v25 #5 I Hear the Train A Comin’

by | Dec 5, 2013 | 0 comments

“Too Much is Not Enough!”

Column Editor:  Greg Tananbaum  (ScholarNext Consulting)  <[email protected]www.scholarnext.com

The theme of this year’s 33rd Annual Charleston Conference is “Too Much Is Not Enough!”  Normally, the conference theme provides easy fodder for me to generate my November column.  I grab a few choice lines from the song and repurpose them to fit specific emerging trends in academic publishing.  The artful lyrics of a Cole Porter or George Gershwin tune carry universal meanings that extend, with only minimal strain, to the world of scholarly communication.  This year, however, presents a substantially greater challenge.  A primary hurdle is that I am completely unfamiliar with the song “Too Much Is Not Enough” — who sings it, when it is from, and the lyrics are all a complete blank.  A quick Web search reveals two possibilities — a 1986 collaboration between the Bellamy Brothers and the Forester Sisters, and the eighth track on the 1990 Deep Purple album, Slaves and Masters.  The former, unfortunately, makes the artistic choice to repeat its chorus six times over its three-plus minute running time.  I say “unfortunately” because the chorus burrows into the listener’s brain as follows:

Too much is not enough
Too much is not enough
Too much is not enough
Of your love, love, love

Too much is not enough
Too much is not enough
Too much is not enough
Of your love, love, love.

…so that holds little promise as column fodder.  However, the Bellamy Brothers are like Leonard Cohen compared to the sledgehammer subtlety of Deep Purple’s songwriting.  Presumably, Against the Grain is a family publication, which makes quoting from these lyrics a challenge.  Suffice it to say, the lead singer appears to have amorous intentions of an insatiable (and explicit) nature, hence the title, “Too Much is Not Enough!”  It would not be possible for me to apply enough Purell to cleanly extract a column from the Deep Purple lyrics.

This is an extremely long-winded way of explaining that I am modifying the “pull a lyric” gimmick for this year’s Charleston column.  While it would no doubt be an invigorating mental challenge to apply a line like, “Love is the crime, you stand convicted / You keep on coming back for more” to scholarly communication, I am lowering the degree of difficulty.  Instead, let’s look at four issues in our industry that have generated significant attention in recent months, and that figure to continue to burn brightly in the days to come.  These are topics for which too much discussion and attention is truly not enough.

Open Data

The idea that the raw building blocks of science — the data — should be made available for free reuse has gained traction on a number of fronts.  Much of the attention pertaining to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s memorandum on “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research” focused on the expectation that federal research agencies with R&D budgets of $100 million would develop public access for the literature their funding supports.  However, the directive also encompasses research data.  It decrees that “digitally formatted scientific data resulting from unclassified research supported wholly or in part by federal funding should be stored and publicly accessible to search, retrieve, and analyze.”  This is but one prominent development in the realm of open data.  The European Commission held a public consultation on open access to research data in July inviting statements from researchers, industry, funders, publishers, and libraries.  The result of this consultation may well be policy and financial support for open data as a component of “Horizon 2020,” the EU’s new program for research and innovation.  From a practical standpoint, Dryad has emerged as a viable general-purpose repository to house the data underlying scientific publications.  Dryad has integrated data submission for more than 30 journals, making it easy for scholarly authors to share their data with the world in an open manner.

OSTP, Horizon 2020, and Dyrad, are representative of a growing support for open data.  Proponents believe that sharing data openly facilitates increased discoverability and reusability, reduces the gaps in the research cycle, and lessens the likelihood that multiple laboratories will be pursuing duplicative research in siloed environments.  With the delivery of federal agencies’ plans to implement the OSTP directive and the 2014 rollout of Horizon 2020, open data looks to remain in the spotlight.

Article-Level Metrics

Article-Level Metrics (ALMs) are rapidly emerging as important tools to quantify how individual articles are being discussed, shared, and used.  ALMs can be employed in conjunction with existing metrics, which have traditionally focused on the long-term impact of a collection of articles (i.e., a journal) based on the number of citations generated.  ALMs offer a new and effective way to disaggregate an individual article’s impact from the publication in which it appears.  They aggregate a variety of data points that collectively quantify not only the impact of an article, but also the extent to which it has been socialized and its immediacy.

