Off we go, Lucy and I, out into the Yorkshire cold to attend an Open Access (OA) advocacy event held at The University of Bradford. We are warmly welcomed to a great afternoon with engaging speakers, and a fun exercise from the man behind the OA innovations at the University of Huddersfield, Graham Stone.
Deadly diseases and healthy profits
Our first speaker was Professor Charles Oppenheim who shared an overview of OA and its importance for academic libraries. He opened with some punchy headlines (which had all the delegates mumbling in their seats) about the monopoly of publishers and their reluctance to share scholarly work for free – using the Ebola crisis as an example. Some publishers have been withholding integral research on the subject unless subscriptions and fees are paid; stating even with a terrible crisis developing there was still the need for a ‘healthy’ profit margin. This led very nicely to his second headline that Elsevier had made a bigger profit in the past 12 months than Google! Despite these alarming headlines, he did emphasise that he was not anti-publisher but there are still some important guidelines that needed to be solidified, using the help of government mandates and institutional gumption!
Professor Oppenheim described the uptake of OA has been slow and hesitant over the past few years, with only 20-30% of research output in the country being OA. He highlighted the responsibility on the funders and institutions to encourage authors to engage with OA. This could be through different means like incentives, as well as a few sticks, and to directly quote our second speaker Nick Sheppard:
‘Carrots don’t work, please give me a stick.’
Nick Sheppard and Jennie Wilson from Leeds Beckett summarised their technical challenges and new workflows. Nick took us through the difficulties of advocating green OA in response to the HEFCE announcement and the jump for institutions to embrace new software and repository infrastructure. Nick went on to highlight the importance of social media and altmetrics in drawing attention to the importance of OA and the academic world, and the impact on citations.
Jennie gave the audience a glimpse into the new pressures she has dealt with. Leeds Beckett didn’t receive any RCUK funding so her team had to come up with innovative strategies to encourage authors to engage with OA and explained their use of social media to promote services and encourage authors to deposit in their repository. Their use of LibGuides really had the room buzzing. Jennie explained how they used Twitter feeds about hot topics, such as World Diabetes Day, to capture articles relevant to the discussions. and had a rolling feed on their LibGuide website. This turned out to be an effective incentive for authors to deposit their papers, as well as a way to showcase research taking place at their institute, a ‘win-win’ all round!
Our final speaker was the enthusiastic Graham Stone. We were introduced to the OAWAL project (pronounced like the bird!), a new initiative sourcing workflows and best practices for the OA community which aspires to develop into the ‘go to’ place for management of OA in institutions.
Graham then led an exercise to highlight the negatives and positives we face in the OA world. In groups we figured out ways of resolving the issues, highlighting the top 3 priorities. In our group the negatives were things like lack of consistency among publishers, staffing and money. We did find some good positives such as strong mandates and buy in and enthusiasm, and high profile support and advocacy. We came up with a few solutions such as having a more collaborative approach, more mandates and the use of ‘sticks’. Our top 3 priorities were 1) a more collaborative approach supported by mandates, 2) publisher consistency and 3) encouraging academics to refuse to carry out peer-review for publishers that don’t allow authors to comply with funder policies. This exercise was useful as it highlighted that everyone seems to be dealing with the same issues and having the same pain points, and that there is a community out there who can provide advice, personal experience and hopefully a network on best practice and standards. Developing communities and sharing experience is also a focus for Manchester as the lead institution on the opeNWorks JISC pathfinder project.
Lucy and I really enjoyed the session and thought the choices of speakers were well thought out and varied. There were a few questions and answers and an opportunity to network with colleagues in similar roles, so all in all a useful session.