City Open Access


News about City University's open access repository, philosophical musings about Open Access

Quick update

Just a quick post to say that we’re still here and still working on making City a more open access-friendly place! In lieu of any major pieces of news about the service, here are a couple of other places I’ve been writing. First is over at LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences blog, where I wrote with a couple of colleagues in defence of institutional repositories. Second, I’ve set up a new blog with my colleague Lucy to discuss another project that’s taking up a fair bit of time at the moment, implementing Serials Solutions’ Summon resource discovery software. One of the many advantages of Summon is that it will make City Research Online content more visible to one of our key user groups, the staff and students at City. I intend to write about repositories and web-scale resource discovery at some point, so keep an eye out if you’re interested in that.


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Making City Research Online OpenAire compliant

We’ve just made City Research Online (CRO) OpenAire compliant. This means that all EU FP7 funded research added to CRO will be made available via OpenAire’s Discovery Portal, and that this research will be fully compliant with the EU’s open access mandate for FP7 funded research.

To make CRO OpenAire compliant was relatively straightforward, since the ever-helpful guys at Eprints Services did the hard work of installing the OpenAire Compliance Plug-In. It was then a matter of using OpenAire’s validation tool to ensure things were working properly, then registering CRO with OpenAire (see CRO’s entry in this list of compliant repositories). All we need to do now is work out which of our full text papers have received FP7 funding!

I’m happy that we’ve managed to do this piece of work. There is currently something of a push to get UK repositories OpenAire compliant (there has been lots of activity on the various repository email lists), since very few in the UK are at the moment. It allows us in the CRO team to offer another service to our users: if you have FP7-funded research, give the outputs to us and we will do the legwork in making it comply with the EU’s open access mandate. There is also the imminent (possible but strongly rumoured) prospect of the EU mandating Green open access for all the research it funds- and if that happens we’ll be ahead of the game in offering this service to our users.

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Using City Research Online to serve papers to RePEc

One of the promises of the creation of a network of institutional repositories was that this would truly be a network, in the sense that there would be facility for appropriate transfer of material between services (I wrote about this for UKCoRR’s blog a while ago if you want more context). For example, an academic should be able to post a paper in the home repository, and also see this transferred automatically to e.g. the ArXiv.

We saw an opportunity to do this here at City when we began archiving our Department of Economics Discussion Papers Series. It soon emerged that the main point of discovery for economists looking for papers was the Repository of Papers in Economics (RePEc). The person in charge of the series had set up a page on the Economics website that pushed the papers in the series to RePEc, but this required an awful lot of maintenance, in particular ensuring that data could be transferred to RePEc in an appropriate format as RDF files.

So, we offered to take care of ensuring the series was automatically transferred from City Research Online (CRO) to RePEc. This involved some work with Eprints services and the people at RePEc to set up an area at CRO which indexed the papers as RDF files using the eprints2redif script. This is then used to push these files to City’s Department of Economics page at RePEc. The CRO RDF file-set updates overnight, meaning that additions, deletions and changes to the files therein will quickly be reflected on our RePEc page.

This will hopefully be a convenient and useful service for our economists- add your discussion paper to CRO, and it will automatically appear in RePEc! For us it’s a real win as well- we can take the administrative and technical burden off the economists’ hands, and also demonstrate that we are able to offer this kind of service to other departments. Also, it means that we should see a significant improvement in our download statistics, since the papers’ records in RePEc actually point back to full text papers in CRO when people hit the download button (see the URL to download this paper, for example). So it really is a win-win situation!

I would encourage other repository managers to have a think about this. I found the Department of Economics to be very receptive when we approached them, particularly when it became clear that we take on work they were spending time upon. There is some technical work that has to be done, but nothing that should flummox an experienced Eprints administrator. The next thing I’m going to think about is whether we can arrange something similar for our Centre for Mathematical Science, who are keen users of CRO and the aforementioned ArXiv.

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City Research Online search functionality

We’ve just launched search functionality for publications data held in City Research Online. We’ve created a dedicated search page on the Research area of City’s website, as well as a supporting page with information about the service in general. This is the first time we’ve surfaced data from Symplectic (our Current Research Information System) to the web, and it took us a while to sort it out as well as some dedicated web development time, but we’re pleased with the results.

The search has been created by using Symplectic’s Application Programming Interface (API). The API pushes out “approved” (i.e. items validated by their author(s)) publications (in the form of citations plus abstracts) to a cache. The cache is then indexed and ranked by Funnelback, City’s corporate website’s indexing tool. The indexed data is then exposed to a keyword search via the form at the page linked to above.

There are a few features of the search, and the results it creates, worth flagging:

  • We have top-ranked search results where there are full text open access papers associated with those results. See, for example, a search for Jason Dykes’ publications– you’ll note that the first 40 or so hits allow you to click through to an openly accessible paper. This was done on the rationale that people are more likely to be interested in results with papers associated (and it doesn’t hurt or download statistics!)
  • As mentioned above, the search’s index includes abstracts, where present in the publication’s metadata. This means that search terms can sometimes appear a little fuzzy, particularly when you get towards the bottom of a list of hits- see for example this page, which is the fourth page of four when searching for the term “concrete”. We’re not too worried about this, given the propensity of searchers to only look at the first couple of pages of hits for any given search.
  • The advanced search is not particularly advanced. Our web developer is going to include a date range for results, but generally we weren’t looking to re-create a City version of e.g. Scopus, so we felt that relatively few advanced search options would be adequate.
  • We still need to do a bit of re-jigging of the formatting of the main search page, for example to include some text fields after the search form, to make the layout look a bit nicer. We’ve also included the service’s Twitter stream and an RSS feed of new items on this page, to give an idea of full text content being made live.

