This Open Access Week sees the launch of the fully open version of our popular Research Support Ambassador programme. This initiative has been running in Cambridge libraries since 2015 and has seen over one hundred staff from across the library network enhance their knowledge of scholarly communication. It has also been through several different versions, transitioning from a taught face-to-face programme to an internal online course. The time is now right to open up this content to a wider audience and launch the programme as a resource for anyone who wants to make use of it. You can watch an online trailer for the programme on our OSC YouTube channel.
The Ambassador programme offers interested library staff the chance to learn about the fundamentals of scholarly communication and research support from data management and open access to copyright and assessing impact. It was first conceived in 2015 as part of the initial phase of training offered by the newly established Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) which was tasked with improving the support offered to researchers by the library network. The OSC quickly realised that Cambridge library staff were keen to get more involved but perhaps that they needed a thorough grounding in the basics in order to improve their confidence levels. The Research Ambassadors were launched as a way to get people up to speed at the same time as producing an output which could be shared with the wider community. As with all new initiatives, it was not without its problems and these are highlighted in the case study that I wrote about the programme a couple of years ago. When I took over the programme in late 2015 I listened to the feedback from participants and began to evolve i into its current form as an educational programme. Initially this was delivered in a series of face-to-face workshops with participants being asked to work on a project like an online resource as an outcome that they could point to but it soon became obvious that this was too much for many busy library staff to commit to and so the project element was dropped and we focused on developing key knowledge. The next run of the programme used a blended learning approach with a mixture of in-person and online training but even this proved difficult for many staff to complete and so the programme was moved completely online in 2018. Feedback indicated that participants found both the content and the format useful, especially as they had the flexibility to learn around their other commitments and could dip back into the content as needed to refresh their knowledge. At the same time the OSC were starting to get a lot of enquiries from people outside Cambridge wanting to know if the content was available for everyone and so we have decided to open it up to anyone who wants to see it. As the programme was Cambridge focused this was not just a case of transferring the content so I took the opportunity to update and refresh all of the content.
The programme is now a resource and this terminology is deliberate. I didn’t want to call it a course as this comes with the expectation that people need to complete everything in order to get the best out of it. Learners can of course go through all of the units in turn and build their knowledge that way but they can also dip into content as needed as a refresher. The resource has six units which loosely follow the research lifecycle:
an introduction to scholarly communication
research data management
metrics and impact
Each unit comes with a suggested completion time and learning outcomes but these are there to offer learners some guidance before they invest their time. The six units offer a brief introduction to the topic using a mixture of content from text and videos to podcasts and activities so it there should be something for everyone. Although of this content is optional, it helps to increase the flexibility of the resource so that it becomes truly open to more people.
Turning an in-house programme into an open educational resource was not without other challenges. Obviously the original programme had a defined audience of Cambridge librarians who have a shared history and terminology. In the process of making the resource open I had to make sure that it was more accessible to a wider audience so I removed anything that was ‘Cambridge specific’ and gathered wider examples that I could use to illustrate the points I was making. I also had to make sure that I considered accessibility including making sure that images were labelled with alt-text and providing transcripts for videos. This was a good learning experience for me and something especially useful ahead of new government accessibility guidelines being introduced. However, this was very much a solo project and there will inevitably be something I have missed so we are launching the Ambassadors as a Beta resource with an option for people to offer feedback. I very much hope people will take us up on this and offer suggestions for inclusions and improvements. The resource is largely being released under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence which means that others are free to adapt and build on the content. If anyone does this I would be really interested to learn about it! You can also find a ready-made information leaflet and a cartoon abstract of the case study which can be downloaded and shared if you want to promote the resource to a group of people.
On a more personal note, the launch of the online Research Support Ambassador resource marks the end of my time working in the Office of Scholarly Communication. I will still be involved in projects to educate the library community in research support including some future plans for the Ambassador programme but day to day I am moving to be a research support librarian within the wider university. I’ve enjoyed educating librarians in research support so much and I really hope that people will find the online Ambassador resource useful. The main message I want librarians to take away is that they have a lot to offer in this area. The theme of Open Access Week 2019 is ‘open for whom’ and I really hope that by collating what I have learnt in the last four years I can help make research support and scholarly communication open for the wider library community.
Published 24 October 2019
Claire Sewell(Research Support Skills Coordinator turned Research Support Librarian, Cambridge University Libraries) @ces43
At the heart of the University of Cambridge’s Open
Access Policy is the commitment “to disseminating its research and scholarship
as widely as possible to contribute to society”.