The emergence of multiple business and technology solutions in the ALM space is indicative of the potentially transformative importance of these metrics.  ImpactStory, Altmetric, and Plum Analytics are three buzzy organizations garnering attention.  Further validating the ALM space is the interest a disparate body of publishers and content providers are demonstrating.  From Elsevier to HighWire to PLOS to Nature, organizations are implementing ALMSs as a means to articulate both an article’s scholarly visibility and its social visibility.  Should these metrics grow more widely used and become easier for research funders, tenure and promotion committees, and others to understand (a charter NISO has recently begun to investigate), ALMs could become as ubiquitous as the impact factor.


Yep, metadata.  Not super-flashy, but super-necessary.  Metadata has been facilitating discovery ever since scholarly content hit the internet.  Several recent developments have underscored how carefully developed metadata has the potential to make it easier than ever to connect interested parties to the information they need to do their jobs more effectively.  One such example is FundRef, a collaborative effort among research funders, publishers, and CrossRef to transmit funding source information within published scholarly research.  The FundRef registry provides a taxonomy of 4,000 standardized funder names to manuscript tracking system vendors for incorporation into their publication submission processes.  Publishers then have submitting authors select correct funders and provide grant numbers.  This information then becomes a discoverable metadata element when articles are published.  In this manner, FundRef makes it easier to correlate R&D investment with research results.

Another example of new metadata elements facilitating discovery is ORCID.  ORCID is a unique, persistent digital identifier that facilitates author disambiguation.  Think about querying Microsoft Academic Search or WorldCat for publications authored by “John Smith” and the difficulties associated with finding the specific John Smith in question.  ORCID addresses that problem by assigning a unique ID to each registered author — like a Social Security number, it’s yours and yours alone.  As authors submit manuscripts going forward, an increasing number of publishers are encouraging them to provide their ORCID number.  This propagates through to the published article and makes it easier for search engines, APIs, and other third parties to capture and display disambiguated author publication lists with confidence.

FundRef and ORCID are by no means the only metadata developments that bear watching.  I have the good fortune to be co-chairing a NISO committee looking to develop open access metadata indicators.  Our expectation is that by early 2014 NISO will have a recommendation in place for rendering an article’s access control and licensing restrictions (or lack thereof) a portable metadata element.  This will make it much easier for discovery engines and other third parties to show end users what can be freely read and reused.

Other initiatives ranging from KBART to ISNI to LRMI are also looking at ways to make metadata more valuable.  While this, of course, begs the long-term question of how much descriptive information an object can carry and still be functionally portable, for now metadata is having a well-deserved moment in the sun.

Gold Open Access

When Research Councils UK (RCUK) unveiled plans earlier this year to fund £30 million ($57 million) over two years in open access article processing charges (APCs), it marked a major development for so-called “gold” open access.  For the first time, a governing body wasn’t pushing simply for public access to some version of an article after an embargo; rather, they were exhibiting a preference for “immediate Open Access with the maximum opportunity for re-use.”  Further, they were putting teeth behind this preference in the form of high-value block grants to institutions to pay for APCs.

Whatever one’s feelings regarding open access publishing, the willingness of a major governmental funding body to commit this amount of money is sure to further legitimize the gold open access business model.  It should also provide fierce competition as large subscription-based publishers expand their hybrid options in an attempt to capture RCUK money.  How British institutions respond to the influx of funds and opportunities could have wide-ranging consequences within the gold OA publishing world.  Subscription publishers can potentially offer steep APC discounts that exert tremendous pressure to lower APCs among all publishers.  These publishers can, for the time being, afford to operate their OA programs at a loss, cushioned by the revenue stream provided by their subscriptions.  This, in turn, could have the effect of pushing out OA publishers that rely solely on APCs.  It is therefore quite possible that the RCUK policy, designed to give gold open access a leg up, could end up severely hampering it.

As always with the Charleston Conference, there are any number of treats for which Too Much Is Not Enough — the Lowcountry cuisine (particularly shrimp and grits, pimento cheese spread, and pralines), the Georgian architecture, the sight of Anthony Watkinson’s magnificent beard, and the stimulating conversations to be found in the sessions and out in the hallways.  I look forward to seeing you there.


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