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

Research Libraries UK conference 2012

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Research Libraries UK conference 2012. It was held at St James’ Park in Newcastle, a rather huge football stadium (though of course we used the conference centre rather the terraces!) The conference was “high level” insofar as it examined big-picture issues relating to research libraries. In this it reflected the membership of RLUK, and attendees were mainly senior library managers as well as the odd interloper such as myself.

The reason for my attendance was hearing Janet Finch talk about the report her committee produced, which has become known as the Finch Report. Below, I summarise the interesting points of the other plenary sessions and examine in more detail the session in which Finch and others talked about open access. For reasons of space I have omitted reporting on some very lively Pecha Kucha sessions and one of the plenary sessions, as well as Stephen Curry’s excellent and engaging researcher’s perspective on open access, since I reported on a very similar presentation of his recently.

Roly Keating, British Library. Starting off the conference at a very high level, new BL Chief Executive Keating explained how he viewed the BL’s place in the “library ecosystem”. it was a dense presentation, but a few things in particular that he said stuck with me:

  • That the BL is a guarantor of information for future generations- and that this guarantee now extended (by statutory remit) to web content.
  • That the BL (and by extension other libraries) is a cultural institutions in its own right, as well as a traditional library in the sense of being a repository for physical objects.
  • Data management is a new horizon for the BL- for example they partnered with the BBC recently to digitise and turn into a dataset the Radio Times, giving the BBC for the first time a complete record of its broadcasting schedule since its inception.
  • The power and value of the physical object has not diminished in this new digital world; in fact it is enhanced.
  • The move to non-physical legal deposit is the biggest challenge on the BL’s horizon, but presents some amazing opportunities, e.g. turning the UK’s entire web domain into a dataset to allow its programmatic analysis.

User-centred cataloguing: thinking differently. This session was on the opportunities presented by shared services for cataloguing, in light of recent developments in data interoperability (not least that old library favourite, linked data). Economies of scale can be derived from a shared approach to the re-use of cataloguing data. The question is how to usefully do this.

Redefining the Research Library Model. A report on the RLUK project of the same name, which summarised new thinking in this area (and the website above includes some very interesting position papers on this subject). Most interesting was news from JISC on their forthcoming changes, which (for repositories at least) seem to lay emphasis on research data management.

Hidden Gems: Revealing or Special Collections. An overview of the state of play with special collections in research libraries. Some provocative points were made here, including one from Andrew Green, National Library of Wales, that perhaps those collections of uncatalogued material should be gotten rid of- how useful are they really?

Open Access to UK Research Outputs. As mentioned above, this session was of the most interest to me personally. Janet Finch kicked off, summarising how the Finch Report came to the conclusions it did, and the implications of those conclusions for libraries. The Finch Report has been discussed at great length elsewhere (in particular the way it favours Gold Open Access (OA) over Green) so I won’t rehash that discussion here, but some of the points and questions I took from Finch’s presentation were as follows:

  • Finch made very clear that there was no ministerial or other governmental influence over the findings of the committee and its report.
  • Finch stated that the remit of the report was (among other things) to make peer reviewed research available “free”, but free for whom? The emphasis on Gold OA means that journal publishing will move from a “reader pays” to an “author pays” model. Moreover, the cost of Gold OA author processing charges has been estimated at £60m per year on top of (or taken out of) the UK’s research budget, which will go directly to publishers.
  • Finch stated that “Maintaining the viability if the publishing industry” was one of the Committee’s success criteria, but it’s unclear to me why this should have deemed a criteria for success, if the goal was free access to research and if there was no Ministerial influence on the Committee.
  • Finch made some reassuring (from my perspective as a repository manager!) remarks about the expectation that we will be in a “mixed economy” of Green and Gold for the foreseeable future.

