All posts by Alexia Sutton

Introducing the preprint deposit service

The Office of Scholarly Communication, jointly with Open Research Systems (Digital Initiatives) and Research Information team have developed a new preprint deposit service for University of Cambridge researchers, which will be available on the week commencing 11th March 2024.

Why offer a preprint service?

Although researchers are generally well-served by existing subject repositories/preprint servers, we have identified an unmet need for those:

  • Who have no suitable subject repository/preprint server, or
  • Whose subject repositories/preprint server may be unable to offer long-term preservation, or
  • Who wish to use the University’s repository instead of existing subject repositories/preprint servers.

Why offer a preprint service now?

Following recent upgrades to both the University’s repository Apollo and Elements (the system that the University uses to hold and manage data on research activity), we are now in a position where we can offer a preprint deposit service.

What can be deposited?

Cambridge University researchers can deposit new (unpublished) preprints that have not been submitted to an external subject repository/preprint server.

Researchers can also deposit published preprints if they have concerns about its long-term preservation.

Can subsequent versions of a preprint be deposited?

New versions of a preprint can be added to an existing preprint record.

What happens once the preprint has been accepted for publication?

Researchers are asked to deposit the accepted manuscript as usual, via Elements. The Open Access Team will link the preprint record and accepted manuscript record in Apollo. The preprint and the accepted manuscript need to be separate records to ensure that the first deposit date of the accepted manuscript is not obscured, which is important for REF compliance purposes.

A new institutional open access fund for the University of Cambridge

Open Access is a powerful tool that enables researchers to share their research and maximise the impact of their work. However, the reality is that gold open access is a business model that is based on paying to publish, and it’s a business model that is primarily supported by research funders. What that means in practice is that gold open access often comes with a price tag that effectively excludes unfunded researchers.

The University of Cambridge has established a new institutional open access fund to provide financial support for unfunded researchers across the collegiate University. Researchers who do not have access to grant funds with which to pay the open access fees will be able to use the fund to pay the open access fees for their research or review papers in fully open access journals.  

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research explains that:

“This is significant step in ensuring that all University of Cambridge researchers can opt for gold open access publishing. We are proud to establish this fund that will be especially beneficial to early career researchers as well as other researchers in the collegiate University who are not eligible for the open access funds that are provided by grant funders. Significant inequalities remain in the global scholarly publishing system, however, so we continue our commitment to support different open access solutions that are available to any researchers, both within and outside the University”.

The new fund is one of the many ways that the University helps researchers make their research open access and complements our many Read & Publish deals, the Rights Retention Pilot and the facilitation of green self-archiving in the University’s institutional repository, Apollo. 

Who can use the new institutional open access fund?

Researchers who have a strong connection (typically research staff and students) with the University of Cambridge (including the Colleges) who have no way of paying for open access fees in fully open access journals.

What will the new institutional open access fund cover?

The fund can be used to pay open access fees for full research articles or non-narrative review papers in fully open access journals, provided there is no other way of paying the fee (for example, where there is no Read & Publish deal available to any of the authors, or where none of the author team has access to any funding).

How will the new institutional open access fund work?

The Open Access team can provide in principle funding decisions but cannot guarantee payment until a paper has been accepted for publication. Researchers are encouraged to seek an in-principle decision before incurring any fees by emailing the Open Access Team.

Where can I find more information about the new institutional open access fund?

There is more information on the Open Access website about the institutional fund, and the Open Access Team is available to answer any queries.

What about the bigger issue?

We are very conscious about the wider challenges with author-pays models of open access, for example for unaffiliated researchers and those in institutions without access to funding of this sort, and especially of the global equity issues that arise. We held several strategic workshops looking at these issues earlier this year and will continue to work towards finding a more equitable future for open access scholarly publishing.

What questions reveal about researchers’ attitudes to Open Access

By Dr Bea Gini, Training Coordinator

‘Right, that concludes this part of the training session, are there any questions?’ 

I’ve asked this scores of times in the last academic year, and it’s always fascinating to hear what questions emerge. Some have come up often enough that they have earned themselves a new slide in the training session. Others can be really niche, or reveal something about a specific field that is different to all other disciplines. Sometimes a question beautifully cuts through all the frills to challenge a key aspect of what has been discussed. In all cases, they have shown thoughtfulness and a real wish to engage with Open Research. 

