Category Archives: Topical Spotlights

How to nudge people and get Noble Prize for that?

Richard H. Thaler from University of Chicago received Nobel Prize in Economics this week. It’s not only a prestigues award. As it is broadly commented in mass media, winners become celebrities not only in academia. And did I mentioned that Thaler played a scene with Selena Gomez in Big Short?

We asked editors from Open Economics for comments on that choice. Is it important for academia? Will it change our everyday life?

source: Nobelprize.org

Thaler represents behavioral economics. He created a model of price reactions to information, but is also known for his and Cass Sunstein’s nudge theory (see Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Yale University Press, 2008). Nudging can help people make better choices, by creating whole choice architecture, where such details as a number of choices or the way they are described matters. These theories can be controversial, though. As critics often point, that it can lead to limitations of individual autonomy by manipulating and limiting choices.

Luisa Blanco-Raynal (Pepperdine University) is enthusiastic about this year’s winner:

His work is extremely interdisciplinary in nature and has important policy applications. This award says something about the significant role economists play improving the wellbeing of individuals. 

Jeffrey DeSimone (University of Alabama at Birmingham) agrees that Thaler’s work not only can improve our lives in future but did it already, even if we are not aware of that:

I think Thaler is a great choice for the Nobel Prize in Economics.  Ideas from the field he helped build, behavioral economics, not only are appreciated by lots of people who might otherwise have little additional knowledge of economics, but moreover have likely improved the lives of many who, without realizing, have benefitted from policies that rely on these ideas (such as behavioral nudges). 

University of Chicago has 29 affiliated prize winners (check the list here), which makes it most awarded university in the world. It’s also an ideal example of how heterogeneous university can be. Zijun Wang (University of Texas at San Antonio) makes a good point on that:

In 1995, University of Chicago professor Robert Lucas won the Nobel Prize in economics for his contributions to rational expectations theory. At the same year, the university also made a rational decision to hire Richard Thaler who now also won the prize for his contributions to behavior economics. So, the two schools of thoughts can prosper under the same roof only if economics research is open.

The Prize can also be a clear sign for new scientists, that it’s not only mainstream that matters. Jeffrey DeSimone points, that as documented by Michael Lewis in The Undoing Project, his humble beginnings in the profession, and rise to prominence only after following his interests and intuition despite resistance within the discipline, is somewhat of an inspiration.

Will this year’s Nobel Prize herald a shift in mainstream economics towards less rational, more emotional models? And will economics be more and more interdisciplinary? The future of economics looks exciting!

Read more:

About the Prize in Economic Sciences 2017 (Official Website of the Nobel Prize)

Richard Thaler’s website

Though Arguments for Open Science are Aplenty, Institutional Barriers to Its Implementation Remain

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-09-29
URL: http://openscience.com/though-arguments-for-open-science-are-aplenty-institutional-barriers-to-its-implementation-remain/

As a latest Montreal-based initiative in neuroscience and the European “Horizon 2020” program show, despite efforts promoting it, Open Science continues to be exposed to budgeting and resources shortfalls.


Excerpt

As Giusppe Valiate reports, from 2016, based at Canada’s McGill University, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNIH) has been applying Open Science principles to its artificial intelligence research. As part of implementing Open Access in various fields of scientific inquiry, Open Science does not suffer from a lack of definitions, schools of thoughts or academic articles proffering arguments in its favor as Benedikt Fecher and Sascha Friesike discuss in detail in their book chapter published in 2014. Perhaps due to the heteroclite nature of this phenomenon, as Open Science can refer to its technological infrastructure, knowledge creation accessibility, alternative impact metrics, knowledge access democratization, and collaborative research practices, its application in the research and scientific community continues to be divergent. Moreover, as far as academic journals are concerned, this term largely refers to Open Access.

