Going Green: a year of supporting the HEFCE OA Policy

A year since HEFCE linked the mandatory deposit of accepted manuscripts to the allocation of QR funding, this post describes how the Library’s Scholarly Communications Team has helped academic colleagues successfully adapt to the new ruling which has resulted in an unprecedented level of Green OA deposits to our repository.

As we entered 2016, developing support services for the incoming policy was the team’s highest priority. The biggest obstacle was a very low Green OA baseline: from 2013 to early 2016, the number of Manchester-authored papers available through pure or hybrid Gold OA journals rose steadily; yet annual Green OA deposits to our repository stalled at ten percent of the institution’s journal article output over the same period.

During a pilot the previous year a variety of support models were tested with selected schools and we found that the highest compliance was achieved when the responsibility on authors was minimal and the Library offered to deposit and set embargoes on their behalf. So in February, we made a proposal to develop a fully mediated service which was accepted by the University’s senior research governance committee. The task then was to reorient our existing Gold APC service to encompass Green OA workflows which scaled to enable our team of six staff to support deposit of ~6000 papers a year.

To allow authors to send us their manuscripts we created an authenticated deposit form (branded as the Open Access Gateway) with just two input fields: acceptance date and journal/proceedings title, plus a drag and drop area to attach the file. Authors could also use the form to request Gold OA payment if they acknowledged a grant from a qualifying funder.

In the months before the policy launched we worked closely with Library marketing colleagues to deliver a communications campaign which raised awareness of the policy and built momentum behind the new service. Our message to academics was, ‘Just had a paper accepted? Now make sure it’s REF eligible.’

OA A5 flyer cover

In April the policy launched, our deposit form went live, and the firehose to the University’s publications opened. Early signs were promising; in the first weeks, we received roughly ten manuscripts per working day which represented a significant increase against our baseline. However, more persuasion was needed for those authors across campus who weren’t sending us their manuscripts. We therefore began to chase those authors via email and sent a follow-up email, copying in a senior administrator, if we had no response.

We particularly focussed on non-compliant papers with the highest altmetric scores which had an increased likelihood of being selected for REF. The chaser emails were effective and many authors replied immediately with the manuscript attached. Of course, our emails also prompted some authors to ask questions or offer opinions about the policy which required additional resourcing. 

Sending chaser emails significantly raised the institution’s compliance rates, and it was clear that we would need to continue to do this systematically as awareness of the policy gradually spread across campus. This placed additional strain on the team as searching Scopus for papers and chasing authors proved an intensive process. We explored alternatives (e.g. using the ORCID API to identify our new papers) but no automated process was as effective as the painstakingly manual check of Scopus search results.

By August we’d refined our reporting to the University to include school/division level compliance against projections. To achieve this we recorded the compliance status and author affiliations of every single University paper falling within the scope of the policy in a masterfile spreadsheet. We then used SciVal to calculate the average output of the REF-eligible staff from each of the 33 schools/divisions over the past five years. This enabled us to project how many accepted papers we would expect each school/division to have per month during the first twelve months of the policy. Every month we produce a compliance report, like the one below, which supports standing agenda items at research governance committee meetings across the University.

 

REF_OA_report_blog_post
Monthly REF OA Faculty/School compliance report

 

As we moved into the new academic year, monthly deposits continued to rise. The team were at maximum capacity processing incoming manuscripts, so to speed up the flow of papers through our assembly line we purchased a license for the online forms service Typeform and developed a back office ‘If-This-Then-That’ style form. This allowed us to distil esoteric funder and publisher information into a simple workflow enabling papers to be processed with reduced input from higher grade staff.

Now, twelve months on from the introduction of probably the most swingeing OA policy ever introduced, we can take stock of how well we have adapted to the new ruling.  In the absence of a Snowball-type metric for measuring our compliance we currently track compliance three ways:

  • % top papers compliant: In January, the University ran its annual Research Review Exercise, involving research staff proposing their best post-2014 papers for internal review. This provided the first opportunity to gauge compliance of those papers with the highest chance of being returned in the next REF. During the exercise, a total of 1360 papers were proposed for review which were within the scope of the policy, of these a very encouraging 95% were compliant with the new OA requirements. 
  • % compliant against projections: Our chosen metric for reporting compliance to the University. We report the proportion of compliant papers with at least one REF-eligible author against the total number of papers we would have expected to have been accepted by all our REF eligible staff. Against this measure, 68% of the papers are compliant, 7% are non-compliant, and 25% are not currently recorded. Many of these unrecorded papers will not yet be published so we will chase them once they are indexed in Scopus. A large number of our papers arising from the ATLAS/LHCb collaborations are also available via Gold OA and are compliant but we have not yet recorded them in our masterfile.
  • % compliant overall: To date, we’ve recorded 4656 papers of which 4031 (87%) are compliant, 459 (10%) are not compliant, and 166 (3%) are being actively chased by our team.

In total there’s a 55% Green OA/45% Gold OA split, and given that Green OA represents more inconvenience than most of our academic colleagues unfamiliar with arXiv have ever been willing to tolerate, it is very unlikely indeed that the University would have achieved such high compliance had the Library not provided a mediated Green OA deposit service. The data confirms our approach helped make Green Open Access an organisational habit practically overnight. 