Behind this aim is the benefit to researchers worldwide, as the OA2020 vision has it, to “gain immediate, free and unrestricted access to all of the latest, peer-reviewed research”. It’s some irony indeed that the growth of the availability of research as open access does not automatically result, without further community investment, in a corresponding improvement in discoverability.
Key stakeholders met at the British Library to discuss the issue at the end of 2018 and produced an Open Access Discovery Roadmap , to identify areas of work in this space and encourage collaboration in the scholarly communications community. A major theme included the dependence on reliable article licence metadata, but the main message was finding the open infrastructure/interoperability solutions for long-term sustainability “ensuring that the content remains accessible for future generations”.
New web pages on Open Access discovery
Recognizing where we are now, and responding to the present, (probably) partial awareness of the insufficiencies in the OA discovery landscape, Cambridge University Library has added pages to its e-resources website to highlight OA discovery tools and important websites indexing OA content. The motivations for highlighting the options for OA discovery on the new pages is described in this blog post. Our main aim is to bring to light search and discovery of OA as a live topic and prevent it “languishing in undiscoverable places rather than being in plain sight for everyone to find.”
Recently, data from Unpaywall for July 2019 has been used to forecast for growth in availability of articles published as OA by 2025, predicting on the basis of current trends, but conservatively – without even taking full account of the impact of Plan S, for example. This forecast for 2025 predicts
44% of all journal articles will be available as OA
Unpaywall’s estimate for availability OA right now is 31%. A third (growing soon to a half) is a significant proportion for anyone’s money, and wanting to signal the shift we have used that statistic as our headline on the page summarizing the most well-known and commonly-used Open Access browser plugins.
We want the Cambridge researcher to know about these plugins and to be using them, and aim to give minimal but salient information for a selection of one, or several, to be made. Our recommendation is for the Lean Library extension “Library Access” but we have been in touch with Kopernio and QxMD and ensured that members of the University registering to use these plugins will also pick up the connection to our proxy server for seamless off campus access to subscription content where it exists, before the plugin offers an alternative OA version.
Once installed in the user’s browser, the plugin will use the DOI and/or a combination of article metadata elements to search the plugin’s database and multiple other data sources. A discreet, clickable pop-up icon will become live (change colour), on finding an OA article and will deliver the link or the PDF direct to the user’s desktop. Most plugins are compatible with most browsers, Lean’s Library Access adding compatibility with Safari last month.
Each plugin has a different history of development and certain features that distinguish it from others, and we’ve attempted to bring these out on the page. For example noting Unpaywall’s trustworthiness in the library space thanks to its exclusion of ResearchGate and Academia.edu; its harvesting and showing of licence metadata; and its reach with integrating search of its data via library discovery systems. Features we think are relevant for potential users looking for a quick overview of what’s out there are also mentioned, such as Kopernio’s Dropbox file storage benefits and integration with Web of Science and QxMD’s special applications for medical researchers and professionals.
In an adjacent page, Search Open Access, there is coverage of search engines focused on discovering OA content (Google Scholar; 1findr; Dimensions; CORE), a range of sites indexing OA content in different disciplines, both publisher- and community-based, and a selection of repositories and preprint servers, including OpenDOAR.
We hope the site design, based on the very cool Judge Business School Toolbox pages, gets across the basics about the OA plugins available and encourages their take-up. The plugins will definitely bring to the researcher OA alternative versions when subscription access puts the article behind a paywall and, regardless, will expose OA articles in search results that will otherwise be hard to find. The pages’ positioning top-left on the e-resources site is deliberately intended to grab attention, at least for reading left-to-right. It is interesting to see the approach other Universities have taken, using the LibGuide format for example at Queen’s University Belfast and at the University of Southampton.
Experiences with Lean Library’s Library Access plugin
Cambridge has had just over a year of experience implementing Lean Library’s Library Access plugin, and it’s been positive. The impetus for the institutional subscription to this product was as much to take action on the problem for the searcher of landing on publisher websites and struggling with Shibboleth federated sign-on. This problem is well documented (“spending hours of time to retrieve a minimal number of sources”) and most recently is being addressed by the RA21 project. Equally though we wanted to promote OA content in the discovery process, and Lean Library’s latest development of its plugin to favour the delivery of the OA alternative before the default of the subscription version, is aligned with our values (considerations of versioning aside).
