All posts by lucindam87

Provocative and inspiring: Force11 Scholarly Communications Summer School, 2018

I was delighted to win a tuition scholarship to attend this year’s Force11 Scholarly Communications Summer School in San Diego, California. The demanding pace of our work in the Library’s Research Services division means it’s tricky to take time out to consider our work in broader contexts. I was therefore grateful for the opportunity to spend a whole week debating pressing issues and potential innovations in the scholarly ecosystem with researchers, fellow librarians and thought leaders, especially in such a beautiful location with the chance of a trip to the beach!

FSCI Geisel
Exploring the Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego campus

Force11’s Summer School (#FSCI) is more intense than a conference, both in duration and active participation: I signed up for classes, not talks, taking place over 5 days. I chose classes on the nature of collaboration in research; alternative approaches to peer review; and exploring what we mean by public Humanities – topics that I hoped would allow me to both apply and stretch my existing practical experience of supporting research dissemination. On the whole, classes were well-structured with a combination of expert insight, stimulating practical activities, and thought-provoking discussions. These were my highlights from each class:

Collaboration, Communities and Collectives: Understanding Collaboration in the Scholarly Commons

FSCI IMG_3007
Envisaging an alternative dynamic research system inspired by the principles of the Scholarly Commons

I loved hearing from Daniel O’Donnell and Maryann Martone on the concept of the Scholarly Commons, developed from considering what our system of scholarship would look like if we started it from scratch nowadays, with access to the internet and public funding. The Commons is ‘an extension of the Open Science concept,’ a ‘conceptual space or spaces onto which we can map principles, best practices, service and standards that govern the production and dissemination of scholarly and research works so that they are maximally useful to all who need or want them.’ Its underlying principles are still being developed, and we were encouraged to contribute our suggestions. We considered how implementation of the Commons principles could disrupt the scholarly ecosystem, with my group envisioning a dynamic system of research communication centred on the connections between research objects, allowing continuous, versioned peer review rather than final, formal publication. Our instructors likened this approach to Cameron Neylon’s aggregation model of scholarly communication.

FSCI Peer review
Summarising peer review and what it means to researchers

Pre- and Post-Publication Peer Review: Perspectives and Platforms

Cochrane’s John Hilton led an engaging class where we problematized the practise of peer review and appraised alternative methods of quality control for research. I was astonished to learn that peer review didn’t become standard practice until around the 1970s – did you know Crick & Watson’s ground breaking paper on the structure of DNA was never peer reviewed?! It was fascinating to consider how peer review occurs in many varied forms in addition to the formal, pre-journal-acceptance stage, though it’s often not recognised as such when it happens less formally, e.g. after conference presentations, on social media, and as comments on pre-print servers. I enjoyed exploring alternative approaches to peer review, such as F1000’s post-publication peer review platform (adopted by funders The Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); RIO’s multi-phase peer review model; PubPeer; the Pinterest-like overlay journal tool Peeriodicals; and Elsevier’s awkwardly named Volunpeers. A key objective for me over the coming months, aligned with the Library’s plans to extend our open research support offer, is to increase my knowledge of the use of pre-prints in research today, including via pre-print repositories.

FSCI public humanities
Attempting to sketch what a Public Humanities could look like

Public Humanities as Scholarly Communication

This provocative class unapologetically generated more questions than answers. We’re increasingly comfortable thinking about Digital Humanities, but what about Open or Public Humanities? Can we have a Humanities which is Open or Public without being Digital? Can the Humanities be Public without being Open? (I think not). What do we even mean when we talk about the Humanities? Faced with instructor Samantha Wallace’s challenging question, ‘Can the University be removed from the Humanities?’, I was forced to confront my proprietorial stance, realising for the first time my assumption that expression or culture only become ‘the Humanities’ when the academy gets involved. I also recognised unpleasantly cynical and paternalistic notes to my thinking about Public Humanities, with assumptions about outreach work or community engagement as impact-demonstrating add-ons to research projects. I was grateful for UCSD Library’s Erin Glass’ insight that it’s unhelpful to refer blandly to ‘the public’ – this is an anonymous signifier for what are in reality distinct, identifiable communities with whom we in academic institutions should seek to build real relationships. Despite the often abstract discussion, I left this class with a practical takeaway. Prompted by Sidonie Smith’s comment on platforms and tools that ‘Just trying to stay abreast of what’s out there becomes a dizzying affair,’ I want to explore the Library’s role in supporting Humanist researchers interested in working more publicly and openly, perhaps through developing expertise with relevant platforms, tools and methods and sharing this with Humanities researchers through personal consultation. I’ll also be considering the class reflections of Micah Vandergrift, one of our instructors, for further thinking and ideas.