The approach has come at a cost however; over the past year, supporting the HEFCE OA policy has taken up the majority of the team’s bandwidth with most of our 9am-5pm conversations being in some way related to a paper’s compliance with one or more funder OA policy.

Now that our current processes have bedded in, and in anticipation of the launch of the new UK Scholarly Communications License (UK-SCL) – for more on this read Chris Banks’s article or watch her UKSG presentation – and further developments from Jisc, we hope that over the next 12 months we can tilt the balance away from this reductionist approach to our scholarly output and focus on other elements of the scholarly communication ecosystem. For example, we are already in discussions with Altmetric about incorporating their tools into our OA workflows to help our academics build connections with audiences and are keen to roll this out soon – from early conversations with academics we think this is something they’re really going to like.

Whatever lies in store, it’s sure to be another busy year for the team.

Exploring digital collections at the first Digital Humanities Library Lab

A new pilot workshop, the first Digital Humanities Library Lab, ran on 3 March 2017. This engaging and informative cross-discipline event offered a dozen researchers the chance to explore and discuss new tools and digital text collections from The University of Manchester Library, inspiring the development of future Digital Humanities computational research methods.

Exploring digital collectionsThe afternoon comprised of three activities.

  1. Spelling and printing variations when searching Jisc Historical Texts
  2. Visualising themes in longform scholarly outputs using the JSTOR Topicgraph tool
  3. A UK-first, beginning to use an API to access previously unavailable content from Adam Matthew Digital’s Mass Observation

The workshop instructions are available online for all to view, and the Library is looking to run a similar event again in May. What would you like to see covered next? Please get in touch with DH@Manchester or the Library’s DH Project Officer Phil Reed directly, or leave a comment below.

Support and seedcorn funding for Faculty of Humanities researchers

The Digital Humanities Project Call 2016-2017 has just been announced. This year DH@Manchester are focusing on developing new projects in two specific areas:

  • innovative projects driving out of the Library’s extensive electronic collections
  • cutting-edge research which can be developed in partnership with colleagues in the School of Computer Science (including text mining, linked data, image processing, and data visualization).

The closing date is Wednesday, 22 March 2017. View the Project Call page for more information.

Supporting student publishing: perspectives from the University of Manchester and beyond

student_publishing_event1

The Manchester perspective, Part 1

For the past couple of years we’ve been giving some thought to the role of university libraries in publishing, in common with other libraries. However, the University of Manchester is home to Manchester University Press (MUP), one of the largest university presses in the UK, so we’ve had to think carefully about how to work collaboratively to make best use of our respective expertise and resources in order to meet the University’s strategic objectives. Our initial thinking and work started in 2014 as part of the Library’s strategic programme, with follow-on projects funded by the University’s Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation and Learning (CHERIL).

When we started our thinking, we expected that the outcome would likely be some kind of publishing support service, using Open Journal Systems (OJS) for hosting. To develop a tangible offer, we had many discussions about which parts of the support service would naturally sit with the Press and which in the Library, and even more about funding and sustainability. To date, our collaboration has resulted in:

  • development of Manchester Open Library as an imprint of MUP,
  • launch of the James Baldwin Review,
  • development of a student journal for the Manchester Medical School, and
  • development of 3 online learning resources on ‘publishing’,

but not in the publishing support service we originally envisaged. Instead we most recently considered offering a model that we believed would be sustainable with a low level of support, a multi-disciplinary undergraduate journal managed by a postgraduate editorial team. However, when we ran this idea past senior staff from our Humanities faculty and with responsibility for postgraduate researchers (PGRs), there was little appetite for supporting any type of student journal, and since the Library and the Press aim to support the University in achieving its strategic goals we have parked this idea, for now. That said, we do still see value in students experiencing publishing either as authors or as part of an editorial team, which is why we decided to harness the expertise of our Press in the development of online learning modules which anyone on campus with an interest in publishing can access and learn from.

From what we hear about other institutions it seems that our experience is at odds with current trends in support for student publishing, ie, there appear to be many examples of libraries, academics and university presses launching student journals. We’ve been keen to understand if the challenges that have limited our service development are unique to Manchester and to learn more about how other institutions are providing support for student journals. So, as part of our latest CHERIL-funded project (Publishing Research and Learning for Students – PuRLS), we recently held a one day conference on student publishing. We wanted to bring together institutions with experience of student publishing or an interest in student publishing so that we could all learn from each other. The event, held on 16th January 2017, brought together a mixture of librarians, publishers, academic staff, administrative staff and students.

Libraries supporting student journals

Our contributors from the universities of Surrey, Warwick and Edinburgh, and Leeds Beckett University described their involvement with student journals. In all cases journals are run on OJS. At Edinburgh and Warwick, the libraries offer journal hosting services which publish both student and academic-level journals.

Although Edinburgh has a university press, the Library developed the hosting service independently. Angela Laurins, Library Learning Services Manager, explained that the service developed organically and is now well established, providing only set-up support for new journals; thereafter, journals are managed by their own editorial teams. Angela confirmed that this model works well, with minimal resource requirement. In fact, it works so well that she no longer requires a named academic champion for established journals if the previous champion moves on.

Warwick’s service is a more recent development, building on two journals already developed within academic departments and further interest from other areas for more new journals, together with available skills and resource within the Library to develop and manage journals, using OJS’s externally hosted option. Yvonne Budden, Head of Scholarly Communications, talked about two multi-disciplinary journals, Reinvention and Exchanges.

