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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
This week is Peer Review Week – what better time to announce the launch of a peer review elearning resource we’ve recently developed at Manchester?
At the University of Manchester Library, we work closely with our colleagues at Manchester University Press in support of a number of the University’s strategic goals. One benefit of our collaboration is that we can provide scholarly communication development opportunities for researchers and students.
Currently we are working together on a project funded by the University’s Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation and Learning (CHERIL). The Publishing and Research Learning for Students (PuRLS) project aims to provide opportunities and resources to help students and early career researchers develop an awareness of the publishing process and the skills to participate as an author, editor and peer reviewer.
We believe that the resources will support students and postgraduate researchers who want to set up and manage their own journal or simply learn about academic publishing, and also enhance their employability within academia or the publishing sector. Feedback from medical students involved in our previous CHERIL project (SOAR – Student Open Access Research) has informed the focus of the resources we’re creating, and we’re finalising further usability testing at the moment.
The online modules have been created by drawing on expertise from the Library, the Press and the wider University community. Meredith Carroll, Journals Manager at Manchester University Press, prepared text content which the Library’s elearning team has turned into interactive resources, using Articulate Storyline 2 software.
The peer review module takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and includes activities which allow users to take on the role of a reviewer, eg, responding to scenarios and critiquing real peer reviews. Naturally our peer review resource has been peer reviewed – for this we asked a number of our academic colleagues for their expert input.
The peer review online module is available via the Library’s My Research Essentials webpage and is licensed as CC-BY.
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!