So we’re aiming to bring Lean to Cambridge researchers’ attention by recommending it as the plugin of choice for the period we’re in the transition to “immediate, free and unrestricted access” for all. It is only Lean that is providing the 24-hour updated and context-sensitive linking to our EZproxy server for off campus delivery of subscription content plus promoting OA alternative versions via the deployment of the Unpaywall database. The feedback from the Office of Scholarly Communication is favourable and the statistics support the positivity that we hear from our users (for the last year 66,731 for Google Scholar enhanced links; 49,556 article alternative views; a rough estimate against our EZproxy logs showing a probable 2/5 of off campus users are accessing the proxy via Lean).
Libraries’ discovery servicesare geared for subscription content
Allowing for influence of searchers’ discipline on choice of discovery service, it’s little surprise that the traditional library catalogue, even when upgraded to a web scale discovery service, prejudices inclusion of subscription over OA content. Of course it does, because this is the content the libraries pay for in the traditional subscription model and the discovery system is pretty much built around that. iDiscover is Cambridge’s discovery space for institutional subscriptions and print holdings of the University’s libraries and within iDiscover Open Access repository content has been enabled for search. Further, the pipe for the institutional repository content (Apollo) is established.
Nonetheless Cambridge will be looking to take advantage of the forthcoming link resolver service for Unpaywall. This is due for release in November 2019 and will surface a link to search Unpaywall from iDiscover when subscription content is unavailable. This link should kick in usually when the search in iDiscover is expanded beyond subscription content, and a form of which has been enabled already by at least one university by including the oadoi.org lookup in the Alma configuration.
The righting moment in the angle of list is that point a ship must find to keep it from capsizing, and Library discovery system providers’ integration with OA feels a bit like that – the OA indication was included in the May 2018 iDiscover release and suppliers have been working with CORE for inclusion of CORE content since 2017. That righting moment may be just over the horizon as integration with Unpaywall arrives, and the “competition” element dissipates, as the consultancy JISC used to review the OA discovery tools commented: “As the OA discovery landscape is crowded, OA discovery products compete for space and efficacy against established public infrastructure, library discovery services and commercial services”.
A diffuse but developing landscape
Easy-to-install and effective to use, the OA discovery tools we are promoting are still widely thought of as at best providing a patch, a sticking-plaster, to the problem. A plethora of plugins is not necessarily what the researcher wants, or is attracted by, however necessary the plugin may be to saving time and exposing content in discovery. Possibly the really telling use case has yet to be tried wherein the plugin comes into its own in a big deal cancellation scenario.
Usage statistics for the Lean Library Access plugin are probably a reflection of the fact that the provision of most article content that is required by the University is available via IP access as subscription, and the need for the plugin is almost entirely limited to the off campus user. The Lean plugin’s relatively modest totals are though consistent with reports of plugin adoption by institutions that have cancelled big deals. The poll of the Bibsam Consortium members revealed 75% of researchers did not have any plug-in installed; the percentage for the University of Vienna in particular was 71%; the KTH Royal Institute of Technology authors “rarely used” a plugin.
Another conjecture is that there is an antipathy to any plugin that could be collecting browsing history data and however “dumb” and programmatically-erased, the concern over privacy is such that the universal adoption libraries may hope for is unachievable. The likeliest explanation is possibly around the tipping-point from subscription to OA, and despite the Apollo repository’s usage being one of the highest in the country (1.1 million article downloads from July 2018 to July 2019), Cambridge’s reading of Gold OA is c. 13% of total subscription content, including journal archives. A comparison with the proportions of percentage views by OA types in Unpaywall’s recently published data (cited above) suggests this is on the low side in terms of worldwide trends, but it must be emphasized this is a subset of OA reading and excludes green, hybrid, and bronze. Just consider for instance the 1.5 billion downloads from arXiv globally to date. Similarly, the stats from Unpaywall are overwhelmingly persuasive of the success of the plugin, as of February 2019 it delivered a million papers a day, 10 papers a second.
The inspirational statistician and “data artist” Edward Tufte wrote:
We thrive in information-thick worlds because of our marvellous and everyday capacities to select, edit, single out, structure, highlight, group, pair, merge, harmonize, synthesize, focus, organize, condense, reduce, boil down, choose, categorise, catalog, classify, list, abstract, scan, look into, idealize, isolate, discriminate, distinguish, screen, pigeonhole, pick over, sort, integrate, blend, inspect, filter, lump, skip, smooth, chunk, average, approximate, cluster, aggregate, outline, summarize, itemize, review, dip into, flip through, browse, glance into, leaf through, skim, refine, enumerate, glean, synopsize, winnow the wheat from the chaff, and separate the sheep from the goats.
