Tag Archives: open access

New to OA? Top tips from the experts

We have a fantastic community in the Scholarly Communication space. And this is one of the clear themes that emerged from a recent exchange on the UKCORR discussion list. The grandly named UK Council of Research Repositories is a self-organised, volunteer, independent body for repository managers, administrators and staff in the UK.

The main activity for UKCORR is a closed email list which has 570 members and is very active. Questions and discussions range from queries about how to interpret specific points of OA policy through to technical advice about repositories.

Recently, the OSC’s Arthur Smith (the current Secretary of UKCORR), posed the first ‘monthly discussion’ point, asking the group two questions:

  • What do you wish you were told before you started your job in repository management/scholarly communication?
  • What are your top three tips for someone just starting?

What followed was a flurry of emails full of great advice. Too good not to share – hence this blog. In summary:

  1. This is a varied and complex area
  2. Open access is bigger than mandates
  3. Things change fast in scholarly communication
  4. Don’t panic
  5. Work with your academic colleagues
  6. The OA community is strong and supportive

Top tips for someone just starting in Scholarly Communication

1. This is a varied and complex area

It’s complicated! Terminology, changing guidance and policies, publisher’s rules… everything is complicated and it takes time to learn it all.

You will experience A LOT of frustration (with publishers, financial constraints, lack of policy alignment, issues with interoperability, ) but there will be moments when it all comes together and you realise you have made a difference to someone and it is all worthwhile.

You’re not mad for wondering why open access policies/dates etc. are not easily found…

How varied and exciting the role is, with requirements (and opportunities) to develop expertise in diverse areas: communication/advocacy, copyright, systems, researcher training, project and team management, budget management…to name but a few.

To remember that this is an industry we have not traditionally been involved in, that it is a constantly changing landscape, that the community is incredibly supportive and endlessly useful, that Sherpa Romeo is still vital, that publishers really vary in their responses to open access – from behemoths to start-ups, and that everyone should back the collaborative effort behind the Scholarly Communications Licence!

2. Open access is bigger than mandates

Remember the bigger picture – open access/open research should not be about compliance; don’t allow yourself to become jaded.

Remember that it is not all just about compliance (the REF). Yes, it is concentrating researchers minds wonderfully at the moment but Open Access/scholarly communications should be about selling the benefits– the carrot not the stick.

Efface mandates & policy when possible – while the REF (along with funder and institutional) mandates are powerful driving forces, some people are not motivated by them, and OA and Open Science are bigger and better than any mandates.

It’s not all about compliance…

It’s not all about the REF.

3. Things change fast in scholarly communication

It’s not finished yet – we’re still building it and nothing is set in stone, so what do you think?

My advice is be adaptable – change is good. This field is rapidly evolving which demands that you remain flexible. What was true yesterday may not be applicable tomorrow.

It is a fluid constantly-changing field to be involved in and it will continue to evolve, so enthusiasm (or nosiness) and an enquiring mind helps

Identify ways to keep up-to-date as it is a rapidly evolving area and it’s impossible to keep on top of everything

Keep the big picture alive alongside the ‘how-to’, operational aspects. Reflect this in your communications.

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something – a lot of things in this area are based on interpretation of policies etc

Stay passionate (even when the details are dragging you down).

There is a lot more to it than meets the eye – and that is what is appealing – variety and challenge.

Don’t be afraid to try and change things.

4. Don’t panic!

Open Access Emergencies are very rare. If you’re sent a takedown notice, hide the record immediately and then think about what to do (I’ve had two in something like 6 years, they’re pretty rare). Other than that, very few things are actually urgent and you can afford to spend a bit of time thinking about them.

You’re not going to get everything right – mistakes can be made and for the most part easily rectified (in my position at least!)

Don’t worry about asking questions– Green? Gold? Need some context? Get some context!

5. Work with your academic colleagues

Recognise that some of your best allies will be researchers, although they will often be silent partners working away in the background. It’s easy to moan that they always get it wrong, but no amount of lecturing about policies will ever be as effective as a casual conversation between two researchers over lunch. Catalysing those discussions is what we should be aiming for.

Your academics do not care about the vagaries of policy and probably weren’t listening when you told them. Keep the message very simple. If a specific funder is more complicated you may best off targeting those authors directly with an additional message that explains the difference.

Take time to understand the daily and yearly calendar of academic staff to better understand their pressures.

Engage academics in conversations – for me that is the most interesting and rewarding part of the role.

Be confident, you know what you’re doing. And if you don’t? Find out-  you’ve checked the embargo/copyright regardless of what the academic might want you to do!

Customer focus is important – support rather than appear to police (even though we might be doing a bit of policing).