Following on from Janet Finch, was Mark Thorley from RCUK, to explain RCUK’s also much-discussed and recently revised open access policy. This policy puts into practice the Finch Report’s recommendations by enforcing open access for research it funds, with a clear preference for the Gold over the Green route (which at first glance seems to say that researchers with RCUK funding must, when they publish, go Gold if they can; and if they can’t go Gold they must go Green). When asked about whether this would circumscribe authors’ choices, Thorley was very clear that the policy applied at the level of journals rather than individuals. In other words, RCUK won’t be policing the choices of individuals as long as they have made their work openly accessible whether that is by going Gold or Green (or indeed both). What remains unclear to me is how researchers themselves are supposed to know this, given the wording of the current policy and the advice that surrounds it.

All in all the conference was very interesting for the “core” aspects of my role (i.e. open access), but it was also fascinating to find out about the many other hot topics around research libraries. I also managed to catch up with some old friends and meet some new people, which is always good!

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RSP event: Scholarly Communications: New Developments in Open Access

Laura and I attended the Repositories Support Project (RSP) event Scholarly Communications: New Developments in Open Access last Friday. It was held in the spectacular surroundings of RIBA’s Portland Place building, which gave proceedings a suitable air of grandeur. The event had a first-class line-up of speakers, and was really excellent- the RSP should be congratulated for the event’s high quality and depth of content. A Storify archive of the event’s Tweets is worth taking a look at, if you’re into the whole micro-blogging thing. What follows are my thoughts about the sessions, and as ever they are partial and impressionistic, so apologies in advance for any errors or mistakes in emphasis.

Where next with Open Access – keynote presentation – Martin Hall, Chair of Open Access Implementation Group and Vice Chancellor of the University of Salford. Professor Hall was the biggest scoop for the event- not only is a he a VC, but is also a member of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, AKA the Finch Committee. He was therefore perfectly placed to deliver the keynote, which took a very high-level view of open access (OA) developments in light of the work of the Finch Committee and other developments such as the Elsevier boycott and the recent Whitehouse petition. His vision was one of a slow transition towards full Gold OA predicated on a market in Article Processing Charges (APCs), with a mixed economy (subscription journals, Gold OA journals and Green OA repositories) in the intervening period. He noted two particular possible victims of “collateral damage” in this change:

  • Learned Societies, who often rely on journal subscription charges to fund their activities and operate on very tight margins. The withdrawal of these subs could have a disastrous effect.
  • Independent researchers, who would not have access to institutional funds for APCs (though of course these people are currently in the opposite position- able to publish in journals, but having to rely on the c. 20% of openly accessible articles)

He offered no solutions to these snags, but at least they are being considered. His final remark was heartening for those of us plugging away with institutional repositories: legislative and academics’ attitudinal changes are likely to result in heightened interest in all forms of repositories during this change. I would add to this (as [namedrop alert] Bill Hubbard said to me during a break between sessions) that the emphasis on OA during the next REF cycle is likely to be another driver for interest in repositories.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) at 10 – recommendations for the next ten years of scholarly communications – Alma Swan, Director of European Advocacy, SPARC and Key Perspectives. This presentation was by another very prominent OA advocate, Alma Swan, who had recently participated in updating the BOAI, work which must have been extremely challenging given the stakeholders involved. A few particular points of interest arose from her presentation:

  • For green repositories, gratis OA is better than no OA at all; Libre OA is better than gratis OA. Ideally green OA content should be licensed as CC-BY for full libre re-use. I agree with this (though the distinction is not uncontroversial), the question for us becomes how to license then flag our repository content as Libre, i.e. CC-BY. There are also implications for text- and data-mining of green repository content if this shift is not implemented.
  • BOAI 2012 will make explicit recommendation of use of “Alternative metrics” to assess impact, for example the Altmetric service, or green repositories’  native download and access path statistics.
  • She noted one (in my view) telling statistic regarding access to PubMed Central. This was that 40% of people accessing this site can be defined as “citizens” as opposed to researchers or governmental people, which I think gives the lie to arguments that people do not need (or cannot make sense of) open scholarly research.

