Embarking on a career in open access

Lorraine and Olivia started working as Scholarly Communication Support in the Open Access team at the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) in the University Library this summer. In this interview, they share their experience of starting a new role in the field of open access, from the perspective of their respective backgrounds in academia and publishing. 

What does working in Scholarly Communication Support entail and what are your responsibilities in this role? 

For the first few months joining the Open Access team we both started looking at “Fast Track deposits”, the simplest route of depositing author’s manuscripts into Apollo, the University of Cambridge institutional repository. This system allows the team to process items more quickly than the manual Apollo deposit. Since its launch in September 2018, it has considerably helped to reduce the workload as manuscript submission for archiving in Apollo continues to increase in view of the upcoming REF2021. On a daily basis, we also deal with queries from tickets created on the Open Access Helpdesk, contacting authors and publishers when further information is required and manually depositing manuscripts on Apollo while also updating their records on Symplectic Elements, the University’s research information management system.

Olivia and I are now being trained to respond to researchers’ funding queries and to process invoices for journals’ open access fees from the RCUK and COAF block grants. In order to do this we have had to learn more in depth about open access requirements and Research Councils’ funder requirements.

More recently, we have been working with Units of Assessment to support them with the open access component for REF (Research Excellence Framework) compliance, attending training sessions and reviewing Unit of Assessment outputs for eligibility. This has involved researching and interpreting the REF 2021 requirements for open access to disseminate effectively to academics and administrators. It has been illuminating to gain the perspective of different faculties, the way that they have to engage with REF, and their grapples with open access compliance. 

What are your respective backgrounds and how did you decide to start working in OA? 

Lorraine: Prior to working in open access, I completed a PhD in History of Art in Cambridge, looking at specific intersections between early modern artworks, medicine, and theories of the imagination. I also worked as a postdoctoral researcher at CRASSH (Centre for Research in the arts, social sciences and humanities) for one year. 

I first became interested in OA and Scholarly Communication during my studies as a PhD representative for my peers in History of Art between 2017 and2018, the year that electronic deposits of PhD theses via Apollo became a requirement. There were anxieties from my peers around this new requirement, especially in relation to the open access feature: what would this mean for publishing their first monographs from their PhD thesis as Early Career Researchers? Would publishers still be interested in their work after it had been made OA? And, especially, what about the hundreds of copyrighted images present in their theses? It would have taken months to obtain permission to reproduce all of those images. During this time, I liaised with the OSC, the head of the AHRC  Doctoral Training Partnership programme (as part of the RCUK, the AHRC also has its own open access requirements that apply to PhDs), communicated with faculty staff during meetings, and reported the advice I had gathered to my peers. I see this new position in the OSC Open Access team as an excellent opportunity to understand better what happens behind the scenes of an institutional repository and gain more knowledge about the broader picture of open access in academic research. 

Olivia: I left academic publishing with a sense that the model was broken. Expensive paywalls restrict access to those seeking to access information and academics were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the publishing model. These issues particularly hit home following two separate instances. The first, a letter sent to the publisher by a prisoner seeking further information on a criminology text, one which was prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to such an individual. The second, a cuttingly written forward by an academic around monograph publishing and the ivory towers in which university elites and academic publishers co-exist. 

Academic publishing very much feels like the other side of what I am doing with open access, making research as freely and widely available as possible. 

How do you think your past experiences have helped you to have the necessary skills for working in OA? 

Lorraine: As a Cambridge student, I acquired a good knowledge of Cambridge’s unique research and teaching landscape (Schools, Faculties, Departments, Colleges, Research centres, etc.). My academic background also meant that I had hands-on understanding about the process of research, publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, and even submitting my outputs through Symplectic Elements. These were really helpful starting my new role: understanding how researchers work is crucial in scholarly communication and definitely helps me to advise and communicate with researchers better. I am, for instance, particularly interested in the relationship between open access and third-party copyright (especially images from cultural heritage institutions, i.e. galleries, libraries, archives and museums) and the challenges it brings to researchers in the Arts and Humanities. 

