Tag Archives: HEFCE

Milestone – 10,000th article processed by OA Service

The Open Access Service at Cambridge has received its 10,000th Open Access submission – highlighting its commitment to making research freely available to anybody who wants to access it, without publisher paywalls or expensive journal subscriptions.

Through open access our research can reach a worldwide audience.

Nita Forouhi

The 10,000th submission, reporting on the impact of eating a Mediterranean diet on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in a UK population, was deposited by Signe Wulund at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, on behalf of Dr Nita Forouhi, Programme Leader in Nutritional Epidemiology at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, and several co-authors.

The Open Access movement has been growing in strength in academia for many years, and it is increasingly being mandated by funding bodies and government.

Dr Forouhi said: “Through open access our research can reach a worldwide audience. It would be a huge pity if interested researchers, practitioners or policy makers could not read about new research, such as our latest findings on the link between the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular health in a non-Mediterranean setting, because of something as simple as lacking a journal subscription.

“Open access enables wider dissemination of research findings, and in turn, facilitates better research and evidence-based policy and clinical practice.”

The Cambridge Open Access Service was established within the University Library in 2013 in response to Research Councils UK (RCUK) making Open Access mandatory for anyone accepting their funding. Many other major funders, including the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, have similar policies.

In 2014, the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced that Open Access would be compulsory for any article included in the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise. This policy came into force on April 1, 2016, effectively meaning that all research in UK institutions now has to be made freely available.

Since its inception in 2013, the Open Access service has processed 10,000 manuscripts, across all University faculties and departments and worked with 3,000 different members of staff. 6,000 of the papers were covered by the HEFCE open access policy; 4,000 acknowledged RCUK funding and 1,900 COAF (many papers fall into multiple categories, and some into none). More than £5.4 million of Open Access grants from funding bodies have also been distributed.

Meeting these requirements is a major task for the University, and one it has tried to make as simple as possible for researchers. Authors are simply required to upload their manuscript to www.openaccess.cam.ac.uk when it’s accepted for publication, and the Open Access team advise them on what they need to do to comply with funder requirements, eligibility for any funding body grants, and handle depositing the article into Apollo, the University’s institutional repository.

Ten thousand manuscripts have now been received in this way, and the vast majority of them have been able to be made Open Access, free for anyone who wants to read and benefit from them.

The 10,000th article was: ‘Prospective association of the Mediterranean diet with cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality and its population impact in a non-Mediterranean population: the EPIC-Norfolk Study’ in BMC Medicine. [DOI:10.1186/s12916-016-0677-4]

The Open Access team at the University of Cambridge is part of the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC), within the University Library. As well as assisting researchers with Open Access and Open Data compliance, it advises on scholarly communication tools, techniques, policies and practices, and provides training.

This story originally appeared on the University of Cambridge Research news pages.

Published 05 October 2016
Written by Dr Philip Boyes
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Promoting Open Access in a department – what works

At Cambridge University, the Open Access team offers a centralised service to help our researchers make their work open access and comply with their funder requirements. But getting researchers to visit www.openaccess.cam.ac.uk and engage with the service is proving to be a challenge. We estimate that only around a third of the University’s journal articles are currently being uploaded within the three-month window allowed by HEFCE.

We’re working hard to publicise the message at our end, but centralised services can’t reach all academics in the same way as their departments and colleges can. If we’re to ensure that as much of the University’s output as possible is available Open Access and eligible for the next REF, some of that work has to happen in departments.

Success story

One of the most successful departments in the University is the MRC Epidemiology Unit, which currently submits more than 80% of its manuscripts on time. We went to talk to Signe Wulund, the administrator there who looks after open access, about what she does and the systems she uses.


Click on the thumbnail below to open a high resolution version of the ‘MRC Epidemiology & CEDAR Open Access Process’.

MRC Epidemiology poster 1a

At the heart of her workflow is a detailed knowledge of what the department’s 120-130 researchers are publishing. Authors are encouraged to inform her of any articles accepted for publication and to send her their manuscripts. Frequent reminders in the form of posters, newsletter items and emails make sure they don’t forget.

