Article: ACE: A colour palette design tool for balancing aesthetics and accessibility.

Tigwell, G.W., Flatla, D.R., & Archibald, N.D. (2017). ACE: A colour palette design tool for balancing aesthetics and accessibility. ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, 9(2): 1-32.

This article presents a new tool to help web designers manage colour palette design. The authors argue that existing colour palette design tools focus exclusively on aesthetics or accessibility, and are not adequate for the needs of web designers trying to balance creating websites which are accessible for all users with creating ones which are aesthetically pleasing to all users.

The authors describe four “key functions” of an ideal colour palette design tool based on a review of the literature:

1 – The tool needs to allow users to choose an entire palette of colours
2 – The tool needs to allow users to compare many different colour combinations simultaneousy to reduce the time spent meeting WCAG minimum contrast guidelines
3 – The tool should provide an “example website” using the palette chosen
4 – The tool should make problems to users with colour vision deficiency “more explicit” by providing simulations of the sample website (p.2)

The authors then set out to make a tool that could do all of these things, called ACE: the Accessible Colour Evaluator. Much of the rest of the article describes the process of creating and redesigning ACE based on developer feedback. This process is fascinating, and provides a useful look at what goes into creating accessibility tools.

The tool itself is easy to use and , available to use at should be a valuable asset in any web designer who wants to ensure their sites are more accessible to those with colour vision deficiency.

Article: ‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics

Citation: Shen, C., & Bjork, B-C. (2015). ‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Medicine, 13: 230. DOI 10.1186/s12916-015-0469-2

This article presents a study of predatory open access publishers—those who publish journals and books with “highly questionable marketing and peer review practices.” The authors used Beall’s List of predatory OA publishers (which I discuss here) to generate a random sample of 613 journals, and then manually gathered data on the subject, geographical location, processing charges, and volumes published between 2010 and 2014 for these journals.

The authors found that the number of predatory OA journals which have published at least one article has grown from 1800 in 2010 to roughly 8000 in 2014. Additionally, 420,000 articles were published in 2014, up from 530,00 in 2010. Journals with no specific scientific subject published the most, followed by engineering and biomedicine. There were some difficulties with determining geographical location, but India was the largest percentage at 27%, followed by North America at 17.5%. This and more data can be reviewed in detail by viewing the article in BMC Medicine.

Beyond these results and others, the authors call into question the term ‘predatory,’ noting that most authors in these journals “probably submit to them well aware of the circumstances and take a calculated risk that experts who evaluate their publication lists will not bother to check the journal credentials in detail.” Instead of ‘predatory,’ they prefer the phrase quoted above: “open access journals with questionable marketing and peer review practices,” although they admit that, as ‘predatory’ is a well-established term, it is unlikely to change.

Conference Paper: There and back – Charting flexible pathways in open, mobile and distance education

Citation: Alahmadi, T., & Drew, S. (2016). An evaluation of the accessibility of top-ranking university websites: Accessibility rates from 2005 to 2015. DEANZ2016, April 2016. Hamilton, New Zealand. The University of Waikato. [link]

This paper presents a review of university websites around the world, in Oceania, and in Arab countries, using the AChecker accessibility tool to gauge the number of WCAG AA-level errors in the home page of each university selected, as well as a random sample page from their admissions and course description websites (p. 226).

The study results (perhaps as expected) show that there are numerous accessibility errors on pages around the world. As the authors note, errors are high regardless of region, whether the university is “in the developed world, in countries such as the US, UK, Australia and Japan, or in developing countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon” (p. 229).

However, the data as presented in the article makes it hard to tell the relative success and failure rates in by region, as the tables and charts only provide a summary from the total dataset, or compare a sum of all errors found in “global” vs “Oceania” vs “Arab” regions. Given the study’s focus on these three regions, more granularity in the data would be helpful.

Despite this minor flaw in its presentation, the study provides a useful reminder that web accessibility is still a problem in universities around the world. As the authors say, the increasing importance of web-based learning management systems and the use of the web to distribute course materials and other forms of media to students make web accessibility a higher priority than ever before (p. 232).

Article: The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review

Citation: Tennant, J.P., Waldner, F., Jacques, D.C., Masuzzo, P., Collister, L., & Hartgerink, C.H.J. (June 2016) The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review [version 2]. F1000Research, 5:632. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8460.2

The authors of this recent piece of research aim to look at the impacts of Open Access (OA) on academia, economics, and society.

Their findings in each area are summarized in the tables below:

Impacts of OA on Academia

Impact Comments
“association with a higher documented impact of scholarly articles, as a result of availability and re-use” (p. 6) OA articles are consistently cited in higher numbers and more quickly than non-OA articles, but research varies widely on how big the difference is (pp. 7-9). The impact here does seem to trickle down to non-scholarly use of articles, judging from alt-metrics (p. 9)
“non-restrictively allowing researchers to use automated tools to mine the scholarly literature” (p. 6) In contrast to traditional publishing, which usually requires authors to cede copyright, the tendency of OA journals to request non-exclusive rights makes data- and text-mining easier (p. 10); thus, OA articles are more “legally safe” for this kind of research (p. 10).

Economic Impact

Impact Comments
Impact on Publishers OA undeniably means that publishers need to recoup costs in other ways (p. 12). Many publishers have moved towards a “pay-to-publish” model, but these can increase barriers to participation for those without funds (p. 13). Other models with potential include shifting payments to libraries, a one-time-only author fee, and library-based publishers (p. 13).
Impact on Non-Publishers OA models that charge authors to submit or publish have had an effect on research funding, and licensing and IP rights have also become problematic where state funds are in play (p. 14).

Societal Impact

Impact Comments
On “other domains in society” Access to knowledge is a human rights issue, and OA supports this by reducing barriers to access (p. 15).
In Developing Countries Although the removal of paywalls can greatly benefit developing countries, pay-to-publish models run the risk of limiting support for OA in developing countries by locking authors out of the publication system (p. 16).

In addition to explorations in these specific areas, the article contains a broad overview of the OA movement and its history, and boatloads of data. Altogether, it serves as a useful springboard to consider some of the issues at the heart of OA: access, free information, and equity.

Web site: Open Access Overview

Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview is a web page on the author’s personal web site which is intended to serve as an introduction to the OA movement.

Although there are books which also serve this purpose (including several by Suber, who is a very well-established OA expert), the web overview has several benefits, chief among which are:

  1. It is relatively short
  2. It breaks down concepts to an elementary level, and provides succinct definitions for terms, and
  3. It links out to other, more exhaustive resources at the point of information

The page consists of a number of lists, which address different functional/theoretical aspects of OA:

  • Basic information about OA
  • Legal basis for OA
  • OA focuses on “literature that authors give to the world without expectation of payment”
  • OA is often publicly funded
  • OA is “not free to produce or publish”
  • OA and peer review
  • Differences in OA journal publishing (Gold OA) and OA repositories (Green OA)
  • OA as a constructive project
  • OA is not the same as universal access
  • OA is not a business model
  • Usefulness of OA for different groups of people
  • “OA in historical perspective”

Additionally, Suber includes links for further reading (although some are no longer actively maintained).

If the overview page is still too detailed, Suber also maintains a “Very Brief Introduction to Open Access” which sets out nothing more than the basic definitions of OA, what it tries to do, and how it tries to do it.