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Multiplicity, the unofficial theme of Researcher to Reader 2019

For the past four years at the end of February, publishers, librarians, agents, researchers, technologists and consultants have gathered in London for two days of discussions around the concept of ‘Researcher to Reader’. This blog is my take on what I found the most inspiring, challenging and interesting at the 2019 event. There wasn’t a theme this year per se, but something that did repeatedly arise from where I was standing was the diversity of our perspectives. This is a word that has taken a specific meaning recently, so I am using ‘multiplicity’ instead :

  • The principles of Plan S are calling for multiple business models for open access publishing, according to Dr Mark Schiltz
  • There is now great range in the approaches researchers take to the writing process, as described by Dr Christine Tulley
  • Professor Siva Umpathy described the disparity of standards of living in India which has a profound effect on whether students can engage with research regardless of talent
  • In order to ensure reproducibility of research, we need multiplicity in the research landscape with larger number of smaller research groups working on a wide array of questions, argued Professor James Evans
  • Cambridge University Press is trying to break away from the Book/Journal dichotomy, diversifying with a long-form publication called Cambridge Elements
  • SpringerNature and Elsevier are expanding their business models to encroach into data management and training (although the analogy starts to fall apart here – what this actually represents is a concentration of the market overall).

Anyway, that gives you an idea of the kinds of issues covered. The conference programme is available online and you can read the Twitter conversation from the event (#R2Rconf). Read on for more detail.

The 2019 meeting was, once again, a great programme. (I say that as a member of the Advisory Board, I admit, but it really was).

The Plan S-shaped elephant in the room

Both days began with a bang. The meeting opened with a keynote from Dr Mark Schiltz – President at Science Europe and Secretary General & Executive Head at the Luxembourg National Research Fund – talking about “Plan S and European Research”.

Schiltz explained he felt the current publishing system is a barrier to ensuring the outcomes of research are freely available, noting that hiding results is the antithesis of the essence of science. There was a ‘duty of care’ for funders to invest public funds well to support research. He suggested that there has been little progress in increasing open access to publications since 2009. In terms of the mechanisms of Plan S, he emphasised there are many compliant routes to publication and Plan S “is not about gold OA as the only publication model, it is about principles”. He also noted that there are plans to align Plan S principles with those of OA2020.

As is mentioned in the Plan S principles. Schiltz ended by arguing for the need to revise the incentivisation system in scholarly communications through mechanisms such as DORA. This is the “next big project” for funders, he said.

Catriona McCallum from Hindawi noted DORA is the most vital component for Plan S to work and therefore we need a proper roadmap.  She asked if there was a timeline for how funders will make changes to their own systems for evaluating research and grant applications, as this is an area where societies and funders should work together. Schiltz responded that this process is about making concrete changes to practice, not just policy. There is no timeline but there has been more attention on this than ever before. He noted that Dutch universities are meeting next year to redefine tenure/promotion standards which will be interesting to follow. McCallum observed it could take decades if there is no timeline upfront.

One of the early questions from the audience was from a publisher asking why mirror journals were not permitted under Plan S because they are not hybrid journals. Schiltz disagreed, saying if the journals have the same editorial board then it is effectively hybrid because readers will still need to subscribe to the other half, as they would for hybrid. Needless to say, the publisher disagreed.

The question about why Plan S architects didn’t consult with learned societies before going public was not particularly well answered. Schiltz talked about the numbers of hybrid journals being greater than pure subscription journals now and there was concern that hybrid becomes dominant business model. He said we need an actual transition to gold OA, which is all very well but doesn’t actually answer the question. He did note that: “We do not want learned societies to become collateral damage of Plan S”. He acknowledged that many learned societies use surpluses from their publishing businesses to fund good work. But he did ask: “Is the use of thinly spread library budget to subsidise learned societies’ philanthropic activities appropriate, and to what degree? This is not sustainable”.

So, how do researchers approach the writing process?

