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On Open Access

Why the American Numismatic Society is Open Access . . . and why your institution, learned society, publisher, etc., should be, too

Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svgAcademic and scholarly publication is at a crossroads as publishers, authors, and institutions of research and higher learning consider both the financial and ‘moral’ implications of publishing new scholarship as Open Access. The American Numismatic Society (ANS) has adopted what some would consider a progressive approach, while others would find these points to simply be common sense and good manners. As you read the points below, I challenge you to formulate arguments against each one that does not include money. Profit and loss in academic publishing is a very real concern, but it can be demonstrated (and has been in my nine years of experience as an academic publisher) that publishing niche scholarship is (and likely always will be) a money-losing venture. Publication is often built into the mission statements of learned societies, and funding needs to be sought from sources beyond book sales and journal subscriptions to keep the publishing enterprise sustainable.

The ANS has addressed each of the following problems in its efforts to make published research open without taking a hit financially.

Problem: Gold Open Access

One method some publishers use to offset production costs is to charge those authors (or their institutions) who wish to make their research freely available online immediately upon publication instead of waiting some contractually agreed amount of time before being given permission to post the work the web or via a university repository. These costs often range from the hundreds into the low thousands of dollars (e.g., Maney Publishing’s “Article Publishing Charge” (APC) for immediate Open Access publication). Charging authors for Open Access creates an economic barrier to scholars, some of whom cannot afford the fee, and whose institutions may not have budgeted for such costs. Unaffiliated and independent scholars are especially affected by these fees, which they have to pay out-of-pocket and may even require securing a loan.

What the ANS is Doing About It: It is our opinion that authors (and their institutions) should never be charged to make their own research available to the world immediately upon publication.

ajn26coverProblem: Embargo Periods

Going hand-in-glove with “gold” Open Access is the common practice of an embargo period, which is the time (anywhere from one to five years in most cases) between when research is published and when an author can make that work freely available. The point of the embargo period is to allow the publisher to recover the production costs of that publication prior to making it available as Open Access. Authors are forbidden to post more than a citation or abstract, and their work is often locked behind a paywall until the embargo expires. Timely research becomes less so as long as the embargo period lasts, except to those readers who opt for early access. Scholars who wish to access that author’s work must either pay to access the publication, wait until the embargo ends, ask the author for a PDF offprint (which is normally forbidden) or their login credentials to a paywalled platform (even more forbidden). As with file-sharing of other media, many people tend to look for the free version of something they would otherwise have to pay for, thereby short-circuiting the embargo period and the paywall, which nets both the publisher and paywall provider nothing, i.e., the same amount they would make by giving away the published work.

ccWhat the ANS is Doing About It: Authors of ANS publications may place their published work wherever they like upon publication, and may assign to it whichever Creative Commons license that they are the most comfortable using. A brief word on the types of Creative Commons licenses follows below.

Problem: Paywalls

As stated above regarding embargos on published research, paywalls do little to discourage the exchange of files between colleagues, and also place a barrier in the way of scientific progress. Platforms such as JSTOR can strike a happy medium in curating content into packages to which institutional libraries may subscribe, thereby providing a revenue stream for publishers. That same content can be shared with individuals on a non-commercial basis provided the publisher has successfully negotiated a content-sharing agreement.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS has such an agreement with JSTOR, and is making some of its publications available on that platform for library subscribers, while also making those same publications available for free to individuals via the Hathi Trust Digital Library and with our own Digital Library.

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Problem: “Predatory” Publishers

Following the paywall model is the usury of so-called “predatory” publishers that charge libraries and individuals hundreds and even thousands of dollars to access newly published research. Authors should be wary of publishing in journals owned by these companies as their work will reach a limited set of eyes. If most authors found other journals in which to publish, the dearth of content would force predatory publishers to either change their business model or to close entirely. Libraries can also choose not to subscribe to those journals, favoring instead those with a more reasonable Open Access policy.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS has no intention of partnering with any of the large publishing companies that choose to lock current research behind paywalls with formidable access costs.

