2019 That Was The Year That Was 

This is our traditional yearly blog about what we have been doing at the OSC in Cambridge. We are publishing it a little later than intended, but this is an indication of how busy the beginning of 2020 has been here in the Office of Scholarly Communication.

2019 saw us more in a ‘business as usual’ phase as we knuckled down and got on with supporting researchers in Cambridge. That aside, we still had some major developments in Open Research and this work will continue into 2020 and beyond.  

Policy changes 

2019 saw a number of happenings in the policy space at Cambridge. Most excitingly, the University’s Position Statement on Open Research was announced in February, making it one of the first UK universities to have such a statement. This demonstrates the University’s commitment to making open research a reality at Cambridge. 

Following on from this, in July 2019, the University together with Cambridge University Press  announced that they have signed up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). The newly created Open Research Steering Committee, headed by the University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, will have oversight over the open research direction and the implementation of DORA. The Steering Committee and their working groups are currently looking into open research training, open research infrastructure (such as electronic research notebooks), Plan S and DORA. 

In December, an updated version of the Research Data Management Policy Framework was released. This update brings the policy framework in alignment with funder requirements and acknowledges the important roles that Principal Investigators, research staff and students, and University support staff play in good data management practices. It sits beneath the Position Statement on Open Research, with the documents being closely aligned. 

Open access news 

The Open Access Service made great strides towards automating many of its processes this year, headlined by the introduction of Orpheus and Fast Track. Orpheus is a custom database of publisher open access policies, and when combined with Fast Track for manuscript processing, it allows the Open Access Service to reduce the number of steps required to archive a manuscript in Apollo. In 2019, 8325 manuscript submissions were processed through Fast Track. In total, the Open Access Service responded to 13,609 submissions or enquiries in 2019, equal to 37 requests per day. 

Our Request a Copy service received 7,626 requests in 2019. One of the most requested items was “HIV-1 remission following CCR5Δ32/Δ32 haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation” (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1027-4), which received 77 requests. The authors of the paper responded to and fulfilled each request, enabling the readers to obtain free access to the publication, and well ahead of Nature’s six-month embargo. However, since the accepted manuscript is now out of embargo, it has received a further 326 downloads to date in Apollo. The success of the Request a Copy service once again demonstrates the need for access to scholarly research at the earliest opportunity. Embargoes, even ‘short’ 6 month embargoes, are a needless barrier to the University’s research outputs. 

Data news 

Aside from the update to the Research Data Management Policy Framework (see above), the most significant development from 2019 has been the continued evolution of the Data Champion Programme

We welcomed 40 new Data Champions (DCs) from across several Schools increasing the size of our network to 86. With such a large cohort of Champions a new idea of creating departmental hubs was initiated to increase collaboration and the sharing of practices by Data Champions from the same areas. This has proved really successful in both Chemistry and Engineering, with a more coordinated approach having the effect of greater productivity from the Champions in those areas in engaging others with data management. 

In 2019, the Data Champions also tried out a mentoring scheme for the first time whereby established Champions support new Champions in finding their feet and give them ideas about how to provide support to their own community. This has proved to be a great success and the scheme is being run for a second year for the new cohort of Champions joining in early 2020. 

Finally, a new paper on the Data Champion community was published, Establishing, Developing and Sustaining a Community of Data Champions, by DC alumnus James Savage and our colleague Lauren Cadwallader in Data Science Journal. 

Thesis news 

The requirement to deposit an electronic copy of a PhD thesis in order to graduate has become normal business now. In 2019, 1197 of theses were deposited with 47% being made fully open access. In addition, around 100 requests to digitise historical theses were received from their authors and 1015 requests for scans of historical theses were received from requesters. 


