Category Archives: Announcement

PhD student with a passion to promote the Open philosophy wins our sponsored OpenCon 2018 place

We’ve now assessed all applications for our sponsored OpenCon 2018 place and are pleased to announce that the successful applicant is Chukwuma Ogbonnaya. Chukwuma is a PhD Student at the school of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, as well as working as an early career Lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo in Abakaliki, Nigeria.

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Chukwuma Ogbonnaya, winner of The University of Manchester Library’s sponsored OpenCon2018 place

Chukwuma’s application stood out due to his ability to combine passion with practical ideas for improving openness in research, based on his own experiences as a researcher and student. Having experienced both the frustration of gaining access to the supporting data of other scientists, and the substantial effort required to manually explain his own data to ensure it’s meaningful to readers, Chukmuna is motivated to explore the development of systems to support effective and systematic sharing of important research artefacts such as contextual data and code to aid analysis and reproducibility of published research findings.

The panel was particularly impressed with Chukwuma’s ideas for establishing a researcher network to support and encourage research staff and students across The University of Manchester to embrace the Open philosophy. Chukwuma plans to achieve this through both developing strategies for and engaging in outreach activities to explain the benefits of open research and learning.

Chukwuma was keen to attend OpenCon 2018 to network with like-minded fellows to develop his knowledge and critical skills. Collaboration is essential to developing serious challenges to established norms of scholarly communication, and we’re hoping Chukwuma will meet equally passionate delegates to help him develop and hone his ambitious plans.

We look forward to hearing from Chukwuma on his experiences at OpenCon 2018 and working with him on upcoming open research activities, including Open Access Week 2018 and our next Open Research Forum in November.

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!

Notes on a new allocation model: year 6 of the RCUK Open Access policy

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And so a new year of the Research Council Open Access (OA) block grant begins. And this time we’ve thought harder than ever about how to manage the grant. It’s not straightforward, even when your institution’s grant exceeds £1m. This isn’t just us at Manchester – my peers at Oxford and Cambridge universities would probably say the same. The problem is that the grant isn’t enough to meet demand. I know it isn’t intended to, the Research Councils have been clear about that. From the launch of the policy they stated that the required compliance target after 5 years would be 75% of an institution’s funded output, and they’ve since confirmed their expectation that the compliance figures we report each year will be a mixture of Gold and Green OA (see Q2 in the post March 2018 FAQ).

‘First come, first served’

In the first year of the block grant we adopted a first come, first served approach to allocating the block grant. This worked well as our advocacy efforts raised awareness of the new policy requirements and funding was easily available for authors who wanted to engage with Gold OA. In subsequent years the demand for Gold OA grew quickly, as did hybrid OA options and the cost of Article Processing Charges (APCs). To what extent this demand grew out of a misplaced belief that Gold OA is the only route to policy compliance, I’m not sure, but some authors continue to query this with us, despite regular updates by email and face-to-face, as well as the information they receive from their publishers. Some authors also tell me that their publishers seem to be nudging them towards Gold OA, which I hope isn’t true but the continued suggestion, even after 5 years, is a cause for concern.

The Research Councils have a preference for Gold OA and I’ve aimed to support this, limiting intervention in the first 5 years so that we could provide a dataset demonstrating the behaviour of authors and publishers during this period. The Councils also stopped allowing researchers to request non-OA publication costs into grant applications at this time. So although the primary purpose of the block grant is for APCs, we made the decision to support colour charges and page charges from our block grant, to highlight these costs and the publishers levying them in our reporting. I also learned that the notion that Green OA is free OA is not always true when faced with requests for mandatory publication fees from publishers that don’t offer a Gold OA option, or at least a compliant Gold option (we call this ‘paid-for Green’). In common with other institutions we used a portion of our block grant to fund resources underpinning the service needed to support a new, centralised approach to managing OA from the first grant award. So technically the costs we’ve covered up to now extend beyond APCs, but we supplemented the block grant from institutional funds for 2 years, which effectively covered the cost we’d top-sliced for staffing.

