Blood: in short supply?

Two years ago (almost to the day) we called out Blood for their misleading open access options that they offered to Research Council and Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) authors. Unfortunately, little has changed since then:

Neither of these routes is sufficient to comply with either Research Councils’ or COAF’s open access policies which require that the accepted text be made available in PMC within 6 months of publication, or that the published paper is available immediately under a CC BY licence.

At the time, we called on Blood to change their offerings or we would advise Research Councils and COAF funded authors to publish elsewhere. And that’s exactly what’s happened:

Figure 1. All articles published in Blood since 2007 which acknowledge MRC, Wellcome, CRUK or BHF funding. Data obtained from Web of Science.

Over the last two years we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the number of papers being published in Blood by Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and British Heart Foundation (BHF) researchers. The number of papers published in Blood that acknowledge these funders in now at its lowest point in over a decade.

It’s important to remember that the 23 papers published in Blood in 2017 are all non-compliant with the open access policies of Research Councils and COAF, and if these papers acknowledge Wellcome Trust funding then those researchers may also be at risk of losing 10% of their total grant. If you are funded by Research Councils or one of the COAF members, please consider publishing elsewhere. SHERPA/FACT confirms our assessment:

Sign the open letter

We’re still collecting signatures for our open letter to the editor of Blood in the hope that they’ll reconsider their open access options. Please join us by adding your name.

In their own words: working in scholarly communication

Last month we put out a call for people working in scholarly communication to record and send us their views on what it takes to work in this area. After a slow start we now have a few uploaded.

As a head’s up, here’s the combined responses from four Jisc sessions held over summer to the question:

Which personal attributes do you think are most valuable in scholarly communications roles?

With words like ‘persistence’, ‘communication’, approachability’ and ‘negotiation’, this word cloud starts to reflect some of the advice we published recently for new starters in open access. But it’s not all scary – some of it is even fun! Take it from those who are walking the talk.

On this last day of Open Access Week we are pleased to showcase some of the first responses. So far we have received four contributions and these have started to demonstrate the broad range of roles available in this exciting area. Below you will hear from colleagues working in data management, librarianship and training roles as they discuss their daily jobs, the challenges they face and the skills they need.

We hope that you can use them to think about how you could make your own career in scholarly communication. If you would like to contribute your own interview (either in video or text format) the submission form can be found here. We hope to bring you more interviews over the next few months, building up into a useful bank of information for anyone wanting to work in scholarly communication and research support.

(With huge thanks to our contributors – Clair Castle, Natasha Feiner, Kate O’Neill, Claire Sewell and Sarah Stewart)

Clair Castle – Working in RDM

Claire Castle, Chemistry Librarian and Research Data Coordinator at the University of Cambridge discusses her role supporting researchers with their data management:

Natasha Feiner – Working in Research Support

Natasha Feiner, Senior Library Assistant at the University of Reading, talks about what her role involves and the importance of paying attention to detail:

What are the core tasks of your job?

Day to day I spend a lot of my time checking and updating records in the university’s institutional repository, CentAUR. This often involves talking to researchers and publishers about things like copyright agreements and sharing policies. On an intermittent basis I carry out ‘health checks’ on the records in CentAUR, for accuracy and REF compliance. At the moment I am undertaking an ‘in-press’ check to identify newly-published books and articles in the repository. Beyond CentAUR, I provide administrative support for open access events and training at the University of Reading. I am currently assisting with the organisation of a conference planned for 2019 that will focus on open research and publishing. I am also an active member of the university library. I provide liaison support for the Arts and Humanities team, and am involved with user services for the Business and Social Sciences team.

What are the skills you need to do this job well?

For the CentAUR side of things, attention to detail is really important. Minor mistakes could have serious implications for REF compliance. More generally, I think that a willingness to learn is essential for anyone involved in supporting research in a university setting. Policies and requirements are always evolving – especially in relation to open access – so it is important to be able to adapt quickly. A good memory for acronyms is also useful!

Kate O’Neill – Working in Research Support

Kate O’Neill, Research Services Librarian at the University of Sheffield, discusses managing an institutional repository and supporting academics to engage with Open Access:

Claire Sewell – Working in Training

Claire Sewell, Research Support Skills Coordinator at the University of Cambridge, discusses her role training Cambridge library Staff:

What are the core tasks of your job?

It varies from day to day but essentially I’m providing training to Cambridge University library staff (across one hundred plus libraries) in the area of research support and scholarly communication. Cambridge is a very research intensive university and so no matter which library you work in or what your role is, you are supporting these researchers in some way. My role involves making sure that library staff are equipped with the knowledge they need to support the research community they serve. This involves a lot of topics from basic introductions to data management and open access through to hands-on workshops on text and data mining and presentation skills. I offer a lot of face to face training but recently I’ve been expanding this to include more online training and resources for those who can’t attend training sessions. 

What do you need to do this job that you didn’t learn at library school?

