Open Research in Cambridge: 2022 in review

2022 has been another fantastic year for Open Research in Cambridge and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together as a community of researchers, library staff, technicians, administrators, publishers and more. I’d like to highlight some of the key themes in our work this year and thank all who have contributed to this work in any way throughout the year (though I have limited myself to naming chairs of workstrands below). The following video by our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Prof Anne Ferguson-Smith, gives an indication of the importance that the university places on this work.

Understanding disciplinary differences

I know that I’m not alone in hearing that researchers in Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences disciplines often feel a disconnect between the language and priorities of “Open Science” and their experiences of how research is conducted – this is one of the reasons we choose to frame it as “Open Research” here in Cambridge. I see a strong desire from many to engage with open research practices, paired with frustration with the challenges of translating the terminology of open science to other areas. In order to better understand these issues, we established two working groups (Open Research in the Humanities and Open Qualitative Research), each of which was tasked with forgetting what they think they should do due to how open science is generally described, and instead describe what they see as the opportunities for open research within their disciplines.

The Open Research in the Humanities group was chaired by Prof Emma Gilby and supported by Dr Matthias Ammon. Their excellent report is already available on Apollo and through a series of blog posts here on Unlocking Research. The Open Qualitative Research group was chaired by Dr Meg Westbury and their report is due to come to the university’s Open Research Steering Committee in January. We will be sharing this more widely in early 2023 – it’s well worth watching out for! Both reports will inform how we talk about Open Research at Cambridge and will shape the transformative programme that we are in the process of developing.

Research data management

Our small but dedicated Research Data team, led by Dr Sacha Jones, has had another impressive year. Our Data Champions Network goes from strength to strength, and has expanded into departments that have not been represented in previous years. Other key projects have included a review of our research data services with recommendations for future development, a project on electronic research notebooks, and lots of work to support open research system developments, all while continuing to support researchers with data deposits and writing data management plans. This team is expanding next year which will enable even more work to meet the needs of different disciplines.

The future of scholarly publishing

We hosted a series of three strategic workshops on the future of scholarly communication earlier this year, developed in collaboration between Cambridge University Libraries and Cambridge University Press. Led by independent facilitator Mark Allin, participants across disciplines and career stages came together to discuss the problems of scholarly communication, potential long-term solutions to these problems and a strategy to help Cambridge get us there. The proposals emerging from the meeting are currently being developed and include newly developed infrastructures for diamond open access publishing projects and a series of high-level strategic meetings aimed at strategic improvements to equity in academic publishing. There are already diamond publishing initiatives within Cambridge, and projects will start in early 2023 to understand existing initiatives in greater detail and to provide the infrastructure to establish additional diamond journals. 

The library’s annual Open Research Conference took a similar visionary approach in its focus on the future of open access. Titled Open Access: Where Next?, the conference featured expert speakers on how we can think beyond open access toward more innovative, sustainable and equitable open futures. We heard from researchers excluded by certain approaches to open access, how other researchers are addressing issues through their own scholar-led approaches, alongside how openness fits into changing research cultures and can facilitate experimental publishing projects. A full round up with videos of each session is available on the Unlocking Research blog.  My thanks to Dr Bea Gini for her leadership in planning this conference.

Open Access now

While we are actively working towards a new future for scholarly publishing, we also need to ensure that our researchers have ways to make their work open access right now. We do this in a number of ways, engaging with the academic community and contributing expert open access advice on publishing agreements that are negotiating across the sector and administering the block grants that are provided by funders and the university to cover the costs of publishing in fully open access venues. All of this requires close reading and interpretation of funder requirements to ensure that we are able to support our researchers in what they are required to as well as what they would like to do. I’d like to specifically thank Alexia Sutton, who leads our Open Access team, and Dr Samuel Moore, our Scholarly Communication Specialist, for their leadership in this area.

We are particularly pleased with the engagement from across the university with the ongoing Rights Retention Pilot, which provides a route to open access for articles that cannot be made immediately available through existing publishing deals, are not eligible for the block grants mentioned above or where the publisher simply does not provide any route to immediate open access. We are now consulting on the development of a Self-Archiving Policy which is buit on what we have learned throught he pilot and will sit within our Open Access Publications Policy Framework. Members of the university can find out more by reading this document (accessible to Raven users only). It has been an honour to lead a dedicated group of library and research staff on this project.