Reinvention, an international journal, is student-led and student-run, with academic support. The main resource requirement is in maintaining high quality. Academic staff carry out peer review and help students improve the standard of their work. Reinvention has received over 460 submissions and published approximately 130 articles. Submissions are split fairly evenly between disciplines and also come from a number of different countries. Yvonne explained the value that the library can bring to publishing is in part “things libraries are known for being good at”, eg, advising on open access, ISSNs, copyright, DOAJ registration, digital preservation, analytics.[presentation-slides-warwick-jan-2017]

Charlotte Barton, an Information Literacy Librarian, talked about her role in supporting the Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ). The interdisciplinary journal is published by the Learning Development Team, which comprises librarians and learning advisors, and accepts work marked as 2.1 or higher, as well as reflective accounts, conference reviews and literature reviews. The editorial team is made up of academic staff and PGRs – PGRs stay in this role for a maximum of one year (two journal issues) and carry out peer review as well as other editorial tasks.

Charlotte explained that supporting prospective authors is time-intensive (1-1 support is provided by the SURJ team) but as submission rates are currently low (10 per issue) further work needs to be done on promoting the journal to academic colleagues. Future plans also include working with academic staff to develop training materials, eg, to improve writing skills. [presentation-slides-surrey-jan-2017]

Kirsty Bower, an Academic Librarian at Leeds Beckett University, described how the interest in setting up journals at her institution resulted from Open Access (OA) requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) and likely requirements of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). An existing Sociology UG journal, Critical Reflections, was moved onto OJS in 2016 following a discussion with the lead academic, who was keen to increase visibility after producing a number of print issues. The journal publishes pieces produced in third year module, in which students apply their sociological knowledge to real life situations, and students are involved in the editorial process. Kirsty reported that despite limited promotion downloads have surpassed expectations, although she acknowledged that it isn’t clear who the readers are. Although the Leeds Beckett team face similar challenges to other institutions (eg, limited staffing resource, limited funding for promotion), they are considering developing a multi-disciplinary journal.  [presentation-slides-leedsbeckett-jan-2017]

Presses supporting student publishing

Our speakers, from UCL Press and White Rose University Press (WRUP), are at very different stages of developing their services for students.

Publishing Manager Lara Speicher explained that at UCL Press student journals are hosted on OJS but run themselves, as long as they have support from their academic department.  Proposals for new journals are not considered without agreement of faculty support – this commitment is vital as UCL Press is too small to provide high levels of support to students. Lara highlighted that it can be difficult to explain the difference between a hosting service and a publishing service, and explained that one journal had expected more ‘hand holding’ from the Press. Providing support for students ties in with UCL’s Connected Curriculum which brings research into learning. UCL Press have recently appointed a new journals manager who has plans for further support, eg, creating a forum for journal teams to meet and share experiences and delivering workshops on the publishing process. [presentation-slides-uclpress-jan-2017]

Tom Grady, Acting Press Manager, told us that WRUP launched in 2016 with the aim of publishing academic journals and books, so when the first journal proposal received was for a student journal there were some concerns. These included whether publishing a student journal would undermine the Press’s aspiration to become a reputable academic publisher, how sustainable a student journal would be, and who would read a student journal. Having since overcome these concerns the Press has recently launched the Undergraduate Journal of Politics and International Relations, which has an academic lead and funding sources, represents a gap in the market, and gives students the opportunity to be published authors or to be part of the editorial team. [presentation-slides-wrup-jan-2017]

The Manchester perspective, Part 2

We invited a number of speakers connected with the University of Manchester to contribute to the event, to increase awareness of potential challenges or opportunities for institutions considering dissemination of student research as a means to enhance the student experience.

The key driver when we were considering supporting student journal came from the Manchester Medical School, and particularly from a group of students, including Josh Burke. Josh explained that one reason for wanting to set up a journal was that medical students get points for publishing work in journals that are indexed in PubMed that count in applications for their first post. The group believed that they could set up a journal themselves but sought support from academic staff, who put them in touch with us. We provided access to OJS and publishing expertise from MUP; the students developed a staged peer review system and brought a lot of energy to the initiative, which resulted in the launch of Manchester Medical Journal (MMJ) in late 2016. MMJ is student-led and student-run. Josh admitted that using OJS was a pain point, as the peer review system developed doesn’t work easily within the OJS workflows, and that the student group had been naïve about the complexity of setting up and running a journal, needing academic support, publishing guidance and financial support. With the backing of the Medical School and continued investment of the group of students who initially set up the journal, MMJ seems likely to have a future. However, the main challenge is convincing students to publish in a new journal that isn’t indexed in PubMed. [presentation-slides-burke-jan-2017]

A similar view is shared by senior academic and administrative staff at Manchester, particularly in relation to PGRs. We asked Professor Maja Zehfuss, Associate Dean for PGR in the Faculty of Humanities, to outline this position at the event. The key points she made were that at Manchester institutional journals are not considered to be right for PGR publications, that PGRs should be seeking to publish papers of at least 3* ranking in ‘grown-up’ journals, that submitting papers to established journals provides a tough learning experience for PGRs which develops resilience and skills, and she queried what student journals are for and who reads them.

