Springer Nature acquires E-Learning Platform Iversity

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After Iversity’s insolvency in 2016 the Holtzbrinck Group invested in Iversity. Some days ago Springer Nature’s acquisition of the e-learning startup was reported.

Iversity’s news on the acquisition (in German language) provides some more information, here is a translated piece of it: „For the free of charge course offers (MOOCs) currently offered on the platform, iversity provides a guarantee of existence for the foreseeable future. Discussions are currently underway with various partners on how these digital academic courses can be expanded and financed sustainably in the future.

Part of the new strategy is an exclusive cooperation with the international science publisher Springer Nature, which belongs to Holtzbrinck. In cooperation with Springer Nature, iversity is now planning further steps towards digital study programmes. In the future, both existing and new distance learning courses as well as new courses offered by Springer Nature in the area of continuing vocational education and training will be offered in digital form via iversity. In addition, Springer Nature and iversity intend to jointly test new formats for the further development of classical textbooks.“


Does the success of Sci-Hub and Guerilla Access prove that Open Access has failed?

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Toby Green published an article dealing with new impulses for Open Access. The starting point is the success of Sci-Hub. First, he explains his key points:

  • „Sci-Hub has made nearly all articles freely available using a black open access model, leaving green and gold models in its dust“
  • „Why, after 20 years of effort, have green and gold open access not achieved more? Do we need ‘tae think again’?“
  • „If human nature is to postpone change for as long as possible, are green and gold open access fundamentally flawed?“
  • „Open and closed publishing models depend on bundle pricing paid by one stake-holder, the others getting a free ride. Is unbundling a fairer model?“
  • „If publishers changed course and unbundled their product, would this open a legal, fairer route to 100% open access and see off the pirates?“

He notes that the success of Sci-Hub and Guerilla Open Access proves that Open Access Gold and Green Open Access failed. According to Green, the unbundling known from aviation could strengthen Open Access: „In the traditional airline industry model, to get to B from A, one used to purchase a ticket, which covered the cost of a travel bundle: you were carried, fed, watered, entertained, and could take as much or as little baggage as you wanted. Today, led by low-cost airlines, the product has been unbundled: food, drinks, seat allocation, baggage, changing tickets, and even the way you pay are now being priced as extras to the core service of getting you to B from A.“

From the conclusion: „I suggest that we might be encouraged by the airline industry and unbundle the product. This would make all content free to read, answering the plea that the results of publicly funded research be available to the public, reveal the true values for the existing bundle’s component parts, and lead to a situation where each stakeholder has the choice to pay for the particular benefit they get from the scholarly communication process. This might prove to be a fairer, cheaper, more sustainable, and less controversial model in the long run.“

This is the bibliographical information for Toby Green’s article:

Green, T. (2017). We’ve failed: Pirate black open access is trumping green and gold and we must change our approach. Learned Publishing, 30(4). DOI:10.1002/leap.1116, http://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1116

Bundesverfassungsgericht muss die Zulässigkeit der Konstanzer Open-Access-Satzung klären

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Vor knapp einem Jahr klagten Wissenschaftler der Universität Konstanz gegen die Open-Access-Satzung ihrer Hochschule. Seit der kürzlichen Beschlussfassung des Verwaltungsgerichtshofs Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim steht fest, dass der Konflikt nationale Reichweite hat.

Die Auseinandersetzung entzündete sich an der im Dezember 2015 erlassenen „Satzung zur Ausübung des wissenschaftlichen Zweitveröffentlichungsrechts“.  Diese Satzung bezieht sich auf §38 (4) des Urheberrechtsgesetzes (UrhG), in dem es heißt:

