Why You Should Ditch Academia.edu and Use CUNY Academic Works

As most readers of this blog know, CUNY recently launched Academic Works, an open access repository that is the ideal way for CUNY scholars to make articles, book chapters, data, etc. available to their research communities and the broader public.

Why should you care about Academic Works?  Let’s start with three key reasons:

1) Academic Works is the perfect place to satisfy grant funders’ open access and open data requirements. If you want more grants in the future, you need to learn how to comply with funders’ requirements for openness!

2) Academia.edu and ResearchGate.net are seriously suboptimal. First, they’re commercial sites. (Yep, despite its URL, which it never should have gotten, Academia.edu is not connected to any educational institution.) And commercial ventures might disappear at any time (taking your papers offline too), whereas Academic Works is designed to last for the long term, longer than commercial sites and longer than personal websites. They’re also much more likely to be smacked with (and blindly comply with) take-down notices from publishers. And, as commercial entities, they exist to make money. How do they do that? By forcing users to log in to see documents, tracking their actions, and selling that data. If you’re uncomfortable with how Facebook commodifies your information, you should be uncomfortable with Academia.edu and ResearchGate too!

3) Academic Works significantly boosts your visibility and impact. If your work is in Academic Works, it’s much more likely to be found and read. (Academic Works is designed to play well with Google and Google Scholar.) And, as a result, it’s much more likely to be linked to on Twitter, blogs, and news sites, and also more likely to be cited in future research. Yes: study after study has shown that journal articles that are freely available online are cited more by other journal articles. Academic Works also sends authors monthly download reports with detailed information about how much your work has been downloaded, in what countries, and by which institutions.

Curious whether you’re allowed to upload an article you published in a journal? Search SHERPA/RoMEO to find out what that journal allows.

Couldn’t make any of our workshops on Academic Works? Flip through the slideshow, read the handout, or visit our guide with step-by-step upload instructions. Or contact the Academic Works administrator at your campus for more information!.

CUNY Academic Works has an Author Dashboard that shows you how much your works have been downloaded and from where!

CUNY Academic Works has an Author Dashboard that shows you how much your works have been downloaded and from where!

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Why Be Open Access? City Tech’s Sean Scanlan Shares His Story


For Open Access Week 2015, Ursula C. Schwerin Library (New York City College of Technology, CUNY) is highlighting our college’s own open access journal, NANO: New American Notes Online. Why did NANO’s editor and founder, Sean Scanlan, opt to make his journal open access?

NANO: New American Notes Online‘s mission is to “invigorate humanities discourse by publishing brief, peer-reviewed reports with a fast turnaround enabled by new technologies.” Issues are themed and articles often incorporate multimedia.

Monica Berger: Why specifically did you choose to make NANO an open access journal? I read your Open Access Statement, but please tell us more about how you and others involved in the creation of the journal reached this place.

Sean Scanlan: Thank you for inviting me to share my ideas on Open Access and academic journals. My journal was conceived to be Open Access from the beginning and I’d like to tell that story now.

In 1997, when I was getting my Master’s degree in English at the University of Missouri St. Louis, I applied to go to a critical theory conference at Cornell University. I met people from all over the world, and one of my friends, Thomas, was from Kerala, India, and he was the most excited person I’ve ever met to be at a literary conference. The reason that he was so excited was that his travels and commitment to come to New York relied upon a funding operation that exceeded the usual travel funds of his university by an enormous factor. Simply put: everybody he knew had contributed to his arrival at Cornell.

But I didn’t understand the core issue of what scholarly access meant until Thomas and I talked about libraries. During our down time, we often visited the main library at Cornell. It was a thing to marvel at—nearly 8 million volumes. Many times he said to me: there is nothing I could not accomplish with such a library at my home institution. And now, after seeing this, I feel that there is nothing I can accomplish back in Kerala.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because I have to compete to get my work published in US journals against scholars who have access to all this.”

Even though I was in the US, it hit me that my small state university had a small fraction of Cornell’s holdings, and so I too would face such access problems. I’ve talked to many colleagues who have shared a story or two about not getting at a vital piece of research due to access. I realized that the institution of the academy, an institution that I thought was ethical and open to all had a dirty secret: it had good qualities but it was grossly unequal. Scholars should not be limited to their small research holdings, they should not be constrained even by small consortiums of libraries, they should be able to access world-class holdings.