Of course, journals are only one means of scholarly communication, and at Manchester academic staff are incorporating different forms within their modules. Dr John Zavos, a course leader from Religions and Theology, explained that he was keen on openness in research and wanted to develop resources that would put his students’ work in the public domain, eg, ‘Poppy Hijab’, an exhibit on the Museum of the South Asian Diaspora blog. John is now leading a CHERIL-funded project exploring impactful public-facing platforms and hopes to incorporate editorial management of a blog into his Level Two course to provide further opportunities for publishing experience.

To conclude the event Simon Bains, our Deputy Librarian and Head of Research Support, and Meredith Carroll, Journals Manager from MUP, described our experience, which is summarised in the first part of this piece.  [presentation-slides-manchester-jan-2017] For now, our support for student publishing takes the form of a recently-launched blog, The Publishing Exchange, to encourage reflection and learning, and My Research Essentials online resources, all available under the CC-BY-NC licence:

Developing the next generation of peer review expertise

This week is Peer Review Week – what better time to announce the launch of a peer review elearning resource we’ve recently developed at Manchester?

At the University of Manchester Library, we work closely with our colleagues at Manchester University Press in support of a number of the University’s strategic goals. One benefit of our collaboration is that we can provide scholarly communication development opportunities for researchers and students.

Currently we are working together on a project funded by the University’s Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation and Learning (CHERIL). The Publishing and Research Learning for Students (PuRLS) project aims to provide opportunities and resources to help students and early career researchers develop an awareness of the publishing process and the skills to participate as an author, editor and peer reviewer.

We believe that the resources will support students and postgraduate researchers who want to set up and manage their own journal or simply learn about academic publishing, and also enhance their employability within academia or the publishing sector. Feedback from medical students involved in our previous CHERIL project (SOAR – Student Open Access Research) has informed the focus of the resources we’re creating, and we’re finalising further usability testing at the moment.

The online modules have been created by drawing on expertise from the Library, the Press and the wider University community. Meredith Carroll, Journals Manager at Manchester University Press, prepared text content which the Library’s elearning team has turned into interactive resources, using Articulate Storyline 2 software.

mre-peer-review-module

The peer review module takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and includes activities which allow users to take on the role of a reviewer, eg, responding to scenarios and critiquing real peer reviews. Naturally our peer review resource has been peer reviewed – for this we asked a number of our academic colleagues for their expert input.

The peer review online module is available via the Library’s My Research Essentials webpage and is licensed as CC-BY.

Database Interface Design – washing powder optional

As a librarian supporting students and academic staff over the last 20 years, I have substantial experience of working with digital content and currently work with around 30 electronic databases. My ability to work productively and assist students in gathering information or data is influenced significantly by interface design – a critical component of the user experience (‘UX’) of these databases.

The following represent my personal views on interface design.

 

Why is interface design important?

The ability of a user to work well with an interface influences their productivity. Design changes to the front end of any database system are comparable to the challenges faced with a new computer operating system. For example, changing from: Windows 3.1 to 95 to 98 to 2000 to XP to 7 to 8 to 10 – meaning the familiar is no longer so, resulting in one’s productivity going down, at least initially.

 

Changing search interface / results display

I am not advocating that interface design is set in stone and appreciate that carefully considered changes can generate substantial improvements. What is important is that those changes are driven by user needs and then tested to ensure they have met those needs. Otherwise they can cause major difficulties for students. The Passport database is such an example, where a simple and intuitive process appears to have been replaced in such a way that it is far less clear and valuable functionality has disappeared altogether. Previously, when selecting the ‘Menu Search’ option, a three-step process was revealed:

Topics →  Geography →  Results

Passport. Menu search. Logical search steps.
Passport. Geography search stage (old version).

A helpful feature was the ‘predefined selections’. Here, many country groupings (e.g. EU, G20) are clearly visible and easy to select.

The ‘Results List’ screen displayed a variety of categories available to select (e.g. Industry Overview, Local Company Profile).

Passport. Results screen (old version).
Passport. Results screen (old version).

 

The look and feel of the interface has now changed, in such a way as to reduce the effectiveness of the interface. I find it very confusing, with the results screen not showing the options of the old version.

Passport. Search/results (new version).
Passport. Search/results (new version).

I’m not alone, if the comments on the Business Librarians Association (BLA) bulletins are a guide. So if I and my professional colleagues are having difficulty, students must be in an even worse position.

Mock-up Washing powder boxIt is hard to see these changes as being driven, as they should be, by attention to the user and how they work. Instead they feel to me more like change for the sake of change. Just as washing power might be branded ‘New and Improved!’ so these changes  to the look and functionality of a database must be a step forward over what went before. Mustn’t they? Well, no.

 

The user experience (UX)

The Japanese concept of Kaizen, Kaizen in Japanese characters. By Majo statt Senf - Created with Affinity Designer - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38767688 which translates roughly as ‘continuous improvement’ is pertinent here.

 

This principle runs through effective UX developments. With the emergence of ‘the perpetual beta‘ and web 2.0, users can be seen as co-developers, through an ability to feed into service changes.  By monitoring the take up (or not) of new features, service providers can reflect user needs.

Such an approach drives a user-centred evolution of a system interface, introducing incremental and necessary improvements over what has gone before. This is far preferable to a revolutionary approach, resulting in drastic changes to the interface design which risk causing significant disruption to its users.

This reflects the position taken by Joe Hardenbrook, that a state of permanent beta is OK, when feedback is received and adapted to, enabling improvements to flow from this.