In 2019 we took a broad perspective and examined how training was contributing to promoting and supporting Open Research at Cambridge. The Task Group on Open Research Training, comprised of representatives of several libraries and colleagues from other areas of the University, conducted a number projects to understand where we are at the moment and plan a strategy for the future. The details of that work will be presented at the RLUK 2020 conference in March but, as a ‘sneak peek’, here are some of the conclusions we drew: 

  • We’re stronger together: researchers will benefit if we build stronger communication between training providers. 
  • Open Research training should not be seen in isolation to the rest of research, rather it should be a key component of the way students learn to do research. 
  • Postdocs and senior researchers want to learn independently, we can support them with better-presented information online and by facilitating events and dialogue. 
  • We want to be able to constantly improve our training and demonstrate impact by exploring ways to evaluate ourselves, while also being aware of the lurking danger of irresponsible metrics in our own evaluation.  

Alongside the strategy work, we continued to expand the training we offer on Open Access, Research Data Management, publishing, copyright and more. A growing number of departments have requested sessions and we have partnered with PLOS and the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs to deliver a regular session on peer review. We delivered 56 sessions, reaching over 800 researchers and librarians. In addition, we have offered a session about complying with the REF Open Access requirements to departments; the Open Access team outdid themselves by delivering 20 sessions to individual departments in just over three months. 

Outreach activities 

In 2019 we hosted several events, from workshops to a one-day symposium dealing with open access monographs, FAIR data, preprints, reproducibility in social sciences, Plan S developments in the USA and open research in STEMM.  

Of notable interest is the Symposium on Open Monographs held in October at St Catharine’s College. This one-day event brought together researchers, funders, publishers and learned societies to discuss the benefits and challenges of an open landscape for academic books. The recordings are featured in the OSC YouTube channel and most of the presentations are available in our institutional repository, Apollo. A summary of the key themes that emerged from this symposium were later presented in Unlocking Research. 

October would not have been complete without celebrating Open Access Week. During the week we shared various blogs and online resources and we were delighted to announce the launch of our popular Research Support Ambassador Programme as an open educational resource designed to give learners either an introduction or refresher on key elements of research support. 


Apollo has participated in a joint pilot study with Jisc, Symplectic and Sheffield Hallam University to look best approaches to integrate the Jisc Publications Router and the research information system Symplectic Elements, via institutional repositories. This pilot has involved working together to look at how well Elements could capture details of articles that Router had sent to our repositories. Router currently works with EPrints and DSpace repositories, the platforms used by Sheffield Hallam and Cambridge respectively. 

Symplectic’s Repository Tools 2 (RT2) integration module was used to harvest Apollo and de-duplicate them against any existing Elements records. We tested how well this worked for repository records deposited automatically by Router, looking in particular at the volume of duplicate publications and how early after acceptance notifications were received from Router. The study demonstrated that Router and Elements are technically compatible when used in this way. As a result of this pilot, Jisc and Symplectic are now happy to offer this solution to institutions more widely. 

Some excellent work behind the scenes has resulted in Jisc publishing a series of blogs last November. Their third blog showcases the ORCID IDs in Research Data Management workflows at the University of Cambridge and how a workflow has been implemented in order to create seamless links between researchers and their works using identifiers and different services. Such solutions improve visibility and discoverability across systems, reduce duplication of effort in entering information and avoid identification errors.

This work was made possible by Agustina Martínez García of the Office of Scholarly Communication, Owen Roberson of the Research Office, and Dean Johnson of University Information Services (UIS) who were amongst the winners of the professional services recognition scheme two years ago for their effective collaborative work on the integration of Symplectic Elements and Apollo. 

According to the blog, as of September 2019, 25,550 articles, 1,329 conference proceedings and 1,100 datasets in Apollo have ORCID IDs. 

Saying a big thank you 

2019 saw the departure of the University’s first Head of Scholarly Communication, Dr Danny Kingsley. Many of the achievements of 2019 were due to hard work Danny put in before her departure and for this we’d like to thank her for all she contributed. 

Published 26 February 

Compiled by: Maria Angelaki 

Image showing that this blog post is under CC-BY licence.

Contributions from Agustina Martínez-García, Bea Gini, Maria Angelaki, Lauren Cadwallader, Sacha Jones and Arthur Smith.

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