Thus, what the MNIH initiative primarily boils down to is making its empirical, clinical and research data, such as brain imaging, biological sample and cellular data, available in Open Access. This contribution to Open Science is aimed at promoting drug discovery and development, e.g., via the facilitation of medicine tests, as part of the drive to openly share research data. At the same time, given that this field of research demands large-scale data sets, technical infrastructure for their storage and corresponding financial resources, this Open Science project also seeks to encourage a transition to Open Access, as an effort to cut costs. Similarly, Canadian researchers and scholars express increasing resistance to subscription-based journals of large publishers, such as by refusing to review their manuscripts and creating rival Open Access journals, e.g., the Journal of Machine Learning Research.

By Pablo Markin


The full-length original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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The Economics of Flipping Back-List Book Titles into Open Access: Digitization at Cornell University and De Gruyter

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-09-10
URL: http://openscience.com/the-economics-of-flipping-back-list-book-titles-into-open-access-digitization-at-cornell-university-and-de-gruyter/

The digitization of out-of-print book titles incurs costs that Open Access projects tend to depend on external funding to cover, while hybrid models promise higher efficiency and larger scope.


Excerpt

As a press release by George Lowery has announced, the Cornell University Press (CUP), established in 1869, but actively operating since 1930, has received a second grant amounting to 100,000 USD from the United States’ National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supporting its Open Access (OA) book digitization initiative, Cornell Open, on April 4, 2017. According to this announcement, this grant is intended to be dispensed for the project of digitizing 57 back-list book titles in humanities and social sciences, such as literary criticism and political science, to make them openly accessible to the general public locally and internationally. This project is intended to bring the list of its Open Access digitized out-of-print titles to 77. […]

By contrast, on September 5, 2017, Eric Merkel-Sobota has released the news that De Gruyter’s digital book archive will be expanded from its current list of 10,000 digitized out-of-print books to 40,000 titles by 2020. More specifically, De Gruyter’s digital book archive is planned to encompass all of its out-of-print titles from 1749, when the foundational book-printing institution has set up its shop, to the present day. As in the case of the CUP’s digitization initiative, De Gruyter Book Archive will include titles of seminal significance for human and social sciences, e.g., Noam Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures published by Mouton, currently De Gruyter Mouton, in 1957. By the end of 2017, De Gruyter’s digitization drive will add 3,000 to its online book archive. The primary difference of De Gruyter’s digitization initiative from that of the CUP is that it will serve hybrid, on-demand and subscription models of access to these back-list titles, whereas the CUP has chosen OA as its preferred format, which has made it imperative to rely on governmental and private funding to launch its initiative.

By Pablo Markin


The full-length original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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Despite Reservations, Open Access to Case Data Can Dramatically Improve the Accessibility of Medical Knowledge

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-09-07
URL: http://openscience.com/despite-reservations-open-access-to-case-data-can-dramatically-improve-the-accessibility-of-medical-knowledge/

An Open Access medical journal that has sidestepped conventional peer-review procedures gains traction as an information source among doctors.


Excerpt

In her recent review, Megan Molteni, writing for Wired, has zeroed in on the usefulness of the Cureus Journal of Medical Science for practising physicians, especially if they work in specialized fields where access to medical case knowledge can be critical for operating room decision-making. Launched as recently as in 2012, this Open Access journal already rivals established, paywall-protected scientific journals as a trusted source of medical information. Launched by John Adler, a neurosurgeon from Stanford University, this journal has embraced the Open Access model, due to its mission to serve as a largest repository for medical case study information. To achieve this end, this journal deploys step-by-step article submission templates and streamlined review procedures that reduce the time gap from manuscript submission to publication to weeks. […]

In this case, this journal utilizes to the fullest the disruptive potential of Open Access to capture for scientific purposes medical case report information that would be unavailable otherwise to the medical practice and research community around the world. This is further facilitated by the blurring of the boundaries between academic journals and blogs, since this journal also acts as a platform for article-level quality and significance ratings and evaluations, which add an element of crowd-sourcing to its peer review model. This adds to the growing popularity of this journal that currently publishes close to 25 articles per week.

By Pablo Markin


The full-length original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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The Journal Publishing Market Between Supply- and Demand-Side Models: The Case of Open Access in Germany

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-08-25
URL: http://openscience.com/the-journal-publishing-market-between-supply-and-demand-side-models-the-case-of-open-access-in-germany/

Without significant support for Open Access journals, large-scale transitions to Open Access may be slow to come, as the German case indicates.