„Der Urheber eines wissenschaftlichen Beitrags, der im Rahmen einer mindestens zur Hälfte mit öffentlichen Mitteln geförderten Forschungstätigkeit entstanden und in einer periodisch mindestens zweimal jährlich erscheinenden Sammlung erschienen ist, hat auch dann, wenn er dem Verleger oder Herausgeber ein ausschließliches Nutzungsrecht eingeräumt hat, das Recht, den Beitrag nach Ablauf von zwölf Monaten seit der Erstveröffentlichung in der akzeptierten Manuskriptversion öffentlich zugänglich zu machen, soweit dies keinem gewerblichen Zweck dient.“ Sind diese Bedingungen erfüllt und, so die Satzung der Universität, „sind die wissenschaftlichen Beiträge im Rahmen der Dienstaufgaben entstanden, sind diese zwölf Monate nach Erstpublikation auf dem hochschuleigenen Repositorium öffentlich zugänglich zu machen.“

Die rechtliche Norm, auf der die Satzung beruht ist, ist jedoch nicht das UrhG, sondern §44 (6) des Landeshochschulgesetzes (LHG)  Baden-Württemberg, der die Hochschulen zum Erlass entsprechender Satzungen ermuntert:

„Die Hochschulen sollen die Angehörigen ihres wissenschaftlichen Personals durch Satzung verpflichten, das Recht auf nichtkommerzielle Zweitveröffentlichung nach einer Frist von einem Jahr nach Erstveröffentlichung für wissenschaftliche Beiträge wahrzunehmen, die im Rahmen der Dienstaufgaben entstanden und in einer periodisch mindestens zweimal jährlich erscheinenden Sammlung erschienen sind.“

Gegen die Vorgaben der Satzung erhoben siebzehn Wissenschaftler der Universität 2016 Normenkontrollklage beim Verwaltungsgerichtshof Mannheim, da sie darin einen Verstoß gegen das Grundrecht der Wissenschaftsfreiheit nach Artikel 5 Abs. 3 ausmachten.

Nun hat der Verwaltungsgerichtshof aufgrund der mündlichen Verhandlung vom 26. September beschlossen, das Verfahren über den Normenkontrollantrag gegen die Satzung der Universität Konstanz auszusetzen: Die Rechtsnorm des §44 Abs. 6 des LHG  sei eine Regelung des Urheberrechts – womit der Bund für eine diesbezügliche gesetzliche Klärung zuständig sei. Die Folge: Die Rechtswirksamkeit der Satzung, die auf Basis des Paragraphen erlassen wurde, hängt nach Ansicht des Verwaltungsgerichtshofs von der Verfassungskonformität der gesetzlichen Regelung im LHG ab – ob dies der Fall ist, muss vom Bundesverfassungsgericht geklärt werden. Der Verwaltungsgerichtshof formuliert seine Einschätzung folgendermaßen: „§ 44 Abs. 6 LHG ist nach der Überzeugung des 9. Senats mit dem Grundgesetz unvereinbar, weil dem Landesgesetzgeber insoweit die Gesetzgebungskompetenz gefehlt habe.“

Das Bundesverfassungsgericht wird nun in einem Zwischenverfahren prüfen, ob §44 Absatz 6 des LHG, der die Hochschulen dazu auffordert, ihre Wissenschaftlerinnen und  Wissenschaftler zur Wahrnehmung ihres Rechts auf nichtkommerzielle Zweitveröffentlichung zu  verpflichten, mit dem Grundgesetz vereinbar ist: Ist dies der Fall, stünde die Tür zu analogen Regelungen auch in anderen Ländern offen.

„The Future of Scholarly Publishing: Open Access and the Economics of Digitisation“

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Here is a short publication notice: One year after publication in German, an anthology edited by Peter Weingart and Niels Taubert has now also been published in English – „The Future of Scholarly Publishing: Open Access and the Economics of Digitisation“.


The bibliographic data of the book which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence are:

Weingart, P., & Taubert. N. (Eds.). (2017). The Future of Scholarly Publishing: Open Access and the Economics of Digitisation. Capetown / South Africa: African Minds. Retrieved from https://pub.uni-bielefeld.de/download/2914521/2914522

Here is a longer piece from the intodruction (written by the editors) to outline the scope of the book:

„The formal scientific communication system is currently undergoing significant change.  This is due to four intertwined developments: the digitisation of formal science communication; the increasing relevance of profit-making on the part of many academic  publishers and other providers of information (in short: ‘economisation’); an increase in the self-observation of science by means of publication, citation and utility-based indicators; and an intensified observation of science by the mass media (‘medialisation’). Previously, these developments have only been dealt with individually in the literature and by science-policy actors. In fact, they not only affect the scientific communication system in the form of simple, individual causal chains but also in the form of long feedback loops and partly intertwined processes.

