All posts by Samuel Moore

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.

Rights retention: publisher responses to the University’s pilot

The University’s one-year rights retention pilot has been running for six months now, during which time many papers containing the rights retention declaration have been submitted by Cambridge authors. As expected, the Office of Scholarly Communication is receiving more queries about rights retention from Cambridge academics, many of which relate to how publishers are responding to submissions containing the rights retention declaration. This post covers some of these queries to offer a picture of how rights retention is being received.   

It is worth reminding ourselves what the rights retention pilot entails. All researchers at Cambridge can sign up to participate in the pilot here. In doing so, the researcher enters into a non-exclusive agreement with the university to make all their papers immediately open access under a Creative Commons attribution (CC BY) licence. When a researcher submits an article to a publisher, they include the following statement in the acknowledgements or funding section of the article file: 

For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission’ 

Upon editorial acceptance, the researcher uploads a copy of the accepted manuscript to Symplectic Elements. The Open Access team will deposit the manuscript into Apollo and will release it publicly at the appropriate time. 

Publisher responses 

One of the primary fears researchers have regarding rights retention is that a publisher may editorially reject their article at the point of submission. While we are still dealing in small numbers of submissions and queries associated with the pilot, we have heard from at least two researchers that have been rejected from the journal at the point of submission due to rights retention language in their manuscript. In these cases, journals from the Seismological Society of America and the American Society of Hematology informed the respective authors that rights retention is not permitted because copyright transfer and an embargo period is required for publication in their journals. As a consequence, the authors in each case decided to submit to an alternative journal so that they could comply with their funder requirements. We are also aware of authors who received different answers from the American Society of Hematology, including to pay a fee or to accept rights retention. We hope rights retention will be approved in due course by the publisher as an acceptable route for all authors. 

A second group of publishers have asked for the rights retention language to be removed either because they deemed it not necessary to comply with or because another compliant route was available to the authors. For example, a journal published by Springer Nature asked for the rights retention language to be removed because it was not required for compliance purposes (because the article was submitted prior to the relevant policy coming into effect). Journals published by Elsevier, the American Chemical Society and Optica all asked for the rights retention language to be removed because of pre-existing publishing agreements that allow Cambridge researchers to publish open access free of charge. In these instances, authors were willing to remove the language from the final published version and so it was not clear what would have happened if they had not done so. We have received advice that removing this wording does not negate the fact that the publisher has been informed of the prior licence and so rights retention is still permissible here. We are recommending that researchers include the rights retention declaration where possible even when publishers ask for it to be removed.  

Despite the queries reported here, we have also seen a notable uptick in the number of submissions in the repository containing rights retention language, including within journals published by Elsevier, Wiley, Sage, Springer Nature, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Company of Biologists and JMIR Publications (to name a few). One journal published by the American Psychological Association was willing to accept immediate CC BY for UKRI-funded authors, although this was still subject to a copyright transfer agreement. In the case of Springer Nature, acceptance of the rights retention language also entailed payment of colour charges – something the authors had not anticipated and which we detailed further in this Twitter thread. We urge publishers to be as clear as possible about whether they accept rights retention and upon what conditions.  

I am sharing this data because it offers a snapshot of some of the responses we have seen from publishers so far. While we encourage our researchers to report any publisher pushback, we cannot be sure of all publisher responses, simply because researchers are under no obligation to report them. It is interesting, though, that some publishers are asking researchers to remove the rights retention declaration when there is a publishing agreement in place. We can hypothesise that this is because publishers want to prevent as many articles as possible from using this language because it would set a precedent for other researchers without access to such agreements to use rights retention too. Given this, the Office of Scholarly Communication is continuing to advise that the declaration is included in all manuscripts where possible, although this will be down to how persistent an author wants to be in requesting the language be retained.  

Open Research in the Humanities: Research Evaluation 

This is the sixth and final of a series of blog posts, presenting the reflections of the Working Group on Open Research in the Humanities.  The working group aimed to reframe open research in a way that was more meaningful to humanities disciplines, and their work will inform the University of Cambridge approach to open research.   

This post discusses opportunities and challenges for research evaluation in the arts and humanities. 

The direction of travel in the Open Research discussion is away from any straightforward use of metrics in research evaluation. This is hugely in favour of the A&H. 

Opportunities 

The A&H have never used metrics in the same way as their STEM colleagues. This is partly because of the slower speed of publishing and the in-depth editorial process (18-24 months from submission to publication might be considered standard), and partly because ‘citation indices’ are less relevant when one’s contribution is to be part of a broad, ongoing cultural conversation rather than to generate data from scratch (see above, on CORE data). So the diversification of research evaluation enshrined in DORA (https://sfdora.org), and the questioning of the uncritical use of metrics and altmetrics by administrators, grant funders and promotion committees, is a positive development. It allows for a general move away from established academic platforms and formats, as discussed above.  

Support required 

Some pressing questions about research evaluation remain, which might account for some perceived hostility from some quarters towards a move away from established academic platforms. Who is doing the work of reading and assessing these multiple new formats? How do we evaluate success? Is success measured in terms of ‘reach’ – number of Twitter followers or blog readers etc? This would take us down the route of clickbait and skew towards already-popular, English-language material; this is a particular danger with processes designed to evaluate web traffic.  

What guidance is available for established academics looking to credit other colleagues for their social media contributions, in particular? An anxiety often expressed is that ‘there is a lot of rubbish on the internet’. How do we sift through? In general, research evaluation takes time and effort, and there is a sense that this work needs to be properly measured and quantified. For example, if an evaluator spends 20 minutes per CV on 60 CVs, that is 20 hours of work before one even gets into reading and evaluating actual outputs. In the context of a busy teaching term, such additional labour is barely possible and contributes to a general sense of stress within the profession. Looking for a kind of shorthand to facilitate swift and accurate evaluation of a wide range of (possibly unfamiliar) formats is therefore the pragmatic approach.  

The discussion of narrative CVs in the DORA context implies an amalgamation of the traditional CV and the cover letter. In our institution as no doubt in others too, it would be useful to have some HR guidance here on what appointment panels should ask for (e.g. no cover letter, but a paragraph each on a candidate’s three main research achievements?).  

There was a feeling in the working group that Cambridge is perhaps behind other universities who make ‘open research’ a category for assessment in itself, and who guide their employment panels and candidates accordingly. Indeed, Cambridge’s traditional division of the criteria for promotion into the discrete categories of ‘research’, ‘teaching’ and ‘general contribution’ seems actively to work against the whole idea of ‘open research’. It suggests unhelpfully that ‘service to the community’, ‘teaching’ and ‘research’ do not overlap. This division seems to have survived the recent overhaul of the academic promotions exercise.