Why We Publish Through the ACM Digital Library in 2013

We would like to clarify the reasons for publishing this year’s proceedings through

  1. the ACM Digital Library and
  2. the conference website.

In both cases, papers are not available under a Creative Commons (or the like) license, though they are freely available on the conference website (no paywall or other hurdles, see http://wikisym.org/archives/). Given that the conference itself is about everything open, including open access, this may strike some as odd.

First things first: As researchers and practitioners of open collaboration, we would like Open Access to be an option to everyone who wants to publish through WikiSym or OpenSym.

Our reasons for sticking with the ACM as the publisher in 2013 are the following:

  • There are few equally reputable Open Access publishers in computer science. While there is a current surge of open access publishers in computer science, many are close to academic fraud: They take every paper, have no quality control, charge authors an arm and a leg, use questionable licenses, and are for profit. WikiSym + OpenSym does not want to be associated with them.
  • The reputable open access publishers outside computer science do not (yet) appeal to the original WikiSym research audience. Publishers in the social science fields are not generally recognized by computer scientists and so we risk alienating our original audience who may rather go to another ACM conference. At present, we feel that changing publishers to an unknown (to the original WikiSym research audience) publisher will put the conference at risk.
  • The ACM lends academic credibility to WikiSym + OpenSym. To achieve ACM in-cooperation status with SIGSOFT and SIGWEB, those SIGs reviewed us. Thus, achieving in-cooperation status assures researchers that we are a credible and reputable event and publishing through this conference will not waste their hard work on a conference that has no or little quality.
  • We actually trust the ACM to do the right thing. We have been with the ACM since 2005, and while they may feel slow to change, the ACM is ultimately run by researchers with the goal of furthering science and the profession, and is a non-profit. The ACM announced an Open Access program and while little details are known, we expect them to do right by their constituency.

While the ACM may not be an open access publisher, from a practical perspective, we are close:

  • There are multiple ways of how authors can make their work available for free (to read). Authors can publish their papers, even after a copyright transfer to the ACM, on their own website, for free. In fact, WikiSym does that for authors already, see http://wikisym.org/archives/.
  • Remixing, which is important for some open content, is not as relevant in academic publishing, as it would likely be considered to be plagiarism. Hence, a main thrust behind Creative Commons licenses, the ability to remix, is not relevant for academics. (This may be different for use of materials outside scientific publishing.)
  • Beyond Open Access, some authors prefer to only present a talk and not make their materials available. Recognizing the needs of some disciplines, we established “research presentations” in 2013, see http://opensym.org/wsos2013/submitting/paper-types

These arguments held in the past and are still valid in 2013 and the reason for our choice of the ACM as the publisher. But of course, things don’t stand still.

We used to be WikiSym, and this year we are WikiSym + OpenSym, and things are changing. In the future, we may revise the decision to publish through the ACM. We have the power to do that, because unlike other conferences, we have stayed independent of the ACM and are fiscally sponsored through a small non-profit organization. When I founded WikiSym, I always worried that computer science may be too narrow a focus and that we may go beyond its disciplinary boundaries at some point of time in the future.

This extension of scope has already been happening mostly through Wikipedia research that has been published at WikiSym in the past. Still, the event remains dominated by computer scientists.

This year, in 2013, we are making the extension of scope explicit by co-locating the established WikiSym with the new OpenSym and may just be OpenSym in the future. We created explicit tracks, of which at least one of them, the “Open Access, Open Data, and Open Government” track is not really a computer science track. This research track’s chair is Prof. Anne Fitzgerald of QUT, a legal scholar focusing on Open Access.

At the time of writing this, we do not know for sure whether this extension of scope will have the desired effect: A conference bears risks. It makes no sense to risk losing the original WikiSym audience without having proof that the new concept works out. After this year’s event, we will know how much risk we can take on for 2014, including a possible change of publishers if the ACM hasn’t figured out the details of its Open Access model until then.

We intend to ask the publisher question at WikiSym + OpenSym 2013 to hear the opinion of those who attend the conference.

From all the signals we get, WS+OS is on its way to become a success: Open access scholars telling us they urgently want to talk to Wikipedia researchers, open source researchers telling us they urgently need to talk to open data researchers, etc. We strongly believe that there are important synergies to have by bringing these different researchers together under one umbrella conference.

We are working behind the scence to make Open Access a viable option for researchers and practitioners who would like to publish at WikiSym or OpenSym. For this year, 2013, however, we aren’t there yet, for the reasons given above.

For the WS+OS 2013 organizing committee,

Dirk Riehle

2 thoughts on “Why We Publish Through the ACM Digital Library in 2013

  1. Why not create a community in Zenodo, and upload all papers there? I created a similar Wikimedia community, it could be useful to store all the papers there.

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