All posts by Niamh Tumelty

US requirements for public access to research

Niamh Tumelty, Head of Open Research Services, Cambridge University Libraries

Yesterday it was announced that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has updated US policy guidance to make the results of taxpayer-supported research immediately available to the American public at no cost:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2022/08/25/ostp-issues-guidance-to-make-federally-funded-research-freely-available-without-delay/

Federal agencies have been asked to update their public access policies to make publications and supporting data publicly accessible without an embargo. This applies to all federal agencies (the previous policy only applied to those with more than $100 million in annual research and development expenditure) and allows for flexibility for the agencies to decide on some of the details while encouraging alignment of approaches. It applies to all peer-reviewed research articles in journals and includes the potential to also include peer-reviewed book chapters, editorials and peer-reviewed conference proceedings.

The emphasis on “measures to reduce inequities of, and access to, federally funded research and data” is particularly important in light of the serious risk that we will just move from a broken system with built-in inequities around access to information to a new broken system with built-in inequities around whose voices can be heard. Active engagement will be needed to ensure that the agencies take these issues into account and are not contributing to these inequities.

While there will be a time lag in terms of development/updating and implementation of agency policies and we don’t yet have the fine print around licences etc, this will bring requirements for US researchers more closely in line with what many of our researchers already need to do as a result of e.g. UKRI and Wellcome Trust policies. Closer alignment should help address some of the collaborator issues that have arisen following the recent cOAlition S policy updates – though of course a lot will depend on the detail of what each agency puts in place. Researchers availing of US federal funding need to engage now if they would like to influence the approach taken by those who fund their work.

There continues to be a very real question around sustainable business models both from publisher and institutional perspectives, alongside the other big questions around whether the current approaches to scholarly publishing are serving the needs of researchers adequately. It is essential that this doesn’t just become an additional cost for researchers or institutions as many of those who have commented in the past 24 hours fear. Many alternatives to the APC and transitional agreement/big deal approaches have been proposed, from diamond approaches through to completely reimagined approaches to publishing (e.g. Octopus).

There will be mixed feelings about this. While there is likely to be little sympathy for the publishers with the widest profit margins, this move is sure to push more of the smaller publishers, including many (but not all!) learned societies, to think differently. We need to ensure that we understand what researchers most value about these publishers and how to preserve those aspects in whatever comes in future – I am reminded of the thought-provoking comments from our recent working group on open research in the humanities on this topic.

These are big conversations that were already underway and will now take on greater urgency. The greatest challenge of all remains how to change the research culture such researchers can have confidence in sharing their work and expertise in ways that maximise access to their work while also aligning with their (differing!) values and priorities.

Rights Retention Pilot

This interview is reposted with agreement from the sOApbox blog. It is one of a series of blog posts outlining how different institutions are introducing rights retention policies to support their researchers in sharing their research as widely as possible.

14/04/2022
In 2008 Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted unanimously to adopt a ground-breaking open access policy. Since then, over 70 other institutions, including other Harvard faculties, Stanford and MIT, have adopted similar policies based on the Harvard model. In Europe such institutional policies have, so far, been slow to get off the ground.

We are beginning to see that situation change.

The University of Cambridge has recently established a pilot rights retention scheme on an opt-in basis, with a view to informing the next revision of the University’s Open Access policy. In the following interview, Niamh Tumelty, Head of Open Research Services at the University of Cambridge, describes the purpose of the pilot, how researchers can benefit from it and shares her tips for any other institution that might consider adopting a similar policy.

cOAlition S: Could you, please, describe the author copyright policy you have adopted at your university?

Niamh Tumelty: We are inviting researchers to participate in a Rights Retention Pilot, which will run for one year starting April 2022. Participating researchers will grant the University a non-exclusive licence to the accepted manuscripts of any articles submitted during the pilot, making it easier for us to support them in meeting their funder requirements by uploading their manuscripts to our institutional repository, Apollo, without needing to apply an embargo. The pilot has launched using a CC BY approach as required by most cOAlition S funders, and we are exploring providing an option for alternative licences for researchers who do not have that specific requirement.

The researcher will notify the journal by including the rights retention statement on submission. When the paper has been accepted, the researcher will upload the accepted manuscript as normal via Symplectic Elements, indicating during the upload process that they have retained their rights. The Open Access team will do their usual checks, advise the researcher on what will happen next and arrange for the article to be made available on Apollo.