This book documents the materials and results of an interdisciplinary working group (IWG) commissioned by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) to analyse the future of scholarly publishing and to develop recommendations on how to respond to the challenges posed by these developments. The IWG served a three-fold purpose: first, the connections between the abovementioned developments were described; second, further relevant research on understanding recent developments was undertaken; and third, recommendations on the design of a future scholarly publicationsystem were formulated.

Aside from the analysis of these interactions, the IWG also set out to take diverse framework conditions, standards and perspectives from different scientific fields into consideration, the goal being to formulate recommendations in the name of science as a whole and for science as a whole. Thus, in addition to the factors of influence, the heterogeneity of the publication cultures in different disciplines and fields of research was to be taken into account. In order to become familiar with these conditions and to be able to develop this mass of information into a concise format, interviews with members of the BBAW were conducted. These provided valuable information on the communication habits of different disciplines and fields of research, and revealed significant differences in these habits. Given the limitations of this approach and of the information gained in this process, an online dialogue was conducted which invited all German-speaking scientists and academics to participate in the development of the recommendations. Almost 700 participants responded with great interest and provided the IWG with important information about current problems and challenges in the formal communication system. Moreover, this procedure helped in identifying a normative consensus on what constitutes
a good communication system. In addition to the views of the scientists, perspectives of experts from publishing companies and libraries were surveyed in order to gain a multi-layered and more complete picture of the publication landscape. Finally, three expert reports on central issues were commissioned.

By means of a multi-level evaluation and decision-making process, the Academy adopts recommendations of working groups so that – in cases of approval – they are published in its name. In spite of efforts to involve scientists early on in the development of recommendations in order to learn about their perspectives, standards and interests, protests emerged during the final process of acceptance. Several Academy members from the humanities called the recommendations unbalanced insofar as the role of digital publication was overly emphasised while that of printed publications was neglected. These
arguments were taken into consideration in a revised version. In our opinion, the debates during the course of acceptance indicate one thing in particular: there is a need for further extensive discussion about how to deal with the current challenges in the scientific communication system. This issue will continue to occupy science within and outside the Academy.

As per the IWG’s intention, the focus was mainly on the sciences and humanities in Germany. However, in the course of the work it became clear that the issues discussed by the group are also relevant for academic publishing in other countries. This was corroborated by the fact that when presenting some of the findings at a conference at Stellenbosch University in September 2016, interest was expressed by the director of Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Professor Johann Mouton, to publish an English translation. This interest is based on two grounds: first, the
academic publishing system is at the base of CREST’s core activity, especially bibliometric studies of world-wide scholarly publishing, and second, Professor Mouton’s role at the South African Academy of Science in reporting on the state of scholarly publishing in South Africa.“


Radical Open Access Website Officially Launched!

Taken from the Radical Open Access Website

Today the Radical Open Access Website was launched, the initiative aims to promote non-for-profit Open Access and focuses especially on humanities and social sciences. The following text is taken from a posting  by Samuel Moore on the Radical Open Access mailing list.