I’m now looking forward to the publication of the new version of the BOAI, which should provide yet more impetus toward OA.

Next up were some sessions about some projects and services, which in the interest of keeping this post to a vaguely manageable length I’ll just summarise here:

  • OAPEN-UK – collecting evidence on scholarly monograph publishing – Caren Milloy, Head of Projects JISC Collections. An introduction to the OAPEN-UK project, which is doing some interesting work collating attitudes towards the tricky prospect of archiving books and book chapters.
  • Building campus-based OA journal capacity: SAS Open Journals – Peter Webster, School of Advanced Study. A look at the School of Advanced Studies’  impressive integration of the Open Journals System with an Eprints repository, SAS Space, to provide in-house journal publishing services- see for example Amicus Curiae, a fully open access in-house journal. This is work we need to start looking at here at City.
  • Encouraging data publication – the JISC Managing Research Data Programme – Simon Hodson, JISC Programme Manager – Managing Research Data. An overview of this JISC programme, which is looking into data curation. Data curation is at a tangent to OA as understood as access to research articles, but is just as important. Again, it’s an area we need to start looking at here at City.
  • Figshare and open science – Mark Hahnel, Product Manager, Figshare.An overview of the excellent Figshare service, essentially a Mendeley for research data. As someone said on Twitter, one of the challenges posed by Figshare for repositories is how nice it looks, about a million times better than most repository interfaces.
  • Frontiers – Online community-based peer review, publishing and research networking. – Graeme Moffat, Frontiers. Frontiers is a new open access journals platform. There are some fascinating innovations with the platform, most notably the (nearly) open peer review process, which utilises a web forum to exchange feedback about submitted articles.

Using social media to disseminate research outputs – Melissa Terras, Reader in Electronic Communications in the Department of Information studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities at UCL. The final presentation of the day came from Melissa Terras, who talked about her experiences of Tweeting and blogging about research papers placed in her institution’s repository, UCL Discovery. You can read a full account of her experiments here (and it’s well worth reading in full), but what’s worth noting for the purposes of this post were the hundreds of extra downloads her papers received, merely by virtue of using social media to tell people about them. She also used her slot to make a plea for repository managers to understand academics’ attitudes with regard to self-archiving. Academics are essentially forward-looking, and when a paper is written it is generally considered to be over and done with. This makes retrospective appeals for academics to trawl their hard drives pretty onerous. I think the implication is that it’s incumbent on repository managers to make deposit as simple as possible, and to not get too hung up on back-runs of papers.

All in all an excellent event. RSP will have to do well to top this one, I’m looking forward to seeing if they can do it!

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City Research Online & electronic theses

We’ve been slowly working towards making City’s PhD theses available in City Research Online, and we’re now at the stage where we’re going to be adding a lot more full text versions of these important pieces of research. Working out these issues, and talking to PhD students about the uses made of their work, is also an opportunity to persuade early-career researchers of the benefits of open access, hopefully hooking them for the remainder of their career!

We already have some theses available (four at the time of writing) in the open access repository, thanks to PhD students getting in touch with us and passing on electronic versions. There are a few problems specifically associated with managing theses: you have to be particularly careful about how they are handled, since they represent three of more years of research, and are often intended to be published further down the line; potentially tricky issues with copyright (author permissions, 3rd party copyright) and sensitive data (commercial or personal); and the various places e-theses can both be sourced from and also end up- for example, there are already over 200 City theses held by the BL’s EThOS service, not to mention DART Europe.

I think we’ve worked through these issues to our satisfaction (or at least I’ve produced some papers on them!), and we’re now at a stage where we can recruit more content. There are two sources of e-theses we’re going to examine first. They are:

  1. A nice back-run of c. 50 we have here in the Library (on CD-ROMs!), with permissions forms all signed off. We’re going to add these, then email students to tell them we have done so.
  2. All examined theses going forward. We need to a bit more liaison to make sure that the Schools and Departments are clear with what we will do with newly received e-theses (this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone!), and it will mean that we receive c. 250 newly examined theses per year.