In addition to Thomas’s story, I want to add an idea I gleaned from the legal scholar Eben Moglen, who has written about intellectual property and sharing. He argues that potential Shakespeares and Einsteins of the world should not suffer because of a lack of scholarly resources—but as of now, they do. Why? Because rules that protect intellectual property have been contorted to protect not the thinker, but the employer of the thinker.  Intellectual property rights now are ways to provide funding streams to publishers who want to not only cover their costs, but also provide shareholder returns. If universities were selling sneakers, then perhaps such a profit model would be ethical, but education is not sneaker selling, especially not public university education.

In fact, the public university has an ethical obligation to make, at the very least, some of the research it produces available for no cost to the public. This is not only ethical, it will help bring in new students, new teachers, and even more funding. Sharing scholarly information is the way that new scholarship is enabled, and the result of newest, best ideas will be growth in a following of eager students and eager faculty. And following them will be increased resources. This happens all the time, look at those research institutions that have promoted cognitive neuroscience or digital humanities.

Open Access is an idea accelerator and impact accelerator, thus, it is resource generator, only certain factions cannot see this very positive event horizon.

The last part of this longish answer borrows from a blog post by Daniel Cohen who writes about Digital Humanities and the cost of publishing online. He says the Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing is what happens between authors, editors, and readers. This contract says that readers will read published work if they know that the manuscript has minimal errors, that the footnotes are accurate, that the fonts and navigation systems are clear and high quality. But does it matter if it is printed on paper, if the book is hardcover, if the imprint has grudging respect? I want to propose the idea of the Public University Social Contract. Such a contract improves the supply side of Cohen’s metaphor by putting more into the editing and less into the prestige of paper and bindings, more into the fast turnaround of publishing—and less into the cues of name-brands. The Public University Social Contract would state that publishing means sharing above all else—not as money-loser, but the complete opposite: as a way to enhance the missions of educate and improve knowledge, validate, build-upon, and propagate conversations and collegial bonds: in short to build trust among a vastly larger network of scholars, thereby gaining the respect of the world, so that Thomas can cite a vast number of articles and books, and so that Thomas’s work can, in turn, get cited by scholars at City Tech and beyond.

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It’s Open Access Week! Nay, Open Access Month! What Now?

(This post is a slight reworking of a post from the Graduate Center Library blog.)

This week, October 19-25, is International Open Access Week, an annual opportunity for students, faculty, and other researchers to learn about open access (OA) to scholarly literature, find out how to make their works OA, and help make OA the new norm in scholarship and research. (Read more about Open Access Week and about OA in general.)

Of course, CUNY is a very big place, and we like to think big. So here at CUNY, it’s not just Open Access Week but Open Access Month: Numerous CUNY librarians are making a point to promote understanding, acceptance, and adoption of OA alllll monnnnnth looooong. (Actually, we’re always happy to talk about OA — any day, any week, any month, any year!)

During Open Access Week/Month, you might hear about open access from many sources:

Once Open Access Week/Month has whetted your appetite for OA, join the Graduate Center Library for workshops addressing two key aspects of OA: Does my publisher allow me to share my work (i.e., make it OA)? And if so, how and where am I allowed to share it?

Find out the answers to these and other questions at the following workshops, each offered twice — click the links to learn more and RSVP (non-GC folks are welcome to attend too!):

And it’s not just the Graduate Center Library that’s offering workshops! See the calendar of CUNY events for Open Access Month and its aftermath (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the calendar) and avail yourself of an event on your campus or a campus that’s convenient for you!

International Open Access Week image

Graphic is adapted from this image, © Dimitar Poposki, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

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Sharing and Ensnaring… by Beth Evans

At the start of Open Access Week, Oct. 19 – 25th, we offer a reflection on sharing and scholarly communication by:

Professor Beth Evans, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship Initiatives & Electronic Services Librarian, Faculty Fellow to the Office of the Dean of Humanities and Social Science,  Brooklyn College, bevans@brooklyn.cuny.edu

Sharing and Ensnaring: When Collaborative Research has a Run in with the Law and Racial Profiling

The abuse of authority by law enforcement is, unfortunately, not a new topic in the news.  From the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to the choking of Eric Gardner in Staten Island, New York, headlines cry out the injustice and we all begin to wonder if those hired to protect us present the greatest threat to our safety.