For example, in undertaking a review process, the provider of the Factiva database has reassuringly put the user experience at the heart of the exercise. This includes undertaking interviews, with the goal of improving productivity, through ‘compact, clear and consistent design’.

 

Why do effective design features matter?

Stability

Does the database have a look which persists over time? Some good examples, in my opinion, include Thomson Research and Factiva. Both the search interfaces for these databases have remained similar for over five years. The search screen is a single page, with no scrolling down required and all options clearly visible. These can be selected by typing in a free text box or using a ‘look-up’ option from a magnifying glass icon. Other selection methods are equally clear, from clicking to select options (e.g. Report Type: [Company, Industry] in Thomson Research) or using a drop down menu (Date in Factiva [e.g. In the last week]). In Factiva, search options flow from top to bottom, in a single column, on the left, culminating in a blue colour-coded ‘search’ button, at the lower right of screen. Thomson Research has two columns of search options and again a blue colour-coded ‘search’ button, bottom left of screen.

Familiarity contributes to ease of use. If a database has reached a clear and effective design, there is value in maintaining this appearance. Why is this important? Because students (and library staff) have many demands on their time. When faced with a radically altered search interface, time is wasted trying to get familiar with the new ‘look’. So I would urge our suppliers to ensure such changes respond to user needs and behaviours rather than simply to refresh the brand so that it looks ‘new and improved’.

Some suppliers are seeking insights through user engagement, to improve their products. For example, EBSCO Information Services seeks insight into today’s student as an ‘information seeker’. Kate Lawrence, Vice President for User Experience Research, noted students have an ever increasing desire for efficiency, approaching their studies by looking at priority (which deadline is first) and looking at the return on investment in terms of getting the best results for the amount of time invested. [1] Being aware of such requirements allows a provider to meet these user needs.

 

Clear search options

By providing options clearly visible on the search screen, alternatives can be selected without confusion. A prime example of this is the Factiva database (Business News). Using the ‘Search – Search Builder’ option from the drop down menu, many alternatives become apparent on the left of the screen. For example, Date, Source, Subject – which can be easily explored and used as part of a search. Should it need to be refined, after viewing the results, this can be achieved by simply clicking on the ‘Modify Search’ button to retrieve the original search options.

I sought comments from a colleague who works in a different area of the library, relating to database design. He noted that a lack of familiarity makes usage more troublesome – in his case, identifying financial databases, which I often work with. Further, the examples of Compendex, IEEE Xplore, Scopus and Web of Science were noted as being ‘easy to use’, having good basic and advanced search options. I think this again reflects a point made earlier – to be able to proceed in a search, without confusion.

 

Enhancements

‘Evolution rather than revolution’ can be translated to mean small improvements, which  leave the basic search design unchanged. Again, in Factiva (in the past), to indicate a phrase search in the text box at the top of the screen, two or more words had to be included within quotation marks. For example, “Tesla Model S”, which searches for these terms in this exact format, rather than as keywords scattered throughout the documents being searched. Now, however, this is done automatically. If you attempt to enter quotation marks, a message appears on screen noting: ‘Please check your query, we have identified unbalanced quotes’. This is a good example of an enhancement, which  maintains the basic search interface.

Factiva searching
Factiva: search screen.

 

 

Additional challenges faced

Name changes

This is a hindrance, in that students are no longer aware of a particular title and the location, when accessing from an A to Z listing. Some examples include:

Global Market Information Database  →  GMID  →  Passport.

Global Insight  →  IHS Connect.

Removing content / features

KeyNote:  this market research database previously showed a comprehensive listing of sections for an individual report on the left hand menu (e.g. Market Size, Competitor Analysis) which I found really helpful. This no longer appears, which I believe is a backward step.

Mintel:  by splitting up and scattering the constituent sections of a market research report on a results page, rather than offering a PDF link to display as a single report (available for KeyNote reports) it is far less user-friendly. I have witnessed students and library staff finding the layout  confusing.

 

Summary

I appreciate excellent database design when faced with a substantial enquiry and a tight deadline – reflected in stability and a clear, intuitive search interface.

Incremental improvements to a database are preferable to radical changes, when seeking to support students and academic staff in their research. This process can be enhanced through testing and should be driven by user needs, such as the Factiva review noted above.

In conclusion, I can do without the washing powder mentality – ‘new and improved’ – as it isn’t always so.

[1] Lawlor, B.  An Overview of the NFAIS 2015 Annual Conference: Anticipating Demand: The User Experience as Driver. Information Services & Use. 2015, v.35(2), p.15.

 

Open Access and Academic Journal Markets: a Manchester View

cartoon-pat

 

In February, a thought piece was issued jointly by Jisc, RLUK, SCONUL and ARMA which aimed to start a conversation about academic journal markets and progress in the UK towards Open Access. This blog post represents the combined thoughts of two leaders in Open Access publishing at the University of Manchester Library. The post does not represent an official position at Manchester, but illustrates some of the thinking that informs the development of our policies and services.

The thought piece makes a number of statements, and we have chosen to respond to a selection of them:

Academic journals play an important role in the work of universities

In our view, one might argue instead that academic research papers play an important role, and that the correlation is between availability of that research and university research performance.  The journals just happen to be the containers for the research.  The same is true of student satisfaction and access to journals.  Students want access to the ‘stuff’; whether it’s in journals is largely immaterial, and may not even be noticeable via modern library discovery systems, or Google.  The question is whether the journal remains the best container in a networked digital environment.

