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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Monday 25th September 2017.
Why are you interested in OpenCon?
What are your ideas for advancing Open Research?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
At the same time, Manchester University Press, under the leadership of Dr Frances Pinter, a well-established innovator in the publishing industry, embarked on a strategy focusing on Open Access publishing, and the Press and the Library began to develop a collaborative approach to furthering the research publishing ambitions of the University. This partnership led to a joint project to create a new academic journal, which has recently been launched under a shared brand: Manchester Open Library.
Further opportunity to work together came in 2014, when the University established a Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation and Learning (CHERIL). CHERIL issued an internal funding call, and the Library led a bid with the Press as a partner. We succeeded in winning funding for our proposal, Student Open Access Research (SOAR), and embarked upon a project to explore the issues surrounding student publishing. We sought to understand levels of awareness and demand, support and training needs, technical infrastructure requirements and the costs of running student publishing services. In addition, we wanted to explore the relationship between research and learning, and the concept of the student publishing service as a tangible benefit to taught students at a research-intensive institution like Manchester. The University has a strategic commitment to research-led teaching, and SOAR aimed to support this aspect of the University’s 2020 strategy.
SOAR comprised a number of interrelated work packages, including:
To complete work that had already commenced on a student journal based in Manchester Medical School,
To produce a toolkit to support students interested in starting and editing a new journal,
To test software and recommend the best platform for student publishing,
To explore the value of publishing not just research papers, but also student reflective pieces on their learning.
To deliver on these objectives, the project was highly consultative, engaging with students at all levels, and academics in a variety of disciplines. Workshops and interviews developed our understanding of student views, the opportunities and the barriers , and the dimensions of a potential service offering. In addition, we benchmarked our activities against other institutions doing interesting work in this space, including Edinburgh and Purdue.
So what did we find out?
Our final project report includes a large number of conclusions and recommendations, so this is a selective list of key findings. The full report is available alongside other completed CHERIL projects:
A student journal can act as a training tool, developing the skills of research students, and preparing taught students for what it means to be a researcher.
Don’t underestimate the work necessary, from the students themselves, from their supervisors, and from service provider. Publishing is time-consuming, and requires student editorial teams to develop expertise in activities that are likely to be very new to them.
Academic support is critical: experiences with the Manchester Medical School student journal showed us how important strong and committed academic leadership is when working with inexperienced editors, and let’s not forget the succession planning issues associated with the inevitable turnover as students graduate.
Interestingly, we found the well-established open source journal platform, Open Journal Systems (OJS) was not ideal for student publishing, as the levels of complexity associated with it would bring a significant support overhead.
The notion that students might publish ‘learning logs’ did not emerge as likely, at least in terms of scholarly papers. Instead, such pieces might lend themselves more to informal publishing, such as blogs.
We couldn’t determine fully what the market for a student journal publishing service at Manchester would be, and so concluded that it would be premature to develop a service, at significant cost, ahead of clarity about the demand. Instead, it will be more sensible to develop the draft toolkit we produced into a full training service, allowing us to develop our students without committing to resource-intensive and potentially unsustainable journal production.
It will be vital that any student publishing associated with Manchester is of high quality, and this reinforces the need to be cautious at this stage, and only develop titles we have confidence will deliver outputs we wish to be associated with the University. We also concluded that an interdisciplinary approach would be helpful, as this also delivers on a commitment in Manchester’s strategy and we are influenced by the success of Purdue’s multidisciplinary student journal, JPUR.
Where do we go next?
It’s very pleasing to be able to announce that the work completed by SOAR allowed us to make a compelling case for funding for the coming year, and we will shortly commence work on our next project in this area, PuRLS (Publishing and Research Learning for Students). This project will focus on the production of face-to-face and online training materials, and further build on the relationship between the Library and the Press. Look for news about PuRLS in a future blog post here!
One of the certification schemes mentioned in my ‘Financial Database Certification’ post of 25 September 2014 has been updated. Bloomberg Essentials Training Program, better known as ‘Bloomberg Certification’, has new content, display format and examinations, post 16 July 2015.
In order to keep up to date and be in a position to better advise students attending the Bloomberg Certification training sessions I deliver, I have successfully retaken the certification examinations.