Olivia: I have found my previous work in publishing an asset working in open access because of my knowledge of the editorial and production process as well as publishing revenue models. I am familiar with the time scales for journal articles and books production as well as publishers’copyright requirements which I have found I am using on a regular basis. Working extensively with academics in a production role, I am aware of the competing pressures placed on them and their need for clear and accessible information on fulfilling publishing commitments or REF compliance.

Now that you have started your new roles, what are the tips you would give to someone interested in starting a career in OA? 

Picking up from last year’s blogpost, and from our own experience: keeping up to date with developments, attention to detail, supporting academics and seeking support from the open access community are four key areas when starting in a career in OA.

Keeping up to date with developments and attention to detail

Publisher’s and funders’ open access policies change very quickly, as do the methods we adopt within the team to cope with the workflow and with the challenges brought by REF 2021. Anyone starting a career in OA needs to keep up to date with changes, be capable of doing in-depth research about those, and be comfortable admitting not knowing everything! The landscape is constantly changing and having an awareness of new proposals and initiatives makes the big picture much clearer. 

Supporting academics 

Give academics a break. It will take you a while to feel confident with policy and guidance and for you, it is your whole job. For the academics submitting their papers and contacting the repository, this is one small part of their role; you need to guide them through it as painlessly as possible. 

Seek support 

You cannot and do not know everything about open access. Luckily, there are plenty of wonderful expert colleagues who can help, so it is really important to know how to work within a team and keep building the necessary knowledge as a group. 

Published 25 October 2019

Written by Lorraine de la Verpilliere, Olivia Marsh

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Image Copyright and Open Access in the Arts and Humanities

Copyright is a crucial topic in the Humanities because researchers in several disciplines (especially history of art, my field of study) rely on images for their work and because publishers usually require authors to pay copyright holders for permission to reproduce those images – failure to do so would make the author and the publisher liable for copyright infringement. 

At the OSC Symposium last 2nd October 2019 (Open Access Monographs: From Policy to Reality), Dr Nicola Kozicharow’s presentation on ‘Open Research Publishing in the Humanities’ made quite an impact on the discussions of the day. This early career historian of art, specialised in 19th– and 20th-century European and Russian art, talked about the challenge of publishing when third-party image copyright is involved. She detailed the difficult and sometimes grotesque situations that she and her contributor faced when publishing her first co-edited book Open Access, tracking down image copyright holders and paying exorbitant reproduction fees (1).

Not many academics outside the Arts and Humanities know about the invisible labour and material cost involved when working with images. Researchers struggle to find images on various heritage institutions’ websites (or GLAMs, as we call them – i.e. galleries, libraries, archives and museums), and pay to obtain digital images ‘for private use’ when the original work is unavailable or located too far. They often end up paying again in order to re-use those images when publishing their research. Even more frustrating is the lack of consistency between different institutions with regard to the amount of the fees and to the exemptions granted. If you beg the museum repeatedly and reach out to curators, you may have a small chance to have your permission fees waived (but still often in return for providing a free copy of your book/article). However, when sales department/companies act as intermediaries between researchers and museums, this kind of trick is most likely to fail, and the chances of opening the discussion about the absurdities of the fees get even slimmer. In 2018, Bridgeman Images, one of those ‘Image companies’, obtained the exclusive right of selling and licensing all images from Italian national museums, which was catastrophic news for art history (see their statement here).

The situation feels even more unacceptable when it concerns out-of-copyright works of art. In this case, heritage institutions in fact do not own copyright over the work as it has fallen in the public domain. Most GLAMs, however, manage to keep control of these works’ images by banning photography (the famous ‘no photo’ policies in permanent collections or temporary exhibitions) and by creating copyright by making their own photograph of the work that they subsequently sell to researchers. 

 An article by medieval art historian Kathryn M. Rudy published in Times Higher Education (also quoted by Kozicharow at the symposium) is a good example (2). There, Rudy detailed specific examples she encountered in her career and broke down the (shockingly high) real cost of working with images – she claims that the fees to publish images for her academic work since 2011 total £24,000 from her own pocket.* “The more successful I am, the poorer I get”, she says. The article went viral on academic Twitter networks and retweets and comments shine a light on the fact that many scholars face similar problems – one user ironically pointed out that it would be much cheaper to include with each book sold a packet of postcards from the museum than paying their prohibitive reproduction fees! (@winchester_books). 