You have to remember that even if you are relatively new, that you will probably know more than the academics/researchers themselves, so don’t panic when you don’t know/understand something they ask/request. They are usually fine with the standard “I’ll get back to you….” to give you time to find out. Plus, a lot of them are happy that you are dealing with it so they don’t have to.

6. The OA community is strong and supportive

It takes time to build knowledge, so build your networks.

Make use of your colleagues’ expertise – it’s ok not to know everything about everything and you’ll become a stronger team.

Engage on Twitter – it’s where I find a lot of useful resources, updates and share ideas.

Join UKCORR (but I would say that).

You are part of a community that works together – UKCORR is a great platform for discussion, keeping up with news (eg the release of multiple REF2021 related guidance papers within a few days of each other) and finding out the answers to questions.

Network as much as you can; UKCORR is a fantastic community.

Use the support networks that are available –Colleagues/Local Groups/UKCoRR/ARMA – people are genuinely helpful and supportive and repetition of questions does not offend.

Join the Open Access Tracking Project or at least subscribe to notifications. I read the email digest every morning, there is always plenty going on.

7. General advice

The validation queue will vary rarely reach zero. Your academics are publishing all the time. Don’t try to get the queue to zero, for that way madness lies. Instead set a time period (e.g. 2 weeks) and aim to have nothing take longer than that to validate. Don’t worry if this slips a bit during the busy times.

Don’t be intimidated by copyright – get expert advice when you need it, but most re-use & sharing rights are written down somewhere (in the agreement to publish, or in a publisher’s pages).

Don’t forget the Arts & Humanities – much of the lingo (& policy) in OA, e.g. “pre-print”, PubMed/EPMC deposits, etc. comes from the STEM side of the Two Cultures, and the Humanities tradition can be slightly different (for one thing, more publishing in books).

I’m also happy to admit that I was rather overwhelmed by acronyms and abbreviations. It took me an age to figure out that CRIS was Current Research Information System. Don’t be afraid to stop someone if they’re using a term that you don’t know.

Learn a little bit about code and the underpinnings of your platform so you can communicate more effectively with developers.

If you have the opportunity to learn how the technical infrastructure works, eg coding, APIs, go for it. This is on my wish list – so often I can’t tell if a development/improvement hasn’t happened because it’s technically not possible or if it’s for other reasons.

Published 20 August 2018
Compiled by Dr Danny Kingsley from responses amongst the UKCORR community
Creative Commons License

Compliance is not the whole story

Today, Research England released Monitoring sector progress towards compliance with funder open access policies the results of a survey they ran in August last year in conjunction with RCUK, Wellcome Trust and Jisc.

Cambridge University was one of the 113 institutions that answered a significant number of questions about how we were managing compliance with various open access policies, what systems we were using and our decision making processes. Reading the collective responses has been illuminating.

The rather celebratory commentary from UKRI has focused on the compliance aspect – see the Research England’s press release: Over 80% of research outputs meet requirements of REF 2021 open access policy and the post by the Executive Chair of Research England David Sweeney, Open access – are we almost there for REF?

What’s it all about?

At risk of putting a dampener on the party I’d like to point a few things out. For a start,  compliance with a policy is not the end goal of a policy in itself. While clearly the UK policies over the past five years have increased the amount of UK research that is available open access, we do need to ask ourselves ‘so what?’.

What we are not measuring, or indeed even discussing, is the reason why we are doing this.

While the open access policies of other funders such as Wellcome Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation articulate the end goal: “foster a richer research culture” in the former and “ information sharing and transparency” in the latter, the REF2021 policy is surprisingly perfunctory. It simply states: “certain research outputs should be made open-access to be eligible for submission to the next Research Excellence Framework”.

It would be enormously helpful to those responsible for ‘selling’ the idea to our research community if there were some evidence to demonstrate the value in what we are all doing. A stick only goes so far.

It’s really hard, people

Part of the reason why we are having so much difficulty selling the idea to both our research community and the administration of the University is because open access compliance is expensive and complicated, as this survey amply demonstrates.

While there may have been an idea that requiring the research community to provide their work on acceptance would mean they would become more aware and engaged with Open Access, it seems this has not been achieved. Given that 71% of HEIs reported that AAMs are deposited by a member of staff from professional services, it is safe to say the past six years since the Finch Report have not significantly changed author behaviour.

With 335 staff at 1.0FTE recorded as “directly engaged in supporting and implementing OA at their institution”, it is clear that compliance is a highly resource hungry endeavour. This is driving the decision making at institutional level. While “the intent of funders’ OA policies is to make as many outputs freely available as possible”, institutions are focusing on the outputs that are likely to be chosen for the REF (as opposed to making everything available).

