Overcoming the Barriers: CILIP Copyright Conference 

The annual CILIP Copyright Conference is a highlight in a busy conference season for those in the information profession with a responsibility for this area. Held in London on April 5th, this event brought together colleagues from across the UK and further afield to discuss the latest developments in copyright and intellectual property and how we move forward from our current position. I was lucky enough to be able to attend this year in order to find out about recent changes and feed this back to the Cambridge (and wider) library community.

There were many excellent presentations but in the interests of brevity, I’m going to highlight my top three themes from the conference:

  • Copyright education
  • Open data and copyright
  • The UK Scholarly Communication Licence(UK-SCL)

Copyright education

Educating both library users and staff in copyright can be a challenge, something I was pleased to see acknowledged at the conference. From my own experience teaching in this area I think this is down to a mixture of complicated terminology and a narrow perception of what copyright actually deals with.

When I’ve talked to library staff about copyright in the past it has often been at cross purposes – I’m usually looking at helping to support researchers in the use of third party material in their thesis or signing copyright transfer agreements whereas most staff are focused on what can be uploaded to the VLE or how much of a text can be legally copied.

Copyright is a multi-faceted concept with a great deal of intersections so it can be hard to know where to start without overwhelming people. Luckily several of the presentations focused on the issue of copyright education.

Copyright is complicated and is often seen as a barrier to helping students and researchers to achieve their goals. When teaching about it we need to turn these perceptions around and promote copyright as a help rather than a hindrance.  One way of doing this is to reframe the message that we are sharing with our user communities. There is no one size fits all message when it comes to copyright and we need to invest the time to make sure that we are tailoring the message to different audiences – for example what a researcher will need to know about copyright is different from what administrators need to know.

Debbie McDonnell from the British Council highlighted an innovative approach in her presentation on Managing Copyright in an International Organisation Working in the Educational and Cultural Sectors. When she began her role she conducted a training survey to better understand the needs of her users. In response to their need for basic information she created several short videos in order to explain key concepts in the context of her service, helping members of staff to understand why copyright is important to them in their roles. As McDonnell rightly points out staff awareness is the biggest barrier to a successful copyright service. We cannot expect staff to manage copyright well if they are not fully informed about the need for it.

This message was echoed by Alex Fenlon from the University of Birmingham who talked about A Day in the Life of a Copyright/Licensing Expert. The University is about to open a new overseas campus which has raised a variety of copyright issues relating to the licensing of material. Fenlon encouraged us not to view copyright as a barrier to teaching and research activity and to pass this message on to our users. When asked if we can do something say yes and then use copyright exemptions and other rules to explore how to make this happen.

Open data and copyright

Keynote Josie Fraser, Senior Technology Advisor in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, encouraged us not to think of data as the new oil – a metaphor I’ve come across before. Even though both data and oil need to be extracted, both create new industries and have an impact on wider society, and both power their respective industries. there are differences between them. While oil is a finite resource, data is effectively infinitely durable and reusable. That said, both can lead to powerful oligopolies emerging which dominate the landscape, something we have seen in recent times with companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook.

The economy of data was something also highlighted by Carol Tullo, a consultant at Naomi Korn Copyright and Compliance,  in her talk on Organisational Governance of Information Assets which made the point that data is treated like a currency in today’s society. Companies are already wanting to see information about us in order to build up a picture of our habits and in the future our data may well be how we pay to use services. We can already see examples of this when use public Wi-Fi where there is usually an option to log in with various social media accounts. Many people see this as an easy option as they don’t have to create a new account for something they are only going to use for a short time but how much of our data are we giving away by using this method? The issue of third party access to our data is something which has been in the press a lot recently and serves as a timely reminder of what we could be giving away.

The resulting discussion around the potential conflict between open data and copyright was an interesting one from a scholarly communication perspective. Researchers are actively encouraged to share both their data and their finished papers as widely as possible but are often wary of letting others ‘steal’ their ideas. For many, copyright is seen as a protection mechanism but are they missing the point? Fraser argued that the time we spend locking down data could be better spent making sure it was shared openly. Data is created to be used and “open data and content can be freely used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose”. Large companies are gathering their own data and are less likely to be interested in the outputs of researchers but the smaller companies and start-ups could find this really valuable and use it to build something new. Using open licenses on data and other materials can help to encourage this innovation and protect the rights of the creator at the same time.