This thorny issue of image copyright permissions in research publications is sadly not new. In the last couple of years, however, historians of art in the UK have succeeded to keep the issue at the front of the public debate. Back in 2017, an ‘End-fees-for-images’ campaign was started by Dr Bendor Grosvenor and Dr Richard Stephen. Along with 28 leading British art historians, they openly called for UK national museums to abolish image fees for out of copyright works of art in a letter published in The Times (3). Many other researchers in the field quickly added their names to this call through a petition on change.org. This campaign was supported in parallel by Grosvenor’s blog, Art History News – his strong presence in the media as a BBC4 presenter and on social media (@arthistorynews) also helped to promote the campaign.

This campaign revealed that there are in fact tools in the UK’s legal arsenal that art historians could use to limit fees. The 2015 Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations (RPSI), for instance, which “prevents publicly funded bodies from commercialising public assets” including publicly owned pieces of art. These regulations “do allow image fees to be charged, but only to cover the actual costs involved, and a very small ‘profit’”(4). They remain, however, very little used and barely known – both by researchers and museums. Interestingly, during the OSC’s Open Access Monographs symposium, it was also brought up that ‘fair dealing’ exceptions to copyright by way of quotation for the purpose of ‘criticism or review’ have not often been used by researchers and applied to visual material (5). Both RPSI and ‘fair dealing’ by quotation are in the end quite complex legal tools and, understandably, no art historians nor their publishers want to take the risk of a court case. We also have to take into account the wish of scholars to preserve good relationships with national heritage institutions in the UK – as images are their primary materials, their academic work depends on it entirely! 

During the Open Access Monograph symposium, the comment was made that this issue of high image reproduction fees as a barrier to Open Access publication was a misconception – that the real problem was instead about wider ‘digital’ and ‘online’ issues. However, the fact remains that permission fees are much higher if the image falls into the following categories (often used in image permission fees forms): ‘worldwide’, ‘online’, and ‘freely available’. How is this supposed to encourage researchers in the art and humanities to publish their research Open Access? We could, however, also frame the issue in a more positive way – what if Open Access itself could help humanities researchers deal with images better? Dr Kozicharow acknowledged the great support she received from Open Book Publishers (OBP) in allowing her to reproduce as many colour images she needed for her book. Kathryn M. Rudy, in her recent book also published with OBP, was able to display images in an innovative way (6). In order to contain costs, when images were already widely available, she instead added links on stable GLAMs websites – even QR codes in the case of the printed edition! Perhaps art historians should see open access publishing as a good opportunity to find innovative ways to think about solutions for images. Of course, there remains the problem of how Open Access is perceived in the Humanities, open access books not being sufficiently reviewed and often not deemed legitimate enough in the process of securing permanent positions and promotions – but this is a separate issue. 

What would be needed to help with image permission costs in art and humanities publishing?

In light of the growing requirements for open access publications, there should be better financial provisions to support researchers from universities and funding bodies. A recent report on Open Access from the Universities UK Open Access and Monographs Group, however, shows that there is a growing acknowledgement of the impossible situation faced by specific disciplines who rely on third-party material when publishing – such as history of art or archaeology. The UUK OA Monographs group notably recommended that “Given the already complex nature and expense of re-use clearance for illustrations and other third-party rights material in books, and the additional complexity and expense introduced by OA, an exception should be considered in any OA policy for books that require significant use of third-party rights materials” (7). 

Most of all, cultural heritage institutions have to do better. It does not seem unreasonable to be able to reproduce an image for free with the appropriate credit to the institution when a work of art is in the public domain. Some institutions worldwide have already started making their image collections open access or at least free of copyright fees for researcher’s publications. For example, Gallica, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s digital library, just changed its policy in favour of the latter. Positive changes such as these, that benefit the public and research, are being recorded and supported by the excellent Open GLAM initiative, funded by the European Commission. The new EU copyright directive (provided it can apply after Brexit?) should give the final push to get there, as it will allow free re-use of images of works of art in the public domain, even for commercial purposes.