FSCI IMG_2982

Aside from deepening my understand of scholarly communication, especially problematic aspects of the traditional research publishing ecosystem and emerging challenges to these, the most valuable aspect of the Summer School was the opportunity to meet colleagues from around the world. Delegates represented six continents (no applicants from Antarctica sadly!), and it was amazing to share experiences of managing Open Access funds with a librarian from Canada; discuss our Library’s DMP service with a research student from Chile; hear the plans of one of the first Scholarly Communication librarians to be appointed in Nigeria; and consider new theories of research collaboration developed by sociologists from Russia. Everyone I spoke to was passionate about open scholarship, generous with their insights and unafraid to challenge assumptions with nuanced arguments. The people – instructors, delegates and organisers – made FSCI a stimulating and inspiring event, and I left California with a refreshed sense of purpose and creativity which I hope to channel into enhancing our scholarly communication support at Manchester.

FSCI IMG_2909

Photo: R2RC.org, CC-0

OpenCon 2018: Apply now to win a Library-sponsored place!

We’re excited to be sponsoring a Manchester PhD student or early career researcher with a passion for Open Research to attend OpenCon 2018 in Toronto, Canada, from 2nd – 4th November.

Photo: R2RC.org, CC-0
Delegates at OpenCon 2017

Organised by SPARC, the Right to Research Coalition and a global conference committee, OpenCon encourages the exploration of opportunities to advance Open Access and Open Data in a positive and supportive environment (see Code of Conduct). This is a great opportunity to learn more about Open Research issues, develop critical skills, contribute to collaborative projects and meet members of a growing global community advocating for a more open system of sharing the world’s information.

The travel scholarship covers the cost of the registration fee, flight and shared accommodation. The University Library will reimburse the cost of sundries not covered by the scholarship.  In return we’ll ask the successful applicant to contribute to one of the Library’s upcoming Open Research Forum events and write up their conference experience in a short report for our Library Research Plus blog.

To apply, please complete the application form available via https://apply.opencon2018.org/referral/uomlibrary telling us:

  • Why you’re interested in Open Access and/or Open Data
  • How these issues relate to your work
  • Your ideas for taking action on these issues, and how you would use your OpenCon experience to have an impact
  • Your participation (past or planned) in global Open Research events

Selection will be based on demonstration of active engagement with the Open Research agenda.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Thursday 20th September. We’ll review applications and contact all candidates by the end of September.

Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY
Research Data Librarian Rosie Higman and Astronomy Open Science Champion Rachael Ainsworth at OpenCon 2017

For inspiration and info, check out our blog posts on experiences of OpenCon 2017, from the perspective of the winner of last year’s sponsored place, Astronomy Open Science Champion Rachael Ainsworth, and our Research Data Librarian Rosie Higman.

Good luck!

A clear appetite for Open Access amongst PGRs and supervisors

At The University of Manchester Library, we’re passionate about supporting and facilitating Open Access (OA) research and helping our Postgraduate research (PGR) students to thrive. These concerns form two key elements of our new Library Strategy to support the University in producing world class research. Last year I worked with colleagues across the University to target these important areas simultaneously, by introducing an Open Access policy for postgraduate research theses. One year and 999 thesis submissions later, 88% of final theses have been approved to be immediately OA or OA within 12 months of submission. The success of the policy so far suggests an appetite for OA amongst PGR students and their supervisors at Manchester.

eThesis blog post graph correct

Motivations for an Open Access policy for theses

Manchester is committed to ensuring as wide an audience as possible can read the outputs of its research. In 2016, following the launch of Research England (previously HEFCE)’s OA policy, we introduced our long-planned institutional policy, requiring all staff to make their published papers OA. The University recognises postgraduate theses as valuable research outputs, and Manchester Doctoral College champions the importance of treating PGR students as academic staff wherever possible.  We were keen to bring PGRs and theses in line with Manchester’s other academics and research outputs, to ensure everyone can benefit from this important work, complementing ongoing work by the Library’s Content, Collections and Discovery team to digitise older, paper-based theses.