Papers can be uploaded to www.openaccess.cam.ac.uk by either the academics themselves or by an administrator on their behalf. Since 2013 MRC Epidemiology has had a great deal of success with either Signe or her colleague Karen handling manuscript uploads rather than the authors themselves. The expertise they have developed in the policies and workflows makes the process run extremely smoothly. They also check that the version of the article they’ve been sent is the correct one and that funders have been correctly acknowledged. This all means that by the time we received the manuscript, it’s exactly what we need and we can get back to them with advice and information on any payments as quickly as possible.

Click on the thumbnail below to see a high resolution version of ‘Open Access Process Flowchart – who does what?’

MRC Epidemiology poster 2a

Added benefits

The most valuable aspect to this approach, however, is that it allows Signe to keep centralised records of the department’s publishing output. She maintains a spreadsheet that tracks all the Unit’s known papers, including where they are in the publication process and their open access status. This includes both papers authors have directly notified her about and those which she has found later through other sources like Symplectic.

This has uses well beyond Open Access, but also enables Signe to maintain an organised overview of the department’s output and to chase up any issues that might arise; it also allows the department to follow up with journals and post manuscripts eligible for green Open Access to Europe PubMed Central.

Open Access is strongly backed by the department’s leadership and made part of regular research group leader meetings, with papers included and discussed about open access performance. This maintains high awareness among researchers and allows group leaders to remind or inform colleagues who are not taking the appropriate action.

This is the key advantage that departmental administrators have over a centralised service – the fact that they are a regular part of department life and can reach researchers more directly and more often than the Office of Scholarly Communication can, however many events or presentations we hold.

There are, of course, resource implications. We know that many administrative staff within the University are overstretched. However, the time demands of the work Signe does on open access are not extravagant, and well worth the modest investment.

Take home messages

So the key things that the MRC Epidemiology Unit do that other departments could try to improve their open access rates are:

  • Consistent administrators with responsibility for open access, working on it regularly and so able to develop expertise.
  • Engage with researchers to keep track of departmental publications.
  • Administrators upload articles to Open Access website to increase efficiency.
  • Strong support from departmental leadership.
  • Frequent reminders and publicity about open access, using a variety of means.
  • Open access made a regular part of PI meetings, which can be used to increase engagement with open access.

The impact such measures can have speaks for itself. The MRC Epidemiology Unit’s submission and compliance rates are more than double the University average. But the key thing to note is that such work also needn’t be especially burdensome from a time or resource standpoint. Of course, different departments have different organisational structures, publishing patterns and needs, but many of these approaches are common sense and applicable anywhere.

If you’d like more detailed advice or suggestions for how to promote open access in your own department, please get in touch with us at info@openaccess.cam.ac.uk.

Published 7 March 2016
Written by Dr Philip Boyes

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Could the HEFCE policy be a Trojan Horse for gold OA?

The HEFCE Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework kicks in 9 weeks from now.

The policy states that, to be eligible for submission to the post-2014 REF, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts of journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository on acceptance for publication. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection.

The goal of the policy is to ensure that publicly funded (by HEFCE) research is publicly available. The means HEFCE have chosen to favour is the green route – by putting the AAM into a repository. This does not involve any payment to the publishers. The timing of the policy – at acceptance – is to give us the best chance of obtaining the author’s accepted manuscript (AAM) before it is deleted, forgotten or lost by the author.

Universities across the UK have been preparing. Cambridge has had the ‘Accepted for publication? Send us your manuscript‘ campaign running since May 2014 with a very simple and well liked interface allowing researchers to submit their work. The Open Access team then deposits the item, checks for funding and the publisher policies and then organises payment for open access publication if required.

To give an idea of the numbers we are dealing with at Cambridge, during 2015 the Open Access team deposited 2553 articles into our repository Apollo.

Compliance levels

We have been reporting to Wellcome Trust and the RCUK over the past few years to indicate compliance levels with their policies. However the ‘compliance level’ for the HEFCE policy is a slippery concept. For a start, the policy has not yet come into force. Another complicating factor is the long term nature of the ‘reporting’. We will not truly know how compliant we have been until the time comes to submit to REF – whenever that will be (currently it seems 2021).