Published 25 October 2019

Written by Dr Lorraine de la Verpillière 

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*Correction: The  £24,000 figure in fact corresponds to fees Rudy paid to obtain the high-res image files for her academic work since 2011. The figure gets even higher when including the said images copyright fees – in the same article, she mentions for instance a £5,683 invoice from the Bodleian for the reproduction cost of her next book.

If you are a researcher at Cambridge University and need more information about third-party copyright, the following resources are for you:

 Libguides

Architecture & History of Art: Copyright and plagiarism

Copyright for Researchers 

Copyright helpdesk: email copyright-help@lib.cam.ac.uk 

Face-to-face training sessions [available to Cambridge University only]

Copyright: a survival guide (for PhD students in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences) 

Do You Really Own Your Research? Copyright, Collaboration, and Creative Commons 

Your faculty or department may also run bespoke sessions, asking your librarian is the best way to find out.

References

(1) Louise Hardiman and Nicola Kozicharow, Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art: New Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017, https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0115

(2) Kathryn M. Rudy, ‘The true costs of research and publishing’, Times Higher Education, August 29 2019 (Url: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/true-costs-research-and-publishing#survey-answer)

(3) Matthew Moore, ‘Museum fees are killing art history, say academics’, The Times, November 6 2017 (Url: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/museum-fees-are-killing-art-history-say-academics-qhfwmdws6 accessed: 10/10/2019)

(4) Bendor Grosvenor, ‘Why museums should abolish image fees (ctd.)’, Art History News blog, August 20 2018 (Url: https://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/5241_Why_museums_should_abolish_image_fees_(ctd.) accessed: 10/10/2019)

(5) Amendments to the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 in the UK law since 2014, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/2356/regulation/3/made

(6) Kathryn M. Rudy. Image, Knife, and Gluepot: Early Assemblage in Manuscript and Print. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2019, https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0145 

(7) Universities UK Open Access and Monographs Group, ‘Third-party rights’, in Open access and monographs evidence review, October 2019, p. 10-12 (PDF: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2019/UUK-Open-Access-Evidence-Review.pdf accessed 13/10/2019).

Chasing cash cows in a swamp? Perspectives on Plan S from Australia and the USA

Plan S was born in Europe, yet from the very start it aspired to accelerate conversations around open access on a global scale. After all, if free access to research outputs is good in one place, it will be good everywhere, right? Well, it turns out that things may not be that simple.

In this Open Access Week, we look East and West to find out how Plan S is being received across the globe. Dr Danny Kingsley explores how reliance on foreign students has trapped Australian universities in a ‘Faustian bargain’ with publishers and reduced the scope for change. Micah Vandegrift reports on the type of conversations that Plan S has inspired in the USA, as well as the potential political barriers, sounding a note of cautious optimism.

The uptake of Plan S or equivalent principles in countries beyond Europe is crucial to the overall success of the movement. Publishers are using the fact that uptake currently has limited geographic scope to stall change, arguing that they cannot alter their model to suit the requirements of a relatively small percentage of authors. The number of supporting funders is still small and concentrated in Europe, with a few US players. China initially looked set to join in and thus change the game, but since the end of 2018 we have seen little progress on that front. Has Plan S been successful in shaping conversations around the world?

Hearing from our colleagues in other countries highlights some of the promises and challenges Plan S is facing in making an impact outside Europe. Learning about those raises a number of interesting points for how we advocate for open access at home too.

Dr Danny Kingsley: Australia

Photo of Sydney Opera House over a calm sea.
Sydney Opera House. ‘ Plan S has not really caused much of a ripple Down Under ‘.

Rankings are a natural enemy of openness

When first approached by the Office of Scholarly Communication to write a piece about Plan S in Australia, my initial response was it would be very short. That is, Plan S has not really caused much of a ripple Down Under. Those in the know – people working in scholarly communication and some senior members of research institutions – are aware and watching closely. But as far as opening up a general discussion amongst the academic community, this simply hasn’t happened.

