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’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.
A year since HEFCE linked the mandatory deposit of accepted manuscripts to the allocation of QR funding, this post describes how the Library’s Scholarly Communications Team has helped academic colleagues successfully adapt to the new ruling which has resulted in an unprecedented level of Green OA deposits to our repository.
As we entered 2016, developing support services for the incoming policy was the team’s highest priority. The biggest obstacle was a very low Green OA baseline: from 2013 to early 2016, the number of Manchester-authored papers available through pure or hybrid Gold OA journals rose steadily; yet annual Green OA deposits to our repository stalled at ten percent of the institution’s journal article output over the same period.
During a pilot the previous year a variety of support models were tested with selected schools and we found that the highest compliance was achieved when the responsibility on authors was minimal and the Library offered to deposit and set embargoes on their behalf. So in February, we made a proposal to develop a fully mediated service which was accepted by the University’s senior research governance committee. The task then was to reorient our existing Gold APC service to encompass Green OA workflows which scaled to enable our team of six staff to support deposit of ~6000 papers a year.
To allow authors to send us their manuscripts we created an authenticated deposit form (branded as the Open Access Gateway) with just two input fields: acceptance date and journal/proceedings title, plus a drag and drop area to attach the file. Authors could also use the form to request Gold OA payment if they acknowledged a grant from a qualifying funder.
In the months before the policy launched we worked closely with Library marketing colleagues to deliver a communications campaign which raised awareness of the policy and built momentum behind the new service. Our message to academics was, ‘Just had a paper accepted? Now make sure it’s REF eligible.’
In April the policy launched, our deposit form went live, and the firehose to the University’s publications opened. Early signs were promising; in the first weeks, we received roughly ten manuscripts per working day which represented a significant increase against our baseline. However, more persuasion was needed for those authors across campus who weren’t sending us their manuscripts. We therefore began to chase those authors via email and sent a follow-up email, copying in a senior administrator, if we had no response.
We particularly focussed on non-compliant papers with the highest altmetric scores which had an increased likelihood of being selected for REF. The chaser emails were effective and many authors replied immediately with the manuscript attached. Of course, our emails also prompted some authors to ask questions or offer opinions about the policy which required additional resourcing.
Sending chaser emails significantly raised the institution’s compliance rates, and it was clear that we would need to continue to do this systematically as awareness of the policy gradually spread across campus. This placed additional strain on the team as searching Scopus for papers and chasing authors proved an intensive process. We explored alternatives (e.g. using the ORCID API to identify our new papers) but no automated process was as effective as the painstakingly manual check of Scopus search results.
By August we’d refined our reporting to the University to include school/division level compliance against projections. To achieve this we recorded the compliance status and author affiliations of every single University paper falling within the scope of the policy in a masterfile spreadsheet. We then used SciVal to calculate the average output of the REF-eligible staff from each of the 33 schools/divisions over the past five years. This enabled us to project how many accepted papers we would expect each school/division to have per month during the first twelve months of the policy. Every month we produce a compliance report, like the one below, which supports standing agenda items at research governance committee meetings across the University.
As we moved into the new academic year, monthly deposits continued to rise. The team were at maximum capacity processing incoming manuscripts, so to speed up the flow of papers through our assembly line we purchased a license for the online forms service Typeform and developed a back office ‘If-This-Then-That’ style form. This allowed us to distil esoteric funder and publisher information into a simple workflow enabling papers to be processed with reduced input from higher grade staff.
Now, twelve months on from the introduction of probably the most swingeing OA policy ever introduced, we can take stock of how well we have adapted to the new ruling. In the absence of a Snowball-type metric for measuring our compliance we currently track compliance three ways:
% top papers compliant: In January, the University ran its annual Research Review Exercise, involving research staff proposing their best post-2014 papers for internal review. This provided the first opportunity to gauge compliance of those papers with the highest chance of being returned in the next REF. During the exercise, a total of 1360 papers were proposed for review which were within the scope of the policy, of these a very encouraging 95% were compliant with the new OA requirements.
% compliant against projections: Our chosen metric for reporting compliance to the University. We report the proportion of compliant papers with at least one REF-eligible author against the total number of papers we would have expected to have been accepted by all our REF eligible staff. Against this measure, 68% of the papers are compliant, 7% are non-compliant, and 25% are not currently recorded. Many of these unrecorded papers will not yet be published so we will chase them once they are indexed in Scopus. A large number of our papers arising from the ATLAS/LHCb collaborations are also available via Gold OA and are compliant but we have not yet recorded them in our masterfile.