At Cambridge have been working on the assumption that because we do not know which outputs will be the ones that we will claim we should collect all eligible articles. However, the number of deposited articles Open Access team received over the past year represents approximately 30% of the full eligible output of the University. This might seem concerning in some ways, but it must be remembered that each researcher in the University will only be reporting four research outputs for the REF.

There are some articles that are obvious contenders for REF. By concentrating on researchers who are publishing in very high impact journals we have been trying to catch those articles we are extremely likely to claim.

During the course of 2015 we discovered 93 papers published in Nature, Science, Cell, The Lancet and PNAS. 33% of these papers were already HEFCE compliant. Of the remaining non-compliant papers we contacted 47 authors, made them aware of the HEFCE open access policy, and invited them to submit their accepted manuscript to the Open Access Service. Less than 40% of those authors who were contacted responded with their accepted manuscript. Therefore, even after direct intervention only 49% papers were HEFCE compliant, which means that still more than half of all eligible papers published in Nature, Science, Cell, The Lancet and PNAS during this period would not have been HEFCE compliant had the policy been in place.

The lack of engagement by members of the academic community with this process is a serious concern – and potentially due to four reasons:

  • Lack of awareness of the policy
  • Putting it off until the policy is in place
  • Deliberately choosing not to submit a work because it is not considered important enough or they do not consider their contribution to be significant enough
  • Some form of conscientious objection to the policy

We should note that the third reason is a matter of some concern to the University as it is not the researcher who decides which articles are put forward for REF. In addition, the University is interested in having a high overall level of compliance for REF as it considers making the research output of the institution available to be important.

Temporary reprieve

Cambridge is no island when it comes to facing significant challenges in capturing all outputs in preparation for HEFCE’s policy. While the highly devolved nature of the institution and the sheer volume of publications may be a problem unique to Cambridge and Oxford, other institutions are still developing the technology they intend to use or are facing staffing issues.

In a concession to serious concern across the sector about the ability to meet the deadline, on 24 July 2015 HEFCE announced that there was a temporary modification to the policy. They now allow research outputs to be made open access up to three months after publication until at least April 2017 (and until such time that the systems to support deposit at acceptance are in place).

This means for the first year of the policy we have a small window after publication to locate articles, determine if they are in our repositories, and if not chase the authors for the Author’s Accepted Manuscript.

The trick is knowing that an article has been published. At Cambridge our ‘best bet’ is to use Symplectic which scrapes various aggregating sources such as Scopus. However Symplectic is hindered by the efficiency of its sources. There is no guarantee that a given article will appear in Symplectic within three months of publication. And even if it is, we have already discussed the low engagement by the research community to approaches from the Open Access team for AAMs.

Subject based repositories

So far this blog has been talking about using institutional repositories for compliance. But the policy specifically states: “The output must have been deposited in an institutional repository, a repository service shared between multiple institutions, or a subject repository“.

The oldest, most established subject repository is arXiv.org and it makes sense for us to consider using arXiv as part of Cambridge’s compliance strategy. After all, some areas of high energy physics, most of computer science and much of mathematics use arXiv as a means to share their research papers. In 2014, the number of articles that were deposited into arXiv.org and subsequently picked up in Symplectic and approved by researchers were 582 – approximately 6.5% of Cambridge’s total eligible articles.

If we are able to claim these articles for HEFCE compliance without any behaviour change requirement from our academic staff then this is an ideal situation. But how do we actually do this? There is a footnote to the HEFCE statement above which says that: “Individuals depositing their outputs in a subject repository are advised to ensure that their chosen repository meets the requirements set out in this policy.” And this is the crunch point. arXiv does not currently identify which version of the work has been deposited, nor does it record the acceptance date of the work. Because of this we are currently not able to simply use the work being uploaded to arXiv.

There is work underway to look at this possibility and what would be required to allow us to use the subject based repositories as a means for compliance. HEFCE themselves have identified under ‘Further areas of work‘ that  “measures to support compliance in subject repositories” is an area of uncertainty and they will work with the community to address this.

Alternative approach?