Over the last academic year, we trained over 300 researchers on Open Research. In this post, I teased out a few of the most interesting or common questions they have asked about Open Access (OA) to explore what they may reveal about how they relate to the idea of OA. This is not an FAQ page, nor is it a comprehensive resource about OA at Cambridge. I will resist the urge to answer any of the questions, but rather focus on the themes they raise. 


Naturally, many of the questions reflect the incentives in research careers. When speaking to Arts & Humanities groups, the aim to turn a PhD thesis into a monograph is common, so questions are raised over publishers’ attitudes to OA theses and possible access levels for theses in Apollo. With ‘publish or perish’ still a common mantra, we have carefully considered how PhD graduates can deposit their theses in the repository without compromising future publishing deals. Many publishers now realise that an OA thesis is not necessarily a problem, but this is still a debated issue and more conversations between publishers, students, supervisors and libraries are needed.  

With STEMM groups, Registered Reports often come up, prompting discussions of their benefits in securing a publication avenue early and improving reporting practices. And yet the bias against negative results is profoundly embedded and hard to shake. More than once, I was asked ‘but if I do the experiment and get negative results, can I still go back and change the method to see if I can get positive ones?’. The first time I was a little baffled, worrying that I had not properly explained the problems with under-reporting negative results. Yet with further discussion it became clear that the researchers agreed with the principle, but felt that publishing positive results was more likely to earn them citations and prestige. In such a competitive environment, who can blame them for trying to give themselves the best chance?  

At other times, it’s heartening to see that incentives are better aligned between researchers, the academic community, and the public at large. I’ve received growing numbers of questions about how to disseminate findings to colleagues, the general public, and the research subjects themselves. In a few cases, researchers were grappling with dissemination strategies in rural areas of the developing world, where the usual solutions like blogs and podcasts would not work. It prompted me to think more broadly about dissemination strategies, making sure that biases for particular parts of the world or audience types do not come to dominate our suggestions.  

Barriers to Open Access 

By far the most common questions I hear is ‘where can I find the money?’, usually asked with some frustration at the gap between what seems to be a great idea (Open Access) and the seemingly insurmountable barrier of Article or Book Processing Charges. This frustration is more common in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, whereas in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths grants often cover publication costs, as long as the applicant remembers to factor those in. Exorbitant costs, as well as concerns about the type of license and dealing with privacy and qualitative data, can contribute to disillusionment with the OA movement, which I fear is growing among AHSS researchers.  There is no easy solution to this, especially for researchers who are not funded through Research Councils, and for monographs that can cost close to –or even over- £10,000. But some progress has been made: Read And Publish deals may bridge that gap in some cases, and some alternative business models for monographs are emerging.  

Another common question when I speak to enthusiastic PhD students is ‘how can I convince my supervisor to publish OA?’. First of all, it’s great that these discussions are happening between students and supervisors, a great example of where supervision can be a high-value exchange of ideas. The deeper question concerns the decision-making dynamics within the student-supervisor relationship. I have seen extreme cases where supervisors delegated virtually all decisions to the student, trusting in their judgement and the pedagogic value of making mistakes; as well as the opposite, where the students were expected to follow instructions to the letter in almost every aspect of their research. As is usually the case, the optimum must rest somewhere between those extremes. When it comes to OA, are reluctant supervisors helpfully schooling their students in the strategising needed for a successful research career, or are they stifling innovation in a new generation of researchers?  

The last barrier to mention is lack of knowledge. A variety of questions arise on issues of copyright, Green and Gold OA, identifying manuscript versions, funders policies, and more. The OA landscape is still developing as we continue to experiment with business models, agreements, workflows, and policies. This means that currently there is a high level of complexity and things change year on year. Researchers, especially those in their early career, have to juggle a large and diverse portfolio of skills, so they could be forgiven for shrugging OA away with a ‘I don’t need to know’. Yet their natural curiosity and belief in the power of free information leads many of them to ask probing questions to understand this landscape. Luckily, these questions are the easiest to answer. We constantly produce and revise training materials to boost researcher’s knowledge, and we have helpdesks and webpages where the answer can be at their fingertips.  

All in all 

Taken together, these questions tell us two things. First, researchers are engaging with us, they want to understand how OA works and have the confidence to embrace it. Second, there are common barriers relating to  career incentives, costs and knowledge. By listening carefully and expanding the dialogue with all disciplines, we can work together to reduce or overcome those barriers.