Excerpt

In their recent news item for the Science Magazine, Gretchen Vogel and Kai Kupferschmidt have expressed their expectation that a concerted negotiation front that German university libraries and research institutions present to large publishers, such as Elsevier, Wiley, and SpringerNature, may produce a nation-wide, disruptive switch to Open Access with possible momentous consequences globally. Contracts with these publishers may include provisions for both publishing in the journals they manage and accessing the collections they make available, which refers to the supply and demand sides of the academic articles market. This is part of the reason for which the possible transition to Open Access takes place at a slower pace than it can be expected, since different market forces are at play as far as producers and consumers of scientific knowledge in the form of articles are concerned.

While multiple reports on the per-article revenues of large publishers exist, such as that of Schimmer, Geschuhn and Vogler (2015) evocatively entitled “Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access”, it is important to keep in mind that publishers are also likely to bear significant costs to sustain their business models and that dividing industry-wide revenues by article output for subscription-based journals produces estimates before the costs of not only producing new articles, but also ensuring their accessibility and delivering distribution solutions are taken into account. This creates the supply and demand sides to the publishing market in which publishers, their institutional clients, funding bodies and governments are involved. In the subscription model, universities and institutes effectively stimulate the supply of academic articles, while facilitating the transfer of copy rights and intellectual property to publishers that put results of scientific research behind paywalls. Especially German universities with stagnant budgets and rising costs are likely to be interested in capping their constantly growing subscription fees by opting out of subscription agreements and choosing Open Access as a default option.

By Pablo Markin


The full-length original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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Subscription-Based Journals May Be Facing the Music Industry Predicament due to File-Sharing Platforms

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-08-18
URL: http://openscience.com/subscription-based-journals-may-be-facing-the-music-industry-predicament-due-to-file-sharing-platforms/

As large publishers fight via legal means illegal scientific article downloading, such as via Sci-Hub, empirical findings show that over 85% of paywall-protected article catalogues are accessible through no-fee, controversial repositories.


Excerpt

While legislative initiatives seek to strike a balance between the interests of academic journal publishing industry and those of scientific communities, such as by setting quotas for Open Access to publicly supported research publications, as has recently been proposed in Germany, they can be perceived as falling short of researcher needs that continue to be largely covered by scholarly journal subscriptions that university libraries and research institutions acquire on a regular basis. At the same time, digitization may be poised to unleash in the scientific journal publishing industry changes similar to those that illegal music download platforms have instigated in the music industry. […]

Likewise, journal publishing may be in the throes of a similar transformation, as digitization-related factors make pirated scholarly papers accessible for illegal downloading, such as through Sci-Hub, at no cost. Reachable through a series of websites providing access to direct, albeit illegal, downloading of academic papers from several repositories, Sci-Hub has been founded by Alexandra Elbakyan, Kazakhstan national who could not afford article access fees that large publishers charge, in 2011. In 2015, Elsevier, one of major international scientific journal publishers, has filed a copyright infringement complaint against Sci-Hub and other article downloading platforms, such as Library Genesis, in New York, while demanding 15 million USD in damages. Though a New York court has decided this legal case in favor of Elsevier in June 2017, this publisher has been increasing its Open Access portfolio holdings in recent years, which can indicate a change in its business model.

By Pablo Markin


The full-length original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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A Review of Institutional Change in the Public Sphere: Views on the Nordic Model Edited by Fredrik Engelstad et al.

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-08-13
URL: http://openscience.com/a-review-of-institutional-change-in-the-public-sphere-views-on-the-nordic-model-edited-by-fredrik-engelstad-et-al/

This timely volume provides a Nordic and theoretically informed perspective on the transformations that the public sphere has been undergoing in recent decades.


Excerpt

Published in April 2017 by De Gruyter Open, Institutional Change in the Public Sphere: Views on the Nordic Model, a collection of contributions from North European and international scholars edited by Fredrik Engelstad, Håkon Larsen, Jon Rogstad, and Kari Steen-Johnsen, casts a retrospective glance at the effect that information technology, social changes and institutional transformation had on the public sphere in developed countries more generally and in Northern Europe in particular.