% compliant overall: To date, we’ve recorded 4656 papers of which 4031 (87%) are compliant, 459 (10%) are not compliant, and 166 (3%) are being actively chased by our team.
In total there’s a 55% Green OA/45% Gold OA split, and given that Green OA represents more inconvenience than most of our academic colleagues unfamiliar with arXiv have ever been willing to tolerate, it is very unlikely indeed that the University would have achieved such high compliance had the Library not provided a mediated Green OA deposit service. The data confirms our approach helped make Green Open Access an organisational habit practically overnight.
The approach has come at a cost however; over the past year, supporting the HEFCE OA policy has taken up the majority of the team’s bandwidth with most of our 9am-5pm conversations being in some way related to a paper’s compliance with one or more funder OA policy.
Now that our current processes have bedded in, and in anticipation of the launch of the new UK Scholarly Communications License (UK-SCL) – for more on this read Chris Banks’s article or watch her UKSG presentation – and further developments from Jisc, we hope that over the next 12 months we can tilt the balance away from this reductionist approach to our scholarly output and focus on other elements of the scholarly communication ecosystem. For example, we are already in discussions with Altmetric about incorporating their tools into our OA workflows to help our academics build connections with audiences and are keen to roll this out soon – from early conversations with academics we think this is something they’re really going to like.
Whatever lies in store, it’s sure to be another busy year for the team.
For the past couple of years we’ve been giving some thought to the role of university libraries in publishing, in common with other libraries. However, the University of Manchester is home to Manchester University Press (MUP), one of the largest university presses in the UK, so we’ve had to think carefully about how to work collaboratively to make best use of our respective expertise and resources in order to meet the University’s strategic objectives. Our initial thinking and work started in 2014 as part of the Library’s strategic programme, with follow-on projects funded by the University’s Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation and Learning (CHERIL).
When we started our thinking, we expected that the outcome would likely be some kind of publishing support service, using Open Journal Systems (OJS) for hosting. To develop a tangible offer, we had many discussions about which parts of the support service would naturally sit with the Press and which in the Library, and even more about funding and sustainability. To date, our collaboration has resulted in:
development of Manchester Open Library as an imprint of MUP,
development of a student journal for the Manchester Medical School, and
development of 3 online learning resources on ‘publishing’,
but not in the publishing support service we originally envisaged. Instead we most recently considered offering a model that we believed would be sustainable with a low level of support, a multi-disciplinary undergraduate journal managed by a postgraduate editorial team. However, when we ran this idea past senior staff from our Humanities faculty and with responsibility for postgraduate researchers (PGRs), there was little appetite for supporting any type of student journal, and since the Library and the Press aim to support the University in achieving its strategic goals we have parked this idea, for now. That said, we do still see value in students experiencing publishing either as authors or as part of an editorial team, which is why we decided to harness the expertise of our Press in the development of online learning modules which anyone on campus with an interest in publishing can access and learn from.
From what we hear about other institutions it seems that our experience is at odds with current trends in support for student publishing, ie, there appear to be many examples of libraries, academics and university presses launching student journals. We’ve been keen to understand if the challenges that have limited our service development are unique to Manchester and to learn more about how other institutions are providing support for student journals. So, as part of our latest CHERIL-funded project (Publishing Research and Learning for Students – PuRLS), we recently held a one day conference on student publishing. We wanted to bring together institutions with experience of student publishing or an interest in student publishing so that we could all learn from each other. The event, held on 16th January 2017, brought together a mixture of librarians, publishers, academic staff, administrative staff and students.
Libraries supporting student journals
Our contributors from the universities of Surrey, Warwick and Edinburgh, and Leeds Beckett University described their involvement with student journals. In all cases journals are run on OJS. At Edinburgh and Warwick, the libraries offer journal hosting services which publish both student and academic-level journals.
Although Edinburgh has a university press, the Library developed the hosting service independently. Angela Laurins, Library Learning Services Manager, explained that the service developed organically and is now well established, providing only set-up support for new journals; thereafter, journals are managed by their own editorial teams. Angela confirmed that this model works well, with minimal resource requirement. In fact, it works so well that she no longer requires a named academic champion for established journals if the previous champion moves on.