Two issues in particular occur to us in the context of this part of the thought piece:

i) We wonder how true it is that journals ‘allow researchers the freedom to choose appropriate channels to publish their work’.  It could be argued that they are, in fact, constrained by a system in which they are expected to publish in certain titles if they are to develop their careers;

ii) It’s true that journal articles are measurable, insofar as citations are a reliable indicator, but there’s growing support for a campaign to eliminate journal title-based metrics, with over 600 organisations now signed up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment.

The markets are changing

The thought piece describes a market that has been split in two, where the options now are Hybrid Gold and Pure Gold. We would suggest there are other ways to think about the way the journal market is evolving.  Although many of the ‘wholly Open Access journals’ levy APCs, we should keep in mind – and OA advocates often remind us – that many Gold OA journals do not require them.  Nobody is suggesting that publishing is free, but charging the author at time of acceptance is not the only approach.  It’s interesting to see the Open Library of the Humanities adopt a Library-funded model, something which Knowledge Unlatched has shown can succeed, at least at the pilot stage, for OA monographs.

Our second point would be that another way of splitting the market would be into a) commercial publishers and b) university presses.  Open Access has stimulated renewed interest in the concept of the University Press, as universities begin to consider how they could bring their publishing operations back in house.  UCL Press is a significant example of a new and wholly Open Access press, and more recently we have also seen a consortial approach emerge in the form of White Rose University Press.  Bringing scholarly publishing back into the academy allows us to present an alternative OA model in which prices do not need to be determined by shareholders and their demand for profits. The recent University Press Redux conference at Liverpool identified this as a key theme. We are also seeing innovation with repositories, such as the  arXiv overlay journal Discrete Analysis, launched in February.

Performance of the legacy/hybrid journals market

The anticipated transition to OA, post-Finch, still seems depressingly distant.  Instead, we continue to pay above-inflation subscription prices while simultaneously paying the same publishers APCs.  Despite the average cost of hybrid APCs being higher than those for Pure Gold, the power of the journal brand means that most of the funds we have available for Gold OA are going to hybrid publishers.  We are seeing some offsetting models emerge, but we are aware that some institutions find these  complicated to manage and while publishers have a global market which is not, on the whole, moving to Gold OA, there is little prospect of the transition we hoped for.  Pure Gold journals offer lower prices and no scope for ‘double-dipping’ but are yet to be well-established beyond a few disciplines.

On the point in the thought paper about the service we might expect for our APC payments, much certainly needs to be done.  We are both members of the RLUK Open Access Publisher Processes Group which focuses on this, and we welcome feedback from colleagues who are dissatisfied with publisher systems and procedures that authors struggle to navigate or the level of service and support received in return for their APC payments.

Shortcomings in the legacy journal market

Given that we have limited funds available to pay publishing costs, it is attractive to consider using them only to support publishers who are not also taking subscription payments from us.  It is increasingly so when we see that Pure Gold APCs tend to be lower than those charged by hybrid journals.  The issue we face is the power of the brand, as our researchers know they need their papers to be in the ‘right’ journals in order to gain the esteem they require to progress in their careers.  It is depressing that this remains the case in a digital world in which the concept of the journal is so outdated.  In a print environment, bundling the latest research papers up in this way was a sensible approach to their dissemination.  Today, new models like PeerJ can work quite differently, and the only barrier to their adoption is an academic culture which holds fast to the power of the journal title, even at a time when so many organisations are turning away from the notion that the impact of a journal says anything about the individual article. Hybrid, despite the arguments of the Publishers Association, is not providing what we need. As the Wellcome Trust reports, “hybrid open access continues to be significantly more expensive than fully open access journals and that as a whole the level of service provided by hybrid publishers is poor and is not delivering what we are paying for”.

Given the complexity of offsetting, the profit margins of the commercial publishers and the lack of a substantial transition from subscription to OA, it is time to consider using the available funding for Pure Gold rather than for Hybrid, and to invest in those initiatives that are emerging from academia, and which focus on providing the widest access to our research rather than the returns expected by company shareholders.

This post was jointly authored by Simon Bains and Helen Dobson 

Image: Patrick Hochstenbach, CC-BY. Open Access Belgium

 

Whistleblowers sculpture. Image by Davide Dormino, CC BY SA.

The Battle for Open

The University of Manchester launched a postgraduate certificate in Higher Education in 2014, aimed at its academic and professional staff. This qualification seeks to encourage staff to think more deeply about their sector, and by doing so to increase their understanding of their roles and progress professionally. The course ran very successfully in 2014-15 and is now into its second intake.

This year, the University Library is very pleased to be leading an elective module: Open Knowledge in Higher Education, which examines the context, contribution and constraints of the relationship between open knowledge and higher education. The course represents an opportunity to bring people together to discuss the issues at a level of detail that is usually impossible to achieve. Instead of focusing on the operational priorities and policy compliance requirements which we tackle in university committees, we can instead engage in a more intellectual debate about why we are on a trajectory towards ‘open as default’, whether that’s a good thing, what the implications are for professional and academic careers, and whether tensions between openness and other drivers can be overcome.

sculptures
Whistleblowers sculpture. Image by Davide Dormino, CC BY SA.

