Tag Archives: Open Access

Open Access Week 2018 musings: engaging authors, new staff and publishers

OA social graphic

When we’re planning for Open Access (OA) Week we reflect on where we’ve got to in our services, both in the delivery and the level of researcher engagement with OA.

It’s always rewarding for us to remember how well established our service now is and the important part we play in increasing access to the University’s research and, of course, funder compliance. This year we worked with colleagues in the University’s Global Development Institute to showcase their OA research, which aligns with the theme of OA Week 2018, and highlighted our top 5 most accessed theses.

nick&rachel

It’s also rewarding to be out and about on campus, talking to researchers about OA. This year librarians from our Academic Engagement team held OA pop-up events in various buildings, away from the Library, and a screening of Paywall: the Business of Scholarship in a lecture theatre.

Levels of engagement with OA at the University are high – while it’s undoubtedly true that this is related to funder policies , it’s also partly because our services are designed to make the process easy for authors. OA isn’t always easy for researchers to understand but our process is, and it prompts conversations with us about what to do, and the reasons why, all year round. Our webpages underpin our current processes but now – we’ve just launched new-look webpages – also look ahead, encouraging and supporting engagement with Open Research more broadly.

What I’ve been reminded of as we’ve been preparing for OA Week is that however well we’re doing at the moment, there are still challenges to tackle. And I’m not referring to Plan S.

Working in an Open Access service

OA teams have formed and grown over the past 5 years. Most of us learned on the job and we’re now training the new colleagues on the job. I’m part of a national group considering how best to prepare the next generation of people for work in this area. One way we’re doing this is by inviting staff already working in this area to share their experiences.

We often receive applications for our vacancies that suggest a lack of understanding about the nature of the roles so I’ve asked Lucy May and Olivia Rye from our team to talk about what it means to work in a role with a strong focus on Gold OA at a large research-intensive university.

liv lucy

See Cambridge’s Unlocking Research blog for examples of other types of Scholarly Communication roles.

OA monographs and book chapters

A further challenge is OA monographs and book chapters. We really need greater clarity on publisher processes as they relate to OA for these output types. Over the past week we’ve been reviewing the status of 14 payments we arranged for our School of Arts, Languages and Cultures from our 2017-18 institutional OA fund (last payment made in early September), totalling just over £61,000. Of these, 6 outputs are not yet OA. Another output, a monograph, is not flagged as OA on the publisher’s page. This may be an oversight, but it’s telling of developments still needed – the publisher of this book told the author that they don’t have processes in place for this yet.

Of the 6 outputs, two were book chapters, from a commercial publisher that I assume has a process, because they have a webpage offering OA for chapters as an option, but although I’ve had an apology I’ve not yet had confirmation of when the chapters will be OA. One was an article from a US University Press – I had a fast response and apology but have been told it will take at at least a week for the article to be made OA.

The 3 remaining outputs are monographs. From the responses I’ve had I’m understanding that there’s a delay in converting a monograph to OA once a Book Processing Charge is made – what I’ve yet to learn is how long this is likely to be. We can’t have meaningful discussions with authors without this kind of information and the lack of publisher procedures affects confidence in engagement with OA.

So, this is now on my To Do list both here at Manchester and for the RLUK Open Access Publisher Processes group. By the time we’re planning OA Week activities next year, and reflecting on how far we’ve come, I’m determined we’ll have answers.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

A Research Data Librarian’s experience of OpenCon2017

Photo: R2RC.org, CC-0After following and participating in the OpenCon Librarian calls for much of the last year I was delighted to win a partial scholarship to OpenCon 2017. The monthly calls had raised my awareness of the variety of Open Access, Education and Data initiatives taking place elsewhere and I was keen to learn more about others’ advocacy efforts with students, librarians, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and researchers from around the world.

Too often when discussing Open Access and Data it seems that researchers, librarians and policy makers are at separate conferences and having separate conversations; so it is great that OpenCon brings together such a diverse group of people to work across national, disciplinary and professional boundaries. Thus I was very excited to arrive in Berlin for a long weekend working with a dedicated group of advocates on how to advance Open Research and Education.