Warwick’s service is a more recent development, building on two journals already developed within academic departments and further interest from other areas for more new journals, together with available skills and resource within the Library to develop and manage journals, using OJS’s externally hosted option. Yvonne Budden, Head of Scholarly Communications, talked about two multi-disciplinary journals, Reinvention and Exchanges.
Reinvention, an international journal, is student-led and student-run, with academic support. The main resource requirement is in maintaining high quality. Academic staff carry out peer review and help students improve the standard of their work. Reinvention has received over 460 submissions and published approximately 130 articles. Submissions are split fairly evenly between disciplines and also come from a number of different countries. Yvonne explained the value that the library can bring to publishing is in part “things libraries are known for being good at”, eg, advising on open access, ISSNs, copyright, DOAJ registration, digital preservation, analytics.[presentation-slides-warwick-jan-2017]
Charlotte Barton, an Information Literacy Librarian, talked about her role in supporting the Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ). The interdisciplinary journal is published by the Learning Development Team, which comprises librarians and learning advisors, and accepts work marked as 2.1 or higher, as well as reflective accounts, conference reviews and literature reviews. The editorial team is made up of academic staff and PGRs – PGRs stay in this role for a maximum of one year (two journal issues) and carry out peer review as well as other editorial tasks.
Charlotte explained that supporting prospective authors is time-intensive (1-1 support is provided by the SURJ team) but as submission rates are currently low (10 per issue) further work needs to be done on promoting the journal to academic colleagues. Future plans also include working with academic staff to develop training materials, eg, to improve writing skills. [presentation-slides-surrey-jan-2017]
Kirsty Bower, an Academic Librarian at Leeds Beckett University, described how the interest in setting up journals at her institution resulted from Open Access (OA) requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) and likely requirements of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). An existing Sociology UG journal, Critical Reflections, was moved onto OJS in 2016 following a discussion with the lead academic, who was keen to increase visibility after producing a number of print issues. The journal publishes pieces produced in third year module, in which students apply their sociological knowledge to real life situations, and students are involved in the editorial process. Kirsty reported that despite limited promotion downloads have surpassed expectations, although she acknowledged that it isn’t clear who the readers are. Although the Leeds Beckett team face similar challenges to other institutions (eg, limited staffing resource, limited funding for promotion), they are considering developing a multi-disciplinary journal. [presentation-slides-leedsbeckett-jan-2017]
Publishing Manager Lara Speicher explained that at UCL Press student journals are hosted on OJS but run themselves, as long as they have support from their academic department. Proposals for new journals are not considered without agreement of faculty support – this commitment is vital as UCL Press is too small to provide high levels of support to students. Lara highlighted that it can be difficult to explain the difference between a hosting service and a publishing service, and explained that one journal had expected more ‘hand holding’ from the Press. Providing support for students ties in with UCL’s Connected Curriculum which brings research into learning. UCL Press have recently appointed a new journals manager who has plans for further support, eg, creating a forum for journal teams to meet and share experiences and delivering workshops on the publishing process. [presentation-slides-uclpress-jan-2017]
Tom Grady, Acting Press Manager, told us that WRUP launched in 2016 with the aim of publishing academic journals and books, so when the first journal proposal received was for a student journal there were some concerns. These included whether publishing a student journal would undermine the Press’s aspiration to become a reputable academic publisher, how sustainable a student journal would be, and who would read a student journal. Having since overcome these concerns the Press has recently launched the Undergraduate Journal of Politics and International Relations, which has an academic lead and funding sources, represents a gap in the market, and gives students the opportunity to be published authors or to be part of the editorial team. [presentation-slides-wrup-jan-2017]
The Manchester perspective, Part 2
We invited a number of speakers connected with the University of Manchester to contribute to the event, to increase awareness of potential challenges or opportunities for institutions considering dissemination of student research as a means to enhance the student experience.