„We’d like to share with you the new Radical Open Access Collective website, which has been launched this week:


Formed in 2015, the Radical OA Collective is a community of scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other open access projects in the humanities and social sciences. We represent an alternative open access ecosystem and seek to create a different future for open access, one based on experimenting with not-for-profit, scholar-led approaches to publishing. You can read more about the philosophy behind the collective here: https://radicaloa.co.uk/philosophy/

As a collective, we offer mutual reliance and support for each other’s projects by sharing the knowledge and resources we have acquired. Through our projects we also aim to provide advice, support and encouragement to academics and other not-for-profit entities interested in setting up their own publishing initiatives. The current website contains a Directory of academic-led presses, which showcases the breadth and rich diversity in scholar-led presses currently operating in an international context and across numerous fields, and an Information Portal with links to resources on funding opportunities for open access books, open source publishing tools, guidelines on editing standards, ethical publishing and diversity in publishing, and OA literature useful to not-for-profit publishing endeavours. We will be further developing this into a toolkit for open access publishing in order to encourage and support others to start their own publishing projects. If you run a not-for-profit OA publishing initiative or are interested in starting your own scholar-led publishing project, we encourage you to join the Radical OA mailing list and get involved with the discussion!

Please do get in touch if you would like further information on the project or would like your publishing project to be involved.“

Here is an impressive list of the collective’s members:

Funding for Alternative Funding Mechanisms for non-author fee based Open Access Publishing

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Photo by h_pampel

Not only the The Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity but also the European Union as a research funder seems to be paying attention to the problem of the commercialisation of Gold Open Access.

As OpenAire has posted the EU published a Call for proposals for Alternative Funding Mechanism for non-author fee based Open Access Publishing. Particularly noteworthy: not only article publication charges are mentioned but also book publication charges. The application procedure will be open until November 9, midnight CEST. The maximum total budget is 200,000 € and will be located to as many projects the selection board deems suitable with an upper limit of 50 000€ per application

From the posting: „The OpenAIRE EC FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot is pleased to announce a new call for bids, this time to support open access publishing initiatives (see definition below) that intend to experiment with sustainable funding models alternative to author facing  article/book processing charges (APC/BPC, hereafter referred to as ‘author fees’). The first call was focused on facilitating technical improvements for existing OA journals and platforms (the results are available in this final report)

With this second call, we want to acknowledge the efforts that are being made, within the OA publishing landscape, to develop, pilot, and apply business models other than author fee based ones. We want to support ongoing and new initiatives that put an effort in investigating or experimenting with sustainable and scalable alternative business models. We want to support both start-up initiatives during the planning and launching stages and/or publishing initiatives that want to transition from one business model to another. We also welcome Research & Development initiatives, provided that the results will be made public and reusable. 

As this call is embedded within the OpenAIRE project, all eligible initiatives will have to prove that a number of FP7/H2020 publications will be published by it. The total budget available is € 200 000.“

Foxconning Science: J. Sallaz on outsourcing in scientific publishing

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While browsing I came across a very interesting article by Jeffrey J. Sallaz with the title „Your Paper Has Just Been Outsourced“.

The sociologist at the University of Arizona deals with outsourcing in publishing, as the title says. Sallaz draws parallels between the cheap production of overpriced mobile phones in Asian low wage countries and a similar practice of commercial science publishers: Outsourcing copy editing and layouting to low wage countries and selling the cheaply produced articles at top prices. It should be noted that copy editing and layouting are the only contributions of commercial publishers to the publication as a product.

Nonetheless, mobile phone manufacturers and publishers can sell cheaply produced works at overpriced prices, as customers tend to base the price they want to pay on the perceived prestige of the product rather than the real cost of its creation. Sallaz gives this finding a beautiful and catchy expression: Foxconning Science.

Data and transcripts online: „Mutually dependent, yet highly asymmetric? Conversations about the relations and futures of Open Access academic publishing“

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Elena Šimukovič published the data and transcripts of a study on Open Access on Zenodo. The title of the publication is „Mutually dependent, yet highly asymmetric? Conversations about the relations and futures of Open Access academic publishing“.  The abstract is: „The research data in this dataset contains verbatim transcripts in PDF and ODT formats each (for reading and broader re-use purposes, respectively) as well as original audio recordings of two interviews. These semi-structured interviews form part of materials for a doctoral research project on recent developments in and possible implications of Open Access publishing models. Further information and full description of the research proposal are available online at http://hdl.handle.net/10760/29265

These are the bibliographic information of the deposit:

Šimukovič, Elena. (2017). Mutually dependent, yet highly asymmetric? Conversations about the relations and futures of Open Access academic publishing. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.918010. DOI:10.5281/zenodo.918010


The next Elsevier boycott: News on DEAL, Springer Nature & Elsevier

Project DEALAs mentioned several times in this blog the German project DEAL aims to conclude nationwide licensing agreements for the entire portfolio of electronic journals from major academic publishers.  DEAL has two distinctive goals: on the one hand, cost savings and, on the other hand, the extension of contracts to include Open Access components that allow scientists at German institutions to publish Open Access in journals of contract partners at no extra charge.

Yesterday DEAL published two interesting press releases:

  • Progress is reported in the negotiations with Springer Nature: „In order to gain the necessary time for further negotiations on this very complex matter, the two sides agreed a cost-neutral extension of the existing Springer contracts by one year for those organisations whose contracts end on 31 December 2017.“ In other words, DEAL and Springer Nature agreed on a kind of moratorium to continue negotiations on a national consortium. Contracts ending in 2017 will continue to run at no additional cost until an agreement between DEAL and the publisher is reached.
  • Negotiations with Elsevier, on the other hand, are escalating. As DEAL announced well-known scientists and academics resigned from publishing activities for the publisher and thus support the negotiation goals of the DEAL project:
    – Prof. Dr. -Ing. Wolfgang Marquardt (Jülich Research Center)
    – Prof. Dr. Kurt Mehlhorn (Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, Saarbrücken)
    – Prof. Dr. -Ing. Jörg Raisch (Department of Control Systems, TU Berlin)
    – Prof. Dr. Marino Zerial (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden)
    – Prof. Dr. Anton Möslang (Institute for Applied Materials, KIT)

    The German Rector’s Conference cites some of the scientists on its website (translated by the author of this posting):

    Wolfgang Marquardt: „More and more scientists around the world are working for open access and fair cost models. The arbitrarily high prices put a strain on the acceptance of the division of labour between science and publishing. The academic libraries are increasingly forced to restrict their services. This results in a growing danger for the scientific discourse in the specialist disciplines.“

    Kurt Melhorn: „For science, an unrestricted Open Access component is indispensable. This is the only way to ensure that current research results are fully accessible. Publishers must adapt their business models to these possibilities of digital publishing.“

    A similar boycott, led by recognized mathematicians, was launched as early as 2012. If one ignores the damage to the publisher’s image caused, however, it did not have any consequences.

And one more thing about Elsevier: Penn Libraries started the operation beprexit and are documenting their migration planning from Bepress to an open source option for hosting Penn’s institutional repository. The migration is motivated by the acquisition of Bepress by Elsevier. Here is a statement from the beprexit website:  „In August, bepress sold their company to Elsevier, a business with a history of aggressive confidentiality agreements, steep price increases, and opaque data mining practices. In their acquisition of bepress and other companies like SSRN and Mendeley, Elsevier demonstrates a move toward the consolidation and monopolization of products and services impacting all areas of the research lifecycle. We are worried about the long-term impacts from these acquisitions and are concerned that such changes are not in the best interests of the library community. Therefore, we feel obligated to begin exploring alternatives.“


A distant look at the commercialization of Open Access: The Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity

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Joachim Schöpfel (Lille University, France) yesterday posted a message on the „Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity“ in the Global Open Access List (GOAL).  Indeed the Jussieu Call is worth reading, since he is taking a distant look at the commercialization of Open Access, here is the text of Joachim Schöpfel’s message:

„This Call was drafted on the campus Jussieu in Paris by a French group comprising researchers and scientific publishing professionals working together in Open Access and Public Scientific Publishing task forces of BSN (Bibliothèque scientifique numérique, or Digital Scientific Library).

This Call is aimed at scientific communities, professional associations and research institutions to promote a scientific publishing open-access model fostering bibliodiversity and innovation without involving the exclusive transfer of journal subscription monies to APC payments.“

The call can be found and signed under http://jussieucall.org/index.html.