Open research systems

Everything we do requires that we have the right technical infrastructure in place. The Open Research Systems team is led by Dr Agustina Martinez-Garcia and based within Cambridge University Libraries’ Digital Initiatives directorate. This year has seen projects to upgrade links between Symplectic Elements and Apollo, technical changes to support the rights retention pilot, a review of the open research systems landscape, contributing to thinking around future publishing platforms, electronic research notebooks and data infrastructure, and planning ahead for the upgrade to DSpace 7, improvements in the thesis service, and building connections between DSpace repositories and Octopus. This is not a comprehensive list and we plan to showcase more of their work on the blog in 2023.

Research enquiries, briefings and training

I want to end with huge thanks to the library staff based both in the Office of Scholarly Communication and in the Faculty & Department Libraries who do so much throughout the year, answering frontline research support queries, signposting as required, providing tailored briefings and training on highly complex and constantly changing topics. We especially value the disciplinary insights we get through working closely with the Research Support Librarians that are based within the Schools.

Join our team!

Open Research is an incredibly rewarding area to work in and the scale of what we’re trying to achieve is really ambitious. I’m delighted that the importance of what we are doing is recognised by both Cambridge University Libraries and the wider university and as a result we are expanding our team!

We are currently recruiting for an Open Research Community Manager to establish and develop a Cambridge Open Research Community, bringing researchers across the university community together through regular online and in person events to enable exchange of expertise in open and rigorous research practices. In January, we plan to advertise for two Research Data Coordinators and an Open Research Administrator, with a Research Services Manager post following later in the year. All of these roles will be listed on the university’s jobs site as well as on LinkedIn, mailing lists etc. If you’re interested in our work and would like to find out more about these opportunities please get in touch at info@osc.cam.ac.uk!


Open access: where next? – event round-up

Dr. Samuel Moore, Scholarly Communication Specialist, Cambridge University Libraries

On Friday 18th November, participants from across Cambridge and beyond gathered for a hybrid meeting on the future of open access publishing. Hosted by Homerton College, ‘Open Access: Where Next?’ explored issues relating to article-processing charges, research assessment and innovation in scientific publishing. 65 in-person attendees and 78 online attendees participated in the day-long event consisting of four panels and a keynote from Professor Gina Neff of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy.

Prof. Neff kicked off the event with a timely and insightful talk titled ‘Further than the academy: the stakes for open research’. Covering themes such as misinformation, preservation and widening participation in knowledge, Prof. Neff explored the importance of democratic and responsible approaches to our digital present and future, looking especially to libraries as key to supporting these issues.

The first panel of the day, ‘Further than privileged universities’, was introduced by Dr. Matthias Ammon and featured Dr. Juliet Vickery, Chief Executive of the British Trust for Ornithology, Dr. Tabitha Mwangi, Cambridge-Africa Programme Manager, and Dr. Stuart Pracy, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Exeter. Each panellist spoke on the challenges of open access that arise from either being outside privileged university spaces or without secure employment within them. Despite representing quite different communities, there were a number of commonalities between the experiences of each speaker, most notably the fact that moving from paying to access scholarly material to paying to publish it added a new exclusionary dimension to their ability to communicate research.

In the second panel, we heard from three speakers who are working against the move toward paying to publish. ‘Further than APCs and BPCs’ featured speakers working on publishing projects that do not require authors to pay processing charges to publish their work – so-called Diamond open access. Cambridge librarians Dr Meg Westbury (Academic Services Librarian, Human and Social Sciences) and Dr Yvonne Nobis (Head of Physical Sciences libraries) described their respective publishing projects, The Journal of Information Literacy and Discrete Analysis. The audience learned about both the challenges around running a journal on a shoestring, but also the advantages of a DIY approach to publishing without recourse to expensive publishing networks. In addition, Dr. Joe Deville of Lancaster University explained the work of the soon-to-launch Open Book Collective to collaboratively fund the publication of open access books in the humanities and social sciences.

After lunch, Niamh Tumelty chaired a roundtable with Cambridge researchers on research assessment and its relationship with publishing. Prof. Steve Russell, Head of Department of Genetics, described his work as Chair of DORA (the Declaration on Research Assessment) alongside the work needed for the university to fulfil its commitment to ensuring researchers are no longer judged by the venues in which they publish. Following this, Liz Simmonds – the University’s Head of Research Culture – described the pros and cons of alternative approaches to assessment such as narrative CVs. Finally, Prof. Emma Gilby of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics explained the view from the humanities, particularly how declarations such as DORA are designed and implemented with the sciences in mind.