Problem: Geography-Based Access

Some Open Access content is not globally available. Sometimes this is a technical issue, and, for some publishers, this is a conscious decision based on their understanding and implementation of copyright. Actively choosing to limit access to content that is otherwise open deprives international scholars of their ability to read that work freely, at which point they must resort to paying for access, or to bending the rules and asking colleagues for a free copy or access to something.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS makes every effort to ensure that its Open Access content is available worldwide. Much of it is hosted via numismatics.org and various subdomains. Agreements signed with partners such as HathiTrust make sure that the content is available globally without restriction.

ANS, 0000.999.52801
ANS, 0000.999.52801

Problem: Profit-Based Publishing

One of the greatest mistakes a learned society or institution can make is to become focused on making its publications turn a profit. Scholarly publications typically cater to a niche market and sell dozens or occasionally hundreds of copies over a period of three years. Sales beyond three years of the original publication date are rare. If an organization recognizes the fact that it will realize little (or no) profit from the sale of what it publishes, it can strategize how to pay the not inconsiderable production costs. These costs can be built into annual budgets, can be inserted into grant applications for projects, and can be sought in the form of subventions. Basing choices of what to publish by what the publisher (or Board) thinks will sell can be a mistake, especially when what is to be published fulfills the mission of the parent institution.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS favors a mission-based approach to publishing. It understands that some publications will never recover their production costs, but nevertheless that the content is exceedingly important in fulfilling the Society’s stated goals for research and dissemination of that research.

Problem: “Commercial” Publications

Non-profit, academic institutions historically have published scholarship as non-commercial ventures. As stated above, the publication of journals and monographs is hardly a money-making enterprise. Books and subscriptions are sold in order to recover some production costs. Recently one major international rights-holder updated its Terms of Service regarding the reproduction of its images in scholarly publications, classing journals and scholarly monographs as “commercial”, which then allows charging for image permissions. Typically a reciprocal relationship exists between institutions where no permissions fees are charged for non-commercial, scholarly, short-run publications. In switching the Terms of Service to “commercial”, the budget for publishing books or articles featuring images from one of these rights-holders expands by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This charge represents another barrier to scholarship; publishers will simply go elsewhere for similar images. This also actually hurts the rights holder, in effect limiting wider access to its own holdings and hiding them behind a self-inflicted paywall.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS will never class scholarly publications as “commercial,” and will not charge reproduction fees for the use of its images in scholarly publications.

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Problem: Permissions Charges

Most academic publishers ask the authors to pay for their own image permissions. The publishers cannot themselves afford to pay the fees, so the charges get passed to the author. For many authors, however, many of their images can be used without any permissions fees because of the non-commercial nature of their work. Should an institution opt to charge an author for an image, it is possible that the author will opt to find a similar image elsewhere, or will choose not to use an image at all. Either way, the rights holder receives no revenue, and also loses whatever additional exposure it would have otherwise received via a credit line in the publication. Charging authors for image permissions further limits access to content that would otherwise be freely available.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS will not charge authors for the use of its images in non-commercial publications.

ANS, 1916.192.368
ANS, 1916.192.368

Problem: Print-Only Publishing

Arguably the biggest roadblock to Open Access research is publishing solely in print. Publishing in print restricts access to the content locked on the pages and favors those readers with library access or the ability to purchase the publication. Print editions of scholarship, while useful to many, are themselves silos of information, unable to interact with anything other than the active reader. This is the opposite of Open Access. Making print editions available online as digital editions unlocks that content, making it searchable, and perhaps more importantly, gives the content the ability to link to any other data available openly online, as well as making itself available to be linked to from other online sources.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS will continue to produce print editions of scholarship, but it will make digital editions of all of its publications past, present, and future available online as Open Access. Doing so allows the ANS to play well with others, to be a good academic citizen, and to contribute to the work of others. By sharing publications openly, this guarantees that multiple copies will be made and circulated thereby preventing loss of that content should something happen to the original publisher.

A Word on Creative Commons Licensing

There are several varieties of Creative Commons (CC) licensing available to authors and publishers that both protect and promote content on the Internet and elsewhere. Anything published as Open Access must have a CC license attached to it, otherwise the content is not free to use. Most Open Access publications have a CC-BY (users must cite the source) or CC-BY-NC (citation required, and must be used for non-commercial purposes only). On rare occasions, the most open CC license, CC0 (content may be used for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, with or without citation) is used. The ANS’s Open Access publications online are posted under a CC license, usually CC-BY or CC-BY-NC. Its publications on HathiTrust are posted as CC0. The ANS works with its authors to determine which CC license they are most comfortable with prior to posting their work online.