The final main theme of the day concerned the UK Scholarly Communication Licence which featured in a number of talks. Chris Banks from Imperial College London highlighted the currently confusing policy landscape (referencing our own work in this area). The UK-SCL aims to make the process of open access and the licensing of work more straightforward for all by offering a default license to authors which allows them to retain copyright whilst at the same time allowing the institution to make the author accepted manuscript available via a CC-BY-NC 4.0 license. This means that with a single action the author can publish with their journal of choice, retain more rights to their own work, use it in their teaching, meet the requirements of funders and REF and minimise overall reliance on hybrid Open Access. Quite an achievement!

There has been a positive response from the community and the next steps include working with research funders to see how this can be taken forward. One point that Banks did highlight was that discussions around the UK-SCL had resulted in a lightning rod effect by attracting attention to the wider conversation around Open Access. This can only be a positive as we work to engage more people in these important discussions.

The day also provided plenty of practical tips on rights clearance, dealing with moving images and the potential impact of Brexit. For more information on these, my full (live) notes from the conference can be found here and presentations from all sessions can be found on the CILIP website.

Published 8 May 2018
Written by Claire Sewell
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*Note – an amendment to this blog post was made at 17.12 on 8 May to better reflect the emphasis of Josie Fraser’s talk as per her comment below.

Tales of Discovery: stories inspired by Cambridge research

Five research papers and five traditional stories were combined during Cambridge Science Festival in March 2018 to make Tales of Discovery.

The session was aimed at families, to show them that there is a world of research available to the general public stored on Apollo, the University’s repository – and it’s all cool stuff.

It was also aimed at researchers, to get them thinking about new ways to make their research available to a general public – including uploading their research on to the Apollo repository.

At the end of each story the audience were challenged to interpret the stories and research in their own way.

Here’s what happened during the morning.

Labour Pains: Scenes of Birth and Becoming in Old Norse Legendary Literature

The research

Kate Olley’s article looks at the drama of childbirth as depicted in Old Norse legendary literature. This article made a great beginning to the session, because it looks into the power of story to give an insight into the past. Childbirth stories are fascinating and informative because they are such important moments – ‘moments of crisis’ not just for an individual but for a whole society. They show so much about a culture, from the details of everyday life, to a picture of a society’s values and structure. Also, unlike stories of great battles and adventures, they put women and everyday life at the centre of the story.

The story

I retold one of the stories from Kate’s article, ‘Hrolf and the elvish woman’ from the saga of Hrolf the Walker. An elvish woman summons Hrolf, a king who has fallen on hard times, to help her daughter who is under a curse. She has been in labour for 19 days, but cannot give birth unless she is touched by human hands.

Kate pointed out some things the story shows us: the extreme danger of childbirth in those times; and the way a birth changes everybody’s role. The woman becomes a mother, but the fortunes of Hrolf the midwife are also changed for ever. 

The challenge

We talked about how people still tell childbirth stories, and they often have the same mythic resonances as old Icelandic saga. Is there a story you tell your children about when they were a baby? (or a story that your parents tell you?)

Revolutionising Computing Infrastructure for Citizen Empowerment

The research

‘Internet dragon’

Noa Zilberman explains that almost every aspect of our lives today is being digitally monitored: from our social networks activity, through online shopping habits to financial records. Can new technology enable us to choose who holds this data? Her research, based on highly technical computer engineering, addresses a social issue that Noa feels passionate about. I chose a story that was a metaphor for her research, with a hero taking on the might of a huge and greedy dragon.

The story


I based the story on the epic account of Beowulf fighting the dragon, which reflected Noa’s passion and how important she felt the issues raised by her research are to society in general. But, as is the way with story, more links emerged during the telling. The flickering flames of the dragon’s cave, reflected the heat emitted by internet server farms. The ease with which a thief can steal gold from the hoard, and the potential harm this can do, proved highly topical. When the hero asks the blacksmith to make a shield of metal to protect him from the dragon’s breath, Noa produced her secret weapon: a programmable board, not more than six inches long, which enables data to be moved more efficiently by individual computers.

