Predatory publishing: Open access on the prowl?

7496803526_08ec1f5d80If you follow science communications in general out there on the Web, you’ll have noticed last month’s Open Access (OA) Week, when the academic and research publishing world celebrates making knowledge available for all. Maybe you’ve wondered what OA is all about, and what makes it different from traditional research publishing. You may also have caught a whiff of the predatory publishing controversy that seems to dog the OA world.

First, open access means just that: no barriers to information. Under OA, research papers are freely available regardless of subscription, institutional alignment or membership. Anyone with access to the Internet can read the research without having to pay the hefty user fees to get behind the paywalls associated with traditional subscription-based academic publishing.

But publishing is expensive, so who carries the cost if there are no subscribers?

Traditional academic publishing relies on journal subscriptions from individuals and institutions who want to read papers hidden beyond the paywall, and also charges processing fees to authors once a paper is accepted. With OA publishing, the costs are recouped mostly from the authors,

Image permission: Doing it right

Whether you’re putting together a permanent exhibit or a last-minute powerpoint, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll encounter a point at which the most sensible option is to use material that someone else created. This is more frequently the case with images since they’re usually harder to recreate yourself. And in the age of Google Images and instant screenshots, there’s almost nothing in practical terms that can stop you from using any picture you want. Here at Talk Science however, we recommend being careful with your media usage— and we negotiate image permission for many of our clients.

There are some misconceptions about this. Some people seem to think that the fact that an image has been posted online, or even published at all, makes it fair game. Or that simple attribution (like citing a published text) is sufficient, with no need to consult the originator. Or that all images are freely available for non-commercial use. None of these is the case—the last is true of specific Creative Commons licenses, but not all. And while we’re at it, you don’t need to mail yourself anything in order to secure rights to work that you’ve created.