ANS, 1927.64.5
ANS, 1927.64.5

Conclusions:

If Open Access publication of content is not part of your institution’s/society’s/publisher’s strategy, it should be. As authors and as consumers of content, it is within your rights to ask (and in some cases demand) that your research (or the scholarship you need) be made openly available online. Open Access does not require the cessation of the sale of that same content. Many readers still prefer to read printed books and journals, and will pay for them (or will ask their libraries to pay for them). Most readers prefer a suite of media with which to work, using print in concert with digital as they produce new scholarship. The end goal of the production of that scholarship should not be to make money, but instead to advance the humanities, arts, and sciences. The best way to do that is to make that scholarship available immediately to the world upon publication. Openly. The ANS hopes that other institutions, learned societies, and publishers will share in this approach to placing published work online without cumbersome restrictions. The Internet is genetically predisposed to facilitate such sharing, which makes it the greatest enabler of advancing our collective intellectual enterprise.

Andrew Reinhard

Identifying Roman Coins on Micropasts

Micropasts is a web platform that hosts crowd-sourced collaborative research projects focused on archaeology, history, and heritage. The admirable goal of Micropasts is, in their words, to “improve how people traditionally distinguished as academics, professionals and volunteers cooperate with one another.” To this end, the website hosts a variety of projects that allow for contributions from enthusiasts, scholars, and the interested public on a wide variety of different topics. It is jointly run by the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the British Museum with support by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Micropasts.org
Micropasts.org

A relatively straightforward example of how the website works is a project that seeks to transcribe diaries kept by the noted Egyptian archaeologist, Sir Flinders Petrie. The project page includes a tutorial on how to contribute, which can involve either transcribing material directly from the scanned document, or reviewing the work of others to ensure its accuracy. A somewhat more complicated project is one by the British Museum that involves photo-masking medieval Pilgrim badges to create 3D models of the artifacts. All of the projects use the same simple interface which makes it easy to understand how you can help out, and there is a useful ‘Statistics’ tab for each that traces how the overall project is progressing.

There are a wide variety of different and salutary projects that users can contribute to, but we mention here because of a recently-launched numismatic one called the Roman Imperial Coin concordance.

ocreThis project was formulated by Daniel Pett of the British Museum and Ethan Gruber of the ANS to facilitate the addition of Roman coins catalogued in the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to the NEH-sponsored ANS database Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE). The tutorial explains just how the process works, but the essential task is for users to try and identify more precisely what the RIC (Roman Imperial Coinage) number for a given coin drawn from the PAS database is. If and when a more precise identification of the RIC number is made and confirmed, it can then be integrated into the larger OCRE database. pasrgbsize4The PAS, which is a voluntary program that records small archaeological finds by the public in the UK, presently has over 200,000 Roman coins in its database so it is a potentially rich resource for additional coins and data for OCRE.

Denarius of Tiberius, ca. AD 36-37 Portable Antiquities Scheme
Denarius of Tiberius, AD 36-37 | NCL-294EF5
Portable Antiquities Scheme

Of course, objects like the denarius above can only be integrated into OCRE when they have been properly identified so if you have time to lend a hand, head over to the project website!

NEH-Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Project

The American Numismatic Society has been chosen as one of ten publishers to participate in the Humanities Open Book project, a joint NEH-Mellon Foundation grant program to convert out-of-print books of enduring scholarship into EPUB e-books, which will be licensed so as to allow readers to search and download these books freely, and to read them on any type of e-reader.

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ANS publications date back to 1866 and include over 500 volumes of numismatic scholarship. Thanks to the funding received from the Mellon Foundation, nearly 100 of its rarest out-of-print books will be converted into free EPUB digital editions. The ANS will go one step further by TEI-encoding these editions for online viewing, searching, and linking. Following best-practices of Linked Open Data (LOD), these XML files will link to (and will be able to be linked from) other Open Access (OA) resources like the Virtual International Authority File, the Pleiades Gazetteer of Ancient Places, and ANS digital projects like OCRE and PELLA.

