Monday, January 13, 2014

Open Academics

I was recently alerted to Martin Haspelmath's blog call to use technology to release academics from the
stranglehold of publishing houses - not the first and not the last to do so (Thanks to Beatriz Quiroz). As he puts it,
Publishers normally expect that the manuscript of your book is not freely downloadable from your website, so by“publishing” a book, you actually make it less public. While not published yet, it’s freely available on your website to anyone in the world, and after publication, it exists as a paper copy in a few dozen libraries in the rich countries – this is what I call absurd.
In one of the responses, Sebastian Nordhoff points out
reviewers (paid by the state) work for a publishing house (a private company), which then sells the product (the reviews) back to the state. Since reviewers work pro bono anyway, there is no reason why they could not work pro bono for a non-profit enterprise as well.
Clearly an absurd situation!
So what to do?
Well, as it happens like there is for so many things today, there is an open source solution. And then some. Haspelmath's response is to set  up an author-led publishing company called Language Science Press using open source publishing software. All you need to do is learn LaTeX - a formatting language, not unlike html or the early versions of WordPerfect that some may remember, where all formatting in a document is coded.While that may sound like a challenge to most linguists, I know a great many engineers that write more comfortably in LaTex than in "normal" trousers text (sorry couldn't resist that one!).
This brings us to the tasty bit of this post. Instead of going to all the trouble of setting up software to help with the publishing and printing, Haspelmath and  Stefan Müller (FU Berlin) used the open source OMP - Open Monograph Press. This allows you to edit, publish and maintain books:
Open Monograph Press is an open source software platform for managing the editorial workflow required to see monographs, edited volumes and, scholarly editions through internal and external review, editing, cataloguing, production, and publication. OMP can operate, as well, as a press website with catalog, distribution, and sales capacities. - See more at:
But, wait, that's not all. Surely, if you can do that for books you can do it for journals as well? Of course they can. The PKP (Public Knowledge Project hosted by Simon Fraser University) also offers an open source journal management system called "Open Journal Systems" (so, no surprises there, then). Does just what it says on the tin!
And, if that is not enough, there's more. Yes, what else do academics do alongside publishing? Running conferences was the answer that I was looking for when I asked the question that I already had the answer for (Yes, academics do that more than anyone else, too). So, does PKP have a free, open source solution to advertising, administering CFPs and delegates, registrations and preparing proceedings? You bet your plenary speaker they do.And it's called OCS. That stands for Open Conference System, in case your imagination switch had been turned off. What exactly does it allow you to do?

  • create a conference Web site 
  • compose and send a call for papers electronically 
  • accept paper and abstract submissions 
  • allow paper submitters to edit their work 
  • post conference proceedings and papers in a searchable format 
  • post, if you wish, the original data sets 
  • register participants 
  • integrate post-conference online discussions (See more at: 

Just in case you're still not impressed, one more job that SFU want to take away from the privateers is the aggregating of citations and publications. They have produced a system called OHS. You are not going to guess what that stands for. No, really you won't. It's Open Harvester Systems which will allow you to create a searchable index of metadata from Open Archives Initiative-compliant archives (see here for more info).

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