Professor Christine Tulley, Professor of English at the University of Findlay, Ohio spoke about “How Faculty Write for Publication, Examining the academic lifecycle of faculty research using interview and survey data”. Tulley is involved with training researchers in writing and publishing among other roles. She has published a book called How Writing Faculty Write, Strategies for Process, Product and Productivity based on her research with top researchers who research about writing. She is also collaborating on De Gruyter survey of researchers on writing (with whom she co-facilitated a workshop on this topic, discussed later in this blog).

Tulley’s first observation is that academics think ‘rhetorically’. Regardless of discipline, her findings in the US show that thinking about where you want publish and the community you want to reach is more important to academics than coming up with an idea. Tulley noted that in the past, the process was that academics wrote first then decided where to publish. But this is not the case now, where instead authors consider readership in the first instance, asking themselves what is the best medium to reach that audience. This is a focus on what can be a narrow audience that an author wants to hit – it is not a matter of ‘reach the world’ but can be as few as five important people. This can limit end publication options.

She also observed that after the top two or three journals, then their rank matters less. Because of this, newer journals/ open access publications can attract readers and submissions, particularly through early release, which is more important that ‘official publication’ she observed. This does talk to the recent increase in general interest in preprints.

In a statement that set the hearts of the librarians in the audience aflutter, Tulley spoke about librarians as “tip-off providers”, being especially useful for early online release of research before the indexing kicks in. She noted that academics view librarians as scholarly research ‘Partners’ rather than ‘Support’. We have also had this discussion within the UK library community.

Equity of access to education

It is always really interesting to hear perspectives from elsewhere – be that across the library/researcher/publisher divides, or across global ones. Two talks at the event were very interesting as they described the situation in India and Bangladesh, highlighting how some issues are shared worldwide and others are truly unique.

Prof Siva Umpathy, Director of the Indian Institute of Science Education, Bhopal, spoke first, emphasising that he was giving his personal opinion, not that of the Indian government. He noted that taxpayers pay for higher education in India and this is the case for most of the global south – fees to students are much less common. This means education is seen as a social responsibility of government.

Umpathy noted that 40% of the population in India is currently under 35 years old. infrastructure and opportunities vary significantly within India let alone across the whole ‘global south’. In some areas of India, the standard of living is equivalent to London. In other areas there is no internet connection. This affects who can engage with research, some very bright students from small villages are at a disadvantage. Even the kind of information that might be available to students in India about where to study and how to apply can be uneven affecting ambitions regardless of how talented the student might be. He described the incredibly competitive process to gain a place in a university, consisting of applications, exams and interviews.

In India, when someone is paying to publish a paper it gives an impression that the work is not as high a quality, after all, if you have good science you shouldn’t have to pay for publication. I should note this is not unique to India – witness an article that was published in The Times Literary Supplement the day after this talk that entirely confuses what open access monograph publishing is about (“Vain publishing – The restrictions of ‘open access’”).

Beyond impressions there are practical issues – bureaucrats don’t understand why an academic would pay for open access publication, why they wouldn’t publish in the ‘best’ mainstream journals, therefore funding in India does not allow for any payment for publishing. This is despite India being a big consumer of open access research. This has practical implications. If India were to join Plan S and mandated OA, it will likely reduce the number of papers he is able to publish by half, because there’s no government funding available to cover APCs.

He called for the need to train and editors and peer reviewers and the importance of educating governments, funders and evaluators and suggested that peer-reviewers are given APC discounts to encourage them to review more for journals. This, of course is an issue in the Global North too. Indeed when we ran some workshops on Peer Review late last year. They were doubly subscribed immediately.

Global reading, local publishing – Bangladesh

Dr Haseeb Irfanullah, a self described ‘research communications enthusiast’ spoke about what Bangladesh can tell us about research communications. He began by noting how access to scientific publications has been improved by the Research 4 Life Partnership and INASP. These innovations for increasing access to research literature to global south over past few years have been a ‘revolution’. He also discussed how the Bangladesh Journals Online project has helped get Bangladeshi journals online, including his journal, Bangladesh Journal of Plant Taxonomy. This helps journals get journal impact factors (JIF).

However, Bangladesh journal publishing is relatively isolated, and is ‘self sustaining’. Locally sourced content fulfils the need. Because promotion, increments and recognition needs are met with the current situation (universities don’t require indexed journals for promotion), then this means there is little incentive to change or improve the process. This seems to be example of how a local journal culture can thrive when researchers are subject to different incentives, although perversely the downside is that they & their research are isolated from international research. A Twitter observation about the JIF was “damned if you do or damned if you don’t”.