Over the past six months I have been trying to understand where some of the problems lie when it comes to openness in Australia. It is more fundamental than the usual concerns researchers have about Open Access, and goes to the heart of how universities work here.

Where the money flows

First a quick run-down on how research funding to universities works in Australia. There are only two government funders – the National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). The amount of funding these granted in 2017-2018 was about $943 million and $758 million respectively to all research organisations. As a comparison, the Wellcome Trust endowed in the range of £10m – £50m in Australia in 2017-18. For those interested there is a full breakdown of sources of research funding.

The funder policies on Open Access and Research Data Management are pretty weak overall. The NHMRC policy requires that any peer reviewed publication be available in a repository 12 months after publication and “strongly encourages researchers to consider the reuse value of their data and to take reasonable steps to share research data and associated metadata arising from NHMRC supported research”. The ARC policy requires the metadata of research outputs to be available in a repository 3 months after publication and the work to be OA 12 months after publication. But the policy specifically states: “For the purposes of this policy, Research Outputs do not include research data and research data outputs.”

Resourcing limitations mean these policies are not monitored, and there are no sanctions for non-compliance. This means they are basically ineffective, given the findings of a study last year that identified what policies need to ensure compliance.

But these policies simply reflect a lack of policy generally in Australia, partly due to the revolving door that has been the Prime Ministership over the past five years. So, on face value, the reason for the lack of engagement with discussions around Plan S just reflect this lassitude.

But I am wondering if there might be something deeper at play here.

Cash cow

Australian universities are heavily financially reliant on overseas students, with the numbers of international students several multiples greater than any other comparable university worldwide. Numbers of overseas students have doubled since 2008, with 398,563 students enrolled in 2018. In one instance, the University of Sydney, fees from Chinese students make up one fifth of its annual revenue with $500 million in 2017. Taken across the country, these figures outweigh public research funding significantly.

While this dependence has been labelled as highly risky from a financial perspective, it is also causing serious issues elsewhere in the sector including concerns about eroding educational standards. But it is also causing a perversion in the way research is managed.

The role of the ranking

University rankings are extremely important in the recruitment of overseas students. The vast majority of Australian university websites list some interpretation of their rankings. Monash University and the University of Western Australia both note they are in the “top 100 universities in the world”. Other universities are more specific, naming their place, like UNSW at 43rd in the world and University of Queensland listing no fewer than five rankings, trumped by Queensland University of Technology with six rankings listed.

Chasing rankings comes at a price. In some instances, increasing a University’s position in the rankings is a specific strategy, with the University of Canberra a recent success story.

There is incredible pressure on researchers in Australia to perform. This can take the form of reward, with many universities offering financial incentives for publication in ‘top’ journals. This is fairly widespread, with some universities having this position on the public record. For example, Griffith University’s Research and Innovation Plan 2017-2020 includes: “Maintain a Nature and Science publication incentive scheme”. Publication in these two journals comprises 20% of the score in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Other institutions take a more draconian position. Murdoch University’s proposed ‘academic career framework’ identifies specific numbers of articles researchers are expected to publish in top journals per year. Not surprisingly this approach has been highly criticised for its “extremely narrow view of academic career success”.

Australia’s Chief Scientist has recently been arguing the need for a different way of assessing our researchers, with concern that the current system is fuelling bad science. With exception of some groundswell activity, this is as close as anyone is getting to using the ‘reproducibility’ word here in Australia, possibly from nervousness in the sector from government interference in the allocation of research grants in 2018. There is certainly nothing comparable to the UK or the US on this issue.

The Open Access challenge

But what has all of this to do with Open Access or Plan S? Well, everything actually.

For a start, signing up to the Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA), or the Leiden Manifesto is one of the principles of Plan S, with the Wellcome Trust stating that it will not fund research at institutions that have not signed up. Only a handful of Australian research organisations have signed DORA, none of which are universities. Given many Australian institutions are not only judging researchers on their publication record, but in some cases proscribing which journals in which they are allowed to publish, it would be extremely difficult for these institutions to become a signatory to DORA or the Leiden Manifesto.