I qualified a few years ago now so there wasn’t much concrete information about scholarly communication on my course which meant that I had to develop my knowledge on this area pretty fast. I also needed to develop my communication skills in a variety of ways. I had done some presenting before but I needed to look at adapting my message to different audiences and their particular needs. I also needed to learn a lot about being patient. For some people this area is a big change and not one they want to accept easily so I have to practice my diplomacy a lot more than I thought I would have to!

What is the best part of your role?

I think the best part (and the thing that I enjoy the most) is that I’m getting paid to learn. I’ve always been enthusiastic about professional development and tried a lot of different things over the years to develop my knowledge, from online courses to job shadowing. I was by no means an expert when I took on my current role and I’m still not so my role involves doing a lot of learning. When I see a need or when I’m asked to provide some training on something I do a lot of research to make sure I know I’m talking about. This often involves looking outside the box at different viewpoints and applications so I can offer a balanced training session or resource. In this way I’m constantly learning about new things in the world of scholarly communication and getting paid for doing what I enjoy!

Sarah Stewart – Working in Data Services

Sarah Stewart, Data Services Specialist at the British Library, discusses her role working with data at a large institution.

Lucinda May – Working in Scholarly Communication

Lucinda May, Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Manchester, talks about the skills she needs for her role:

What are the skills you need to do this job well?

A lot of the skills required to do this job effectively are transferable: you need to be very organised, able to juggle competing tasks and prioritise your workload, manage your time to work to challenging deadlines, and have strong attention to detail – whilst working at speed!

I’m part of a relatively large team at Manchester and it’s essential to be able to work well with colleagues, sharing your different responsibilities as you work towards common goals. I’ve worked hard to build a solid understanding of numerous complex policies and their implications, and over the last year or so I’ve developed my skill-set to be able to translate this knowledge into implementing user-friendly processes, including considering service resource requirements and the user experience of our services. One of the most important skills to be an effective Scholarly Comms librarian is being able to explain complex information clearly to busy and sometimes stressed researchers. It’s essential that I have confidence in the expertise I’ve worked to build up whilst doing this job, as I need to be comfortable being asked for a view on issues or options by academics.

It’s not essential to have deep sector knowledge when starting this job, but you need to be committed to building a solid base of knowledge to draw on in conversations with researchers, and ensure you’re up to date on developments. I’ve always been encouraged to find and cultivate my own authentic voice – to explain things in my own words, and be authentic to my personality when communicating with stakeholders, as this contributes to building collegial, respectful relationships and partnerships with our colleagues across the University. I’m always aware that when I’m speaking to researchers or at an event, I’m representing Manchester, so it’s essential that I understand and am able to channel the culture of my organisation.

Resilience is another essential skill – both in terms of handling repetitive tasks and enquiries, and in terms of being challenged by people whose personal experiences of scholarly communication may result in alternative views on issues we’re discussing. I think to be successful in this role you need to have passion and enthusiasm. For me, my passion is sparked by understanding the real-world impact that effective scholarly communication can have – the research I help to disseminate can change the world. My enthusiasm comes from appreciating how important it is that we get things right, as there are real, serious implications for getting things wrong. I’m driven to develop our services and support, and always do better myself.


How did you develop these skills?

A Scholarly Comms librarian post isn’t an entry-level job: to hit the ground running I think you need to have experience of things like organisation, complex customer communication, and working under pressure. I moved into this role from an assistant-level role in the team. However I would like people to know that in my experience, sector knowledge isn’t an absolute necessity, at least to joining a team in an assistant role with a view to progressing to a librarian role. Before joining Manchester’s Research Services team I’d worked primarily with students in customer services roles, and before that in a public library, after a few years in the private sector – I had no previous experience of academic research, and issues relating to scholarly communication weren’t touched in during my library qualification. Of course I had to swot up on research support considerations for my interview, but from that base I’ve done all my learning on the job.

It’s essential to always listen to and watch your peers and senior colleagues – how do they approach tasks, explain things to academics, handle challenges? You need to be open to learning from things which don’t go well, and be receptive to feedback to improve. Working in a busy, demanding environment meant I encountered a lot of practice examples I could learn from. My manager has always supported my development by offering constructive feedback, and by encouraging me to observe things before having a go myself, and building my confidence, for example, by suggesting I deliver training sessions to postgraduate research students before moving to academic staff, and attending meetings at “friendly” Schools before progressing to more “challenging” Schools!

Working at a large institution like Manchester means we have loads of opportunities to get involved with projects outside our core responsibilities, and by doing so, to observe and learn from other colleagues in different teams – my sector knowledge has benefited hugely from collaboration with our Library copyright lead, and I’ve learned about negotiation and influencing by observing our Library subscriptions lead in meetings with publishers. There’s a lot of developmental support available in our Library, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to learn about leadership through involvement in our Leadership Development Network and exposure to members of our Leadership Team, including mentoring with our previous Head Librarian, Jan Wilkinson.

I absolutely love my job and feel proud to be part of the scholarly communications ecosystem. I would strongly encourage people to consider scholarly communication roles as it’s such an exciting and growing area for libraries and Higher Education institutions, there’s loads of scope to develop and make an important contribution.


Keep an eye on the blog for more interviews coming soon. Videos can be found on our playlist here.