Once we’re comfortable with the work-flows for managing these two sets of theses (and have exhausted the former set), we can have a look at other sources, including theses currently in EThOS but not held locally. I’m also in the process of setting up EThOS automatically harvesting our content, meaning that theses deposited in City Research Online will automatically be added to EThOS- a two for one offer!

This work has taken a while to come to fruition, but it’s really pleasing to think that over time we’ll become a comprehensive source of Doctoral research produced here at City.

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Business as usual

I became conscious we’ve not updated this blog in a while. This is because it has been business as usual, getting hold of and adding content to City Research Online. We’re now up to over 300 papers in the open access repository- not bad, considering in August we had nothing!

A few pieces of work we have in hand, or will be looking at in the New Year are worth mentioning:

  • Further integrating data from Symplectic and Eprints into City’s web presence, specifically the Research area of City’s website. We’re currently working on a publications search, allowing users to query our holdings in both Symplectic and Eprints.
  • In the New Year, we’ll start looking at using City Research Online to store and serve City’s PhD theses. This will be an interesting piece of work- the infrastructure side should be relatively straightforward, but the policy side of things (including intellectual property issues) will be more challenging.
  • We’re going to be examining whether Gold OA is something that we need to be more actively supporting at City, particularly in light of recent government pronouncements on this issue.
  • I would also like to do some scoping of the extent to which City is producing working paper series (I know of at least a couple), and if and how we might archive these series, or even support their publication.

Seasons greetings to our readers, see you in the New Year!

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City Research Online launch event for Open Access Week 2011

We’re holding a party to celebrate the launch of City Research Online. It’s happening as part of Open Access Week 2011 (party listing here), the global celebration of all things open access. We’ve been lucky enough to have City’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Curran, come to speak at the event. There will also, of course, be wine and nibbles!

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Repository Fringe 2011- day two

Earlier in the week, I blogged about day one of the Repository Fringe 2011. This post, logically enough, is about day two of that same event. Again, I add the caveat that this is a partial account, and that further details can be found on the Repository Fringe website.

The first session of the day was a set of presentations on the the JISC Repositories Takeup and Embedding programme. The presenters all gave good presentations about the wide range of projects which fall under this umbrella programme, but the session was stolen by the final presentation. This was delivered by Robin Burgess from Glasgow School of Art, who SANG A SONG. That’s right, a repository takeup and embedding song.

Next up was Mark Hahnel talking about his Figshare service. Mark was a PhD student at Imperial, who realised that there was no easy way to collate and share his figures, scientific data and results and other media. In response, he developed the Figshare service. It seems to me to be comparable to Mendeley, except that it allows collation and sharing of data rather than formal research outputs. Data curation and sharing has been something that repository-type-people have been grappling with for a while, but it seems to me that Figshare might be the “killer app” for this, given that it appears to be easy to use and has exemplary social media functionality, e.g. allowing users to provide feedback on data. Definitely a service to keep an eye on.

After lunch, there were some more round table discussion sessions. I picked the session “How Repositories are being used for REF & repository advocacy”, chaired by Helen Muir from QMUC. I volunteered to provide feedback to the conference on this, and here are the points that were raised by the group:

  1. There is the risk that the repository might be seen to be only for REF purposes. Further, there is a possibility that the repository might lose sight of its Open Access goal when focussing on REF matters.
  2. There are managerial issues in dealing with spikes in submission of materials.
  3. There is a risk that academics’ engagement with the repository could tale off post-REF, and a challenge in ensuring this does not happen.
  4. The possibility of automated harvesting of data from citations databases such as Web of Science or Scopus for REF purposes was discussed, and it was noted that there were problems with the subject coverage outside of STEM subjects.
  5. This led on to discussion of the possibility of back-filling of the repository as a result of REF work. It was noted that re-surfacing and re-purposing of data for REF purposes can make this data seem “fresh”, and demonstrate the good work done by the repository.
  6. The old info science problem of disambiguation came up, in relation to authors sitting in more than one department (where do they really sit?), and departments splitting, merging and disappearing. There seemed to be no easy answers to these challenges!
  7. Despite these challenges listed above (and others), there was a general feeling that REF provided a great way of engaging with the wider university, and that it was an important opportunity which repositories could not afford to miss out on. There was also the possibility that, if repositories don’t engage with REF, that the repository could be sidelined.
  8. The above notwithstanding, it was felt extremely important not to let the Open Access aspects of repositories to be lost.