The weekend started with a panel of inspiring early career professionals discussing the initiatives they are working on which showed the many different levels it is possible to influence academic culture. These included Kholoud Al Ajarma’s work enabling refugee children to tell their stories through photography, the Bullied into Bad Science campaign which supports early career researchers in publishing ethically, Robin Champieux’s efforts to affect grassroots cultural change and research into how open science is (or is not!) being incorporated into Review, Promotion and Tenure in American and Canadian universities. Learning about projects working at the individual, institutional, and national level was a great way to get inspired about what could be achieved in the rest of the conference.

Photo: R2RC.org, CC-0

This emphasis on taking practical action was a theme of the weekend, OpenCon is not an event where you spend much time listening! After sharing how we all came to be interested in ‘Open’ during the stories of self on Saturday afternoon, we plunged into regional focus groups on Sunday working on how we can affect cultural change as individuals in large institutions.

The workshops used design thinking, so we spent time thinking through the goals, frustrations and preoccupations of each actor. This meant that when we were coming up with strategies for cultural change they were focused on what is realistic for the people involved rather than reaching for a technical solution with no regard to context. This was a great chance to talk through the different pressures facing researchers and librarians, understand each other’s points of view and come up with ways we can work in alliance to advocate for more openness.

During the do-athon (think a more inclusive version of a hackathon) I spent much of my time working with a group lead by Zoe Wake Hyde looking at Open Humanities and Social Sciences which was born out of one of the unconference sessions on the previous day.

When discussing Open Research, and particularly Open Data, the conversation is frequently geared towards the type of research and publishing which occurs in the physical sciences and so solutions do not take account of the challenges faced by the Humanities and Social Sciences. These challenges include a lack of funding, less frequent publishing which puts more pressure on each output, and the difficulties of making monographs Open Access. Often at conferences there are only a couple of us who are interested in the Humanities and Social Sciences so it was great to be able to have in depth discussions and start planning possible actions.

During the initial unconference session we talked about the differences (and potential conflicts) between Digital Humanities and Open Humanities, the difficulties in finding language to advocate effectively for Open in the Humanities, and the difficulty of sharing qualitative social sciences data. It was reassuring to hear others are having similar difficulties in getting engagement in these disciplines and, whilst trying to avoid it turning into a therapy session, discuss how we could get Humanities and Social Sciences to have a higher profile within the Open movement. It was by no means all discussion and true to stereotype several of our group spent the afternoon working on their own getting to grips with the literature in this area.

It was inspiring to work together with an international group of early career researchers, policy makers and librarians to get from an initial discussion about the difficulties we are all facing to a draft toolkit for advocates in little over 24 hours. Our discussions have continued since leaving Berlin and we hope to have a regular webchat to share best practice and support each other.

Whilst getting involved with practical projects was a fantastic opportunity my main takeaway from the weekend was the importance of developing a wider and more inclusive perspective on Open Research and Education. It is easy to lose sight of these broader goals when working on these issues every day and getting bogged down in funder compliance, the complications of publisher embargoes and the technical difficulties of sharing data.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel focused on the real world impact of openness and the importance of being critical in our approaches to openness. Denise Albornoz spoke powerfully on recognising the potential for Open Research to perpetuate unequal relationships across the world with wealthy scientists being the only ones able to afford to publish (as opposed to being the only ones being able to afford to read the literature) and so silencing those in developing countries. Tara Robertson highlighted the complicated consent issues exposed through opening up historic records, Thomas Mboa focused on how Open Access prioritises Western issues over those important in Africa, and Siko Bouterse spoke about the Whose Knowledge project which campaigns on ensuring knowledge from marginalised communities is represented on the Internet.

This panel, much like the whole of OpenCon, left me reflecting on how we can best advance Open Access and Open Data and re-energised to make a start with new allies from around the world.

Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY

An Astronomy Open Science Champion’s experience of OpenCon2017

Advocating for openness in research is a big part of the work we do in the Library’s Research Services team. Trying to win the hearts and minds of skeptical researchers can be a challenge but increasingly we find that we are having conversations with researchers who are themselves advocates for open research. Facilitating the development of a network of open champions across campus is something we’re keen to do more of and two recent examples of this work are holding an Open Research Forum in Open Access Week and funding Rachael Ainsworth, an Early Career Researcher, to attend OpenCon2017. To do our job well we also need to be involved in developments and discussions, so we were delighted that Rosie Higman, a member of our team, won a sponsored place at OpenCon2017. Read about Rachael’s experience at OpenCon here and come back to read about Rosie’s later in the week…