The key driver when we were considering supporting student journal came from the Manchester Medical School, and particularly from a group of students, including Josh Burke. Josh explained that one reason for wanting to set up a journal was that medical students get points for publishing work in journals that are indexed in PubMed that count in applications for their first post. The group believed that they could set up a journal themselves but sought support from academic staff, who put them in touch with us. We provided access to OJS and publishing expertise from MUP; the students developed a staged peer review system and brought a lot of energy to the initiative, which resulted in the launch of Manchester Medical Journal (MMJ) in late 2016. MMJ is student-led and student-run. Josh admitted that using OJS was a pain point, as the peer review system developed doesn’t work easily within the OJS workflows, and that the student group had been naïve about the complexity of setting up and running a journal, needing academic support, publishing guidance and financial support. With the backing of the Medical School and continued investment of the group of students who initially set up the journal, MMJ seems likely to have a future. However, the main challenge is convincing students to publish in a new journal that isn’t indexed in PubMed. [presentation-slides-burke-jan-2017]
A similar view is shared by senior academic and administrative staff at Manchester, particularly in relation to PGRs. We asked Professor Maja Zehfuss, Associate Dean for PGR in the Faculty of Humanities, to outline this position at the event. The key points she made were that at Manchester institutional journals are not considered to be right for PGR publications, that PGRs should be seeking to publish papers of at least 3* ranking in ‘grown-up’ journals, that submitting papers to established journals provides a tough learning experience for PGRs which develops resilience and skills, and she queried what student journals are for and who reads them.
Of course, journals are only one means of scholarly communication, and at Manchester academic staff are incorporating different forms within their modules. Dr John Zavos, a course leader from Religions and Theology, explained that he was keen on openness in research and wanted to develop resources that would put his students’ work in the public domain, eg, ‘Poppy Hijab’, an exhibit on the Museum of the South Asian Diaspora blog. John is now leading a CHERIL-funded project exploring impactful public-facing platforms and hopes to incorporate editorial management of a blog into his Level Two course to provide further opportunities for publishing experience.
To conclude the event Simon Bains, our Deputy Librarian and Head of Research Support, and Meredith Carroll, Journals Manager from MUP, described our experience, which is summarised in the first part of this piece. [presentation-slides-manchester-jan-2017] For now, our support for student publishing takes the form of a recently-launched blog, The Publishing Exchange, to encourage reflection and learning, and My Research Essentials online resources, all available under the CC-BY-NC licence:
In February, a thought piece was issued jointly by Jisc, RLUK, SCONUL and ARMA which aimed to start a conversation about academic journal markets and progress in the UK towards Open Access. This blog post represents the combined thoughts of two leaders in Open Access publishing at the University of Manchester Library. The post does not represent an official position at Manchester, but illustrates some of the thinking that informs the development of our policies and services.
The thought piece makes a number of statements, and we have chosen to respond to a selection of them:
Academic journals play an important role in the work of universities
In our view, one might argue instead that academic research papers play an important role, and that the correlation is between availability of that research and university research performance. The journals just happen to be the containers for the research. The same is true of student satisfaction and access to journals. Students want access to the ‘stuff’; whether it’s in journals is largely immaterial, and may not even be noticeable via modern library discovery systems, or Google. The question is whether the journal remains the best container in a networked digital environment.
Two issues in particular occur to us in the context of this part of the thought piece:
i) We wonder how true it is that journals ‘allow researchers the freedom to choose appropriate channels to publish their work’. It could be argued that they are, in fact, constrained by a system in which they are expected to publish in certain titles if they are to develop their careers;
ii) It’s true that journal articles are measurable, insofar as citations are a reliable indicator, but there’s growing support for a campaign to eliminate journal title-based metrics, with over 600 organisations now signed up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment.
The markets are changing
The thought piece describes a market that has been split in two, where the options now are Hybrid Gold and Pure Gold. We would suggest there are other ways to think about the way the journal market is evolving. Although many of the ‘wholly Open Access journals’ levy APCs, we should keep in mind – and OA advocates often remind us – that many Gold OA journals do not require them. Nobody is suggesting that publishing is free, but charging the author at time of acceptance is not the only approach. It’s interesting to see the Open Library of the Humanities adopt a Library-funded model, something which Knowledge Unlatched has shown can succeed, at least at the pilot stage, for OA monographs.
Our second point would be that another way of splitting the market would be into a) commercial publishers and b) university presses. Open Access has stimulated renewed interest in the concept of the University Press, as universities begin to consider how they could bring their publishing operations back in house. UCL Press is a significant example of a new and wholly Open Access press, and more recently we have also seen a consortial approach emerge in the form of White Rose University Press. Bringing scholarly publishing back into the academy allows us to present an alternative OA model in which prices do not need to be determined by shareholders and their demand for profits. The recent University Press Redux conference at Liverpool identified this as a key theme. We are also seeing innovation with repositories, such as the arXiv overlay journal Discrete Analysis, launched in February.