As I prepare my notes to launch the module on 10 February, it strikes me that this is a fascinating time to be thinking about these issues, given that we are witnessing simultaneously the rapid rise of the openness agenda, new attempts to introduce censorship, and efforts to access data that many people would prefer remained personal. The image that accompanies this post epitomises for me the opposite sides of the argument: on the one hand, Assange, Manning and Snowden are regarded as criminals, recklessly putting lives at risk by breaching necessary security laws. On the other, they are perceived as heroes of free speech, to the extent that these sculptures of them now exist, alongside an empty chair which invites the viewer to join them and use the artwork as a platform for his or her own free speech.

Openness in higher education

But can we argue that, safe in our ivory towers, we are in a very different environment? The majority view now holds that published scholarly research ought to be freely available if it has been funded from the public purse, and open education resources (known widely as MOOCs) serve to bring learning to new audiences, and, we hope, drive new students through our doors. On the surface, at least, these seem to be sensible and entirely beneficial developments. But we should not analyse the Open Access (OA) and MOOC movements in a vacuum, somehow shielded from wider social debates about privacy, sharing, security and censorship. We might think that the distribution of academic research is very different from the release of the Wikileaks documents, or Snowden’s publishing of classified National Security Agency materials. But it would be a mistake to hold this view: the case of Aaron Swartz, facing 35 years in prison for sharing JSTOR documents when he committed suicide in 2013, is surely evidence enough that it is time to bring very careful thought to the issues raised by the growth of networked digital information and the existence of an environment in which anyone can be a publisher. It is difficult not to regard the heavy-handed response to Swartz’s case as being driven by anxiety about loss of control following the Wikileaks affair and it is a strong, if tragic, example of the need to understand the bigger picture.

We now live in an HE environment which, certainly in the UK, broadly encourages openness. Many of our research funders require it, and universities are putting policies, services and standards in place to achieve it. But we are part of a wider political, commercial and legal society which is a long way from making this as easy and free of risk as advocates of Open (and I count myself among them) think it needs to be. Commercial publishers still seek to protect business models which depend on paywalls, and initiatives like Open Access Button and the Elsevier boycott try to challenge them. Copyright legislation still lags behind digital and networked technologies, and so we witness illegal filesharing, and we see publishers fighting to prevent it. Meanwhile, university researchers are caught in the middle. While there are a number of encouraging stories about independent researchers making breakthroughs as a result of accessing open research, some university researchers face harsh penalties as a result of illegal, if arguably not immoral, sharing practices.

Looking ahead

In the first half of 2016, the Dutch Presidency of the European Union has committed to push the Open agenda very hard, having been through a fierce national struggle about the costs and availability of the research it funds. In the UK, HEFCE will introduce a policy that links OA to research assessment. Openness extends beyond publishing to encompass data, and the open data movement is gaining momentum. There are also signs that the world of online learning is growing faster than ever, but at the expense of the original concept, that it would be available for free. Now is an excellent time for staff at Manchester to be thinking about these issues. Indeed, this opportunity is not restricted to Manchester; it would be very hypocritical of us if we did not open our course up to others! To that end, we are making all of our materials available on Medium, and hope to see widespread interest beyond the course participants. We are working with excellent colleagues, and our academic lead, Professor Martin Weller, is a highly-regarded thinker and teacher in this space. I have taken the liberty of using the title of his book as my blog post heading. We will also see contributions from a major funder, a leading publisher, other academic experts and senior academic administrators, as well as what I know will be some insightful contributions from a strong group of students. So join us, contribute to the debate, and form your own views! Hashtag #OKHE

Bloomberg Market Concepts

Developing technical knowledge and boosting student employability

I recently completed the new Bloomberg Market Concepts (BMC) course, which provides an introduction to Finance (Economic Indicators, Currencies, Fixed Income and Equities) including assessments, linked to numerous Bloomberg functions. This has improved my technical knowledge as a librarian, meaning I am better prepared to answer research enquiries.

A ‘Certificate of Completion’ is available at the end of the self-paced course, which is undertaken at a Bloomberg terminal.

BMC Home Page (Logged In)

BMC home page with ‘Certificate’ option highlighted (when logged in).

In designing a training course to promote the benefits of undertaking BMC to students, this provides an opportunity to meet both a Library and University goal – that of improving student employability. Students can improve their familiarity with Bloomberg, enabling them to better support their research, with data and business news content available to assist in completing assignments.

Bloomberg Professional is a financial data and news service, available to current students and staff of The University of Manchester.

Training and support is provided by the Business Data Service, part of the Research Services Division within The University of Manchester Library service.

See a more detailed post within the Business Research Plus blog.

Seven tips for promoting ORCIDs to busy academics

Administrators of research are sold on the potential benefits of ORCIDs – but the ultimate success of the identifier relies on buy-in from academics too. Global ORCID take up is rising but hasn’t yet reached the tipping point at which significant benefits start to accrue. Until then, it’s fair to say that advocacy is still needed to convince many academics what’s in it for them.

The pipelines for ORCIDs to flow in and out of the world’s research management databases are under construction. New integrations with institutional, publisher, and vendor systems come online all the time and soon the infrastructure will be in place to enable serious improvements to the way research is administered.

Meanwhile, it’s increasingly difficult for academics to avoid claiming an ORCID and continue to publish the findings of their funded research. At Manchester, for example, we’ve achieved high levels of uptake amongst our REF-eligible academics by making it a requirement of a recent research assessment exercise.