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Pictured above are just a few of the some one hundred works that will be processed. The assorted works digitized through this generous Humanities Open Book grant will be available via the ANS Digital Library by the end of 2016.

Read the full press release here.

PELLA: Coins of the Kings of Macedonia

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The American Numismatic Society has launched a digital project that promises to be an important new research tool in ancient Greek numismatics. PELLA: Coins of the Kings of Macedonia is a comprehensive and accessible online catalogue of the coinage produced by the kings of the Macedonian Argead dynasty from 700 to 310 BC. In its current version, PELLA uses the numbering and typology system developed by Martin Price of the British Museum to catalogue individual coin types with additions that greatly enhance its usefulness as an online resource. So, for example, here is a silver tetradrachm struck under the authority of Alexander the Great that is classified as a Price 4.

ANS, 1908.229.1
ANS, 1908.229.1

If you follow this link to the search results, you will be presented with a typological description and all examples of that type from participating institutions. In this case there are 45 objects from the ANS and the Münzkabinett Berlin, which are accompanied by a useful visualization of the geographic and historical context of the coins in the form of a map delineating mints and find spots with a sliding timeline underneath.

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Below this, all of the coin specimens are detailed and usually pictured, making comparative study relatively simple. Perhaps the most useful tool for researchers can be found in the Quantitative Analysis subsection at the bottom of the page. Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.42.34 PMIt calculates and lists the average axis, diameter, and weight of all the examples for the Price 4 specimens, allowing for straightforward analysis of variations within a given type.

One of the other noteworthy features is that the platforms allows for searching based on the symbols common to this coinage. Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.49.17 PMIn the Browse menu, you will find that there are a variety of options for customizing a search along the left hand side of the page. Under the Symbol menu, there are boxes arranged by location which have lists and checkboxes which allow for searching either particular symbols or locations. Although the precise terminology used to describe the various symbols is a work-in-progress, the feature will make it much easier for researchers to investigate this oft-debated subject.

If all of that is not enough, perhaps the neatest feature of the website centers on the way it allows users to Visualize Queries. This gives you the ability to construct a search and query the database with the results displayed as a graph or chart. Below is one that I created which shows the weight of the tetradrachm in ten-year intervals from 340 BC to 140 BC. Notwithstanding what seems to be some bad data in the one outlier decade, what you can see is a slow decline in the weight of the tetradrachm over two centuries.

chart (1)As a linked data platform, PELLA connects to the relevant pages in the online collection databases of the contributing institutions, which presently includes the ANS, the British Museum, and the Münzkabinett Berlin. The catalogue also shares data with the Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards Online, and further links will be created as the project expands. All of this is made possible by stable numismatic identifiers and linked open data methodologies established by the Nomisma.org project.

Dar al-Kutub: Collection of the Egyptian National Library

dar_al-kutubThe American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce, in collaboration with Dr. Jere Bacharach of the University of Washington and Dr. Sherif Anwar of Cairo University, the debut of Dar al-Kutub, a digital publication and database of the non-hoard numismatic collection of the Egyptian National Library.

The catalog consists of more than 6,500 objects, ranging from late Roman glassware and pre-Islamic Sasanian coinage to the modern Egyptian coinage of Anwar Sadat. The collection is particularly strong in Medieval Islamic coinage across all major dynasties. The catalog differs from its predecessors in a number of ways. Most notably, the collection has been photographed in color, with inscriptions read and transcribed from these images. The database includes references to the 1982 catalog of the collection undertaken by Dr. Norman D. Nicol.

Barquq, AH 784 / CE 1382-1383 Egyptian National Library, 2830
Barquq, Burji Mamluks, AH 784 / CE 1382-1383
Egyptian National Library, 2830

The interface is available in both English and Arabic, owing to translations provided by Dr. Sherif Anwar. The multilingual interface is driven by numismatic concepts defined by Nomisma.org. Over the course of this project, more than 700 Islamic entities—people, dynasties, corporate entities, mints, etc.—were created in Nomisma, with labels in English, Arabic, and other languages, forming the technical foundation for the aggregation of other Islamic numismatic collections. Geographic coordinates have been included for the majority of Islamic mints, permitting the mapping of the Egyptian National Library collection.