The final panel of the day was on innovations in scholarly publishing. Chaired by Dr. Samuel Moore, three panellists described their publishing approaches to moving beyond the traditional journal article. Dr. Mónica Moniz of Cambridge University Press & Assessment presented Research Directions – the press’ approach to publishing the research lifecycle across a variety of disciplinary questions. Following this, F1000’s Head of Data and Software Publishing, Dr. Beck Grant, described the publisher’s approach to automated data publishing in partnership with the Wellcome Sanger Institute. Finally, Dr. Damian Pattinson discussed eLife’s new approach to removing accept/reject decisions from its publishing process – and an invigorating discussion ensued!

At the end of the day, Niamh Tumelty summarised the event and reminded participants to fill out the postcards they were given at the start of the day to document what actions they will take in response to the issues covered in the conference. We will be posting these postcards to participants in January as a reminder of what you planned to do (with vouchers to three lucky recipients). Special thanks to all participants, attendees and organisers, but especially to Bea Gini for all her help with this, her last, event as part of the Office of Scholarly Communication. Thanks also to Clare Trowell for designing our postcards.

Springer negotiations: what’s our plan B? 

The negotiations 

The UK universities sector is negotiating a read & publish deal with publisher Springer Nature. Reaching a transitional agreement is particularly important to make it easier for our authors to publish their work open access, as well as continuing to read all of Springer Nature’s content. The deal needs to be affordable for our sector, which is already under financial strain.  

The Jisc negotiating team and the University of Cambridge are committed to finding a deal that works well for us, that is our plan A. But we are aware that some previous negotiations between universities and publishers could not find enough mutual ground (for example UCLA and German universities). If a contract can’t be signed, what would that mean for our researchers? 

What would we keep access to? 

Our current deal with Springer Nature includes perpetual access to some of their catalogue. We would retain access to 69% of content we currently subscribe to, even if we have to walk away from negotiations without a deal. When clicking on these articles, you will be given automatic access if you are connected to a Cambridge network or VPN, or you would be able to gain access from elsewhere with your Raven credentials.  

Of course, we would only retain access to historic materials, not new publications. This means that the percentage of articles we have access to will slowly decline over time. The areas most impacted by the loss of access would be Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences and Clinical Medicine. But we have other plans to help people get access to the articles they require. 

How would we access other articles? 

If the University does not subscribe to an article you need to access, you would still be able to get hold of it, but the process is a little longer. The best thing to do is to install the Lean Library plugin on your device. Lean Library will look for open access content and allow you to access anything to which we retain post-cancellation access.  

If you can’t get access through Lean Library, Cambridge University Libraries will help you get the article through an inter-library loan or other routes. The exact process will depend on ongoing work, so look out for further communications about the details.  

How would we publish in Springer Nature journals?  

Open access publishing is a great way to ensure that everyone in the world can read and apply your work for free. Many funders now require open access as a condition for their funding. As an additional complication, funders including the UK research councils will not pay for open access in hybrid journals, which charge for both subscriptions and open access (what we sometimes call ‘double-dipping’), unless there are transitional read & publish deals in place, or the journal is a transformative journal.  

A read & publish deal would mean that the cost of open access publishing is covered by the libraries upstream, and researchers can publish at no additional cost. However, if a deal cannot be reached, many Springer Nature journals would remain hybrid journals. This means that many researchers would be required to publish open access, but have no access to central funds for this.  

The solution is the Rights Retention strategy. By signing a pilot agreement with the University and including a rights retention statement in their manuscript, authors will retain their rights to make the manuscript openly available immediately on our repository, Apollo. This way, they will fulfil their funder requirement without having to pay a penny.  

It should also be noted that some journals, such as Nature, have put into place specific provisions for researchers whose funders mandate open access.  

How will we find out more? 

The current contract runs until the end of December 2022 and we are assured of a grace period stretching to February 2023, during which access will continue if negotiations are ongoing.  

We will continue to update our website as more information becomes available. An announcement will be made by email across the University once the outcome of the negotiations is known. Please email info@osc.cam.ac.uk or speak to your librarian if you have any questions.