I suspect this is ideology meeting pragmatism. Not only can institutions not support the overall openness agenda, these policies seem to be further underlining the limited reward systems we currently use in academia.

The infrastructure problem

The first conclusion of the report was that “systems which support and implement OA are largely manual, resource-intensive processes”. The report notes that compliance checking tools are inadequate partly because of the complexity of funder policies and the labyrinth that is publisher embargo policies. It goes on to say the findings “demonstrate the need for CRIS systems, and other compliance tools used by institutions be reviewed and updated”.

This may the case, but buried in that suggestion is years of work and considerable cost. We know from experience. It has taken us at Cambridge 2.5 years and a very significant investment to link our CRIS system (Symplectic Elements) to our DSpace repository Apollo. And we are still not there in terms of being able to provide meaningful reports to our departments.

Who is paying for all of this?

When we say ‘open’…

The report touches on what is a serious problem in the process. Because we are obtaining works at time of acceptance (an aspect of the policy Cambridge supports), and embargo periods cannot be set until the date of publication is known, there is a significant body of material languishing under indefinite embargoes waiting to be manually checked and updated.

The report notes that ‘there is no clear preference…as to how AAMs are augmented or replaced in repositories following the release of later versions’. Given the lack of any automated way of checking this information the problem is unmanageable without huge human intervention.

At Cambridge we offer a ‘Request a Copy’ service which at least makes the works accessible, but this is an already out of control situation that is compounding as time progresses.

Solutions?

We really need to focus on sector solutions rather than each institution investing independently. Indeed, the second last conclusion is that ‘the survey has demonstrated the need for publishers, funders and research institutions to work towards reducing burdensome manual processes”. One such solution, which has a sole mention in the report, is the UK Scholarly Communication Licence as a way of managing the host of licences.

Right at the end of the report in the second last point something very true to my heart was mentioned: “Finally, respondents highlighted the need for training and skills at an institutional level to ensure that staff are kept up to date with resources and tools associated with OA processes.” Well, yes. This is something we have been trying to address at a sector level, and the solutions are not yet obvious.

This report is an excellent snapshot and will allow institutions such as ours some level of benchmarking. But it does highlight that we have a long way to go.

Published 14 June 2018
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
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Manuscript detectives – submitted, accepted or published?

In the blog post “It’s hard getting a date (of publication)”, Maria Angelaki discussed how a seemingly straightforward task may turn into a complicated and time-consuming affair for our Open Access Team. As it turns out, it isn’t the only one. The process of identifying the version of a manuscript (whether it is the submitted, accepted or published version) can also require observation and deduction skills on par with Sherlock Holmes’.

Unfortunately, it is something we need to do all the time. We need to make sure that the manuscript we’re processing isn’t the submitted version, as only published or accepted versions are deposited in Apollo. And we need to differentiate between published and accepted manuscripts, as many  publishers – including the biggest players Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Springer Nature and Wiley  – only allow self-archiving of accepted manuscripts in institutional repositories, unless the published version has been made Open Access with a Creative Commons licence.

So it’s kind of important to get that right… 

Explaining manuscript versions

Manuscripts (of journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, etc.) come in various shapes and sizes throughout the publication lifecycle. At the onset a manuscript is prepared and submitted for publication in a journal. It then normally goes through one or more rounds of peer-review leading to more or less substantial revisions of the original text, until the editor is satisfied with the revised manuscript and formally accepts it for publication. Following this, the accepted manuscript goes through proofreading, formatting, typesetting and copy-editing by the publisher. The final published version (also called the version of record) is the outcome of this. The whole process is illustrated below.

Identifying published versions

So the published version of a manuscript is the version… that is published? Yes and no, as sometimes manuscripts are published online in their accepted version. What we usually mean by published version is the final version of the manuscript which includes the publisher’s copy-editing, typesetting and copyright statement. It also typically shows citation details such as the DOI, volume and page numbers, and downloadable files will almost invariably be in a PDF format. Below are two snapshots of published articles, with citation details and copyright information zoomed in. On the left is an article from the journal Applied Linguistics published by Oxford University Press and on the right an article from the journal Cell Discovery published by Springer Nature (click to enlarge any of the images).

 

Published versions are usually obvious to the eye and the easiest to recognise. In a way the published version of a manuscript is a bit like love: you may mistake other things for it but when you find it you just know. In order to decide if we can deposit it in our institutional repository, we need to find out whether the final version was made Open Access with a Creative Commons (CC) licence (or in rarer cases with the publisher’s own licence). This isn’t always straightforward, as we will now see.

Published Open Access with a CC licence?