There’s thriving and there’s too much effort already. Any self-respecting OA plugin user will want to winnow, and make their own decisions on the plugin(s). In a less than 100% OA world, that combination of subscription and OA connection separated from physical location (on/off campus) is a critical advantage of the Lean Library offering, combined as it is with the Unpaywall database. Libraries will find much to critique in the institutional dashboards or analytics tools now built on top of some plugins (e.g. distinction of the physical location when accessing the alternative access version in the Kopernio usage for instance).
From the OA plugin user’s perspective, the emerging cutting edge is currently with the CORE Discovery plugin, as reported at the Open Repositories 2019 conference, in the “first large scale quantitative comparison” of Unpaywall, OA Button, CORE OA Discovery and Kopernio. This report reveals important truths for OA plugin critical adopters, for instance showing less than expected overlap in comparison of the plugins’ returned results from the test sample of DOIs, and the assertion “we can improve hit rate by combining the outputs from multiple discovery tools”.
It’s become popular for our present day Johnson to quote his namesake, so in that vogue we should expect the take-up of Lean Library and CORE Discovery to bring closer that “resistless Day” when researchers the world over get “immediate, free and unrestricted access to all of the latest, peer-reviewed research” and the “misty Doubt” over the OA discovery landscape will be lifted.
 Johnson, S., In Eliot, T. S., Etchells, F., Macdonald, H., Johnson, S., & Chiswick Press,. (1930). London: a poem: And The vanity of human wishes. London: Frederick Etchells & Hugh Macdonald. l. 146.
Published Monday 21 October 2019
Written by James Caudwell (Deputy Head of Periodicals & Electronic Subscriptions Manager, Cambridge University Library)
Dr Beatrice Gini, the Office of Scholarly Communication’s new Training Coordinator, recently attended the inaugural Scholarly Communication Conference at the University of Kent. In this post she reviews the main themes and discussions from the event.
ScholComm19 – a brand new conference, a supportive community, an inclusive space: what a treat for a newcomer to scholarly communication! Having recently started a job within the Office of Scholarly Communication, I had high expectations for this conference as an opportunity to learn a lot from fellow practitioners, and I was not disappointed. Sarah Slowe and the team at the University of Kent should be congratulated for their drive in starting up a new gathering that draws together all the different strands of Scholarly Communications, giving those working at the coalface a chance to get together and share best practice.
With the whole of Friday given over to lightning talks, there were too many speakers for me to do them justice individually, so instead I will attempt to summarise the major themes, as I understood them. The full conference programme can be found here.
Many of the speakers focused on the way we work with researchers. Hardly surprising, perhaps, as our jobs tend to involve as much advocacy and training as they do practical support. While at times this is a challenge, many have found ways to deliver our messages more effectively:
A personal touch – Cassie Bowman from London South Bank University was faced with a lack of researcher engagement, due to the limitations of the technological platform, the complex terminology, the conflicting demands of policies, the difficulties in correcting initial misunderstandings, and the researchers’ fear of getting it wrong. She overcame these not by commissioning large scale change, but through her own personal touch. Her one-to-one sessions are carefully tailored to each researcher and produce long-lasting changes in attitudes. She reaches people through posters and infographics, sprinkling on a little competition (for the highest download figures) to boost interest. Lucy Lambe also spoke on the benefits of one-to-one sessions, alongside workshops and advice on the web, for her publishing advice service for researchers at LSE.
A bit of fun – The Publishing Trap game is now well-known in ScholComm circles, but it was new to me, and I was blown away. It takes players through a cleverly-crafted path from PhD student to retired researcher and beyond – all the way to gravestone, in fact – replicating the emotional highs and lows of a research career. Most importantly, though, it asks players to make crucial decisions that spark discussions on Open Access, copyright, skills, and more. Why not organise a fun session to surprise those who may (crazily!) believe that copyright is boring?