We’ve supported electronic submission of PhD theses since 2010, and around 1,000 PGRs use our bespoke eThesis submission system developed by the Library each year. Having expert developers in-house who built and maintain this system allows us to offer a consistently high level of support, as well as being able to adapt the system to support the OA policy without having to submit costly work requests to external developers.

PGRs are supported by a range of University departments, from administrators in Faculties, to development officers tasked with training, and senior leaders responsible for graduate education, so it was important to consult with key stakeholders throughout the project. The outcome was a refreshed submission form, enhanced submission management system, and brand new supervisor approval portal which have all proven straightforward for students, supervisors and administrators to use. We’ve also improved our eThesis Support Service webpages, with dedicated pages for different stakeholders offering a more personalised user experience, and developed robust guidance materials and well-received student and supervisor training.

eThesis blog post padlock

Access decisions: a clear preference for Open Access

Our PGRS can choose from two access levels within the terms of the policy: immediate OA or OA with a 12 month embargo, or they can request an exception to the thesis OA policy. If they request an exception, they select from five formally agreed reasons, related to sponsorship or sensitive content, plus a free text ‘Other’ box. They can then select an exceptional access level: a 2 year or 5 year embargo, or indefinite closed access.

To ensure that appropriate access levels are applied to theses, we added a supervisor approval step to the thesis submission process. Supervisors access a dedicated portal to either approve or override their student’s access level selection, based on their understanding of the policy and the specific requirements of the student’s thesis. The final thesis is made available via the University’s Research Explorer according to the supervisor’s approved access level.

eThesis blog post Research Explorer

Since we launched the policy in June 2017, 999 students have completed eThesis submission, and 877 (88%) of these have selected an access level in line with the policy: either immediate OA or a 12 month embargo. This suggests that the majority of students feel it’s appropriate to make their thesis open within 12 months of submission, and are therefore able to comply with the policy. Although the data suggest an overall increase in OA for Manchester theses, introducing the option of a 12 month embargo means that a higher proportion of our theses are only becoming OA after a delay. Prior to the policy, approximately 60% of theses were made immediately OA, compared to around 52% now. Although we’d like to see the selection of immediate OA increase, on the whole I feel this dip is a reasonable trade-off for improved thesis access long-term.

Most supervisors have endorsed their student’s preferred access level, approving the selection in 71% of cases (708 submissions), and only overriding 35 selections (3.5%). Where students requested exceptions to the policy, the most common reason was that the thesis contained data likely to be included in future research by supervisor or collaborators (39 cases, 4% of all submissions). We deliberately omitted publishing plans from the agreed reasons for requesting an exception, as we wanted to avoid prejudicing students against making their work open within 12 months for this reason. As most academic publishers don’t consider a thesis to be a prior publication, we opted to handle this issue by exception, providing guidance on our support website, and less than 2% of submitting students opted for a longer embargo for this reason.

One year on: embedding Open Access into the thesis submission process

A year on from launch, both the policy and revised submission process are well-established. The system architecture has worked consistently and effectively, including during our peak submission period in late September – its first major test – when 314 submissions took place in one week. We’ve only had a small number of enquiries from students and supervisors concerned about access levels, and responses are generally favourable once the policy’s motivations and requirements are explained.

Some follow-up work was required to address a handful of issues including handling redacted theses; improving back-end functionality to aid monitoring of access levels; and enhancements to how theses are displayed in our Research Explorer. Aside from these issues, we’ve succeeded in embedding OA considerations into the PhD submission process, and we’ll continue to explore ways in which we can support PGRs on their academic journeys, and open up Manchester’s research to the world.

A new professional’s view: UKSG Annual Conference 2015

Open Access iconGlasgow was the venue for the 2015 UKSG Conference and Helen Dobson and I headed north hoping for a repeat of the glorious weather in 2012. We were welcomed by torrential downpours and strong winds, but still had a great time.  The UKSG conference is a good opportunity to hear current debate and learn about innovative practice on the issues affecting libraries and scholarly communications, and a valuable forum for meeting  publishers.  I was lucky enough to win a sponsored place to attend this year – thanks, Springer and Sage!

Once again, Open Access (OA) was a key topic so there was much to interest us in the plenary and breakout sessions.   We were stimulated by Geoffrey Bilder’s introduction, recognising the pressure to publish facing authors and interested in the notion that universities might get better results from their researchers by measuring less and demanding fewer papers. Bilder commented that ‘the primary motivation [for publishing research] is to get credit for stuff, not to document it or provide evidence’, a situation he described as ‘dispiriting’, comparing citations to ‘a scholarly form of the Like button’.