When an article has been published Open Access with a CC licence, a statement usually appears at the bottom of the article on the journal website. However as we want to deposit a PDF file in the repository, we are concerned with the Open Access statement that is within the PDF document itself. Quite a few articles are said to be Open Access/CC BY on their HTML version but not on the PDF. This is problematic as it means we can’t always assume that we can go ahead with the deposit from the webpage – we need to systematically search the PDF for the Open Access statement. We also need to make sure that the CC licence is clearly mentioned, as it’s sometimes omitted even though it was chosen at the time of paying Open Access charges.

The Open Access statement will appear at various places on the file depending on the publisher and journal, though usually either at the very end of the article or in the footer of the first page as in the following examples from Elsevier (left) and Springer Nature (right).

 

A common practice among the Open Access team is to search the file for various terms including “creative”, “cc”, “open access”, “license”, “common” and quite often a combination of these. But even this isn’t a foolproof method as the search may retrieve no result despite the search terms appearing within the document. The most common publishers tend to put Open Access statements in consistent places, but others might put them in unusual places such as in a footnote in the middle of a paper. That means we may have to scroll through a whole 30- or 40-page document to find them – quite a time-consuming process.

 Identifying accepted versions

The accepted manuscript is the version that has gone through peer-review. The content should be the same as the final published version, but it shouldn’t include any copy-editing, typesetting or copyright marking from the publisher. The file can be either a PDF or a Word document. The most easily recognisable accepted versions are files that are essentially just plain text, without any layout features, as shown below. The majority of accepted manuscripts look like this.

However sometimes accepted manuscripts may at first glance appear to be published versions. This is because authors may be required to use publisher templates at the submission stage of their paper. But whilst looking like published versions, accepted manuscripts will not show the journal/publisher logo, citation details or copyright statement (or they might show incomplete details, e.g. a copyright statement such as © 20xx *publisher name*). Compare the published version (left) and accepted manuscript (right) of the same paper below.

 

As we can see the accepted manuscript is formatted like the published version, but doesn’t show the journal and publisher logo, the page numbers, issue/volume numbers, DOI or the copyright statement.

So when trying to establish whether a given file is the published or accepted version, looking out for the above is a fairly foolproof method.

Identifying submitted versions

This is where things get rather tricky. Because the difference between an accepted and submitted manuscript lies in the actual content of the paper, it is often impossible to tell them apart based on visual clues. There are usually two ways to find out:

  • Getting confirmation from the author
  • Going through a process of finding and comparing the submission date and acceptance date of the paper (if available), mostly relevant in the case of arXiv files

Getting confirmation from the author of the manuscript is obviously the preferable and time-saving option. Unfortunately many researchers mislabel their files when uploading them to the system, describing their accepted/published version file as submitted (the fact that they do so when submitting the paper to us may partly explain this). So rather than relying on file descriptions, having an actual statement from the author that the file is the submitted version is better. Although in an ideal world this would never happen as everyone would know that only accepted and published versions should be sent to us.

A common incarnation of submitted manuscripts we receive is arXiv files. These are files that have been deposited in arXiv, an online repository of pre-prints that is widely used by scientists, especially mathematicians and physicists. An example is shown below.

Clicking on the arXiv reference on the left-hand side of the document (circled) leads to the arXiv record page as shown below.

The ‘comments’ and ‘submission history’ sections may give clues as to whether the file is the submitted or accepted manuscript. In the above example the comments indicate that the manuscript was accepted for publication by the MNRAS journal (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society). So this arXiv file is probably the accepted manuscript.

The submission history lists the date(s) on which the file (and possible subsequent versions of it) was/were deposited in arXiv. By comparing these dates with the formal acceptance date of the manuscript which can be found on the journal website (if published), we can infer whether the arXiv file is the submitted or accepted version. If the manuscript hasn’t been published and there is no way of comparing dates, in the absence of any other information, we assume that the arXiv file is the submitted version.

Conclusion

Distinguishing between different manuscript versions is by no means straightforward. The fact that even our experienced Open Access Team may still encounter cases where they are unsure which version they are looking at shows how confusing it can be. The process of comparing dates can be time-consuming itself, as not all publishers show acceptance dates for papers (ring a bell?).

Depositing a published (not OA) version instead of an accepted manuscript may infringe publisher copyright. Depositing a submitted version instead of an accepted manuscript may mean that research that hasn’t been vetted and scrutinised becomes publicly available through our repository and possibly be mistaken as peer-reviewed. When processing a manuscript we need to be sure about what version we are dealing with, and ideally we shouldn’t need to go out of our way to find out.

Published 27 March 2018
Written by Dr Melodie Garnier
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