The challenge

It can be hard to visualise what ‘the internet’ really is. What might an ‘internet dragon’ look like? Can you draw one?

The provenance, date and significance of a Cook-voyage Polynesian sculpture

The research

Trisha Biers paper sheds light on the shifting sands of anthropological investigation. It has a particular Cambridge link: she uncovers the secrets of a wooden carving brought back from Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific in the 18th Century. The mysterious carving – of two figures and a dog – is now the logo of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The story

Two men and pig

As I searched for a Polynesian story about two men and a dog, I discovered many of the same factors that Trisha highlights. Stories travel across the Pacific Ocean just as commerce, people, and artworks do, making it hard to pinpoint the source of the story.

The story I chose, about the deity/hero Maui, turning his annoying brother-in-law, Irawaru, into the first dog, fits only partially – just like the many theories about the carving. Stories about Maui are known all over Polynesia: but the trickster Maui from New Zealand, where this story comes from, is different from the godlike Maui of Tahiti, the carving’s likely provenance. Like the carving, the stories of Maui have travelled to the Western world, in films like Moanna, as well as to Cambridge. Stories, which can’t be carbon-dated like the carving, shift and change just like the dog Irawaru.

The challenge

Not knowing the true story can set our imaginations free! I asked the audience to draw or write their own story about two men and a dog.

Treated Incidence of Psychotic Disorders in the Multinational EU-GEI Study

The research

Hannah Jongsma’s research looks at the risk of developing a psychotic disorder, which for a long time was thought to be due to genetics. She finds that it is influenced by many factors – both genetic and environmental – for example the risk is higher in young men and ethnic minorities.

The story

I paired the story with a sinister little tale from Grimm, Bearskin, about an outsider who is rejected by society because of his wild appearance – he wears the unwashed skin of a ferocious bear and lives like a wild man. It touched the issues of Hannah’s research at many points. The hero is a rootless and penniless young man far from home – a situation identified as high-risk in Hannah’s study. His encounter with a wild bear with whom he swaps coats is the stuff of hallucination. Like psychosis, in Hannah’s view, the problem is partly one of the way society views the outsider. And, as in Hannah’s study, being accepted by a family and given emotional support is a protection against psychosis. The remarkable thing about this this wonder-tale, so far removed from reality, was how it opened up a wide-ranging conversation about the research. Its far-fetched images helped us explore the issues of real-life research. Hannah was surprised that her research could be re-envisioned and presented in such a different way.

The challenge

Using the ideas from Hannah’s paper, suggest an alternative ending to the story.

Determining the Molecular Pathology of Inherited Retinal Disease

The research

‘DNA helix’

Crina Samarghitean shows how bioinformatics tools help researchers find new genes, and doctors find diagnosis in difficult disorders. Her article looks at better treatment and quality of life for patients with primary immunodeficiencies, and focuses on inherited retinal disease which is a common cause of visual impairment.

The story

The story of the telescope, the carpet and the lemon turned out to be a celebration of the possibilities of medical research with bioinformatics. Three brothers search for the perfect gift to win the heart of the princess, and find that these three magical objects allow them to save her life. This piece of research was the first one I tried to find a story for, and it seemed to be the hardest to translate into non-specialist language, until Crina said ‘I see the research as a quest for treasure: someone who has looked everywhere for a cure for their illness comes to this data-bank, and it’s like a treasure chest with the answer to their problem.’

The challenge

Crina is already committed to the idea that the arts can be used to interpret science. She has made artworks inspired by the gene sequences she has been working on. The challenge was to make pictures inspired by Crina’s paintings and models.

Published 10 April 2018
Written by Marion Leeper
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Perspectives on the Open future

‘More cash, more clarity and don’t make this compulsory’ is the take home message from a recent workshop held with Cambridge researchers on the question of Open Research.

The recent session, called “An Open Future? How Cambridge is Responding to Challenges in the Open Landscape” was with a group of new Cambridge lecturers at a seminar organized by Pathways in Higher Education Practice. This event  offered us an opportunity to go beyond the usual information we provide in our training workshops*.

This session provided a unique opportunity to speak with researchers from various disciplines further along in their career who already had a basic knowledge of Open Access and Research Data sharing requirements. This meant we were able to have more of an informed discussion rather than a lecture and we wanted to hear what they thought about Open Research.