He also noted that it is ‘very cheap to publish a journal as everyone is a volunteer’, prompting one person on Twitter to ask: “Is it just me or is this the #elephantintheroom we need to address globally?” Irfanullah has been involved in providing training for editors, workshops and dialogues on standards, mentorship to help researchers get their work published, as well as improving access to research in Bangladesh. He concluded that these challenges can be addressed; for example, through dialogue with policymakers and a national system for standards.

Big is not best when it comes to reproducibility

Professor James Evans, from the Department of Sociology at Chicago University (who was a guest of Researcher to Reader in 2016) spoke on why centralised “big science” communities are more likely to generate non-replicable results by describing the differences between small and large teams. His talk was a whirlwind of slides (often containing a dizzy array of graphics) at breath-taking speed.

The research Evans and his team undertake looks at large numbers of papers to determine patterns that identify replicability and whether the increase in the size of research teams and the rise of meta research has any impact. For those interested, published papers include “Centralized “big science” communities more likely generate non-replicable results” and “Large Teams Have Developed Science and Technology; Small Teams Have Disrupted It”.

Evans described some of the consequences when a single mistake is reused and appears in multiple subsequent papers, ‘contaminating’ them. He used an example of the HeLa cell* in relation to drug gene interactions. Misidentified cells resulted in ‘indirect contamination’ of the 32,755 articles based on them, plus the estimated half a million other papers which cited these cells. This can represent a huge cost where millions of dollars’ worth of research has been contaminated by a mistake.

The problem is scientific communities use the same techniques and methods, which reduces the robust nature of research. Increasingly overlapping research networks with exposure to similar methodologies and prior knowledge – research claims are not being independently replicated. Claims that are highly centralised on star scientists, repeat collaborations & overlapping methods are far less robust and lead to huge distortion in the literature. the larger the team, the more likely their output will support and amplify rather than disrupt prior work. if there is an overlap, e.g. between authors or methodologies, there is more likely to be agreement.

Making the analogy of the difference between Slumdog Millionaire vs Marvel movies, Evans noted that independent, decentralised, non-overlapping claims are far more likely to be robust, replicable & of more benefit to society. It is effectively a form of triangulation. Smaller, decentralised communities are more likely to conduct independent experiments to reproduce results, producing more robust results. Small teams reach further into the past and looks to more obscure and independent work. Bigger is not better – smaller teams are more productive, innovative & disruptive because they have more to gain & less to lose than larger teams.

Large overlapping teams increase agglomeration around the same topics. The research landscape is seeing a decrease in small teams, and therefore a decrease in independence. These types of group receive less funding & are ‘more risky’ because they are not part of the centralised network.

Evans described a disruption to the scientific narrative building on what has incrementally happened before is effectively Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions from the 1960s. But “disruption delays impact” – there is a tendency of research teams to keep building on previous successes (which come with an existing audience) rather than risking disruption and consequent need for new audiences etc. In addition, the size of the team matters, one of their findings has been that each additional person on a team reduces the likelihood of research being disruptive. But disruption requires different funding models -with a taste for risk.

Evans noted that you need small teams simultaneously climbing different hills to find the best solution, rather than everyone trying to climb the same hill.  This analogy was picked up by Catriona MacCallum who noted that publishers are actually all on the big hill which means they are in the same boat and trying to achieve the same end goal (hence the mess we are now in). So how do publishers move across to the disruptive landscape with lots of higher hills?

*The HeLa cell is an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line. It is called HeLa because it came from a woman called Henrietta Lacks.

Sci Hub – harm or good?

The second day opened with a debate about Sci Hub on the question of “Is Sci-Hub is doing more good than harm to scholarly communication?”.

The audience was asked to vote whether they ‘agreed’ or ‘disagreed’ with the statement. In this first vote 60% of the audience disagreed and 40% agreed. Note this could possibly reflect attendance at the conference of publishers as the largest cohort of 51% of the attendees, or alternatively be a reflection of the slightly problematic wording of the question. More than one person observed on Twitter that they would have appreciated a ‘don’t know’ or ‘neither good nor bad’ options.