Published 26 October 2018
Compiled by members of the OSC team
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Where are we now? Cambridge theses deposits one year in

As the nights draw in and the academic year 2018/19 begins, we are preparing to enter our second year of compulsory e-theses deposits. Our university repository, Apollo, is close to holding 6000 digital PhD theses and it is the intention of the University that this valuable research asset continues to grow into the future. The Apollo repository will play a large part in making this happen. Until recently only hardbound copies of theses were collected and catalogued by the University Library. Users could read theses on-site in Cambridge or order a digitisation of the thesis, but the introduction of e-thesis deposit to Apollo has meant that University of Cambridge theses are more accessible than ever before. It’s been an incredibly busy year and we have made some great steps forward in our management of theses in Cambridge.

e-theses at Cambridge – the background

The e-theses deposit story at Cambridge started in October 2016, when the Office of Scholarly Communication upgraded Apollo to allow the deposit of theses and began a digital thesis pilot for the academic year 2016/17. 11 departments in the University participated in the pilot, asking their PhD students to deposit an e-thesis alongside a hardcopy thesis. Theses deposited in Apollo during the pilot could either be made open access on request of the author or were treated as historical theses had been up until that point, whereby hardbound copies were held in the University Library and requestors could sign a declaration stating they wish to consult a thesis for private study or non-commercial research. Following the success of the pilot, the Board of Graduate Studies, at its meeting on 4 July 2017, made the decision that from 1 October 2017 all PhD students would be required to deposit both a hard copy and an electronic copy of their thesis to the University Library.

What we learnt during the academic year 2017/18

The experience of depositing theses during the pilot had highlighted some issues that needed addressing. We had to make decisions on how to deal with third party copyright, sensitive material, library copy and supply rules, and the alignment of access levels for hardbound and electronic theses. In response to this, we decided that we should think through each of the different ways in which a thesis could be deposited in the repository, and consider the range of contentious material that could be contained within a thesis.

How do theses enter the repository?

Whilst students that are depositing in order to graduate do this directly, we also have the capacity to scan theses on request here in the library, and these scanned theses are subsequently deposited in Apollo. In addition to this, we led a drive to digitise University of Cambridge theses held by the British Library on microfilm and gave alumni the option to digitise their thesis and make it open access at no cost to them.

British Library theses

This year the OSC has made a bulk deposit of theses scanned by the British Library, which significantly augments the number of theses stored in the repository. In the culmination of a two-year project, nearly 1300 additional Cambridge PhD theses are now available on request in the Apollo repository.

Prior to being made available in the repository, these Cambridge theses were held on microfilm at the British Library. They date from the 1960s through to 2008, when digitisation took over from microfilm as a means of document storage. The British Library holds 14,000 Cambridge PhD theses on microfilm; in 2016 they embarked on a project with the OSC to digitise ten percent of the collection at low cost – read more about this in an earlier post, Choosing from a cornucopia: a digitisation project.

You can explore the collection in Apollo: Historical Digital Theses: British Library collection.  The theses are under controlled access, which means they are available on request for non-commercial research purposes, subject to a £15 admin fee.

Establishing access levels

We established that the level of access we could allow to the thesis could be determined by the route a thesis entered the repository, its content, or in some cases the author’s wish to publish. To address all of the potential issues, we decided to define a set of access levels which would determine what we, as managers of the repository, were able to do with a thesis and the way in which it could be accessed by a requestor.

The access levels were put in action in spring 2018 and this was followed by a survey of Degree Committees, conducted by the e-theses working group consisting of members of the University Library and Student Registry. The survey asked for feedback on the suitability of the access levels for research outputs for all departments in the University; the outcome confirmed that the access levels were working and covered the options well, although a few tweaks were needed. In light of the feedback, a set of recommendations was put to the Board of Graduate Studies by the e-theses working group, and these recommendations were considered and accepted at their meeting on 3 July 2018, ready to be put in place for the 2017/18 academic year.

eSales for theses under controlled access

At the same time as we were establishing our access levels, we were also working on devising an eSales process to facilitate the supply of theses under controlled access. Controlled access replicates the way that historical, hardbound theses were managed in the library, with the addition of an electronic version of the thesis being held in the repository, and follows the library copy and supply rules for unpublished works under copyright law. A thesis scanned by the library would be deposited under controlled access so it remains unpublished, but this access level is also available to students depositing their thesis directly. The eSales process we devised went live in July 2018 and this meant a large number of theses held in the repository were made more accessible, including those digitised by the British Library. As of 18 October, we have supplied 14 theses via the eSales route and the requests keep coming in at a steady pace.

Looking forward to the 2018/19 academic year

As we begin the 2018/19 academic year, our theses management is looking in good shape but we will continue to improve and refine our internal and external services. In consultation with the University’s Student Registry we are making the final changes to our deposit forms, access levels and communications and we endeavour to make this academic year the smoothest yet for e-theses management. University of Cambridge theses are more accessible than they have ever been. The collection will grow as more students deposit each year, and the valuable research of PhD students will continue to be disseminated.

Published 25 October 2018
Written by Zoë Walker-Fagg
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