Performance of the legacy/hybrid journals market
The anticipated transition to OA, post-Finch, still seems depressingly distant. Instead, we continue to pay above-inflation subscription prices while simultaneously paying the same publishers APCs. Despite the average cost of hybrid APCs being higher than those for Pure Gold, the power of the journal brand means that most of the funds we have available for Gold OA are going to hybrid publishers. We are seeing some offsetting models emerge, but we are aware that some institutions find these complicated to manage and while publishers have a global market which is not, on the whole, moving to Gold OA, there is little prospect of the transition we hoped for. Pure Gold journals offer lower prices and no scope for ‘double-dipping’ but are yet to be well-established beyond a few disciplines.
On the point in the thought paper about the service we might expect for our APC payments, much certainly needs to be done. We are both members of the RLUK Open Access Publisher Processes Group which focuses on this, and we welcome feedback from colleagues who are dissatisfied with publisher systems and procedures that authors struggle to navigate or the level of service and support received in return for their APC payments.
Shortcomings in the legacy journal market
Given that we have limited funds available to pay publishing costs, it is attractive to consider using them only to support publishers who are not also taking subscription payments from us. It is increasingly so when we see that Pure Gold APCs tend to be lower than those charged by hybrid journals. The issue we face is the power of the brand, as our researchers know they need their papers to be in the ‘right’ journals in order to gain the esteem they require to progress in their careers. It is depressing that this remains the case in a digital world in which the concept of the journal is so outdated. In a print environment, bundling the latest research papers up in this way was a sensible approach to their dissemination. Today, new models like PeerJ can work quite differently, and the only barrier to their adoption is an academic culture which holds fast to the power of the journal title, even at a time when so many organisations are turning away from the notion that the impact of a journal says anything about the individual article. Hybrid, despite the arguments of the Publishers Association, is not providing what we need. As the Wellcome Trust reports, “hybrid open access continues to be significantly more expensive than fully open access journals and that as a whole the level of service provided by hybrid publishers is poor and is not delivering what we are paying for”.
Given the complexity of offsetting, the profit margins of the commercial publishers and the lack of a substantial transition from subscription to OA, it is time to consider using the available funding for Pure Gold rather than for Hybrid, and to invest in those initiatives that are emerging from academia, and which focus on providing the widest access to our research rather than the returns expected by company shareholders.
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.
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!
Glasgow was the venue for the 2015 UKSG Conference and Helen Dobson and I headed north hoping for a repeat of the glorious weather in 2012. We were welcomed by torrential downpours and strong winds, but still had a great time. The UKSG conference is a good opportunity to hear current debate and learn about innovative practice on the issues affecting libraries and scholarly communications, and a valuable forum for meeting publishers. I was lucky enough to win a sponsored place to attend this year – thanks, Springer and Sage!
Once again, Open Access (OA) was a key topic so there was much to interest us in the plenary and breakout sessions. We were stimulated by Geoffrey Bilder’s introduction, recognising the pressure to publish facing authors and interested in the notion that universities might get better results from their researchers by measuring less and demanding fewer papers. Bilder commented that ‘the primary motivation [for publishing research] is to get credit for stuff, not to document it or provide evidence’, a situation he described as ‘dispiriting’, comparing citations to ‘a scholarly form of the Like button’.
“Citations are a scholarly form of the Like button.”
Throughout the conference, Helen and I were keen to attend events addressing issues and problems which we are all facing, including OA workflows, offsetting deals, and how to build trust in new metrics. The University of Manchester Library is already engaging with these issues on a local and national level so we were interested in the experiences and views shared, and particularly in hearing more about longer-term solutions such as JiscMonitor and the experiences of the institutions involved in the Jisc-ARMA ORCID project.
One of the most useful breakout sessions was the panel discussion on ‘Engaging researchers on stakeholder perspectives,’ which prompted some lively debate and much follow-up thought and questions. Summarising the recent Research Consulting report on Counting the costs of Open Access, UCL’s Paul Ayris spoke of the high up-front costs faced by institutions until Open Access workflows and tools become more sophisticated, with smaller or less research-intensive institutions bearing a disproportionate cost burden.
