to suggest that non-APC is failing in Latin America--and our host felt the need to highlight the doubt in a tweet. I'd love to know more. What I do know--I'm just finishing up the second edition of Gold Open Access Journals--is that DOAJ-listed non-APC Latin American OA journals published more articles in 2016 than in 2015 (the few APC-charging journals published fewer in 2016), and that 94% of the active journals don't charge APCs, publishing 86% of the articles. Latin American gold OA journals in DOAJ published more than 57,000 articles in 2016. (Yes, that's a lower number than in the first GOAJ--but some 3,000 journals were removed from DOAJ, including several hundred in Latin America.) From my perspective, it still looks pretty vibrant.

Fair Miles said...

[Waltc, first things first: I have read your extensive, first edition report on gold OA and in fact used it last year to prove some point of mine in public (slide 23 of DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.35199.41121, if interested). Thank you for your big (and open) work. A Latin American scientist myself, it felt really nice to see our collective effort highlighted and, maybe, some underlying ethical/political values recognised as useful for others to grasp?]

Luckily, I agree that it still looks ok, at least at a similar distance from those other situations you evaluated in your reports. As you surely know, most science around here is funded through governments, which in (big) part allowed for the non-APC OA picture you described (e.g., distributed work by tenured researchers covering publishing tasks). It will be really long, and most probably not the approriate forum, to talk about politics here, so I will just point to commentaries in a single source of global news (in English) for your reference:

20170403: http://www.nature.com/news/brazilian-scientists-reeling-as-federal-funds-slashed-by-nearly-half-1.21766
20170110: http://www.nature.com/news/where-science-and-nonsense-collide-1.21266
20161117: https://www.nature.com/news/argentina-president-s-first-budget-angers-scientists-1.21013
20160718: https://www.nature.com/news/science-under-siege-how-venezuela-s-economic-crisis-is-affecting-researchers-1.20261
20160610: https://www.nature.com/news/brazil-s-scientists-start-street-protests-against-ministry-merger-1.20071

[cf. same source only 2–3 years earlier: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/southamerica-1.15370]
[if you dare with some Spanish, you can read some early consequences at SciELO itself: http://blog.scielo.org/es/2017/04/25]

Now, nobody looks that bad the first day without eating. And being used to strive with few calories is certainly an adaptation. However, in spite of that vibrant appeareance, we all know where that behaviour leads to…

(call me paranoid, but I can already foresee someone conveniently making an APC-food offer that can't be refused. Eventually…)

waltc said...

Those are sad links; as an American in this "administration," I can sympathize.

Still...the problem is with science funding, and it's part of overall budgetary problems. The problem is not with SciELO or Redalyc as generally-non-APC platforms, and the budgetary problems with science funding would not be *improved* by shutting down gold OA and spending the money on library and lab subscriptions to all the toll-based journals you'd need for those thousands of papers.

And, of course, I only attempt to see what's happened: I don't (can't) measure the forward-looking health of any nation's science. As of 2016, Latin America still had a vibrant mostly-non-APC gold OA field. If that changes, it won't because gold OA is fundamentally unsound.

And this is all way outside of the original post. My apologies,

Jean-Claude Guédon said...

I have long observed and commented on the situation in Latin America. In fact, I remember discussing OA with Abel packer before he was convinced it was the way to go.

The situation is that, as LA countries gain economic importance, big publishers are becoming more interested. I warned Abel Packer about Thompson-Reuters and his attempts to see Scielo journals in WoS. I warned him about using ScholarOne to organize the workflow of Scielo. I have seen Springer open an office in Brazil to see how to pick up the titles most likely to produce profits. They even hired someone from Scielo to head this office. In short, yes, LA is under siege and as long as the Science Councils of of Latin America are mesmeriezed by "International" journals and impact factors, this threat will remain dangerous.

This said, Latin America is one of the few places in the world where governments have understoood that, if they support research, it simply does not make sense if the publication of research is not supported. Scielo and Redalyc are examples of this. The Scielo model is interesting because it relies on a distributed financial support that relies on the science councils of many coutnries. As a result, if there are problems in Brazil and Argentina, and crisis in Venezuela, this is important, but it it is not lethal. Redalyc is more centralized, and, therefore, probably more vulnerable, but it is presently well supported and is doing great work.

As a result, I will heartily side with Walt Crawford (and many thenks, incidentally, for your wonderful studies). We must help these Latin American neighbours, as well as similar endeavours elsewhere in the world. As for temporary downturns, people might remember that Dunkirk preceded D-Day by about four years, but Dunkirk did not predict the end of WWII very well...

Jean-Claude Guédon

Fair Miles said...

