Hot Type: Elsevier Experiments With Allowing 'Text Mining' of Its Journals - Technology - The Chronicle of Higher Education 2012-05-08


“High-profile scholarly boycotts aren't the only way to get a big publisher's attention. Sometimes all it takes is a tweet. Not long ago, Heather A. Piwowar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia, found herself on the phone with six high-level employees of the science-publishing giant Elsevier. Ms. Piwowar studies patterns in the sharing and reuse of research data. (Her Twitter handle is @researchremix.) Her work depends on text mining, using computers to automatically pull certain kinds of information from large amounts of text, including databases of journal articles. Many of those are subscription-based, and can be hard to get access to. The chat with Elsevier came about because Ms. Piwowar had complained on Twitter about how little Elsevier content was openly available to text mine. Alicia Wise (@wisealic), the publisher's director of universal access, responded, saying that Elsevier content could be text-mined, which led to the phone talk and negotiations by e-mail, and eventually to an agreement between Ms. Piwowar's university and the publisher that will allow UBC researchers to dig into Elsevier content for research purposes ... Elsevier could use some good PR right now. In some quarters, the publisher has become the Great Satan of scholarly communication because of what critics see as price gouging and attempts to quash ‘the free exchange of information.’ More than 11,000 researchers, including Ms. Piwowar, have pledged that they will not review for or contribute to its journals. Ms. Piwowar is cheerfully frank about what she thinks Elsevier stands to gain from working with her. She's plugged into an active network of researchers who push for open access to data, and experiment with new ways to track and measure research activity... ‘I think I have the ear of some people in social media, and by making me happy and by clearly trying hard, they're sending a message that's different than the message that's otherwise going around about Elsevier these days,’ she says. ‘Clearly they're using me, but that's OK. I still think it can be a win-win-win-win.’ Librarians often can't talk about their dealings with publishers because of nondisclosure agreements. Unconstrained, Ms. Piwowar has made it a point to be as open as possible about the Elsevier negotiations, chronicling the process step by step on her blog. At least one prominent advocate of text-mining rights, though, doesn't love the UBC-Elsevier arrangement: Peter Murray-Rust, a professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge. ‘The rigmarole that Elsevier put Heather Piwowar through with UBC librarians is out of order, and in any case doesn't scale across publishers, libraries, or researchers,’ he wrote in a May 1 blog post titled ‘Towards a Manifesto on Open Mining of Scholarship.’ Mr. Murray-Rust convened a Skype meeting of researchers, including Ms. Piwowar, last week to discuss what a manifesto should say. In his May 1 post, he argued that restrictions on text mining stifle opportunity for new kinds of research, waste time by forcing researchers to chase after permissions or to enter into complicated negotiations with publishers, and lead to bad science and bad policy decisions. ‘His opinion is that negotiating with Elsevier and other publishers is the wrong approach, and that we have these rights to use the material in a responsible way,’ Ms. Piwowar says. She's pragmatic about the UBC deal. ‘I don't think this is the best way or the long-term way or the most scalable way, but if Elsevier unexpectedly wants to offer me access, let's see how that works, and let's use that to get access for UBC from other publishers, and for other universities.’ Elsevier's representatives say the boycott didn't motivate their invitation to Ms. Piwowar. "This is just good practice in interacting with the academic community," says Ms. Wise. ‘We're constantly evolving our products and services, and of course are wanting to keep pace with changes in scholarly behavior.’ The deal seems to be playing well with librarians at the University of British Columbia, who have been closely involved in the conversations. ‘I'm thrilled to see Elsevier doing this.’ says Lea Starr, associate university librarian for research services. ‘It shows that they are listening.’ For the library, negotiating a text-mining agreement was unexplored territory. Teresa Lee, the university's e-resource and access librarian, reviews contracts for UBC's digital subscriptions. It's unusual, and exciting, she says, to have a researcher so directly involved in library negotiations. She also sees this as a chance for the library to set a good precedent as it works out the details with Elsevier. ‘I think what we should look toward is crafting a model agreement that we could then turn around and use with other publishers,’ Ms. Lee says. The agreement with UBC could be a useful experiment for Elsevier as well. Ms. Wise says it's eager to learn more about what researchers want out of text mining, and how that varies from discipline to discipline...”



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.business_models oa.publishers oa.mining oa.comment oa.advocacy oa.signatures oa.petitions oa.boycotts oa.elsevier oa.libraries oa.social_media oa.twitter oa.librarians oa.blogging oa.debates oa.ubc



Date tagged:

05/08/2012, 09:16

Date published:

05/07/2012, 17:04