Robert Kiley provided an update on The Wellcome Trust’s stance on Gold OA, emphasising that the Trust remains happy to fund Article Processing Charges (APCs) but only if publishers will honour agreements. We know from our own experiences that papers we have paid APCs for aren’t always OA or published under licences required by funders. Kiley reported that 34% of Wellcome Trust-funded APCs do not have the required CC-BY licence, and 13% have not been deposited into PubMed Central. This means that £0.5million of OA funding has been spent on papers that are not compliant with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy.
Elsevier’s Alicia Wise was also on the panel and explained that the cost of APCs has been reduced for some Elsevier titles. We confess we haven’t really noticed this to date, as the average cost of our Elsevier APCs for 2014-2015 stands at around £1,969, higher than our 2013-2014 non-prepayment deal figure of £1,909. Alicia stated that Elsevier don’t double-dip but explained that it was difficult to evidence this due to confidentiality clauses or to find a cost-based pricing model acceptable to librarians (who favour calculations based on quantity of content) and publishers (who base calculations on journal value).
The interactive session on OAWAL, Open Access Workflows in Academic Libraries, offered reassurance that different institutions experience similar problems to those we face. Speakers Graham Stone from Huddersfield and Jill Emery from Portland State emphasised that the principle of OAWAL is to gather a wide range of methods and experiences; not to enforce one ‘right’ approach but to allow librarians to tailor workflows to suit their institution. However, I felt that the group activity of identifying challenges, ideal scenarios and possible solutions suggested that a collective approach can highlight what needs to change around OA to streamline processes The Jisc opeNWorks project we are leading has already highlighted to us the need for community solutions at a regional and national level. As we prepare for the next major challenge of HEFCE compliance, we see that the issues we face are at a scale greater than an individual institution, meaning solutions will be found within the community, not in isolation.
It was useful (and fun – excellent cupcakes, Oxford University Press!) to catch up with publishers with whom we have existing institutional deals, and with whom we may consider arranging a deal in the future, asking questions about how these function and clarifying workflows. We discussed an institutional deal being developed by OUP and saw the pilot dashboard designed to simplify processes for our authors, and we dropped by the Taylor & Francis stand to ask for clarification on how this publisher’s offsetting deal will work for authors. It was also really positive to hear publishers such as BMJ and IEEE considering how they can help institutions with HEFCE requirements, for example, by supporting Jisc’s Publication Router or providing authors with the AAM in acceptance emails; we would love to see more examples of this.
The conference ended strongly with its closing talks as engaging as its opening salvo. As always, it was a joy to hear articulate and passionate Open Access advocate Martin Eve speak on how ‘mega journals’ might be funded to address the risk of the Humanities becoming invisible to the public through competition for funding (true of subscription costs as well as APCs) with the Sciences. The University of Manchester Library supports the Open Library of Humanities and we look forward to seeing further development.
We left Glasgow reflecting on how far we’ve come in addressing OA challenges at an institutional level to date and feeling excited that we’re involved in tackling remaining problems via the Jisc Pathfinder projects, an RLUK group focusing on publisher OA workflows, and by participating in a UKSG seminar on offsetting schemes in late May.
One of our responsibilities as OA advisors at Manchester is to keep track of so-called predatory publishers, and advise our researchers on publishers they should avoid. It can be hard to separate wheat from chaff, so we rely, where possible, on others helping to do this. Until recently, we recommended Jeffrey Beall’s list, a well-known directory maintained in the US. However, we have now removed the link, and will no longer advise our colleagues to use it. Here’s why …
Some of the work we do extends beyond Manchester and is about sharing our experience. We are currently lead institution on opeNWorks, a Jisc-funded Pathfinder project which aims to share best practice with colleagues from the North West region who have limited experience of providing OA support for researchers and to develop a community of good OA practice. The purpose of the community is to ensure that trusted advice and resources are easily accessible to institutions that are unable to fund a full-time OA support post.
If the resources and systems we have created are seen as examples of good practice then we’d like them to be representative of our views on OA and it is clear our views are not aligned with Beall’s.
On the basis of what we’ve read – the Berger and Cirasella article recently posted on the LSE Impact Blog provides a good overview and entry points – and what Beall seems to have said in his recent presentation at the US STM conference, here are a few points on which we differ.