We will closely monitor what happens during the pilot and all participating researchers will be able to comment on their experiences. We will review all feedback and use it to inform our next review of our institutional open access policy.

cOAlition S: Why did the idea of adopting an institutional rights retention policy emerge?

Niamh Tumelty: The introduction of the requirement for immediate open access to research supported by cOAlition S funders has proven challenging in practice, with some publishers offering no compliant publishing route and others charging unsustainable prices for immediate open access to the final published version. Unless researchers want to move exclusively to publishing in journals that are diamond, fully gold or included within read & publish agreements, they need a way to retain sufficient rights, so that they always have the option to post their accepted paper online to achieve open sharing of their scholarship. Some disciplines have been left with little or no choice about where they can publish their research while meeting their funder requirements and their own goals for open research.

“The rights retention strategy is a key tool to enable researchers to openly publish in whatever journal will reach the most appropriate audience.”

cOAlition S: How was consensus reached across the institution?

Niamh Tumelty: The fact that immediate OA is now a funder requirement for the majority of our researchers made the conversation relatively easy. We held a number of discussions at the Open Research Steering Committee to ensure that we had as full an understanding as possible, providing examples of issues that were arising in the first year of the Wellcome Trust rights retention requirement in the absence of an institutional policy.

We considered developing an institutional opt-out policy as others have done but concluded that the highly devolved nature of the University of Cambridge would have made it extremely difficult to conduct a thorough consultation and reach consensus by the deadline of 1 April 2022. We agreed that the most appropriate next step at Cambridge was to run a pilot on an opt-in basis. A working group was established to design this pilot and included researchers from across a range of disciplines along with open access and scholarly communication experts from Cambridge University Libraries. The working group met every two weeks from mid-January to the end of March to consider the issue from different disciplinary perspectives and to develop the approach for the pilot. We drew heavily on the policy that was introduced at the University of Edinburgh earlier this year, learning also from the UK Scholarly Communications Licence and Model Policy and recommendations that have been publicly shared by Harvard University. We brought the proposed pilot to the University’s Research Policy Committee for comment and took legal advice on the detail of how we would approach this before launching.

The beauty of a pilot approach is that no researcher has to participate – they have a choice about whether or not to opt in and will have the opportunity to influence whatever policy is ultimately introduced across the university. We can take this year to really understand the issues in detail and to build consensus about the best approach for Cambridge.

cOAlition S: What challenges had to be overcome before it was agreed to adopt the policy?

Niamh Tumelty: The biggest challenge in the lead up to the pilot has been understanding and developing confidence in the rights retention strategy. The expert legal advice we received following the announcement of the Wellcome Trust requirements and again as we designed the detail of our approach was critical in enabling us to develop the pilot. Now, our challenge is to clearly communicate and explain rights retention to our many researchers as a route they can choose when publishing and to grapple with any issues that arise during the pilot year before developing any full institutional policy.

cOAlition S: What are the advantages of adopting the policy for your researchers and your institution?

Niamh Tumelty: The rights retention strategy is a key tool to enable researchers to openly publish in whatever journal will reach the most appropriate audience. It may be that some publishers decide to reject any papers in which the author has retained their rights, but this seems an unsustainable position given the growing number of authors whose funders require immediate open access for all outputs.

The advantage of a pilot approach rather than a full institutional policy is that it provides space and time for deep engagement across our highly devolved university. It creates a framework for the researchers that wanted to have an early route to support them in retaining their rights and for the open access team that advises and supports them. It enables us to generate evidence from our own researchers, to build confidence and trust and to refine the approach ahead of shaping a full institutional policy.

Researchers are in a stronger position than they realise – if publishers want to continue getting this free content from our researchers, they will need to develop publishing routes that meet the needs of their academic communities.”

cOAlition S: As a conclusion, what are your three top tips for any other university considering adopting a similar permissions-based Open Access policy to yours?

Niamh Tumelty: 1) Include a range of disciplinary perspectives from the earliest stages of planning. This early consideration will make it easier to tailor the messaging to different parts of the university, taking into account the different drivers and concerns that come into play. Make sure that the humanities perspective is included – too often in open research initiatives the humanities appear to be an afterthought, if considered at all.

