Open Access Week is here again. Beyond all of the activities we’ve got planned, the week also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made in recent years. We’re also looking to the future and thinking about how we can help our researchers take advantage of all of the benefits of making their research openly available.
Recently I was privileged to be able to present at 6:AM, the Altmetrics conference, on the Library’s Open Access+ service. This service relies heavily on altmetrics of various kinds, and my talk (I hope) offered a useful case study for how altmetrics can be used to help remove barriers to research. Our work has predominantly focused on removing the paywall, arguably the most important barrier. But we’re now looking to help researchers reach their audiences more effectively, whoever they may be and whatever their barriers might look like.
In my talk I spoke a bit about what those barriers might be, and gave Discoverability and Language (someone used the term “comprehensibility” elsewhere at the conference and this is a better term) as examples of further barriers that might prevent audiences from engaging with research. These are the barriers that OA+ attempts to help our researchers remove, or at least dismantle a little bit.
My slides are openly available, and a recording of the presentation has been published too. In this blog post I’m going to go over the same sort of ground as I did in my presentation, and in this Twitter megathread, giving an introduction to Open Access+ and what we’re trying to do.
Open Access+ is an opt-in enhancement to the open access support that we provide through the Open Access Gateway. Researchers that want to take advantage of OA+ can check the box that says “I would like to receive customised guidance to help raise the visibility of my paper once published, and for the Library to promote the paper via its social media channels”.
This funnels the paper down a slightly different workflow than the one we use for non-OA+ papers. I’ve broken down what OA+ does into the following three categories in order to stop this post from becoming very long.
All authors using the OA Gateway, whether they opt-in to OA+ or not, are presented with a deposit success screen. This signposts them to useful tools, platforms and services that can help raise the visibility of their work and help them reach their audiences.
We encourage researchers to think about creating non-technical summaries on Kudos, as well as looking into whether The Conversation might be a useful platform for them to talk about their work. There are services across the University that can help too: Engagement@Manchester can advise on public engagement activities and Policy@Manchester can help researchers to get their work in front of policymakers.
The first thing we do when a researcher opts in to OA+ is generate a Communities of Attention report. We take the last 1000 DOIs from the journal that the article has been accepted in and push them through (technical term) the Altmetric API using a fancy Python script that we developed in-house. After a bit of wrangling from our Research Metrics team, we’re left with a spreadsheet that shows the Twitter accounts that tweet most often about papers in that journal, as well as blogs and news platforms that frequently mention papers in that journal too.
We send these reports to the author that deposited the paper within 48 hours of us receiving their AAM via the OA Gateway. The reports help researchers to build their online networks, giving (hopefully) helpful suggestions as to which Twitter accounts to follow, and which blogs and news platforms they might be interested in keeping an eye on. These blogs and news platforms might be useful when thinking about their research communications plans too.
We use these reports later on for a slightly different purpose too.
The number of scholarly research articles being published continues to increase and it’s becoming even harder to keep track of the research in your field, let alone adjacent fields. In an increasingly crowded “marketplace”, it’s getting harder for researchers to get attention for their work and there’s pressure on them to take more responsibility for effectively disseminating their findings.
Twitter’s really useful for sharing research. Many researchers are really good at Twitter, but we often hear from those who feel uncomfortable promoting their own work. Or who don’t really like the idea of using social media full stop. If an author opts in to OA+, we’ll put together a tweet thread about their paper once it’s been published.
We bring together and surface a load of the stuff that we promote and support right across the Research Services Division in this thread. We link to the OA version of the paper and research datasets. We include interesting Altmetric mentions as well – blog posts and news articles often report on research findings using much more accessible language. We tag in authors, research funders and other Faculty/School/research group accounts and include any subject-specific hashtags that we can find.
We try and help people to decide whether the paper might be of interest to them by including some snippets from full text in the thread too. We use a tool called Scholarcy for this – it uses AI to break a paper down into its most significant chunks. This 3-4 tweet abstract gives a bit of an introduction to the paper and aims to persuade people idly scrolling through Twitter that they should click on the link and read the full text.
Finally, we go back to the Communities of Attention report we prepared earlier and tag in some of the Twitter accounts that we identified. We were a bit nervous about this approach (are we spamming people?) but the feedback we’ve had suggests that this is really useful for both the author and the people tagged in. Phew! Generally, feedback for these threads has been great.
As I said in my talk at 6:AM, OA+ isn’t going to improve how we do research communications at Manchester overnight. There’s lots more that we can do to help our researchers’ ideas “travel further” (that’s an expression that I stole from Andy Miah), and audiences that we haven’t quite cracked yet. We’re already thinking about the next phase of the project and what that might look like: should we just go ahead and tweet about every paper we get through the Open Access Gateway? Is that even possible? Should we think about using other platforms to reach those who aren’t on Twitter? There’s lots to think about.
In the meantime, we are noticing subtle changes in behaviour. Researchers are starting to adopt some of our techniques when it comes to tweeting about their work, and we’re getting good engagement with our tweet threads. We’re also increasingly getting suggestions from researchers for things they’d like us to include in these threads, which makes things a lot easier for us! We’d like to encourage more collaboration when it comes to putting these threads together, and that’s something we’ll be trying to facilitate moving forward.