But the main problem for the open agenda is the total reliance on specific metrics that deliver ranking numbers – metrics which enfold Australian universities into a Faustian bargain with the large commercial publishers.

Australian universities are not engaging with Plan S because they cannot afford to. And while the Australian funders remain silent on the topic (literally – a search for Plan S on each website comes up empty), there is little incentive to worry about it.

If anything, this situation further underlines the need to shift the academic reward system away from the single measure of publication of novel results in high impact journals.  Given how deeply ingrained that measure is in Australia it will be interesting to see where we are at this time next year.

Micah Vandegrift: USA

An image of a river in the USA.
A meandering river in the USA. Plan S has sparked conversations in the USA, but progress is slow.

A shot heard around the world

A little more than a year ago, open access had its “shot heard around the world” moment. Plan S expanded out from Europe, encompassing angst and excitement, requiring think-pieces from thought leaders, policy briefs from the wonks, and general malaise from lots of stakeholders. The European open agenda is, by design or by accident, shaping the horizon and Plan S continues to be a marker of that progression. I had the unique opportunity to be on the ground in Europe for most of the fallout last fall, and now with the benefit of time and geographic remove, I am observing the after effects, especially in how U.S.-based research communities are responding in kind. 

Ripples and tides

The greatest surprise is that Plan S seems to be the thing that is getting people from all corners out to debate the issues. The tidal wave of Plan S seems to have crashed on our shores with something for everyone – publishers, libraries, researchers, and funders. Librarianship tends to pivot around shifts in the publishing landscape, finding crevices to leverage our expertise and chances to show off that knowledge to researchers, and I expected Plan S to offer that as well. The weird thing, though, is that the responses have been uneven, distributed, and displaced. For example, I was invited along with Rick Anderson of Scholarly Kitchen fame to debate the Plan in front of 200+ managing and technical editors as the plenary session at their conference. On the flipside, Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, announced as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in January 2019 (after a vacancy since something happened in November 2016), flippantly addressed Plan S in an interview simply saying “we won’t ever tell people where to publish.” Bizarrely, a research policy affecting labs and scholars from Norway to Portugal is giving me a chance to meet and chat with publisher colleagues more than ever before, and not opened any new doors for communicating finer points of licensing with faculty on my campus. 

A slow-flowing river

Following the current into the near future, I believe that there are three tributaries that will come together. Funders will continue to exert their influence, supplanting publishers as drivers of the conversation, disciplines will adapt discipline-specific means of scholarly sharing (see the rise of pre-prints [PDF]), and policy makers will attempt to legislate cautious action toward a global research marketplace. However… in the U.S. context there are two barriers that could dam the flow. Uncertainty in our political climate, and an America-first foreign policy agenda, is boiling up concern about “undue foreign influence,” and I fear that isolationism will compel a counter narrative to the open and public sharing of research worldwide. Secondly, America is a god-damn huge country and developing a coherent national framework for openness seems to be a fool’s errand. However, what sometimes appears to be a bog can actually be a river barely inching along. If Plan S was a splash, Plan Open U.S. will be a steady drip, creating geologic formations of systemic change toward a more open research ecosystem. 

Conclusions

We read Danny and Micah’s contributions with great interest. They raised several questions about Plan S, which we hope to discuss with Micah after today’s talk.

  1. What can we do to increase engagement of our local academic communities with the open access agenda?
  2. Is it possible to uncouple decisions about research practice from financial or political/ideological considerations?
  3. How can government funders find a balance between dictating open research mandates and respecting the academic freedom of researchers?
  4. Can institutions measure research accurately without creating perverse incentives?
  5. Is there any country in the world where the mention of politicians does not trigger an immediate eye-roll?

Published 24 October 2019

Written by Dr Danny Kingsley (Scholarly Communication Consultant) and Micah Vandegrift (Open Knowledge Librarian at NC State University Libraries).

Compiled by Dr Beatrice Gini

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