The debate itself was held between Dr Daniel Himmelstein, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania (in the affirmative – that SciHub is doing good) and Justin Spence, Partner and Co-Founder at Publisher Solutions International (in the negative – that SciHub is doing harm). I have it on good authority the debate will be written up separately, so won’t do so here. One observation I noted was – the question did not define to whom or what the ‘harm’ was being done. The argument against appeared focused on harm to the market but the argument for was discussing benefit to society.

The discussion was opened up to the room but the comment that elicited a clap from the audience was from Jennifer Smith at St George’s University in London who asked if Elsevier’s profits are defensible when there are people on fun runs raising money for charities who are not anticipating their fundraising cash is going to publisher shareholders rather than supporting research. The question she asked is: “who is stealing from whom?”.

At the end of the debate the audience was asked to vote again at which point, 55% disagreed and 45% agreed meaning Himmelstein won over 5% of the audience. This seems surprising given that it seems very rare to actually change anyone’s mind.

But is it a book or a journal?

Nisha Doshi spoke about Cambridge Elements – a publication format that straddles the Book and Journal formats. It was interesting to hear about some of the challenges Cambridge University Press has faced. These ranged from practical in terms of which systems to use for production which seem to be very clearly delineated as either journal system or book systems. CUP is using several book systems, plus ISBNs, but also using ScholarOne for peer review for this project. Other issues have been philosophical. Authors and many others continue to ask “is it a journal or a book?”. CUP have encouraged authors to embed audio and video in their Cambridge Elements, but are not seeing much take-up so far which is interesting given the success of Open Book Publishers.

Doshi listed the lessons CUP has learned through the process of trying to get this new publication form off the ground. It was interesting to see how far Cambridge Elements has come. In October 2017 as part of our Open Access Week events, the OSC hosted CUP to talk about what was described at this point as their “hybrid books and journals initiative“.

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

In 2016, Sally Rumsey and I spoke to the library communities at our institutions (Oxford and Cambridge, respectively) with a presentation: “Watch out, it’s behind you: publishers’ tactics and the challenge they pose for librarians”. Our warnings have increasingly been supported with publisher activity in the sector over the past three years. Two presentations at Researcher to Reader were along these lines.

In the first instance, Springer Nature presented on their Data Support Services which are a commercial offering in direct competition to the services offered by Scholarly Communication departments in libraries. I should note here that Elsevier also charge for a similar service through their Mendeley Data platform for institutions.

Representing an even further encroachment, the second presentation by Jean Shipman from Elsevier was about a new initiative which is training librarians to train researchers about data management. The new Elsevier Research Data Management Librarian Academy (RDMLA) has an emphasis on peer to peer teaching. Elsevier developed a needs assessment for RDM training, assessed library competencies, and library education curriculum before developing the RDMLA curriculum for RDM training. Example units include research data culture, marketing the program to administrators, and an overview of tools such as for coding. Elsevier moving into the training/teaching space is not new, they have had the ‘Elsevier Publishing Campus’ and ‘Researcher Academy’ for some time. But those are aimed at the research community. This new initiative is formally stepping directly into the library space.

Empathy mapping as a workshop structure

One of the features of Researcher to Reader is the workshops which are run in several sessions over the two day period. In all there is not much more time available than a traditional 2.5 – 3 hour workshop prior to the main event, but this format means there is more reflection time between sessions and does focus the thinking when you are all together.

I attended a workshop on “Supporting Early-Career Scholarship” asking: How can librarians, technologists and publishers better support early career scholars as they write and publish their work?

Ably facilitated by Bec Evans, Founder at Prolifiko with Dee Watchorn, Product Engagement Manager at De Gruyter and Christine Tulley, the workshop used a process called Empathy Mapping. Participants were given handouts with comments made by early career researchers during interviews about the writing process as part of a research programme by Prolifiko. This helped us map out the experience of ECRs from their perspective rather than guessing and imposing our own biases.