REF-eligible academics with ORCIDs (September 2015)

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REF-eligible academics with ORCIDs (December 2015)

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But whilst most of our academics now have an identifier, some that we’ve spoken to are unconvinced that investing further time to link their activities to their ORCID record is worthwhile right now. Addressing this, a Library-led project is now rolling out a communications campaign highlighting benefits and dispelling myths around the use of ORCIDs.

With generous but finite resource the ORCID team are attempting to solve the author name ambiguity problem for the entire world, and rely on this type of advocacy initiative at the institution level to maintain momentum. So based on our early experiences, here are our seven tips if you or your team are tasked with developing a communications plan to support your own institution’s ORCID strategy.

1. Protect time for desk research

Perhaps obvious, but before tapping up contacts for invitations to committee meetings clear an afternoon to immerse yourself in all things ORCID (the FAQs page on the ORCID website is a great place to start). On the face of it ORCIDs are a simple concept, but beneath the surface are more esoteric nuances. For example try answering the question, “Is the ORCID registry a single-point-of-truth for all of an academic’s research activities?” and see where this leads you.

2. Perfect your ORCID elevator pitch

When the invitations come in you might only have five minutes on a packed school board agenda so get your key messages clear in your own head first. Try your slides out on a friendly audience to get it perfect. It’s easy to get tied up in knots explaining abstract concepts like ‘round-tripping’ so the more preparation the better.

3. Tailor your message to engage your audience

You may need to spend extra time on background for a humanities audience where (at least at Manchester) there’s lower awareness levels than in the STEM disciplines. Also be sure to highlight key developments of particular relevance to the audience. For example biomedicine researchers will be interested in the Wellcome Trust mandating inclusion of ORCIDs in grant applications; physics/maths/computer science academics may be interested in arXiv’s use of ORCIDs to replace the internal arXiv author ID; and the MLA International Bibliography integration would be of most interest to humanities researchers.

4. Make the problem real

Asking if anyone shares their name with another academic is a good way to make the name ambiguity problem real. Invariably at least one hand goes up and you sometimes get an interesting anecdote too. It’s a good way to break the ice and prompts those in the room to acknowledge the problem.

5. Be honest!

Get ahead of the accusations that this is just for the ‘bean-counters’ by being up-front about the benefits to administrators – in many ways it’s easier to articulate these benefits anyway. And if you can sense that you’re not winning the argument then don’t be afraid to say “Look guys this is going to be 15 minutes of your life that you’re not getting back – it’s a question of when not if you do this because it isn’t going away.”

6. Emphasise the registry

The social network style ORCID profile page has created misconceptions that ORCID is just another social network. We’ve heard comments along the lines of, “I already have Academia.edu and LinkedIn – I don’t need another site to keep up to date”. It’s important to stress that ORCID is first and foremost a registry allowing data to be transferred between these types of systems, ultimately reducing the keystroke burden to the academic.

7. Anticipate the tricky questions

And finally, try to anticipate the tricky questions whether they be technical (eg “Who has access to the API?”) or more philosophical (eg “This sounds a bit ‘Big Brother’ to me”), and have answers prepared for them. However much you prepare you’ll not be able to anticipate every question. For example, following one presentation we delivered recently in which we quoted the fact that in China, people with the top three family names (Li, Wang, and Zhang) account for 21% of population (nearly 300 million), one academic remarked in exasperation “What’s wrong with just using my name?!”

Rivers merging, metaphor of data

Library data-merging pilot grows to exciting partnership opportunity

A technical prototype I developed for the Business Data Service has been used as the driving force behind a new and exciting research project post, bringing together partners from outside The University of Manchester Library.

What is the basic premise?

To develop a collection of tools to bring together commercially available databases from separate suppliers for use in leading, innovative research, using specialist knowledge of the field for accurate and efficient execution.

Who are the partners?

Why is this new post useful?

After spending money on expensive data sets, we need to make the most out of them. It is critical to use them together in order to unlock their full research value. In the case of some specialist resources, this activity is non-trivial.

Why is joining these datasets difficult?

databases with no join
There is no easy way to use the data from these different sources together, no common index.

Identifying companies across different databases is difficult as the codes used within each platform usually do not correspond to those used in another. There are good reasons why a platform will do this (their intellectual property is one), but this makes work harder for researchers, sometimes resorting to checking company name matches by eye, one at a time!

Writing code to map these where cross-checking is available requires the software developer to be aware of the various identification codes used such as CUSIP, ISIN, SEDOL and various ticker symbols, some of which can change with time or be further complicated in other ways. A close relationship to the curators of these databases at the University is required; this is found in the Library’s Business Data Service team whose expertise is well respected and appreciated by its users.

How will it happen?

As part of the project funding application, a new post was created. It sits outside the Library but is dependent on the library staff’s curating skills and knowledge of the library’s specialist financial databases. Under this post I will use my skills as a software developer and experience working in the Library to write new tools to combine access to various datasets within the project, as the products become available and as the researchers need them.

I’ll still be working my usual job in the Library as well, so nothing is lost from the Business Data Service.

Where might it lead?

The primary objective is to publishing new research on topics covering institutional investors, financial innovation and the “real economy”.

Once the research is published, we can develop new teaching topics and further broaden access to the University’s data sets with these tools, introducing them to new audiences in other subject areas.