Mint Map

According to Ethan Gruber, the ANS Director of Data Science, “the effort undertaken in defining Islamic entities in a Linked Open Data environment will make it possible to improve the Islamic department in the ANS database, and may make Islamic type corpora similar to Online Coins of the Roman Empire possible in the future.” Like other ANS digital projects, the data are freely available with an Open Database License, and are published in the Numishare framework.

The team wishes to thank the American Research Center in Egypt for their funding of this project, and acknowledge the contributions of all of the individuals named here.

Database Webinar

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From 0 to 60 on SPARQL queries in 50 minutes

The American Numismatic Society’s Ethan Gruber will be giving a free webinar on May 13 at 10AM that offers an introduction to SPARQL, a query language for linked data. It is sponsored by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and the Association for Information Science & Technology.  Ethan will be using nomisma.org, which is the backbone for our digital databases and projects, to demonstrate how to query a database, starting simply, but evolving in complexity. He will also be looking at what can be done with the results in terms of visualizations and other digital applications. For more, please just click here.

Digitization Assistant Position

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The American Numismatic Society is hiring a Digitization Assistant for the Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) project. The position will involve processing the data-entry of an online database of all Roman Imperial coin types as recorded in the Roman Imperial Coinage reference series. S/he will be part of the OCRE team, report to the Manager of the project and work closely with colleagues in the curatorial department. The project is supported by a 3-year grant of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Digitization Assistant will populate a spreadsheet encompassing all published Roman Imperial coin-types with the characteristics of each of them and systematically check the accuracy of the corresponding information pertaining to the Roman collection. S/he is expected to work proactively in order to ensure that the OCRE project is implemented at a satisfactory speed.

Specific duties and responsibilities of the Digitization Assistant include:

  • populating the master spreadsheet of Roman Imperial coin-types
  • cross-checking the main database with the actual coins of the American Numismatic Society to ensure its accuracy
  • updating the user manual for both internal and external use
  • suggesting functionality  improvements when needed
  • collaborating with the other staff members involved with the project, including the Assistant Photographer and the curatorial staff of the American Numismatic Society
  • helping and assisting the curatorial staff with data-entry tasks and database or actual coins checks linked directly or indirectly to the OCRE project

Requirements:

  • interest in ancient history and/or numismatics
  • knowledge of Latin desirable but not essential
  • excellent computer skills and solid knowledge of Excel spreadsheets and Filemaker software
  • ability to handle and manage large data sets
  • attention to detail

The position is ideal for a student in classics, history, archaeology or any related field willing to be part of a high-profile project while preparing for the next stages of an academic or non-academic career. The position is for one year.

Applications consisting of a cover letter, academic resume, and the names of 2 references should be sent to position@numismatics.org

The American Numismatic Society is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action employer.

A Digital Win, or, What 100,000 Objects Look Like

This week, the American Numismatic Society uploaded images of its 100,000th object into our online database MANTIS. The lucky coin was an aureus, a gold Roman Imperial coin from AD 196–211. It features a portrait of the empress Julia Domna on the obverse and the goddess Cybele seated in a chariot drawn by four lions on the reverse. Cybele was known as Magna Mater or the Great Mother, and her cult derived from ancient Asian beliefs that were absorbed into the Greco-Roman pantheon. Julia Domna was herself born in Syria so the coin is in many ways a tribute to Roman multiculturalism.

1955.191.22
ANS, 1955.191.22

Our MANTIS database gives users an easy way to search or browse through the American Numismatic Society’s holdings, with records for over half a million coins, tokens, and related exonumia.
MANTISThe search field has a multitude of categories that allow you to customize your search beyond a simple keyword. For example, when you click on the box for Denomination, a list with small check boxes appears so that you can click on the units that you want to see in the search results. Most importantly perhaps in the context of this post is the “Has Images” checkbox immediately above the Refine Search button, which will limit your search results to those for which digital images are available. So, for example, if you wanted to see all the American dies in the collection, you would simply check the United States box under Department, the Die box under Object Type, the “Has Images” checkbox, and then hit Refine Search. The results will show that we have 89 dies in the US department that have been digitized. Happy Browsing!

Mantis Die Screen

Although we are all very happy to have hit the six-figure mark, we’re hardly satisfied so here’s to the next hundred thousand!

ANS in the Digital World

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