Let’s start simply. There is a cost to publishing scholarly works. We know this and we’ve had frank conversations with publishing colleagues on this issue. In the subscription model authors (who may also be editors) tend to be unaware of the costs, and librarians are aware only of the costs to their own institutions. What’s ethical about this lack of transparency? It’s practically the OED definition of predatory (“unfairly competitive or exploitative”).
We’ve taken the recommendation of the Finch Group to heart and have shared the costs of publishing with University of Manchester authors as a first attempt to remedying this problem, telling them that the University spent a total of ~£5million on journal subscriptions in 2013-14 and informing individual authors of the cost of article processing charges (APCs) – added to which there may also be page, colour or submission charges, let’s not forget – paid on their behalf. Most of the charges we’ve paid have been to publishers of subscription journals offering a hybrid gold option, along with most of the UK universities in receipt of OA grants from RCUK and COAF. With even more money flowing from university libraries to large commercial publishers there’s a new chapter in the Serials Crisis – an urgent need for offsetting schemes to address the issue of double-dipping. This work has already begun and we’re feeding into these discussions. However, the models we’ve seen so far are early experiments that need further refinement to be truly ethical.
OA advocacy is at the heart of our interactions with researchers and we tailor our message to audiences at a disciplinary level and to individual authors as required. This is necessary to win the hearts and minds of researchers for whom subscription publishing is the cultural norm, or to encourage a new generation of researchers to confidently challenge the advice of their senior colleagues, who frequently fall into that first category. And while we might repeat core messages, the effectiveness of our advocacy depends on the nuance, which requires the thinking that Beall sees as unnecessary. We tell researchers about the OA publishing model, explain why they need to know (and as funded researchers and/or employees of a UK HEI they do need to know) and why they should care. The most effective message to some authors might be pragmatic (“you might jeopardise your chances of securing funding with a particular funding body if you don’t publish OA”) but we always include positive messages about extending readership and the public good. I often relate the experience of researchers in other parts of the world with severely limited access to academic journals, based on the inspiring presentation I heard Erin McKiernan deliver at the 2014 SPARC OA meeting.
We find our advocacy activities most successful when we engage researchers in discussion based on our experiences of providing OA support, and this is as important for us as it is for the researchers because it allows us to understand the barriers to OA. Mostly this is down to complexity of publisher workflows – traditional publishers that is – and remembering to choose an OA option. We hear these concerns often, much more so than the questionable publishers Beall focuses on, and we respond to these concerns by participating in RLUK-led initiatives to engage publishers in discussions on the simplification of OA procedures or, at a local level, by reminding authors to make new papers OA, and we know that traditional publishers are also helping with this culture change. This doesn’t mean that we are enemies of traditional publishers, as Beall might suggest, rather that their systems and workflows aren’t as intuitive for authors as they might believe, and the scale of support we provide to authors addressing problems relating to these publishers makes this a priority for us.
But that’s not to say that we are simply reactionary in our approach to OA. We do react, of course, to new funder policies, new publisher workflows, but we are also hugely supportive of new developments in scholarly communications, eg, JiscMonitor, ORCID, Altmetrics, and we are always interested in the emergence of new publishing models. We have responded to requests from Manchester researchers who wish to publish RCUK-funded papers with PeerJ by setting up an institutional membership plan. We are working in partnership with our colleagues at Manchester University Press, developing the Manchester Open Library imprint. The latest journal in development is student-led and will operate a form of peer-review that MUP CEO, Frances Pinter, considers worthy of patenting. We are also supporters of Knowledge Unlatched and the Open Library of Humanities, and are encouraged to see traditional publishers experimenting with OA monographs as the sector seeks a sustainable business model. OA has created opportunities for experimentation and innovation in publishing, driven by energetic and passionate individuals. There are too many to name but Martin Eve certainly deserves a mention after bizarrely being charged with hypocrisy in Beall’s STM presentation last week.
We don’t disagree with Beall on everything, eg, we don’t dispute the existence of questionable OA journals and publishers. As fund managers for the University’s OA grants from RCUK and COAF we take our duty of care to authors and funders seriously. Requests for APC payments prompt an extra Quality Assurance check in the publication process at Manchester which allows us to alert School Research Directors of submissions to journals of questionable reputation. Our website advice also provides a checklist for authors to consider as part of their publication strategy and we’ll now focus on this type of guidance until a community-driven alternative to Beall’s list emerges.