From the outset we’ve signed up to and made use of various deals and options that discount the cost of APCs, to stretch the block grant that little bit further and to engage with publishers that have made efforts to explore sustainable and affordable OA models. We’ve done this on the basis of our current publication activity and the type of deal being offered. The credit we receive as part of some of the offsetting deals is a useful supplement to the block grant. We’ve also used Library funds to support the adoption of a couple of ‘read and publish’ type models, another way in which the institution has supplemented the block grant.

Despite all of this, our experience has shown us that the grant we receive doesn’t cover 12 months when we operate a first come, first served model. During the past couple of years we’ve had to inform researchers part way through the grant period that the allocation model has changed and that we’ve introduced stricter criteria. Some authors have accepted this blithely but others have expressed disappointment that their preferred OA route is not available to them. We’ve been keen to keep OA as straightforward as possible for our authors and so have decided to start the new grant year with strict criteria. We’ve had a brief trial run and believe that the criteria we’re adopting will help us keep within budget, achieving a fair balance of Gold and Green OA.

New eligible costs

I know that we have a responsibility to ensure our institution complies with the OA policy but over the past 5 years we’ve found that in some cases this is only technically possible via Gold OA due to Green OA embargo periods or licences. I find it hard to believe that the Research Councils would want us to use our limited funds to pay for Gold OA to achieve policy compliance. This certainly isn’t in the spirit of Finch. I’ve looked back at the advice relating to the Publisher’s Association decision tree included in the RCUK policy and believe that our new approach is in line with this guidance –

“When using the decision tree it should be noted that although our preference is for immediate, unrestricted open access (‘Gold’), we allow a mixed approach to Open Access, and the decision on which route to follow – gold or green – remains at the discretion of the researchers and their research organisations”.

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So for the first time we’re not starting the new grant year on a ‘first come, first served’ basis but instead we’ve agreed a new list of eligible costs.

  1. APCs for reputable fully OA journals (using DOAJ and OASPA as ‘quality assurance’ checks)
  2. Mandatory non-OA publication charges to publishers providing a Green OA option that complies with the policy
  3. APCs to publishers of hybrid journals that are supporting the transition to OA
  4. APCs to other publishers of hybrid journals if papers are funded by MRC and the Green OA embargo exceeds 6 months or if papers are dual-funded with Charity Open Access Fund partners
  5. APCs to other publishers of hybrid journals when a research director recommends Gold OA on the basis that a paper is ranked as 4*

The publishers that currently fall into ‘Category 3’ are:

  • American Chemical Society
  • Cambridge University Press
  • IEEE
  • IOP
  • Oxford University Press
  • The Royal Society
  • Sage
  • Springer Nature
  • Taylor & Francis
  • Wiley

Other publishers may think they have a deal that we should consider again as a sustainable and affordable option – if so, get in touch – I’m at the UKSG conference next week.

We’ve included the option for School-level Directors of Research to over-rule our decisions because we know that some of the highest quality research produced by our researchers is published in journals that don’t meet our main criteria. By doing this the strict approach we’re taking this year isn’t at odds with the University’s strategic objectives.

Easing challenges?

We’re starting the new grant year unsure of the amount of the award but no longer paying for staff costs and colour charges, and knowing that we have credit amounts from Wiley, Oxford University Press and (almost) unlimited Gold OA with Springer Nature (Springer Compact titles only) and IEEE. I’m hopeful this approach will be more straightforward for all involved and will ease budget management challenges throughout the year, as well as continuing to achieve high levels of OA, and we’ll be reviewing it after 6 months.

What we can’t guarantee is that all of our Green OA papers fully comply with the policy. I wonder if it’s actually possible to achieve 75% compliance given that the licence option set by some publishers doesn’t align with the policy requirement but we need the Research Councils to reflect on this as part of the policy review. In the meantime me and my colleagues will get on with the task in hand which, in case we forget it in the midst of this complexity, is to ensure free and open access to publicly funded research outputs.