“Citations are a scholarly form of the Like button.”

Throughout the conference, Helen and I were keen to attend events addressing issues and problems which we are all facing, including OA workflows, offsetting deals, and how to build trust in new metrics. The University of Manchester Library is already engaging with these issues on a local and national level so we were interested in the experiences and views shared, and particularly in hearing more about longer-term solutions such as JiscMonitor and the experiences of the institutions involved in the Jisc-ARMA ORCID project.

Counting the costs of open accessOne of the most useful breakout sessions was the panel discussion on ‘Engaging researchers on stakeholder perspectives,’ which prompted some lively debate and much follow-up thought and questions. Summarising the recent Research Consulting report on Counting the costs of Open Access, UCL’s Paul Ayris spoke of the high up-front costs faced by institutions until Open Access workflows and tools become more sophisticated, with smaller or less research-intensive institutions bearing a disproportionate cost burden.

Robert Kiley provided an update on The Wellcome Trust’s stance on Gold OA, emphasising that the Trust remains happy to fund Article Processing Charges (APCs) but only if publishers will honour agreements. We know from our own experiences that papers we have paid APCs for aren’t always OA or published under licences required by funders.  Kiley reported that 34% of Wellcome Trust-funded APCs do not have the required CC-BY licence, and 13% have not been deposited into PubMed Central. This means that  £0.5million of OA funding has been spent on papers that are not compliant with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy.

Elsevier’s Alicia Wise was also on the panel and explained that the cost of APCs has been reduced for some Elsevier titles.  We confess we haven’t really noticed this to date, as the average cost of our Elsevier APCs for 2014-2015 stands at around £1,969, higher than our 2013-2014 non-prepayment deal figure of £1,909.  Alicia stated that Elsevier don’t double-dip but explained that it was difficult to evidence this due to confidentiality clauses or to find a cost-based pricing model acceptable to librarians (who favour calculations based on quantity of content) and publishers (who base calculations on journal value).

The interactive session on OAWAL, Open Access Workflows in Academic Libraries, offered reassurance that different institutions experience similar problems to those we face. Speakers Graham Stone from Huddersfield and Jill Emery from Portland State emphasised that the principle of OAWAL is to gather a wide range of methods and experiences; not to enforce one ‘right’ approach but to allow librarians to tailor workflows to suit their institution. However, I felt that the group activity of identifying challenges, ideal scenarios and possible solutions suggested that a collective approach can highlight what needs to change around OA to streamline processes  The Jisc opeNWorks project we are leading has already highlighted to us the need for community solutions at a regional and national level.  As we prepare for the next major challenge of HEFCE compliance, we see that the issues we face are at a scale greater than an individual institution, meaning solutions will be found within the community, not in isolation.

OUP_cakes
Networking with publishers at UKSG

It was useful (and fun – excellent cupcakes, Oxford University Press!) to catch up with publishers with whom we have existing institutional deals, and with whom we may consider arranging a deal in the future, asking questions about how these function and clarifying workflows. We discussed an institutional deal being developed by OUP and saw  the pilot dashboard designed to simplify processes for our authors, and we dropped by the Taylor & Francis stand to ask for clarification on  how this publisher’s offsetting deal will work for authors. It was also really positive to hear publishers such as BMJ and IEEE considering how they can help institutions with HEFCE requirements, for example, by supporting Jisc’s Publication Router or providing authors with the AAM in acceptance emails; we would love to see more examples of this.

Invisible Humanities?

The conference ended strongly with its closing talks as engaging as its opening salvo. As always, it was a joy to hear articulate and passionate Open Access advocate Martin Eve speak on how ‘mega journals’ might be funded to address the risk of the Humanities becoming invisible to the public through competition for funding (true of subscription costs as well as APCs) with the Sciences. The University of Manchester Library supports the Open Library of Humanities and we look forward to seeing further development.

We left Glasgow reflecting on how far we’ve come in addressing OA challenges at an institutional level to date and feeling excited that we’re involved in tackling remaining problems via the Jisc Pathfinder projects, an RLUK group focusing on publisher OA workflows, and by participating in a UKSG seminar on offsetting schemes in late May.

