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Webinar synopsis and Q&A: How librarians can help researchers navigate open access choices

Oct 24, 2013

On Oct. 17, Elsevier’s Library Connect program hosted the webinar “How librarians can help researchers navigate open access choices.” The topic obviously resonated with the audience; more than 1,400 librarians around the world registered to view the webinar. The presenters each covered an aspect of open access (OA) publishing from their own vantage point. Following are short synopses of their presentations followed by a summary of the questions and answers (questions answered during the webinar and those reviewed afterwards).
Open access: Setting the scene

Laura Hassink, a senior vice president in Elsevier journal publishing, reviewed the various forms of OA publishing and the growth in the field. For those new to the concept she explained that articles published via OA are free to the reader, compared with the subscription model where an individual or institution pays a fee to access the article or journal. At Elsevier, there are various forms of OA publishing, including: 

  • Gold OA – articles are free to access and download from ScienceDirect; a fee is paid by the author, institution or research funder to cover the costs associated with publication
  • Green OA – draft copies of the author’s manuscript are posted in an institutional or subject repository or on the author’s personal website, and articles are available to subscribers as the costs of publication continue to be met through library subscriptions
  • OA Archives – articles are made freely available, by Elsevier from ScienceDirect, after an embargo period
Open access journals:  A Scopus Content Selection & Advisory Board perspective

David Rew, a surgeon and scholar with the University of Southampton, looked at the issue of journal quality from the perspective of the Scopus Content Selection & Advisory Board (CSAB). David is the Medical Subject Chair on this independent group of advisors who evaluate journals for inclusion in Scopus, an abstract and citation database. Whether the journal is OA or subscription based, his group takes the same approach:

  • Is it a peer reviewed journal?
  • What is the publishing model (e.g., ensuring quality is not compromised for profit), who are the editors and who is on the editorial board?
  • What are the aims, specialty, target audience, history, and sample content?
  • Does it have a Publication Ethics & Malpractice Statement?
  • How many issues and articles are published per year, and how current is the publication? 
Navigating open access

In the final presentation, Robin Champieux, a scholarly communications librarian at Oregon Health & Science University, described the method and tools she uses to help her faculty build a publication plan. Her insight was that faculty are most concerned with fit, reach, quality and speed when looking for a journal for publication. Her most productive conversations with authors about OA happen when she connects OA to these priorities. Robin also stated that researchers should look beyond the PDF in disseminating their research in favor of communications throughout the research lifecycle. A few tools and resources Robin mentioned include (see slides for complete list):

Note: Due to the volume of questions and the technical nature of some questions, we were not able to respond to all questions. In addition, we asked some internal experts for assistance, our Scopus Team and Alicia Wise, Director of Universal Access. Their responses are noted within.
Working With the Researcher
Q. How do you become a part of the researcher's process? As in, how do you initiate and continue communication throughout the research cycle?
Robin Champieux: There are many strategies, and I don’t think it can be done through one person. It starts with having a good understanding of that research cycle, embedding myself in that world, and collaborating with my colleagues within and outside the library who interact with the research cycle at points where I don’t know. For example, we have an ontology development group here in the library that looks at data standards and management, semantic web and ontologies of course. I collaborate with them a lot to reach researchers throughout that cycle. Our strong relationship with the research office and grants administration has also been key to those relationships. And, as the campus contact for the NIH public access policy, I am in touch with many authors and researchers at many points in that cycle.


Q. What’s your opinion about altmetrics?
Laura Hassink: These are a welcome addition to the other metrics we already have to evaluate research and enable us to go beyond traditional citation-based indicators. Elsevier publishes quality content, and is very comfortable with having this measured through a range of metrics.
One of the ways that Elsevier is engaged with altmetrics is for Scopus to track mentions of papers across social media sites, science blogs, media outlets and reference managers.   We also ran a pilot called the Article Usage Report in which we sent our authors an email with a link to a personalized dashboard to view how often their articles have been accessed, in which countries, and whether by readers in the corporate or public sector. The dashboard also contains tools to help authors promote their papers via social media channels. Based on the positive results of that pilot, we have decided to offer this service to authors in all our journals on ScienceDirect this autumn.
Although there is no firm industry standard for alt metrics, and the jury is still out on whether they are all equally useful, we are actively engaged in shaping how the future might look. 
David Rew: Metrics can be a highly technical and challenging area. There is a lot of concern that the Impact Factor, which has dominated the agenda for the last few decades, has value but also limitations. The Scopus CSAB always discusses the application of new metric systems. I’m impressed with the broader capabilities of systems like Scopus to generate all sorts of new forms of new information. I was fascinated when I first saw SciVal [which uses Scopus data], which allows you to take data and start looking at it in visually rich ways. I’m interested in applying the same sort of models in our very large cancer datasets at work. I’d say the jury is still out, but I think altmetrics has a major contribution to make in the future. I don’t know what form it will take, but the simpler, the more elegant, the more immediate and up to date it is, the more interesting and informative it will be for a much wider audience.
Scopus Team: The relevancy of a specific metric is dependent on the research assessment question you would like to answer. And in general no one metric will provide the exact answer;  it is always advised to look at multiple metrics. In Scopus there are various metrics available:  journal-level metrics like SJR and SNIP, author-level metrics like the h-index, and also article-level metrics that look at societal impact such as altmetrics. The Altmetric scores in Scopus measure the mentions in various (social) media types and therefore provide insight into the societal impact of the article. These Altmetric scores are complimentary to the more conventional citation counts that measure scientific impact.
Robin Champieux: I’m very excited about the potential of altmetrics. Traditional metrics are really slow, whereas altmetrics are fast. They get at and can give you information about the impact of research products that traditional metrics don’t. And they give you information about the kind of impact that reaches beyond the scholarly audience. Citation counts give you information about what other scholars are reading and citing, but they don’t give you information about what the lay public, policy makers, and the media are talking about when it comes to science and research. Altmetrics provide useful information for the library as they give us a new understanding how people are communicating.