We were asked to come up with a problem – for my group it was “How can we help an ECR disseminate their first paper beyond the publication process?” And we were then asked to find a solution. Our group identified that these people need to understand the narrative of their work that they can then take through blogs, presentations, Twitter and other outlets. Our proposal was to create an online programme that only allowed 5 minutes for recording (in the way Screencastify only allows 10 minutes) an understandable explanation of their research that they can then upload for commentary by peers in a safe space before going public.

And so, to end

It is helpful to have different players together in a room. This is really the only way we can start to understand one another. As an indicator of where we are at, we cannot even agree on a common language for what we do – in a Twitter discussion about how SciHub is meeting an ‘ease of access’ need that has not been met by publishers or libraries, it became clear that while in the library space we talk about the scholarly publishing *ecosystem*, publishers consider libraries to be part of the scholarly publishing *industry*.

One tweet from a publisher was: “Good to hear Christine Tulley talk about why academics write and what it is important to them at #R2RConf . We don’t want to, but publishers too often think generically about authors as they do about content”. While slightly confronting (authors are not only their clients, but also provide the content for *free*, so should perhaps be treated with some respect), it does underline why it is so essential that we get researchers, librarians and publishers into the same room to understand one other better.

All the more reason to attend Researcher to Reader 2020!

Published 4 March 2019
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
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Plan S – links, commentary and news items

The discussions around Plan S are voluminous. On 8 February 2019, the opportunity to provide feedback on Plan S closed.

We were attempting to maintain a list of commentary and news stories on Plan S at the end of one of our blogs: Most Plan S principles are not contentious. This grew so large that we moved the list into this dedicated blog.

As of 01 April, new links have not been added due to resourcing issues – however, let us know at if we have missed anything from the period 10 February – 01 April that should be added.

Please note that there is a list on the Open Access Tracking Project using the tag “oa.plan_s”  which is crowd sourced and updated in real time, so is more comprehensive than this effort. There is also a comprehensive Reddit list curated by Jon Tennant available. A smaller list (but with different links) is also available.

Relevant documents from Science Europe

Commentary, news stories & press releases

These are presented here in reverse order of publication (most recent first).

Commentary in 2018

Published  10 February 2019
Compiled by Dr Danny Kingsley
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2018 That Was The Year That Was

In what has now become a tradition, we are sending out our annual summary of the activities of the Office of Scholarly Communication. Our first year, in 2015, the summary was a stock take of where we were at. By the following year, 2016, we were implementing a strategy. What followed in 2017 was a year of numbers.  Last year was really a year of consolidation allowing us now for the first time in four years to take a step back and breathe.

REF, what REF?

It is impossible to be in this space in the UK and not be highly focused on the Research Excellence Framework. While our team has been working towards the REF for four years, suddenly during 2018 the community really took notice. This is fantastic from an advocacy perspective but it has posed some other issues.

We are facing a tsunami, where deposits to the repository have more than doubled (and in some months quadrupled) what we were receiving a couple of years ago, with an almost stable staff number during that time. It is now not uncommon for us to receive well over 1000 deposits in a given month. This has meant that for the first half of 2018 the ever-present backlog of articles to be uploaded to the repository rose to 4,000, of which 60% were potentially claimable for the REF. We also were holding over 1000 records that needed to be updated with publication details.

To address this we have worked hard to streamline our processing. In addition to stretching our helpdesk system’s ability to classify and sort to the limit, we have developed two systems to almost automate our deposit process.

The first is to create a solution to automate journal policies, called Orpheus. This was released as an Open Source resource in January.  The second is a web application we are calling ‘Fast-Track’ which reduces the processing time of deposits dramatically by presenting the decisions that need to be made on each Open Access deposit in a simple interface. We launched the application internally (for the Open Access Service) late last year. The drastic reduction of processing time from an average of 20 minutes per record to one to two minutes means since September we have processed more than 3000 items from the backlog reducing our numbers that are pending processing at time of this blog going live to 600 and falling fast.

