My journey towards fair open access book publishing

by Michael Brüggemann

global communication
https://unsplash.com/@Duangphorn Wiriya

As a former journalist I have always had an appreciation for the value of the written word. I have also always considered it an honour and a privilege to be published. I regarded authors to be the rightful owners of their text. In my world, you may give away texts as a present to your friends or to the scientific community or you may sell them. My idea of fair publishing did not include having to pay a private company to get published whilst losing the copyright of my work. Yet this, at least in Germany, for many years used to be the world of book publishing for many authors: some academic presses would charge for publication and appropriate the author’s copyright whilst failing to provide substantial ‘added value’ to the text such as peer review and thorough editing, proofreading and text formatting services. As a PhD student I felt I had no choice but to accept this world of predatory publishing.

Now, as a professor, in contrast to the situation of a freelance journalist, my written work is paid for by the public through my full-time employment at my University. Therefore, the public should have free access to my work. I am willing to pay for the true costs of publishing. To this day, some publishers of academic books do not provide high quality services in terms of layout, print and binding of academic books. In Germany, most publishers do not provide a peer review and some do not even provide a careful editing of academic books. The costs of the actual services provided seem much lower than the 10,000+ Euro (Dollars and sometimes even Pounds) that many commercial publishers demand for open access publishing of a book. I was particularly shocked by the terms offered even by high-ranking ‘University presses’ that also demand excessive fees from authors of open access books. I learnt that some of them are, in fact, commercial enterprises with an interest in maintaining the profitable old business model that also draws millions of Euro out of the public funds of University libraries.

I found only very few open access book publishers with moderate or no fees that also seemed to ensure a strict peer review process, and make books available online and in print in a professional way. When I searched in early 2017, I found only one publisher that provided what I consider a fair open access model that raises moderate fees only from those authors who are able to secure funds for open access publishing: Open Book Publishers, an independent and non-for-profit press created by a team of academics at Cambridge University. As they did not yet feature books in my area of research, I gathered fellow researchers to set up our own open access book series with Open Book Publishers: Global Communications. The Series focuses on the current transformations in public communication and journalism from a transnational perspective. Please find more information here.

Our book series, of course, represents only a small step in the much larger quest for alternatives to the kind of predatory publishing described above. Although the options for fair open access are limited thus far, they are continuously expanding and initiatives like ours may also motivate some commercial publishing houses to engage more in fair open access. Therefore, when you publish your next book, take the time to look at the terms of the contract you are signing and take into account that your book belongs to you, your University and the public. And no one else.

This contribution appeared in the ECREA newsletter: https://ecrea.eu/Newsletter/6947008

COP24 – Paris 2.0?! Well, no.

by Manuel Kreutle

“The Conference of the Parties,
Recalling the Paris Agreement, adopted under the Convention, 
Also recalling decisions 1/CP.21, 1/CP.22, 1/CP.23, 1/CMA.1 and 3/CMA.1, 
Further recalling decisions 6/CP.1, 6/CP.2, 25/CP.7, 5/..." [1]

This is how ‘good’ stories start these days… if we consider ‘good’ to be the mere existence of a final document. In this light, on December 15th 2018, the 196 member states (parties) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), following negotiations at the 24. Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, agreed on a compromise. Prior to the meeting, some – including UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa – held high expectations of the conference becoming a “Paris 2.0” [2], others (e.g. evironmental NGOs like) – thinking of ever-rising carbon emissions, omnipresent coal mining and the USA’s withdrawal from the international treaty – saw themselves forced to keep their feet on the ground [3]. But what was finally agreed on?

After two weeks of negotiations, the member states pledged to publish standardized reports on their national emissions and climate goals based on the “transparency framework for action and support”. The states agreed on submitting such reports starting in 2020, mentioning their country’s current emission status and its future plans (targets), biennially. This means that the first reports have to be submitted by the end of 2022. Countries will have to give specific information on some occasions (like target year(s), reference point(s), base year(s), etc.), but still have quite some space for individual layout on others (e.g. in selections of indicators to validate its targets). Following these rules will definitely be better compared to the chaos of different national targets we have now. However, we will have to wait four more years to see if we can get proper, comparable results from this.

Beyond that, nothing concrete was agreed upon in the big plenary. Regarding climate finances, “commitment of developed country Parties… to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020” was “recalled”, but not futher concretized. In comparison to current international efforts (in 2016, UNFCCC funds and multilateral climate funds raised USD 2.4 billion), the 100 billion mark seems astronomically far away. Furthermore, the (itself questionable) market for international carbon emissions trading ‘rages on’ without any international regulations.
Facing the IPCC’s alarming Special Report on 1.5°C of Global Warming, the member states did not go beyond welcoming its “timely completion” without even referring to the specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 which the report called for.

So, if we consider the 2015 Paris Agreement a great step in international climate politics, this year’s results are unfortunately no big advance. If policy makers maintain their current course, the only thing getting more “transparent” due to the new “rulebook” will be our incapacity in dealing with climate change, including rising carbon levels and missed targets. Instead of hoping for the next COP25 in Chile to come up with good climate regulations, we should remind policy makers of the urgency of this issue whenever we can. In Germany, the 1st of February 2019 will probably offer such an occasion. The “Kohlekommission” (a committee composed by representatives from politics, economy and civil society) will publish its final report giving a recommendation for a coal fade-out date. And since this will most likely not be 2020, as Earth’s climate would need it to be, we have to take action.