Opening up the conversation about Open Research

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Awareness of Open Access (OA) and Open Data have increased substantially over the last few years, with new mandates and funder policies increasing the levels of OA at The University of Manchester for 2016-17 to 75%. Whilst this is a huge improvement on historic levels of approximately 10% Green OA, the emphasis on compliance with funder requirements has meant that many of the underlying reasons for working openly can be forgotten, presenting a risk that OA starts to be seen as another box to tick.  For Open Research to become the norm across academia, major cultural change is required, and most researchers require strong incentives to make that change. In order to help counter the focus on compliance the Library is hosting an Open Research Forum at the Contact Theatre on Thursday 26 October, as part of Open Access Week 2017.

In Classical times the forum was a place where news was exchanged and ideas thrashed out, and it is that spirit of open debate which we are hoping to capture through the Open Research Forum. We have a great selection of researchers lined up from across the University who will be speaking about the issues, challenges and benefits of openness, and what it means to be an ‘open researcher’. In keeping with Open Access Week 2017, the theme for the event is ‘Open in order to…’, focusing on the practical outcomes of working openly.  Topics include preprints, OA as part of wider public engagement, and newly emerging data labs which actively re-use data created by other researchers.

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The Library as a Broker

Whilst the Library is coordinating the event it will be researcher-led and -focused with a series of slide-free, story-based talks from academics complemented with interactive activities and discussion. Our speakers represent a range of disciplines and we hope to capitalise on the Library being a ‘neutral’ space on campus to encourage exchange from across the Schools. Speakers and participants are encouraged to be honest about their experiences with, and ideas about the future of, open research. We hope that by bringing researchers together to focus on open research without reference to mandates or policies we can help facilitate a more inspiring and substantive discussion on the opportunities and consequences created by researching in an open manner.

Learning from each other

As service providers in a central cultural institution, it’s easy to get lost in the mechanics of how to make research open and in our enthusiasm for this new mode of scholarly communication, and lose sight of how these changes affect researchers’ day to day lives. Thus, as organisers we are hoping to learn lots from our speakers so we can make our services more relevant. The speakers are all actively ‘open researchers’ in different ways so we hope that other researchers can learn from their example and be inspired.

Book now:

Book your place at the Open Research Forum now to be part of the conversation: www.manchester.ac.uk/library/open-research-forum

Open Data Champion secures our sponsored OpenCon 2017 place

We’ve now assessed all applications for our sponsored OpenCon 2017 place and are pleased to announce that the successful applicant is Rachael Ainsworth. Rachael is a Research Associate in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Open Science Champion for the Interferometry Centre of Excellence at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics.  In this role she promotes, advocates and organises events relating to open science in astronomy but she’s also behind the creation of the Manchester branch of XX+Data – a networking community for women who work with or love data – and been selected as a Mozilla Open Leader and will receive mentorship and training through the Mozilla Network on a project designed to advance open research.

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Her project, ‘Resources for Open Science in Astronomy’ (ROSA), aims to collaboratively compile and tailor open science best practices from around the web into a kit for astronomers to work openly from proposal to publication, and will equip senior researches with a single resource so that they can mentor the next generation of open science practitioners . The project will also produce a general open science resource toolkit to encourage adaptation and reuse for any field of research, which will benefit all departments of the University.

Rachael was keen to attend OpenCon because she believes that open and reproducible research is fundamental to the scientific method and that attendance will aid her development: “OpenCon will make me a more confident advocate and allow me to disseminate these tools more effectively within my department and throughout the University in order to empower other researchers with the skills to work openly.”

We look forward to hearing more from Rachael as part our Open Access Week activities (on which, more soon!) and when she shares her OpenCon experience in a blog post later in the year. We also look forward to engaging more with the applicants who weren’t successful on this occasion, facilitating further opportunities to bring advocates of open research together.  We’re feeling quite excited about the energy and passion we sensed in all our applicants and we expect them all to make progress in the quest for open!

