Help me research conference proceedings and open access

I’ve been interested for a while in the amount of scientific/academic knowledge that gets lost to the world due to conference proceedings not being open access / disappearing off the face of the internet. My main question at the moment is, just how much is lost and how much is still available?

Unfortunately googling 1,955 conferences will rapidly give me RSI, so I’m hoping I can convince you to do a few for me – in the interests of science!

Background: I’ve written elsewhere about Open Access to conference literature (short version: conferences are where a huge amount of research gets its first public airing, yet conference papers are notoriously hard to track down after the fact) and Open Access and the PBRF (short version: if conference papers were all OA, PBRF verification/auditing would become a lot easier). Here I’m wanting to quantify the situation.

The data: The original dataset was sourced from TEC, from the list of conference-related NROs (nominated research outputs) from the 2012 PBRF round. There are obvious and non-obvious limitations but basically I feel this makes it a fairly good listing of conferences between 2006-2011 that New Zealand academics presented at and felt that presentation was worthy of being included among their best work for the period. The original dataset is confidential, but I’ve received permission to post a derived, anonymised dataset publically for collaborative purposes, and in due course publish it on figshare.

How you can help:
(Note: by contributing to the spreadsheet you’re agreeing to licence your contribution under a Creative Commons Zero licence, meaning anyone can later reuse it in any way with or without attribution. (Though I’ll be attributing it in the first instance – see below.))

  1. Go to the spreadsheet containing the list of conferences
  2. Pick a conference that doesn’t have any URLs/notes/name-to-credit
  3. SearchGoogle/DuckDuckGo/your search engine of choice for the conference name, year, and city to find a conference website. Assuming you find one:
  4. Correct any details that are wrong or missing: eg expand the acronym; add in missing locations; if the website says it’s the 23rd annual conference put “23” in the “No.” column, etc.
  5. Browse on the website for proceedings, list of papers, table of contents, etc. If you find:
    • a list of papers including links to the full text of each paper freely accessible, paste the URL in “Proceedings URL: free online”
    • a list of papers including links to the full text but requiring a login (including in a database or special journal issue), paste the URL in “Proceedings URL: non-free online”
    • information about offline proceedings eg a CD or book, paste the URL in “Proceedings URL/info re print/CD/etc”
    • none of the above, paste the URL of the conference website for that year in “Other URL: conference website”
  6. If you can’t find any conference website at all, write that in “Any notes” so others don’t try endlessly repeating the futile search!
  7. Sign with a “Name to credit” for your work. If you’d prefer to remain anonymous, put in n/a.
  8. If you like, return to step 2. 🙂
  9. Share this link around!

What I’ll do with it:
First I’ll check it all! And obviously I’ll pull it back into my research and finish that up. I’ll also publish the final checked dataset on figshare under Creative Commons Zero licence so others can use it in their research. I’ll acknowledge everyone who helps and provides a name, in the creation of the dataset and in the paper I’m working on. And if someone wants to do a whole pile and/or be otherwise involved in the research then talk to me about coauthorship!

Why don’t I just use…

  • Mechanical Turk: I’m boycotting Amazon, for various reasons. Plus I consider a fair price for the work would be at least US$0.50 a conference (possibly double that) and as that’s a bit harder to afford I feel more ethical being upfront about asking folk to do it for free.
  • Library assistants: I am doing this a bit but there’s a limited period where they’re still working before summer hours and things have got quiet enough that they have time.
  • Something else: Ask me, I may want to!

Other questions
Please comment or email me.

11 thoughts on “Help me research conference proceedings and open access

    1. Deborah Fitchett Post author

      It’s “How long is a piece of string” territory really: if it suddenly goes viral and gets finished tomorrow then yay! but based on current speed I’m expecting it to take another couple of months. So whenever you can spare the time would be fantastic.

      Reply
  1. Pingback: Help fill in a spreadsheet of open conference proceedings | News from JURN.org

  2. Sierra de la Croix

    Hi – I would like to help. I will have a go later this week.
    I was just enquiring about making our conference proceedings open access – where our staff members have presented but found out it depends on the conference. It will be interesting to see which are open access.
    Exciting,
    Sierra

    Reply
    1. Deborah Fitchett Post author

      Hi Sierra, thanks very much for your help! (And sorry I didn’t seen your comment until now – my spam filtering seems to be a bit too aggressive.)

      For putting copies into an institutional repository things are even trickier than just accessing them to read. From what I’ve seen so far, even when a conference proceedings is free online, it’s pretty rare for it to be Creative Commons licensed. Which means making a copy requires permission from the copyright holder.

      With journals, the Sherpa/Romeo database collects publisher policies so it’s fairly simple to find out what they allow. But with conferences there’s no such database. It’s not even easy to find out whether it’s the conference or the author who retains copyright. Some conferences require a copyright transfer, others don’t.

      So my dataset won’t directly answer the question you’re faced with. But it may be a useful launching-off point for someone to start researching it!

      Reply

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