Question time

We plan to engage the wider library and administrative community with Fast-Track in early 2019, with the double benefit of exposing others to at least one aspect of open access in a simple and accessible manner, and allowing the staff from the Open Access Service to focus on supporting researchers with REF and Open Access related queries. These queries are relentless by the way, with 400 to 600 per month on the Open Access queue alone. Even with the automation and system management of repeat queries, we spend close to 100 person hours a week managing the Open Access helpdesk alone. A project for 2019 will be an analysis of the queries to see if there is a solution to reducing the number of queries before they come to us.

However, in reflection of the advice that came from our repository community late last year on ‘What would you have liked to know when you started in scholarly communication?‘ we also hold tight the philosophy that “It’s not all about the REF”.

Wide readership

The downloads from our repository, Apollo, point to the whole reason why we are trying to make Cambridge research available in the first place.  According to Jisc’s IRUS-UK service, our readers come from all over the world, with the US the biggest user. We experienced over 2.2 million downloads of material from the repository in 2018, of which close to 1 million (927,114) were of articles and nearly 40,000 were of datasets.

We are still feeling something of the ‘Hawking effect‘ – in 2018, Professor Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis received 424,141 downloads, representing more than half of our total theses downloads for 2018 of 740,441. Of those theses our most downloaded  in order were:

The OSC’s Request a Copy service continues to provide access to embargoed content in Apollo. In 2018, the service managed more than 4600 requests, with nearly twice as many requests for theses than journal articles. All of these have been processed by hand, which takes approximately 27 person hours per week. In 2019 we are planning to enhance our systems so that we can continue to provide access to Cambridge’s research outputs in a less manual manner.  Find out more about the requests we receive in our blog post, What do you want, and why do you want it? An update on Request a Copy.

Policy changes

In a space that is already well known as fast moving, 2018 broke all records in relation to the pace of policy change.

On 1 April 2018, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI – not to be shortened to the phonetic acronym ‘you cry’) came into existence, subsuming RCUK and transforming part of HEFCE into Research England. UKRI is undertaking a review of their Open Access policy.

In 2018 Cambridge was an invited contributor to the Wellcome Trust Open Access Policy Review Consultation and Expert Evidence Gathering Session, which resulted in a new Open Access policy for Wellcome Trust released in November.

The issue of allowing articles uploaded to arXiv and other subject repositories to be compliant with REF rules remained a problem at the beginning of 2018. After several years of consultation with arXiv and across the sector about technological solutions, the paper ‘arXiv and the REF open access policy’ was published in April. In July, there was a change to the UKRI policy on the acceptance of works deposited to preprint servers and subject repositories. This is good news for a significant section of our research community but does require careful handling of workflows .

In August, Cambridge brought in new funding guidelines which support publishers showing progression towards open access. This is equally addressing Cambridge’s positive moves to an open future and the need to sensibly manage the UKRI block grant fund allocation.

Obviously, Plan S, announced in September, remains a hot topic. We have published a few blogs on the topic (see below) and continue to hold a watching brief on it.

Thesis news

This past year has seen a huge amount of work by the OSC to implement and consolidate the policy and processes around the agreement by the Board of Graduate Studies on the new access levels to theses, cementing in the policy for deposit of digital theses across the University, and agreement from UKRI that this is compliant with their Training Grant policies.

Our advocacy continues on the digitisation and release of our vast store of physical-only theses, which is only possible with the permission of the author. To that end, in 2018 we released a series of short films, My thesis, open access and me to demonstrate the benefit of open access to those considering it. We also released a brilliant comic strip drawn by one of our librarian colleagues and Data Champions, Clare Trowell – it is available online. These activities were dubbed (in possibly the best pun of 2018) as: ​”The theses formerly know as prints” project.

We have continued our digitisation of alumni theses, through the support of the Arcadia Foundation and have now digitised 200 of these theses and made them open access. This includes the work we have been doing with the Scott Polar Research Institute to collect and digitise their full corpus of theses. We also finally went live with an online eSales system for the 1,400 theses we had digitised from the British Library’s expansive microfilm archive.

All this activity has resulted in a huge increase in the number of theses in the repository. When the Office of Scholarly Communication first began in 2015 there were 700 theses in the repository. We have now exceeded 6,000.

