Sunday, May 9, 2010

Walking the 'open education' talk

For some years I have been talking about open access and open educational resources. I think it is essential for midwifery sustainability, growth and professional support to make as much of what we do and teach open to all in the online environment. By working in this way, we foster collaboration and communication with midwives all over the world, as well as improve communication with pregnant women and families. This is why Deborah Davis and I have developed the concept of the Virtual International day of the Midwife with the format it has - open and free to all midwives.

Recently I have challenged myself about my practice, and realised that I do not necessarily walk the talk, especially in relation to publication of my work. So I have asked myself this question:

I talk about open access and open access journals, but how ethical am I being by submitting my work to closed midwifery journals?

Where should I submit my work for publication?
This question has come to a head over the last few months for several reasons.

Access to journal articles
The first reason is my ongoing frustration about the difficulty of accessing journal articles. I have talked about this issue more than once, recognising the difficulty midwives have in accessing evidence-based information, especially if they are geographically isolated or do not have access to medical libraries or databases.

There are a number of open access journals that midwives should find useful, but all of the main midwifery journals are closed to all but subscribers. And for many midwives, subscription is prohibitive.

Here are a few online journals that may be of interest to midwives:
Role Models
The second reason I have started questioning my practice is the influence of strong role modelling that I see around me. The Second Life Education Project, Leigh Blackall and his open PhD and Wayne Mackintosh with his work in Wikieducator have all got me looking at how I can be a role model to the midwifery profession. My open work and research in this blog has been noted by other midwives, but I feel it is time to take a real step of faith into open access publication.

Open access does work
I spoke to Professor Terry Anderson (a professor who specialises in education) a couple of weeks ago at a conference in Wellington and he told me he only published in journals that had open access. Of course, he has the luxury of being able to take this decision - he has the international name and resources to support his work. Nevertheless, he has put his money where his mouth is, and published a number of open access books that have reached far larger audiences than those he published using conventional methods. It goes without saying that I am barely on the same planet as Terry, but I do feel I can contribute in my own way. I believe that if we all do our small bit and move to open publishing, closed midwifery journals will be forced to respond.

The third reason I have started thinking about this whole issue is that I have recently had several invitations to publish articles. I also have a back log of work to publish including the work I have done with eMentoring, Second Life and the Virtual International Day of the Midwife.

The problem I face is that because there are no specific international open access midwifery journals, I don't know how I can get my work read by the wider midwifery audience in an academic, peer-reviewed way that will give me the brownie points I need as an academic.

What's good about open access journals?
A couple of things stand out for me about open access journals, especially if they include an open access review process. The first thing is that the review process will be more transparent and rigorous. The second and most obvious, is that open publishing increases access to information, which goes some way to support disadvantaged midwives.

Benefit for authors
As an author, my question is "will my work be cited more often if it is in an open access journal?" It looks like the answer to that question is "yes", although as you can imagine, it is quite a complex issue. Alma Swan has just reviewed a number of studies that has looked at this issue and found that the majority of studies found open access increased citation impact ie if you publish in an open access journal, you are more likely to have your work cited in other articles. But... let's face it, if my article is rubbish, it won't get cited wherever it is published!

Where does this leave me?
I have just declined an offer to write an article unless it is published under a Creative Commons licence. I am concerned that taking this stance will restrict my publishing opportunities and reduce the opportunity to get my work out to 'Mrs Average Midwife'. However, I am so committed to the philosophy of open access that I am prepared to take that risk.

The obvious answer to my problems is to start an open access midwifery journal....I'll just quickly do that after lunch!!

Seriously, if anyone is interested in discussing this further, please let me know.


Swan, A. (2010). The Open Access citation advantage. Studies and results to date. School of Electronics & Computer Science, University of Southampton. Retrieved 9 May, 2010, from

Wagner, A. (2010). Open Access Citation Advantage: An Annotated Bibliography. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Winter. Retrieved 9 May, 2010, from

Image: 'untitled' db*Photography


Pam said...

Where and what do you start with when creating an open access journal?

Carolyn Hastie said...

Great idea Sarah! Many of us midwife bloggers are keen to share information with women and other midwives. An open access journal would be an excellent venture. I'd love to be part of that. I'm a reviewer for journals now and I think we would have a great list of people who would line up to review articles for a creative commons process. We would also have many people who would want to publish.

The International Breastfeeding Journal is a perfect example. This Open Access, peer-reviewed online journal encompasses all aspects of breastfeeding and attracts high quality articles.

What's our next move?

warmly, Carolyn

Sarah Stewart said...

The first thing you'd need to do is a market analysis and ask..."is there a market for an international online open access journal?"

I see that the International Jr of Nursing and Midwifery doesn't seem to going any more - it would be interesting to know why.

Maybe a better approach is to work with journals that already turn them into open access journals? Or focus on submitting our work to existing OA journals that are peer-reviewed with good reputations.

Finally, here is some information about how to set up an open access journal.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Perhaps one of your fabulous surveys Sarah? Accessing the midwives who enjoyed VIDM would be a good place to start and putting a link to the market analysis survey on the VIDM facebook page.

minority midwife said...

I've also been thinking about this as I feel the pressure to publish...

Thanks for posting!

Sarah Stewart said...

Great to see I'm not the only one thinking about this.

Carolyn: I'll put up a survey on the next few days...will just give everyone time to get their breath after VIDM

Minority Midwife: There are a number of issues to consider which I'll blog about in the few days so keep watching because I would really value your thoughts and views :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Just heard from a Twitter contact about this system of managing OA journals.

This is a group who has just set up an OA journal using this set up. I'll see if I can get in touch with the editors for a chat about how it works.

Sarah Stewart said...

Having trouble with my links!

Here is the group who have just set an OP journal...I'll try to have a chat with them:

Sarah Stewart said...

Indication of journal citation ranking:

Hallmum said...
Here on the RCM are a list of open access journals already. the BMC pregnancy one is quite good for research papers

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks for the list of open access e-journals Jen. Great resource!

Sarah Stewart said...

Hallmum, you are an angel. I have seen this list before but had forgotten where I had seen it. Thanks so will help significantly with out market see if there is a need for yet another OA midwifery journal.

Car0lyn, did you realise that is costs nearly £1000 to publish an article in that breastfeeding journals you talked about?!

Carolyn Hastie said...

Whoa no, I didn't know that Sarah! Good grief. That list that you put up Jen, is that the same for the others that are open access? I note the breastfeeding journal is on that list. Is that how open access journals manage their costs, by charging people to publish? I was thinking that costs would be managed by selected and appropriate advertising on the journal site...

Sarah Stewart said...

Carolyn, you've pre-empted my next blog post :)

Some OA journals are totally free for both author and reader. They run on the smell of an oily rag, the committee of the editors and maybe sponsorship along the line...maybe from an academic institution.

Other journals have the 'author pays' model...a turn around from the 'reader pays'. This is fine if you have a large research just add the cost of publication to your 'expenses'. Suffice to say, I don't know many midwives who could afford that sort of money. According to my research, the OA management system BioMed Central, uses this framework.