Q. Do authors retain their copyright in Elsevier OA journals?

Alicia Wise, Director of Universal Access, Elsevier: For authors publishing gold OA in an Elsevier owned journal, instead of being presented with a copyright transfer form, they will receive an “Exclusive agreement license.” This license enables authors to retain copyright while still granting Elsevier with the necessary rights to publish and disseminate their research. Details on Elsevier’s policy for this is available online at



Q. Is there a Jane equivalent for other disciplines like engineering, agriculture, humanities?
Robin Champieux: I am not aware of a specific tool aimed at other disciplines; however, the JournalGuide does have a wider scope in terms of disciplines. 


Scopus – Journal Quality and Acceptance
Q. If a journal gets approved according to your Scopus Title Evaluation Platform, but is written in Spanish, would it still be rejected?
David Rew: This is a problem which occupies us considerably because there are journals in many languages. Language per se is not a reason for rejection, but we had to come up with a policy to deal with the linguistic issue. As part of the evaluation we need to be able to view at an abstract of each of the articles in English and preferably a parallel website in English to view at least an outline of the journal content. 
Q. Does Scopus only contain articles from peer reviewed journals?
Scopus Team: Currently and for future accrual, the scholarly journals the Scopus CSAB are evaluating are peer reviewed. Other content types in Scopus are Conference Proceedings, Trade Journals and Books. Most of these sources have peer review, although there may be publications that use alternative ways of editorial control and may not be fully peer reviewed. An example of that is some of Trade Journals covered in Scopus.
Q. Do you have an accessible list of journals that you have deferred or rejected for inclusion into Scopus? And, does it include the rationale for deferment? 
Scopus Team: The list of journals that are rejected for Scopus coverage is not publicly available. However, the suggestor of a title for Scopus review will be informed about the progress and the outcome of the review of that title. The decision letter does contain the reasoning for acceptance or rejection. 


 Open Access Publishing
Q. I understood that Gold OA does not necessarily refer to the author-pays model. It just means that the material is made available via a journal. Please can you clarify?
Alicia Wise: Publishers have for many decades had journals that were free to read because the costs of publishing were met by a sponsor, for example a scholarly society.  In recent years OA advocates have included such journals in the definition of OA, it helps to boost the numbers of OA articles and titles, but strictly speaking they pre-date the OA movement.  It’s a question of semantics!    
Q. I understand that if an institutional mandate is in place requiring deposit in the university institutional repository that the university's authors cannot add postprints for Elsevier articles so no green OA for these authors. Is this correct?
Alicia Wise: Almost, but not quite.  If an institutional mandate is in place then posting is possible if there is a free agreement in place between Elsevier and the institution.  We do hear from institutions that they would prefer not to have this administrative hassle, and are exploring options for making this easier while still ensuring that posting and hosting happens in a way that is sustainable for the journals in which the articles are published.
Q. Will open access models be incorporated into all Elsevier online publications? Will there be variants depending on the journal?
Alicia Wise: Elsevier believes in the principle of author’s choice and is working hard to expand our OA options to meet the demands of our authors. OA options are already available on all Elsevier-owned journals, and we are working with our society publishing partners to roll these options out more broadly.  This means Elsevier currently has gold OA options in more than 1,600 established journals and now publishes 63 OA journals. In addition, Elsevier has a green OA policy to ensure authors can always post their preprints, and can voluntarily post their accepted manuscripts.  

Q. What is the difference between the green open access and OA articles?
Alicia Wise: Ah… the difference between green and gold: a very frequently asked question!!
Green open access:
  • After publication and acceptance, in a subscription journal, the article is immediately available to subscribers
  • Draft versions of the article can be shared on publicly accessible websites, typically after a time delay known as an embargo period
  • Costs of publication are covered by subscriptions 
Gold open access:
  • After acceptance, research is made immediately, permanently OA on the publisher’s site
  • Readers can copy and reuse the content as defined by user licenses 
  • Costs are covered by an OA publication fee
  • Some funding bodies and institutions will reimburse  authors for such fees
Q. Green OA: Why do you require an agreement plus embargo period when the author's funder has an OA mandate, but not when the author is not mandated?
Alicia Wise: This is because the purpose of the mandate is to drive up compliance levels, which change the sustainability dynamics for journals in which posted articles are published.  That having been said, we are aware that many institutions would prefer not to hassle with an additional agreement, even if these are free, and so we are thinking about how we can make this easier.
Q. Can you say something about the economics behind hybrid articles in subscription-paid journals?
Alicia Wise: Our OA pricing structure provides a range of prices from $500 to $5,000 USD. (Our earlier standard OA publication fee of $3,000 for hybrid OA journals was part of an initial test-and-learn approach.) The prices are tailored to the community and journal and reflect the diversity of scholarly communications such as case report journals, review journals and original research journals. We have established funding body and institutional agreements which will help facilitate OA implementation—some of these funding body agreements mean authors will be reimbursed for OA publication fees. We also do have an OA waiving policy which assesses requests on a case-by-case basis; however, we give preference to countries involved in the Research4Life program.
Q. Do you have any opinion about journal editors helping researchers navigate their open access choices, e.g., encouraging writers to pay the fee in the interest of faster spreading of science and possibly to increase the prestige of the journal?
Alicia Wise: The role of editors is to ensure the best quality research is published after rigorous peer review.  These quality control processes should not be undermined by knowledge of whether the author will pay the journal in order to be published.  It’s essential that OA publishing remains the author’s choice in order to respect their academic freedom and in order to ensure the quality and integrity of the scientific record.