Data news

The biggest news for the Research Data Management Facility in 2018 was the consolidation of the staff onto ongoing permanent contracts. After a process that has lasted several years we are delighted (and relieved) that Dr Lauren Cadwallader is in post as the RDMF Manager, and Dr Sacha Jones has joined us as the RDMF Coordinator.

We extend a huge thanks to Clair Castle who joined us for much of 2018 to keep the RDMF rolling while the staffing was being resolved, in particular for her work with the Data Champions. During 2018 we ran a successful second call for applications to the Data  Champions programme, resulting in a cohort of 50 people across the University participating. We also worked on a series of postcards and cartoons (again with our talented colleague Claire Trowell)  to promote the Data Champion programme. There is a full description of these resources in the Cartooning the Data Champions blog post.

The numbers around our datasets continue to be impressive. According to Institutional Repositories Usage Statistics UK (IRUS UK), Apollo contains ~30% of all datasets (across 140 repositories) in the UK, that amounts to more than 1,500 research datasets of which more than 70% are linked to RCUK funding.


We continued to integrate our Apollo repository with other systems to allow further automation of processes. The repository is now minting DOIs, displaying Altmetric information when available, linking to ORCID and our metadata is harvested into CORE and listed on IRUS-UK.

While these linkages have improved our offerings, it does mean we cannot upgrade the repository until we both upgrade Elements, and Repository Tools, the repository-Elements connector.

Upgrades are also constrained by REF timeframes given the need for stability of our systems in the run up to REF2021, so we need to make a decision early in 2019 about whether we push further ahead or put everything on hold until our REF return is secured.


Training continues to be a big focus for the OSC, with a strong move towards online training in 2018. This is explained in some details in this related blog. We are also invested in a group that is looking at the question of competencies and associated training in scholarly communication which was loosely titled the Scholarly Communication professional development Group.

Now newly named the “Scholarly Communication Competencies Coalition” (SC3), we will be launching an online presence early in 2019. Some of the activities of the group in 2018 included developing an online resource to try and showcase what this area is like as a place of work, see In their own words: working in scholarly communication. We also investigated the skills required to work in scholarly communication.

Outreach activities

The OSC puts a great deal of effort into sharing our work with our library, University and wider communities. We have welcomed over 800 attendees this year, plus more who have watched recordings of events and webinars of the 57 events we ran for researchers, librarians and the wider Cambridge community.

Open Access Week, as always, was a very big week for everyone in the team, during which four very engaging speakers joined us for a lively event, Is Open Research really changing the world?, to question if research outputs really are available to everyone when they are made open access.

We continue to improve and update our online resources, relaunching the open access website as a one-stop-shop for our research community to help demystify the process of meeting funder OA requirements and making a manuscript REF eligible. We also released a compilation of the best copyright resources on the web, featuring everything from training session slides to videos. As a bit of fun we published our second annual Advent calendar in December.

We have also considered the effort we put into our outreach activities, which has meant we are going to approach the decisions about which events we livestream and film differently.

And you, our readers

We continued to blog enthusiastically through our Unlocking Research and Open Research: Adventures from the frontline blogs, managing 35 blog posts this year. There was a glitch with the analytics for the first four months of 2018, with the system rebooting on 7 April this year. Even with a third of the year missing, this blog enjoyed 25,000 visits over the past nine months.

Looking at where visitors to the blog have originated, it is interesting to note that the number of ‘organic search’ readers remains consistent throughout the year, whereas the direct links are clearly affected by our own promotions or through discussions elsewhere.

Our most popular blog, with 1741 visits since 7 April, was “What does a researcher do all day?”  This is a perennial favourite – published on 1 February 2016, it was also the second most popular blog last year.

In order, our other popular blogs with over 1000 visits each were

Projects and plans

There have also been other interesting side projects we have undertaken in our ‘spare time’. We started a research project to understand what we contribute to the scholarly literature , what we pay and what we get out of it, to assist decision making about subscriptions and other expenditure across the University. We hope to write up and release some findings from this project soon. We have also been conducting a Text and Data Mining Test Kitchen Project to help define what a TDM service might look like within the library, and work will continue in 2019.

As always this remains an interesting and dynamic area to work in and we are looking forward to another exciting year!

Published  25 January 2019
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
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