Useful information – We need to deliver information that is trustworthy and useful. Kirsty Wallis (University of Greenwich) stressed the importance of over-preparing and tailoring sessions to the needs of the people in the room. Her talk gave a useful blueprint of how we could teach academics to ‘speak social media’ through a flexible and hands-on workshop. ‘We need to be a credible source of information’ – this was one aspect of Julie Baldwin’s (University of Nottingham) exploration of why academics ‘get copyright so copywrong’. Engaging researchers with copyright issues is more important than ever now, at a time of change in the law. The University of Kent’s Chris Morrison gave a whistle-stop tour of the history of copyright law, followed by a sneak preview of the way the law may change once the new EU directive is implemented (yes, Brexit did flash briefly on the screen at this point, but it should not have a significant impact on copyright decisions).
Compliance vs culture change
Ian Carter’s talk on the study he ran with JISC on Research Data Management and Sharing raised a strong theme, which was echoed in many of the discussions I had during breaks. His interviews with representatives from 34 institutions revealed that there is a tension in the way we attempt to engage researchers with RDM and open data: on the one hand we say ‘you must do this to receive money/progression/recognition’, on the other we say ‘doing this benefits science and the wider world’. My belief is that the former is likely to generate small, short term wins on compliance rates, but potentially generate resentment. The latter requires more advocacy, but it is likely to generate true buy-in from researchers. Dr Carter advocates that the second approach, which aims for culture change, is indeed the most likely to succeed in the long term. He throws a challenge to all of us when he reports that researcher engagement is variable, RDM leadership is often fragile, responsible staff can be isolated, and few institutions consider all important aspects in their strategies. There is hope, however. As repositories develop better functionality and we find better ways to evidence the benefits of RDM and open data, we may see this area of research support grow into new strengths.
Repositories are the bread-and-butter of any Open Access support team: they are wonderful digital treasure troves, opening up our university’s invaluable research to the world and preserving it in perpetuity… but at times they can cause tremendous headaches too! A number of speakers shared the challenges they faced, as well as their solutions, saving the rest of us a lot of time and paracetamol. While there is still a split between institutions on the issue of whether depositing in a repository is done by researchers or mediated by support staff, it looked to me as though the trend is towards self-deposit by academics, which will mean more and more of us require automated systems for checking and updating records.
Nicola Barnett focused on how staff at the University of Leeds deal with the need to update repository records after they are officially published, for instance to set the correct embargo deadlines. She shared a useful set of instructions to automatically generate a list of recently published publications using Excel and a CrossRef API.
The diversity of publishers’ policies was arguably the greatest time-consuming hurdle in Suzanne Atkins’ work on making more monographs Open Access at the University of Birmingham. She ran a very successful pilot project to open up book chapters from one department, which had a glut of materials that could be made instantly OA, if the authors consented. While this work was very worthwhile and likely puts the team ahead when it comes to the next REF, it was hindered by the need to check every single policy and by the publishers’ insistence on relying on case-by-case decision, rather than applying blanket policies.
If your current system is just not up to requirements, switching to a new one can be a good time investment in the long run, but it can come with its own demands. Catherine Parker and her team at the University of Huddersfield found this out when they had to manually migrate all previous records – a great feat that really brought out their community spirit and was accomplished in (only?) two and a half months of intensive work. Stuart Bentley from the University of Hull highlighted some of the challenges of switching to Worktribe, as well as considering the improved functionality in the new system.
Roles and time
Finally, several speakers examined the way teams are structured, often in the context of the age-old question of how to get it all done in the time we have.
Surveys run by Catherine Parker and Ian Carter revealed a great disparity in the size of the research support and data management staff between institutions, with teams varying in size from one to well over a dozen. Even the areas where they are employed vary, with most being in libraries, but some belonging to research strategy offices. Lone workers have the blessing and the curse of having to take on all aspects of the work, from maintaining the repository to liaising with faculty members and running training, while large teams can specialise their staff.
Jane Belger and Anne Lawson talked about their experience of sharing the role of Research and Open Access Librarian at the University of West England at Bristol. Having worked out the logistics of syncing schedules and the questions of when to divide up projects and when to collaborate, their main conclusion is that two people can be ‘more than the sum of their parts’.
The multiplicity of roles was evident both in the talks and in the chats during breaks. Almost every speaker gave an introduction to their institution, which was key to understanding their perspective. A case in point was from Isabel Benton, from Leeds Arts University. She highlighted the peculiar challenges of working at a place where as many as 43% of outputs are in non-traditional format such as art show or exhibition: how do you capture those in a repository? (Hint: with a creative mix of media, check out the repository to know more.
There was lots to think about on the train home. The overwhelming feeling, though, was of a community that genuinely cares about doing our very best to support researchers, and is dedicated to helping each other, both within institutions and beyond.