In their introductory chapter on the changes in the public sphere, relevant institutional perspectives and neo-corporatist social transformations, Fredrik Engelstad, Håkon Larsen, Jon Rogstad, and Kari Steen-Johnsen take Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit: Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft, a seminal work by Jürgen Habermas orginally published in 1962 and translated into English as The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society by Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence in 1989, as a theoretical background for their discussion of the public sphere where communicative processes of civil society and among individual and collective agents, such as the state, take place. Consequently, changes in the mass and electronic media, communication technologies and related social spheres, such as literature, arts, science and education, can be expected to have a significant effect on social, political and economic processes. The attendant institutional transformations are linked by these authors to the rise of neo-corporatist frameworks, as concerns state-level regulation, the public sphere, media-related, civic and cultural institutions, social differentiation and resultant power struggles.

By Pablo Markin


The full-length original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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Journals Transitioning to Open Access May Have Limited Sustainability Absent Revenue Streams

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-08-06
URL: http://openscience.com/journals-transitioning-to-open-access-may-have-limited-sustainability-absent-revenue-streams/

Reliance on foundation or contingency funding does not substitute for viable revenue models that journals switching to Open Access may need to maintain quality.


Excerpt

As the editors of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics have announced the termination of their contracts to Springer, the publisher behind the journal, in June 2017, it has been a move coordinated with the journal’s editorial board, to establish a rival Open Access journal Algebraic Combinatorics. The declared impetus for this transition to Open Access has been the importance of fairly priced Open Access options for the scientific community, in accordance with which the prospective journal plans to refrain from high Article Processing Charges (APCs) and profit-driven practices of the fee-based journal publisher, especially given that academic journals rely significantly on the volunteer labor of the scientific community.

This transition to Open Access has been inspired by the successful flipping of several linguistics journals from subscription-based to Open Access models, as part of the LingOA project. A similar initiative has been launched in the field of mathematics, e.g., Mathematics in Open Access (MathOA), that seeks to facilitate the transition of mathematics-related journals to Open Access. This is illustrated by the recent developments at the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics the editorial staff of which has opted for Open Access as Springer has proved not as forthcoming as concerns the integration of Open Access into its business models as the editorial staff of the journal had expected, such as according to the principles of the Fair Open Access Alliance.

By Pablo Markin


The original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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Alternative Measures of Scholarly Impact are Increasingly Adopted by Funders and Publishers

Author:
Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-07-29
URL: http://openscience.com/alternative-measures-of-scholarly-impact-are-increasingly-adopted-by-funders-and-publishers/


While journal impact factor metrics have been and continue to be used to assess the quality of publications that scholars publish, it appears that the primarily digital format in which most scholarly articles are published and the attendant article-level data that can be retrieved via the Internet can make it possible to devise article-level impact measures. A relatively recent example of this is the Relative Citation Ratio (RCR) that is calculated by Public Library of Science (PLoS) for the National Institute of Health, the United States, in the domain of medical research. The supporters of this article-level metric argue that they can increase the visibility of high-quality publications regardless of the impact factor ranking that the journals in which they appear have, as the chart below illustrates. Consequently, this can also assist emerging scientific journals, such as in developing countries, to improve their reputation, even when they operate with limited financial support.

Journal impact factor vs citation counts, June 22, 2017 | © Courtesy of Erwin Irawan.

Journal impact factor vs citation counts, June 22, 2017 | © Courtesy of Erwin Irawan.

Readily available computing power allows the application of the RCR based on the ratio between the target article citation rate and that of subsequent articles that cite it, which arguably permits controlling for the citation rates specific to particular scientific fields, while enabling cross-field comparability of this metric. A recent Open Access (OA) article that had inquired into the performance of the RCR as an alternative metric vis-à-vis expert opinions has not found significant differences between these, which indicates that journal-level metrics can serve as fine-grained and relatively adequate measures of the academic quality that published articles have as compared to journal-level metrics that may fail to capture the possibly variable quality of the articles that scholarly journals publish. Though the algorithms behind the RCR are considered to be more complex than more traditional impact metrics, both these procedures and underlying data are made freely accessible to the general public. While the developers and investigators of the RCR are careful to qualify the discriminating power of this metric for the assessment of article-level impact, it is an important step in the direction of deploying multiple alternative influence measures in the field of science.