 

References:
[1] (Final) Proposal by President, 15 December 2018 19:27, https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Informal%20Compilation_proposal%20by%20the%20President_rev.pdf.
[2] UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, December 2017, “COP24 will be Paris 2.0” https://unfccc.int/news/cop24-will-be-paris-20.
[3] Maciej Martewicz and Jeremy Hodges, December 2018, “A Climate Summit in the Heart of Coal Country”, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-02/the-cop24-climate-summit-comes-to-poland-s-coal-capital-katowice.

Is German Climate Coverage driven by extreme temperatures? Partly.

by Joana Kollert, Manuel Kreutle, and Michael Brüggemann

Recent weeks have not only brought about record-breaking temperatures, but also a rise in climate coverage, as clearly shown by our Online Media Monitor (OMM) on Climate Change Coverage around the world [1]. But are higher-than-usual temperatures really the main trigger of climate change reporting? We had a closer look at the case of Germany: climate change has recently spread from science sections onto front pages. Not only the leading intellectual weekly Die Zeit printed it on the first page; climate scientists also made headlines in the tabloid BILD, and the popular evening TV Show Anne Will raised the question of how we should act in the face of climate change. Going beyond these anecdotal observations of the last few weeks, we examined the correlation of maximum temperatures and climate change media coverage in Germany between the 2nd of August 2017 and the 6th of August 2018.

The weather data stems from different weather stations in Germany, operated by the Deutscher Wetterdienst [2]. For every day, the data from the station that measured the highest temperature was chosen. The temperature data were compared with the daily share of climate-relevant articles in three major German news outlets (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel Online, Tagesschau.de) [3]. Figure 1 shows the percentage of climate change coverage in blue and the maximum temperature in red.

The percentage of climate-relevant articles between August 2017 and August 2018 ranged from 0% on several dates to 7.4% on November 5th, 2017, with a mean of about 1.13%.

First of all, this emphasizes that even in these leading news outlets, attention for one of the biggest challenges of our time is fairly limited. Secondly, the maximum in climate-change reporting was recorded in the winter – extreme summer heat, apparently, is not the most powerful driver of coverage. Thirdly, thresholds may play a role: while journalists seem to have enjoyed the warm spring and early summer and the absence of rain without intensifying their coverage of climate change, after weeks with temperatures frequently exceeding 30 degrees, [4] the issue of a problematic drought and heat wave could no longer be ignored.

The heat: we examined the dates on which climate change-relevant articles exceeded 3.39% (twice the standard deviation). On these dates, the correlation between maximum daily temperatures and media coverage is considered to be statistically significant, i.e. linked to genuine effects or associations rather than random error or measurements in variation. Therefore, temperatures do play a role as triggers of coverage. But there are also other triggers.

Other extreme weather events: the first date of interest is the 02.09.2017, with 5.1% of the total articles published on this date related to climate change. This date marks the occurrence of Hurricane Harvey and associated strong rainfalls. Hurricane Harvey likely triggered climate change reporting because climate models indicate that the general frequency and the rainfall rates of such events will possibly increase in the future [5]. A similar but more protracted reaction can be observed on the 17th (4.4%) and 19th September 2017 (3.9%), shortly after the formation of Hurricane Maria.

Politics: on the 4th of November 2017, 5.2% of the total articles published were climate change-related. This was linked to the preparations of the United Nations climate conference COP23 and anti-coal protests in Bonn. Climate change reporting remained high (4.5-7.4%) until the 18th of November 2017, encompassing reports about COP23 and general climate change coverage triggered by the international event. The One-Planet-Climate-Summit in Paris on December 12th 2017 caused a 3.9% climate change media coverage. UN Secretary General Guterres’ speech on December 31st 2017, issuing a ‘red alter’ for planet Earth while mentioning climate change as a major threat, caused another reporting peak of 4.5%.

And again, the heat: on July 25th 2018, wildfires in Greece killed dozens of people, and resulted in 3.5% climate-change relevant articles. In Germany, temperatures already frequently exceeded 30°C at the beginning of June – considerably higher than the average June temperature of 15.7°C recorded between 1901 and 2015 [6]. At the end of July, Germany experienced temperatures over 34°C (see green line in Figure 1). This lengthy heat wave led to a sustained period of more frequent climate-relevant media coverage, with peaks on 29.07.2018 (4.3%) and 03.08.2018 (6%), and over-average media coverage in between these dates.

We can therefore infer that extreme temperatures and other weather events that are becoming more likely in times of climate change do trigger coverage, but political events like the UN climate summits still raise more short-term attention. Even with the current drought and heat wave, the problem of weather events is that their duration exceeds the attention span of media coverage, which is addicted to short-term events.

Yet, journalists are not like frogs sitting in the pot that gradually heats until it boils. At some point, they started writing about climate change – let us hope that attention for this problem is sustained even after it is has cooled down.

 

References:

[1]: https://icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de/omm/EU.html

[2]: Free climate station data for Germany, Deutscher Wetterdienst; https://www.dwd.de/DE/leistungen/klimadatendeutschland/klimadatendeutschland.html

[3]: https://icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de/omm/EU.html

[4]: Free climate station data for Germany, Deutscher Wetterdienst; https://www.dwd.de/DE/leistungen/klimadatendeutschland/klimadatendeutschland.html

[5]: Christensen et al.; “Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change” (IPCC AR5 Chapter 14); Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Cambridge University Press (2013)