I guess some distance allows for a better perspective on what to consider a "temporary downturn". Still unaware of their glorious collective future, you will surely understand some desperate faces on soaked men waiting for any boat to leave those vibrant Dunkirk beaches… I really hope you are right and this is just a bump with few long-term consequences.

From now and here, it appears to me a bit deeper than just the "general budget" problem (which nonetheless may be critical enough). I'm more worried on local contingencies such as the neoliberal "restoration wave" advancing their usual notions of "development", virtuous competition, managerial success and international prestige, which I choose to interpret as not favoring monetary investment and political commitment on regional enterprises such as RedalyC, SciELO and public infrastructure to sustain greenOA through LaReferencia and OpenAIRE.

To not get farther away from the original post, I will excerpt from Richard's Q&A with Jutta Haider some sentences (a bit out of context for brevity) that allowed them to paint OA in black in general and that, today, I think cast a similar shadow on the Latin-American-success-story that Walt and Jean-Claude (kindly) extrapolate:
* "we should be concerned at how academia and scholarly publishing are developing in general, and here open access can work as a magnifying glass revealing the growing incursions of neoliberal control management into university governance and research policy"
* "Even if the scholarly article were not directly marketised, it would still be part of a system of science that operates within the conditions set by capitalist market economics."
* "everything [not APC-OA is] beginning to look like the naïve alternative projects of hopeless idealists, or possibly the humanities, which do not count anyway and are often positioned as “lagging behind”"
* "It is clear that there is a Western bias in scholarly communication which can not be denied. It is everywhere –in how the databases that measure productivity in science are compiled, in the way journals count as international and trustworthy, in the way in which research questions attract funding and so on."
* "This reasoning says that if only the so-called developing world can get access to all these records, journal articles and so on, they will find out where we are at in the real game of international science, and then they can play their part in building on it, and we will all be happily united and advance science together from now on."

Fair Miles said...

If Latin America was already under siege (as J-C explains above), helped somewhat from within by its perpetual hope to "grow big" in the shining metropolis, I think we will be making cheaper ourselves soon by showing off our SALE signs. For local researchers (and their journals!) this changes will mean a harder push to be (more) competitive. And what can be wrong with that?. Now excerpting from the EXCELLENT and comprehensive text by J-C Guédon for the 15th anniversary of BOAI:
* "examining the situation of researchers, young or old, from rich or poor institutions, from
so called “developed” countries or from emerging or developing nations, leads to an inescapable
observation: as long as the whole scientific system is driven by a competitive system, scientists and scholars will do their best to survive and to avoid the worst of the secondary effects that distort the scientific enterprise"
* "A competition that is designed exclusively around journals, but then it is extended as a proxy to evaluate individuals, institutions, and even countries," [bold mine] "can only serve publishers: the journal becomes the anchoring point of the power to evaluate scientific achievements. […] Small elites of editors do manage to graft themselves onto the system with
some rewards attached to the position, but in so doing, they find themselves exposed to the kinds of social rules that guide the quest for power and influence, rather than quality and integrity." [They] "may be tempted to throw their lot with the big publishers or the managers, especially if the editorship of a new journal –a new investment for a publisher– is offered to them."
* "[…]in evaluating researchers for promotion, tenure and funding, administrators tend to rely on the usual, familiar elements that are deemed to characterize a “good” or “not so good” career. […] As a result, researchers seeking promotion or tenure will play the game accordingly by publishing their papers “where it counts.”" [i.e., not in our beloved non-APC-OA regional journals] "All this, of course, reinforces the warped manner in which symbolic capital, visibility and prestige are currently generated in the scientific communication arena. […] For the administrator such an outcome also appears positive because the institution under his/her stewardship is ranked by various organizations, and most of them also look at where the faculty publish. […] With publicly supported universities, or with prestige-driven university governors, rankings also play a role in evaluating, curiously, if there is value for money in the present administrative policies. […] The same institution that, through its evaluation behaviour, increases the legitimacy of journal rankings also ends up having to pay for it through the library budget."
* "One simple criterion allows pointing unerringly to the central issue: who controls what? And if it appears that the control of scientific communication escapes the research communities, to what extent does it threaten to corrupt the very nature of scientific communication. Seen from the perspective of the developing or emerging countries, i.e. seen from the perspective of about 80% of humanity, the answer is clear."

Again, please forgive my present doubts on what you assume that Latin American "governments have understood". As I said in my first comment, I think this is more a time of resistance "not to lose" rather than moving forward. I guess our hope rests (maybe as always?) on the values and illusions of the local professional communities that have built, mostly exploiting the shadows and corners out of the Big Picture, the particular scenario that Walt emphasizes in his reports.