By Pablo Markin


The original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

Berlin Universities Accelerate the Transition to Open Access by Cancelling Toll-Access Contracts with Elsevier

Author:
Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-07-20
URL: http://openscience.com/berlin-universities-accelerate-the-transition-to-open-access-by-cancelling-toll-access-contracts-with-elsevier/


In Germany, an increasing number of universities have announced in June-July, 2017, that they do not plan to renew their journal subscription contracts with Elsevier, one of large international publishers. While negotiations between Elsevier and German univerisities acting via the Project DEAL that represents an alliance of German research and educational institutions are still ongoing, this publisher faces a mounting push-back from German universities that have been announcing their contract cancellations. The Humboldt University, Free University and Technical University of Berlin, as well as other German institutions, have recently announced that they will no longer renew their contracts with Elsevier starting 2018, as they indicate that, since the production of scientific publications is publicly financed, Open Access models are more sustainable than yearly subscriptions that have been constantly rising by at least 5% year-on-year in recent decades. […]

In this respect, the coordinated response of German academic institutions to the oligopolistic pricing practices of large journal publishers is likely to lead either to contract price reductions or the entrenchment of Open Access as an institutionally preferred option.

By Pablo Markin


The original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

Academic Libraries as Emergent Players in the Scholarly Journal Publishing Industry

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-07-19
URL: http://openscience.com/academic-libraries-as-emergent-players-in-the-scholarly-journal-publishing-industry/


In recent years, academic libraries have become important advocates of Open Access (OA), as OA journals are being launched, institutional repositories are being introduced and open educational resources are being hosted. These developments amount to library publishing as an emergent trend in OA publishing, as digital technologies increasingly allow academic institutions to expand their role from academic information dissemination and purchasing to the management of scholarly communication formats.

As scientific foundations and granting agencies around the world have been planning a gradual transition to either Green OA or Gold OA as default options for scientific publications, libraries seek to join the fray of OA academic publishing, since they can complement their publication repository platform with peer-review procedures, which can make them into competitors to OA and subscription-based journal publishers, as Faye Chardwell and Shan Sutton suggest. Likewise, at some North American and European universities OA policies are being passed that encourage the establishment of OA repositories on an opt-in basis for pre-publication journal manuscripts.

By Pablo Markin


The original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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The Impact of Market Forces on Open Access Journal Publishers

Author:
Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-05-05

As the largest open access publisher by the number of articles published, according to the Digital Archive of Open Access Journals, PLOS can serve as a case in point for this phenomenon. In September 2015, PLOS has announced that it will be raising the APC for its flagship PLOS ONE journal from 1,395 USD to 1,495 USD, as the first APC increase for this journal since 2009. While this can be conceived of as a minor business model change for an open access publisher that sports 7 OA journals and 5 channels for scientific sub-fields, such as Muscular Dystrophy, that have streamlined peer-review procedures, are partly foundation-supported and have no author-facing charges, a closer analysis indicates otherwise. At present, the APCs for PLOS’s OA journals range from 1,495 USD (PLOS ONE) to 2,900 USD (PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine). The financial reports of PLOS for 2015, however, reveal that its approximate gross per-article revenues have amounted to 1,438 USD. In other words, given that the 2015 yearly gross publication fee revenues of PLOS have amounted to 44,604,000 USD, circa 31,000 journals have been published by PLOS in 2015, and that the average APC for PLOS ONE has been 1,420 USD for 2015, since the APC raise went into effect in October 2015, if all of these journals have been published in the PLOS ONE mega-journal, its gross APC revenues would have been 44,020,000 USD in 2015. Thus, in the year 2015 the absolute majority of PLOS’s revenues to the rate of up to 98% have been likely derived from APCs for PLOS ONE.

By Pablo Markin


The original  blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.