(* The OSC is often asked to provide training on all things Open Research. Generally our training is focused on PhD students and early career researchers. We create our PowerPoint slides that explain the benefits of Open Access, the necessity of a good Data Management Plan or how to promote your research through social media (all of which are freely available here). We try to make these sessions as interactive as possible.)

Quiz Time

The session started by laying out how the current academic publishing model works. Basically, researchers submit their latest findings to a journal for FREE, peer reviewers review the paper for FREE, editors oversee the journal for FREE and the publishers format the article then turn around and charge libraries exorbitant subscription fees (yep, that about sums it up). This got a good laugh from the audience.

So our first activity was a short quiz. We were interested to know if researchers knew how much things cost. We asked them a set of questions:

  1. How much do you think we pay in subscription costs every year?
  2. What’s the average APC?
  3. How many papers were made gold OA and had at least one Cambridge author on it in 2016?

There was a lot of debate among the groups. Some of the answers were wildly overestimated (one researcher suggested £50 million GBP for subscriptions per year), others were quite low.

What are people sharing?

For our next activity, we wanted to know what they were already sharing and what tools they were using to share. We presented each table with a Venn diagram and a bunch of post-its:

Unsurprisingly, the ‘Publication’ circle had the most post-its. Answers included tools such as ArXiv, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu as well as personal websites and Facebook. There were also mentions of Cambridge Open Access and the Departmental Libraries. Interestingly a few noted that they made their work available to researchers through personal contact such as email requests.

There were a few post-its in the ‘Data’ circle describing what tools they used to deposit, such as university repositories and Zenodo.

The ‘Other’ category mostly talked about sharing code and software through github; although, one lecturer noted free workshops they offered. There was only one post-it that made it into the centre and that was for “webpage”. For the future, it may be interesting to know which discipline the researchers were from when they were posting because this theme came up quite a few times during the discussions.

When are people prepared to share?

The second activity involved lots of sticky dots and large pieces of paper. The participants were asked if they were comfortable sharing different aspects of their research at different stages in the research lifecycle. Each sheet was laid out in a grid as follows:

All of the researchers were asked to stick dots in the grid. The results were interesting. Most researchers were happy to share the published version of their paper, but a large number were uncomfortable sharing their pre-print or submitted version. There were only two dots in the “yes” square to share pre-prints. During the discussion it was apparent that this was probably down to the culture of the discipline where one physics researcher said it was part of the process versus one of the lecturers from English who disliked having more than one version of her paper available to read. The Book Chapter had similar results.

Data and Data Management Plans were all over the place. There were quite a few dots in the ‘Not sure’ squares. Most were happy to share data at the time of publication or at the end of the project. For the Data Management Plans it was evenly split between ‘yes’ to sharing at the end of the project versus ‘not sure’. No one wanted to share their DMP at the start of the project. There was some confusion among researchers (mostly from the humanities) who felt they didn’t have any data and therefore there was nothing to share.

The majority of the researchers were unenthusiastic about sharing their Grant Applications or Grey literature at any stage. For Grant Applications the overall feeling was that if the grant was successful then researchers didn’t want to share their methodology. If the grant was unsuccessful, they were reluctant to share their failures or they planned to submit to another granting agency. Most lecturers in the room agreed that they were fine sharing an abstract of their grant awards (which many funders post on their website).

As for Grey Literature which we defined as working papers or opinion papers, no one wanted to share anything that could be considered unfinished or not well thought out. One member of the law faculty said that if they had produced any grey literature worth sharing, then they would publish it in a journal. Moreover, it could be detrimental to their career if they shared anything that wasn’t well-researched and presented.

More money please

To finish up the session, we asked researchers what more could the University be doing to promote Open Research. Not surprisingly most people were resistant to any University mandate telling them what to do. In addition, they were strongly against any Open Research requirements being tied in with HR practices like promotions. The researchers supported discipline specific requirements for Open Research.

Clearer instructions from the University and from funders of what is required of researchers was also desired. Having a myriad of policies is quite confusing and burdensome for researchers who already feel pressured to publish. In the end, most said that if the University would pay, then they would be happy to share their published work.

Published 4 April 2018
Written by Katie Hughes
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