Sponsored place at OpenCon 2017

We’re excited to be sponsoring a University of Manchester PhD student or early career researcher with a passion for Open Research to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin, from 11th-13th November.

OpenCon is organised by SPARC, the Right to Research Coalition and a global conference committee.  The event brings together early career researchers and scholars from around the world in a positive and supportive environment (see Code of Conduct) to showcase projects, discuss issues and explore ways to advance Open Access, Open Data and Open Education.

Attendees 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 events and write up their conference experience in a short report for our blog.

To apply, please submit answers to the following questions by email, using the Subject header ‘OpenCon Application’, to uml.scholarlycommunication@manchester.ac.uk.  The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Monday 25th September 2017.

  1. Why are you interested in OpenCon?
  2. What are your ideas for advancing Open Research?
  3. How will attending OpenCon help you advance Open Research at the University of Manchester?

We’ll review applications and contact all candidates  by the end of September.

University of Manchester’s RCUK Open Access 2016-17 report

The beginning of April marked the end of the fourth year of RCUK’s Open Access (OA) policy.  We submitted our finance and compliance report in May and have made our 2016-17 APC data available via the University’s institutional repository, Pure.

The headlines for us from this period are:

  • We have estimated 75% compliance for 2016-17 (54% Gold OA and 21% Green OA).
  • This is a significant increase in Green OA. In part this is due to the launch of HEFCE’s OA policy but it is also a consequence of the constraints of the block grant, ie, we have been unable to meet demand for Gold OA during the reporting period.
  • Despite the increase in Green OA, expenditure on Gold OA has not decreased. This is partly due to publishers that do not provide a compliant Green OA option but increased APC unit level costs are also a factor.
  • We have reported an 18% increase in the average APC cost in 2016/17 (£1869) against the 2015/16 average (£1578). To some extent this increase can be accounted for by foreign exchange rate differences.
  • Although we operate a ‘first come, first served’ model for allocating the block grant, it was necessary to impose restrictions for 3 months of this period. We limited expenditure to Pure Gold OA journals, non-OA publication fees and hybrid journals that do not provide a compliant Green OA option.
  • The level of Gold OA achieved has only been possible due to continued investment from the University (£0.2m) and credits/discounts received from publishers relating to subscription packages and offsetting deals (£0.1m).
  • We arranged Gold OA with 60 different publishers. Of these, we managed offsetting schemes and memberships with 11 and arranged Gold OA for only one paper with 20.
  • We continued to assess publisher deals to obtain best value from the block grant but are committed to engaging only with publishers that offer a reasonable discount and overall fair OA offer.
  • As in previous years, most APCs were paid to Elsevier (139), almost double the number paid to the next publisher, Wiley (75).
  • As in previous years, our highest cost APC (£4679) was paid to Elsevier.  The lowest cost APC (£196) was paid to the Electrochemical Society.
  • We reported expenditure of £72,297 on ‘other costs’.  This amount includes colour and page charges as well as publication fees associated with Green OA papers.
  • Despite reminders to authors that papers must be published as CC-BY, 8 papers were published under non-compliant licences and we were unable to identify licences for a further 16 papers.  We contact publishers to correct licences when we are aware of a non-compliant licence.
  • We continued to see engagement with Gold OA from Humanities researchers who produce outputs other than journal articles. We have supported Gold OA for one monograph and one book chapter during the reporting period, at a cost of £11,340 from the block grant.  A further monograph has been paid for from an institutional OA fund.
  • Despite a concerted effort on our part we continued to see inconsistency in the inclusion of grant acknowledgements on papers.  We act in good faith when approving payment from the block grant but believe a joined up approach from RCUK, institutions and publishers is needed to ensure all researchers are aware and fulfil this requirement consistently.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.