As ever, any feedback on any aspect of this new functionality much appreciated- you can email the team at

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OpenURL revisited

Our Systems Librarian has been working away at integrating repository content into our OpenURL coverage database, and we’re at a stage where it looks to be working pretty well. This means that whenever someone finds an article the repository holds in a resource which supports OpenURL linkage (e.g. Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, EBSCO etc.), they will be able to find their way to the full text item in City Research Online in just a couple of clicks.

For example, here’s a search in Google Scholar for a paper in City Research Online. Next to the citation information for the first hit (which is for the article itself), and depending on whether you have access to a link resolver, you should see a link. At City, it looks like this (click on the image to see an enlarged version):

Google Scholar screenshot

Hitting that link here at City runs a query against our Web Bridge resource coverage, which confirms that the repository holds the paper, and allows you to click through to the paper itself. I would be interested to know if this works for people at other institutions with OpenURL services- please leave a comment!

To maintain the repository’s coverage of repository resources, we’re going to do a monthly coverage upload of newly added material. There are also a few bugs to iron out, and we also need to decide if we should be trying to extend coverage to other item types (primarily book chapters and conference papers), since at the moment we’ve only uploaded journal article details.

This is a great development, and goes some way to properly integrating repository material into a variety of commonly used resource discovery tools. We expect to see a lot of hits from Web Bridge in Google Analytics, and it will be interesting to see exactly how many we receive via this channel. Finally, when playing around with Google Scholar to write this post, it looks like Scholar is (finally) indexing a good proportion of our material, which should also help get our material found!

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OpenURL and City Research Online

We’ve been grappling with OpenURL here at City, partly as a result of work being done at LSE (see comments in addition to the main post which give useful context), where I used to manage the repository. A little healthy rivalry never hurt anyone!

We wanted to make sure that repository users are able to reach the published versions of research as quickly as is possible, even though we’re currently associating full text with (nearly- see below) every record. To this end, we include DOIs in every record that has one, meaning that people can click through to the published article.

Where an OpenURL resolver comes in handy is by extending the concept of discovery-by-DOI above to query whether your home institution holds the article in question, then if it does to send you directly to the published version of that article. We’ve now configured this so it works for any UK institution. In other words, you can run an OpenURL query via an ePrint record, and it will check against any OpenURL-enabled holdings at UKHE institutions.

By way of example, if you go to this record, hit the tools button at the top of the record, and hit the “Find a copy” button, you will be able to find out if your institution has access to the journal Language Learning and Development for the year in question (in this case 2010). If it does, you will be able to click through and (after logging in) see the published version of this paper.

Why, you might ask, does this matter if all of City Research Online’s records have full text associated with them? There are a few reasons why it might be a useful feature, I think. First, you might wish to compare the open access version of a paper with the published version. Second, you may come across a record which is still under a publisher’s embargo period and is hence not available from the repository, but you still wish to access it. Third, it may be the case in future that we open up the repository to non-full text citations, in which case discovery of items away from the repository (via DOI or OpenURL) becomes much more important.

Finally, a note on getting repository material into our OpenURL holdings. If we were to do this, it would mean that we would enable click-throughs from citations databases (e.g. Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science etc.) using “Find this article” (or similar) buttons, making material in the repository more discoverable. To do this, we need to track repository holdings, something that our OpenURL tracker can’t currently do. However we have one or two leads on this, so watch this space…

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Making systems talk

We’re currently in the process of asking our Symplectic Elements current research information system (CRIS) talk to ePrints, our repository software. The idea is that academic colleagues should be able to upload full text versions of research directly to the CRIS, at which point the item gets cross-walked into ePrints automatically. This gives a one-stop-shop for academics wanting to manage their research profile and open access material, and makes administering the workflow seamless for those of us behind the scenes. Fantastic: a seamless service for academics and for administrators, and a sound basis on which to set up a  new repository.

The problem seems to be actually getting this to happen. It has proved difficult to get the necessary code from Symplectic to pass to ePrints to make the cross-walk happen; then there were issues with opening up the server ports, as City’s network security people were (quite justifiably) interested in what systems were being given network access and why; and now we think it’s possible that when Symplectic uploads records to ePrints, it may overwrite material already there (fine if these are just test records as currently, not so good if genuine records we create in ePrints down the line get over-written).

None of this is to point the finger of blame, and I’ve actually not had to manage any of this directly (my colleague Andrew has had that pleasure). The point seems to me to be that systems architecture is difficult, and particularly so when you’re trying to manage a  bi- or tripartite relationship (in this case Symplectic, City, and ePrints). If I were to draw a lesson from all this it would be, in a project setting, to always factor in plenty of time to allow for delays in making these relationships work, because things never run as smoothly as one would like.

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