Academia is often envisioned as an ivory tower set far apart from the gritty reality of urban streets.  Its workforce of faculty do not struggle as do many African-Americans with the challenges of unemployment. They support themselves through the work of their minds and eschew a livelihood of selling loose cigarettes outside of a neighborhood bodega.  So when law enforcement comes down with a heavy hand on a college campus and throws its weight at an innocent, we are shocked by the setting, but should hardly be shocked by the racism implicit in the abuse of authority.  Moreover, when this racist and heavy-handed move into our ivory tower has found its way in because of the welcome tendency of academics to be eager to share openly their scholarship, alarm bells must ring and those who champion open access must make ready to face the threat.

In May of 2015 the United States Department of Justice Department arrested Xi Xiaoxing the chairman of Temple University’s physics department, and a Chinese-born, naturalized American citizen, on wire-fraud charges. What might have been treated as a breach of contract civil case had the individual involved not been Chinese-born, the DOJ pursued the case as though Professor Xi had been spying when he shared, what they thought was, sensitive, American-made technology with China.  As it turned out, the U.S. government was wrong in its accusations, and “did not understand — and did not do enough to learn — the science at the heart of [Professor Xi’s] case.”  The government’s misunderstanding of the blueprints upon which it based its argument was hardly a comedy of errors and came closer to a tragedy that almost destroyed a scholar’s career.

This was not the first time that the U. S. government egregiously went after a Chinese-American with accusations of spying. In the fall of 2014, the FBI arrested Sherry Chen in Wilmington, Ohio, a flood-caster at the National Weather Service.  They accused her of secretly passing information about American dams to high-ranking Chinese officials.  Chen, like Xi, was exonerated, but not first without suffering in her personal and professional life.

American scientists and researchers like others often work collaboratively or consult with colleagues both close and abroad.  The open access movement in scholarly communications, championed by librarians, is meant to encourage such work.  With the paywalls knocked down around published information and communications made easy through readily-available internet access, it is common place for colleagues to share neither a lab nor a nation.  Nonetheless, research thrives, the miles between the researchers melt away, and the public can only benefit from the fast and easy dispersal of valuable scientific information.

Reporting recently in the New York Times on the awarding of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, William J. Broad observed that “[t]his week’s three Nobel Prizes reflect the globalization of science, which the United States often dominated in the last century.”  In addition to the awarding of the prize to Chinese doctor Youyou Tu for her discovery of a malaria therapy, the Nobel committee awarded half of the prize to be shared by William C. Campbell, formerly of Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research in NJ, and Satoshi Ōmura, emeritus professor at Kitasato University in Tokyo, Japan for their discoveries of therapies used against infections caused by roundworm parasites.

This was not the first time researchers, separated by thousands of miles and international borders, shared a Nobel Prize for collaborative work.  In 2014, the committee awarded another shared Nobel Prize, this one in Chemistry to Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, Stefan W. Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the German Cancer Research Center in Germany and William E. Moerner of Stanford University in California for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.

No FBI agents or Department of Justice came after the Irish-American William Campbell for working with the Japanese Satoshi Omura, Nor did they surround the suburban homes of Eric Betzig and William Moerner for their liaison activities with the German scientist Stefan Hell. But would things have been different for both sets of Nobel laureates, had the year been 1943 and any American scientist seen in a relationship with a citizen of an axis nation was immediately suspect? We know that during the Second World War, innocent Japanese-American citizens of all walks of life were seen as dangerous to American security and were rounded up en mass for no reason other than the nationality of their ancestors. Lives were put on hold and creativity and productivity were squashed, all in the name of an approved policy of racial profiling for the sake of national security.

If the open access movement in scholarly communications is to survive and thrive, ill-guided interference by governmental authorities in the work of researchers in any nation, often nourished and grossly contorted by unhealthy xenophobia and profiling, must be kept in check. If not, researchers will close themselves in their labs, turn off contact with the outside world, and the pace of innovation and life-saving creation will grind to a halt. Little new research will be produced, open to all or otherwise.

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Interview with Peter Suber on Open Access – Library Journal, Sept. 30, 2015

Here are thoughtful comments on OA from Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC), Director of the Harvard Open Access Project (HOAP), a Faculty Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC):


And here is a recent article on a study of the use of Subject Repositories:

“The Role of arXiv, RePEc, SSRN and PMC in Formal Scholarly Communication”  (DigitalKoans)

Xuemei Li has self-archived “The Role of arXiv, RePEc, SSRN and PMC in Formal Scholarly Communication.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The four major Subject Repositories (SRs), arXiv, Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and PubMed Central (PMC), are all important within their disciplines but no previous study has systematically compared how often they are cited in academic publications. In response, this article reports an analysis of citations to SRs from Scopus publications, 2000 to 2013.