Critical reading online

Teaching the researchers of tomorrow

For the past year I’ve been involved with the Library’s My Learning Essentials (MLE) Open Training programme, which involves facilitation of workshops on academic and study skills. In addition to the regular offer of sessions on effective academic writing and organisational techniques, January’s sessions include a focus on revision as part of the Library’s Exam Extra offer.

The MLE workshops are used by students and researchers at all stages of their academic careers. Over the last year, 39% of MLE workshop attendees have been Taught Postgraduate students, with Postgraduate Researchers representing 18% of delegates, and Undergraduates making up 38%. I love being able to offer constructive, tangible support to both current researchers and those who may consider further study or research after graduation.

Jam-packed workshops and engaging online resources

MLE homepage
MLE homepage with links to online resources for all and workshops for students and staff at Manchester

The workshop format is intended to make the best use of students’ and researchers’ precious time, with a jam-packed 20-30 minutes of information provision, instruction, discussion and activities. The rest of the hour-long session is left open, so attendees can work alone or in groups, on their own past papers or using example documents provided. There is also the opportunity to talk directly to facilitators like myself for advice. I enjoy being able to work with students 1:1 or in small groups, and discuss resources that can develop their ideas or answer their questions. It’s great to be able to point students to the Library’s fantastic suite of online tutorials. Designed by the Library’s award-winning MLE Development Team, these interactive resources are available for anyone to use, and offer instruction combined with the opportunity to put skills into practice. Some of my colleagues in the Research Services team have contributed to the latest online resource which provides an introduction to statistics.

Critical reading online resource
MLE ‘Being critical’ online resource

One of my favourite sessions to deliver is Critical Reading, where I suggest ways to ensure that reading is engaged and effective. When setting the agenda at the start of the session I delivered in the first week of January, people attending asked how they could possibly read everything for their topics, or if there was a better way to approach their work. I was able to suggest strategies to determine whether a text is worth reading, through setting a goal on what you wish to get out of a text before you begin, and predicting content and relevance based on title, abstract and introduction. Once you have decided that something is worth reading, I explained the strategies of reflecting on the main ideas being communicated as you are reading, clarifying anything you don’t understand, and summarising the paper and your interpretation of its ideas. As well as checking that you have really understood and engaged with the material, this creates a neat synopsis to refer to throughout your revision, and to look back on for those who go on to further study and research.

Communicating ideas

The most important message I have learnt from delivering MLE sessions, and the one I try to impress upon all workshop attendees, is that whether scribbling a 20-minute exam answer, drafting a 20,000 word dissertation or defending your argument during a viva, we are not tested on what we know, but what we are able to communicate about what we know. The ability to communicate is key to engaging with complex ideas and debates that may have raged for centuries, or are perhaps brand new.  I love being part of the MLE Open Training programme which I hope will instil a deeper understanding of methods and approaches to scholarly work, and encourage confidence to challenge and contribute to discussions at all levels of study.

Check out MLE resources on the library website.

 

Welcome 2014: Research support available

Welcome Week for researchers

At the start of the new academic year, the Library’s Research Services team has been directly involved in the University Library’s Welcome programme, meeting new students and researchers to explain how to get the most out of the services offered by the Library.
With so much for new students to take in, we focused on key information, explaining how to begin using the Library and get started on research. As well as providing logistical information on obtaining student cards and Library PINs, we highlighted the Library’s discovery system, Library Search, and drew attention to the invaluable resources available from the Library.

Welcome 2014: Research support available
Traceyanne explains the research support available to MACE postgraduate researchers

Speaking on 2 October to new Postgraduate Researchers at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE), we described the information, guidance and support offered by the Research Services team on the issues and technology affecting the University’s researchers. We explained how to get help with Research Data Management; assessing the citation impact of your research; use of our institutional repository Manchester eScholar; and how to make published work Open Access.

The Library has developed online Subject Guides to draw together information and resources for particular discipine areas, as well as resources of inter-disciplinary interest like our extensive international newspaper archives. Our colleagues can also support researchers with guidance on copyright, referencing and undertaking systematic reviews.

Welcome 2014: facilities available
Lucinda highlights the facilities available to support researchers in their work

My Learning Essentials (MLE) is the Library’s award-winning skills programme, comprising a comprehensive suite of online resources, workshops and skills clinics designed to help users develop their academic and employability skills. MLE offers a great opportunity to develop essential research skills, hone referencing techniques and the use of referencing software such as EndNote and Mendeley, and learn the most effective ways to plan literature searches.

It was great to meet some of our new researchers and we look forward to working with them this year.