2) Anticipate the questions that will be asked and make sure that you have clear and honest answers to those questions. Be honest and open about the fact that we are learning through the process (while building on the experiences of those who have gone before) and that there will be challenges. This enhances credibility and manages expectations as the policy beds in.

3) Have confidence in this approach! This is not new – researchers have been retaining their rights in this way for over a decade and it is becoming increasingly common practice across a range of institutions. Researchers are in a stronger position than they realise – if publishers want to continue getting this free content from our researchers, they will need to develop publishing routes that meet the needs of their academic communities.

Cambridge response to the UKRI open access policy review

Open access is transforming scholarly communication, and both the University and its Press are fully committed to the transition to open access publishing without embargo. It is inspiring us to think more deeply about how the research publishing ecosystem can be improved to the benefit of all society.

The open access policy review being conducted by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will have a major impact on how publicly funded research in the UK is published. The UK already has a strong commitment to open access, and we look forward to the new UKRI policy dramatically speeding up the country’s transition to open access.

Cambridge unites a world-leading research university, with a world-renowned Press and Library. We believe there is strength in this partnership, including the ability to challenge and test solutions that must work for academics, funders, publishers and research institutions. Our joint response to the UKRI policy review reflects the range of perspectives across the University and highlights some of the challenges and opportunities we face as an academic university and publisher.

In brief:

  • There are many aspects of the proposed UKRI policy that we support without reservation. For example, authors should retain their copyright, journals and publishers should be more transparent about their services and costs, and key metadata, such as funder and grant information and author IDs, are vital for efficient scholarly communication and research evaluation infrastructures.
  • There is a conflict between the need for sustainable journal publishing models that provide access to the final published article and affordability for research-intensive universities. Collectively we believe that this contradiction in approach is not sustainable and necessitates a UKRI policy that is more flexible in the short term while supporting a much bolder shift in publishing practice that will require significant changes from all stakeholders. The Library and the Press are working together to explore bold innovation and disruption for scholarly communications built round a shared commitment to the goals of open research.
  • There are also areas where we agree that allowances must be made for the different needs of different research communities. While all research communities must be able to benefit from OA, flexibility on details such as Creative Commons licenses and third party content is needed to allow research, and international collaboration, to flourish. There are concerns from academics, Library and the Press, for example, about the potential for requiring open access to all monographs in the REF-after-REF 2021 in the absence of funding for publishing these monographs, around the cost implications of requiring open access to articles and monographs that include third party content and around unintended consequences for early career researchers in certain disciplines.
  • For books, we need the time and freedom to find scalable, sustainable approaches to OA. No model has been found so far that would allow us to publish large numbers of high-quality OA books at the global scale and reach of the Press. The impact of making pre-final versions of books open access after an embargo is inadequately understood, undesirable from the perspective of researchers in particular disciplines and may be economically unrealistic (because we believe book purchasing habits will change significantly under a delayed-OA approach). While new approaches are explored, we suggest a couple of options for UKRI to consider adopting: (i) broadening the definition of ‘open’ to include ‘free to read’ and (ii) allowing books to be published under a ‘transformative programme’, perhaps along the lines of the Subscribe To Open model for journals.
  • For journal articles, we cannot ignore an essential paradox. On the one hand, zero embargo Green OA depends upon subscriptions which are becoming ever more unsustainable as more content becomes OA. On the other hand, many research-intensive organizations are unable to pay the costs of their publishing without subsidies from subscribers around the world. Our academic University would need to comply with the proposed UKRI policy predominantly through the Green OA route, while CUP needs to transition to Gold OA. To resolve this paradox during a world-wide shift to full open access, UKRI must make two transitionary allowances: modest embargoes can be applied by publishers to support the subscriptions that sustain Green OA, and Gold OA in hybrid journals must continue to be supported. We want to see a scholarly communications landscape that has diversity reflecting the breadth scholarship across the disciplines, including smaller publishers and learned societies that require support in the transition to Open Access.

As we said earlier, we look forward to the new UKRI policy dramatically speeding up the UK’s transition to OA. We hope that the fine details of the policy will allow us to fully play our part in the transformation.

This post has been developed jointly by Cambridge University Libraries and Cambridge University Press and has also been shared at https://www.cambridge.org/core/blog/?p=36924.