It is possibly a good moment to take a step back from the minutiae of the means and the timing of the HEFCE policy and focus on the goal that publicly funded research is publicly available. We are in a complex policy environment. HEFCE affects all researchers but many researchers are also funded through COAF or the RCUK with their respective (gold leaning) Open Access policies.

Of the HEFCE eligible articles submitted to to Open Access team in 2015, after working through all the different funder requirements, there was a split of 44% gold Open Access and 56% green Open Access. Of the gold payments the split is approximately 74% for hybrid journals and 26% for fully open access journals.  That said, the three journals with which we have published the most – PLOS ONE, Nature Communications and Scientific Reports – are fully Open Access journals with APCs of $1495, $5200 and $1495 respectively.

A highly relevant question is – outside of the efforts by our Open Access compliance teams, how much Cambridge research is being made open access anyway?

Open access articles

The Web of Science (WoS) allows a filter on ‘Open Access’. It does not appear to list articles that are made open access on a hybrid basis, only picking up fully open access journals. While these are not definitive numbers, it does give us some idea of the scale we are looking at. In 2014 WoS gives us a figure of 981 articles published as open access by a University of Cambridge author in a fully open access journal.

The Springer Compact to which many institutions (including Cambridge) have signed up means that now all articles published by that research community will be made open access. In 2014, the Open Access Service had paid for 21 articles to be made open access. In the same period across the institution we had published 695 articles with Springer. (Note that in 2015 we paid 51 Springer  APCs). This means that for the cost of the Springer subscription and our APC payments for the previous year we will have a good proportion of Cambridge articles published as open access articles.

These two sets of numbers only allow for articles published either in fully open access journals or with Springer. It does not account for the articles where the University (or a Department or individual) pays an APC to make an article available in a hybrid (non Springer) journal. The upshot is – a significant proportion of Cambridge research is published open access.

Skip the AAM on acceptance part?

So what does this published open access research mean for compliance with the HEFCE policy? The updated HEFCE policy has addressed this:

“… we have decided to introduce an exception to the deposit requirements for outputs published via the gold route. This may be used in cases where depositing the output on acceptance is not felt to deliver significant additional benefit. We would strongly encourage these outputs to be deposited as soon as possible after publication, ideally via automated arrangements, but this will not be a requirement of the policy.”

This makes sense from an administrative perspective if the article appears in a journal where there is an embargo period on making the AAM available, forcing the University to pay an APC to make the work Open Access to meet RCUK requirements. It would avoid the palaver of:

  • obtaining the AAM from the author
  • depositing it into the repository
  • having to check to see when the article has been published
  • updating the details and
  • either set the embargo on the AAM or change the attachment in the record to the Open Access final published version

However journals where there is an embargo period on making the AAM available forcing an APC payment is in fact almost a definition of hybrid journals. We know there are issues with hybrid – of the extra expense, of double dipping, of the higher APC charges for hybrid over fully Open Access journals. Putting these aside, what this HEFCE policy change means is that publishers have effectively shifted the HEFCE policy away from a green open access policy to a gold one for a significant proportion of UK research. This is a deliberate tactic, along with the unsubstantiated campaign that green Open Access poses a major threat to scholarly publishing and therefore embargoes should be even longer.

We are already facing the problem that hybrid journals are forcing the move towards green open access being ‘code’ for a 12 month delay. This is the beginning of a very slippery slope. We have been outplayed. It really is time for the RCUK and Wellcome Trust to stop paying for hybrid Open Access.

But I digress.

The cons

The message is confusing enough – three sets of policies and three different requirements in terms of the timing and the means to make work compliant and available. We are trying to make it as simple as possible for researchers – with limited success.

The move to widespread Open Access in the UK is a huge shift for the research community and those that support them. It would be very difficult to debate the ‘against’ argument for the statement that publicly funded research should be publicly available but the devil is very much in the detail.

It would be an incredible shame if the HEFCE policy is hijacked into a partial gold OA policy, but as administrators we are drowning in compliance. There needs to be a broad discussion across the funders to try and address the conflicting compliance requirements and the potentially negative effect these policies are having on the future of open scholarly publishing. 

We welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with HEFCE, Wellcome Trust and the RCUK. There’s plenty to talk about.

Published 25 January 2016
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
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