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OA MONTH – Events at CUNY

Using Open Educational Resources in the classroom: a panel discussion (panel at City Tech)

Open Scholarship Matters! (panel at City Tech)

Internet’s Own Boy (screening at City Tech)

Internet’s Own Boy (screening at City Tech)


CUNY Academic Works Workshop: Increase the Reach of your Research

Workshop Leaders: Prof. Megan Wacha, Scholarly Communications Librarian Office of Library Services  And  Prof. Jill Cirasella, Associate Librarian for Public Services and Scholarly Communication, Graduate Center Library

Location: The Graduate Center.  Room C196.03 (concourse level inside the library);  Time: 2:30-4:00; Please RSVP by October 20th to Alexandra de Luise at alexandra.deLuise@qc .cuny.edu


Who Owns Your Journal Article: You or the Publisher?  (6:30-8:00 pm Graduate Center)

October 28th

Who Owns Your Journal Article: You or the Publisher? ( 1:00 – 2:30 pm Graduate Center)

November 2nd

Leveraging Open Ed Resources in the Classroom and Beyond: an OER Panel Discussion (METRO and ACRL/NY)

Academic Works: Repository for Lehman Scholarship and Creative Work (Information session at Lehman College)

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October is Open Access Month

The LACUNY Scholarly Communications Roundtable has organized resources to support events at CUNY Libraries  planned for Open Access Week (October 19 – 25) and throughout the month of October. The Roundtable decided that CUNY Libraries might want to use the whole month of October to raise awareness of Open Access on our campuses. This is a great time to spread the word about CUNY Academic Works (and to educate faculty on Authors’ Rights, Creative Commons, etc.)

A great resource for event-planning and keeping track of what’s happening on CUNY campuses is the OA / OER Toolkit compiled by members of the Roundtable. Check out the Calendar of CUNY Events,  as well as ideas for events and publicity.

We will also post events on this Blog (see next post) if you send the information to us. And you can post your event on the Academic Commons Scholarly Communications Roundtable as well as OAWeek.org and CULIBS.

Keep your eyes on this space and the Academic Commons Scholarly Communications Roundtable for news about  CUNY Academic Works that you can publicize on your campuses.

Let’s hear about your publicity ideas and events!

–Madeline Cohen [madeline.cohen@lehman.cuny.edu] and Jean Amaral [ jamaral@bmcc.cuny.edu ], Co-Chairs, LACUNY Scholarly Communications Roundtab

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CUNY OER Update: LaGuardia Community College

(cross-posted from the OER@CUNY blog)

Last Spring the LaGuardia Library launched a seminar, Designing Information Assignments for Literacy, which was funded with a 2014 Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries, from the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The seminar, led by Professors Dianne Gordon Conyers and Alexandra Rojas, both of the Library, and Priscilla Stadler from the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning, taught non-Library faculty how to integrate research into their assignments and the product was OER, so that others can share and modify their work.

The first cohort was 11 people and the current iteration of the seminar is underway. You can see the results of their work here: http://guides.laguardia.edu/oer. The work will also be added to CUNY Academic Works.


Browsing the assignments, you get a sense of the cross-discipline potential here. An American Music assignment can easily be reworked for other disciplines.

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Open Trails

Back in November of 2011, the CUNY University Faculty Senate passed a Statement and Resolution on Open Access – a resolution which supported the establishment of a CUNY-wide open access institutional repository and which has been a guiding document in the development of that repository, from its collections policies to its mission and goals:

CUNY Academic Works is a service of the CUNY Libraries dedicated to collecting and providing access to the research, scholarship and creative work of the City University of New York. In service to CUNY’s mission as a public university, content in Academic Works is freely available to all.

CUNY Academic Works aims to:

  • Provide centralized, public access to the scholarly and creative output of the students, faculty, and staff of the City University of New York.
  • Promote research and collaboration within and between the twenty-four campuses that make up the City University of New York, as well as the larger public.
  • Preserve the history and development of the City University of New York.

While the mission and goals of Academic Works are clearly stated, it’s understandable that the first steps to meeting them can feel a little uncertain. Therefore, in order to support the Libraries as we embark on the trail to a more open CUNY, the Office of Library Services communicated three actionable goals for our first 18 months:

  • In 6 months, 50% of institutions will have at least one collection in the repository
  • In 12 months, 100% of institutions will have at least one collection in the repository
  • In 18 months, CUNY Academic Works will have 15,000 items representing diverse content types and disciplines

Sound familiar? OLS has been busy getting the word out about Academic Works since the kick-off this March, and, less than four months later, CUNY Libraries has met its first goal. In fact, we passed it. Thanks to the commitment and hard work of CUNY librarians, eighteen (count ’em, 18!) of twenty-four institutions have their first collections in the repository within four months. And these initial collections have us well on our way to meeting the 18 month goal; they include 2,500+ items spanning from traditional journal publications and monographs to data sets, student work, open educational resources, and archival collections that capture the history of the University.