AinsworthRround

Hello! I am Rachael Ainsworth, a Research Associate in Radio Astronomy at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) here within the University of Manchester. I am the Open Science Champion in my department where I advocate, give presentations and organise events relating to Open Science in Astronomy. I am also in the current cohort of Mozilla Open Leaders, working on the project Resources for Open Science in Astronomy (ROSA): an Open Science how-to kit for astronomers to help them research openly from proposal to publication. Are you running or starting an open project and want to grow as an open leader? Apply now for the next round of Mozilla Open Leaders! You can view my application for Round 4 on my GitHub here 🙂

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

I applied to attend OpenCon 2017 to be inspired by and network with other pioneers of the Open Movement. There were thousands of applicants for this year’s event from over 175 countries, but there were only a few hundred places at the conference to represent our global community. I was waitlisted to attend based on my main application (which you can read on my GitHub here along with the response from the OpenCon 2017 Organising Committee). This was pretty good considering the odds, but I was still gutted. However, I was lucky enough to see that the University of Manchester Library was holding a competition to sponsor a student or staff member to attend. I therefore remixed my main application to answer the University of Manchester-specific questions (which you can read on my GitHub here) and submitted it to the competition. I was very happy when it was announced that I won the sponsored place!  

I arrived at OpenCon ready to dive into the challenges still facing Open, collaborate and brainstorm actionable solutions – big and small. I gained a lot through the European regional workshop – How might we help individuals shape the culture around them in a university? We broke into groups to establish personas/stakeholders associated with our workshop topic, we considered their pains and gains, and brainstormed potential solutions to the challenges they face. I worked in a group focusing on the persona of a 30-something year old researcher, discouraged by toxic culture in academia and seeking allies to make it a more open and inclusive environment. You could say her challenges resonated with me 🙂

As a larger group, we voted on which problems/challenges we wanted to discuss further in the second half of the workshop. We then broke into new groups based on the topics we wanted to work on, and I chose the group addressing “How might we tackle time issues?” as many researchers perceive that open science practices will involve extra time and effort without much reward. It turns out that a how-to kit and templates could be a good solution to this problem. As a result, I have met enthusiastic people to collaborate with on my Mozilla Open Leadership project, ROSA.

Since I knew I would be writing a blog post to reflect upon my OpenCon experience, I participated in the Unconference session: “How can openness be advanced with podcasting, blogging and other DIY media?” I am not a natural when it comes to blogging, vlogging, podcasting or whatever the kids are doing these days, so I went to this session to learn from those that are. We discussed how to be more effective science communicators through Open Media, and joined together to form the OpenComm Network, a group to share resources, best practices, and openly licensed content to support science communication based on our various backgrounds and expertise.

During the Do-a-thon sessions on Day 3 of the conference, the OpenComm Network collaborated to record a podcast and write a blog post around Open Media and our OpenCon experience. We set up a mini recording studio in the cloakroom for interviews and answered prompts such as what does Open Media mean to you? What are the challenges to communicating about Open issues? How would you describe your experience at OpenCon?

Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY

We then transcribed the interviews, edited the recordings, and re-wrote the transcriptions into content for the blog. Because we only had a few hours for the Do-a-thon, we ran out of time to complete our goal, but you can hear version 0.1 of our podcast here and read version 0.1 of our blog post here. We hope to have full version 1.0s at some point, but I quite like that this session resulted in a demonstration of Open Media and collaboration in progress! In the meantime, you can hear my interview here 🙂

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

The most impactful session/moment of OpenCon 2017 was hands down the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel. I won’t write too much about it here, because you absolutely need to watch and listen to it for yourself (skip to 7:47:00):

 

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

Through their stories, the panelists reminded us to stay critical, pay careful attention to who is missing from the room, to who is writing policy/history, and to deliberately collaborate with underrepresented communities. I was moved to tears and after three standing ovations for this session, I was eager to return to Manchester to turn these insights gained into action.

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

I cannot thank the University of Manchester Library enough for sending me to OpenCon 2017, and I am looking forward to working closely with them to advocate for openness across our campus and encourage researchers to take advantage of the resources and training available through the Library’s services. Next up: collaborating with Research Data Management to conduct training as part of the JBCA Autumn Computing Sessions (JACS) in December, to train postgraduate students on best open data practices!

 

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

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.