CUNY enters the scholarly communication landscape at an exciting time. It’s a time that some find reminiscent of the wild west (and it certainly has its good, its bad, and its ugly), but it’s also a time in which CUNY has the opportunity to pioneer the way.

CUNY Libraries prepare to enter the wild west of academic publishing.

CUNY Libraries prepare to enter the wild west of academic publishing. Eighteen of the campus libraries are trained and ready to go, with more on the way soon!

This post originally appeared on What’s New @ OLS57, which provides CUNY Libraries with news and updates from the Systems group at the CUNY Office of Library Services.

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Elsevier: Ever More Evil (aka Why Do Authors Boycott Elsevier?)

(Note: This post has been updated and expanded to match the post at the Graduate Center Library blog.)

You may have heard of the Cost of Knowledge, a site where researchers publicly express their upset with the business practices of the publisher Elsevier and commit not to contribute to Elsevier journals. As of today, 15,034 researchers have pledged to boycott Elsevier as an author, editor, and/or peer reviewer.

You might wonder: What has Elsevier has done to cause so many researchers to boycott them?

A primary complaint is their exorbitant product pricing — pricing that allows them to profit richly (with profit margins close to 40%) off nonprofit organizations such as academic libraries. (The Graduate Center Library pays dearly for its subscriptions to Elsevier’s Scopus database and ScienceDirect “big deal” journal package (which, yes, includes many essential journals but also includes many journals that are never used). So dearly that our other collection choices are severely constrained.)

Of course, as is the norm in scholarly publishing, Elsevier does not pay its authors — the creators of its journal content — for their work. So they’re reaping huge profits off free labor. And that brings us to another major complaint: their treatment of authors. Elsevier recently released a new article-sharing policy for authors, and it is not good for authors.

To their credit, sort of, they’ve corrected a horrifying problem with their earlier policy — namely, the bizarro policy of allowing authors at universities without open access policies to make their accepted manuscripts open access, but not authors at universities with such policies (i.e., “You retain the right to post if you wish but not if you must!”).

But…instead of introducing better terms across the board, Elsevier’s new policy imposes worse terms across the board. Specifically, their new policy imposes embargoes on ALL accepted author manuscripts, many of them 24- or 36-month embargoes, and some of them 48-month embargoes! This means that authors cannot broadly share (e.g., in CUNY Academic Works) their peer-reviewed manuscripts (we’re just talking about the final manuscript versions, not the publisher’s PDFs) until those very long embargo expires.

Needless to say, many researchers are very upset. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), and 21 other groups have released this statement of opposition:

On April 30, 2015, Elsevier announced a new sharing and hosting policy for Elsevier journal articles. This policy represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders’ open access policies. In addition, the policy has been adopted without any evidence that immediate sharing of articles has a negative impact on publishers’ subscriptions.

Despite the claim by Elsevier that the policy advances sharing, it actually does the opposite. The policy imposes unacceptably long embargo periods of up to 48 months for some journals. It also requires authors to apply a “non-commercial and no derivative works” license for each article deposited into a repository, greatly inhibiting the re-use value of these articles. Any delay in the open availability of research articles curtails scientific progress and places unnecessary constraints on delivering the benefits of research back to the public.

Furthermore, the policy applies to “all articles previously published and those published in the future” making it even more punitive for both authors and institutions. This may also lead to articles that are currently available being suddenly embargoed and inaccessible to readers.

As organizations committed to the principle that access to information advances discovery, accelerates innovation and improves education, we support the adoption of policies and practices that enable the immediate, barrier free access to and reuse of scholarly articles. This policy is in direct conflict with the global trend towards open access and serves only to dilute the benefits of openly sharing research results.

We strongly urge Elsevier to reconsider this policy and we encourage other organizations and individuals to express their opinions.

If you are also upset by Elsevier’s new policy, you can add your name to the statement.

And if the new policy has made you reconsider your willingness to contribute to Elsevier publications, you may want to consider signing the Cost of Knowledge pledge.


Image is © Michael Eisen, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

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