Now, a shameless plug: I will be talking about REF matters at a forthcoming RSP event, called the Readiness for REF (R4R) Workshop, taking place in London on September 5th.

The closing keynote address was delivered by Professor Gary Hall from Coventry University. This was a refreshing break from the instrumentalist, utilitarian approach so often taken by repository people who (understandably enough) are interested in solutions. Instead, Hall talked about the politics of repositories (and not just the interminable Green vs. Gold OA arguments). He posited the idea that repositories and Open Access are interventions in the standard practices of publishers, and are hence politically radical. There was a lot more to Hall’s arguments, and I confess I didn’t take as many notes as I should have, but it was good to take a step back and think about the philosophy of Open Access. It was also rare to hear a presentation at a repository conference in which the names of Foucault, Nietzsche and Zizek are invoked!

All in all, Repository Fringe is an excellent conference, with its air of informality and the way it brings together a wide variety of repository people. Holding it in Edinburgh during the Festival gives it an extra something that other cities would struggle to emulate.

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Peter Suber interviewed on Open Access

I put something on Twitter about this excellent interview, with Richard Poynder asking questions to Peter Suber about Open Access, but I thought it was worth blogging about too. As a librarian, I particularly liked this section:

Q: What precise role do you see librarians playing in the alliance you spoke of?

A: Librarians lobby for OA mandates. They write to their representatives in the legislature. They make phone calls and visit. They network and organize. They communicate with one another, with their patrons, and with the public. They launch, maintain, and fill repositories. They write up their experiences, case studies, surveys, and best practices. They pay attention. On average, they understand the issues better than any other stakeholder group, including researchers, administrators, publishers, funders, and policymakers.

Even at universities where OA policies were enacted by faculty vote, you don’t have to look far to find that librarians gave a compelling presentation at a Faculty Senate meeting, pressed faculty colleagues at Library Committee meetings, or educated individual faculty one-on-one.

I’m hoping to do all these things here at City!

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OAI7 Workshop, Geneva, 22 – 24 June 2011

I attended the OAI7 Workshop in Geneva last month, and now I have a blog I thought I would report back on it. I’ve picked out the most personally interesting or notable events below, but there were plenty of other good sessions as well as these. The event was also notable for the rather good social engagements, including a reception at the Globe, CERN.

Advocacy for Open Access within HE institutions (Monica Hammes, University of Pretoria)

Monica Hammes talked about how to get Open Access (OA) onto the agenda of university management. She began with the premise that “OA is obvious, so why hasn’t it become the norm?” She identified the specificity of universities, and their internal structures, stakeholders and politics as the explanation for this. Universities are “places of many agendas” when it comes to OA, including those of:

  • Researchers
  • University management
  • Research leaders
  • Readers/ repository end users
  • Library/ IT services
  • Funders

In this environment, an OA mandate focuses attention on the repository and associated services, but is not a “silver bullet” which automatically makes OA occur at institutional level. There is a need to keep OA on the agenda of senior university management, but this can be difficult when senior management has so many other demands and concerns. Ms Hammes identified the Research Office as a key ally in keeping OA on the university agenda, a position here at City we are fortunate to be in!

Embedding repository services and the “invisible repository” (William Nixon, University of Glasgow)

William Nixon’s presentation focussed on the ways repository services can be embedded in the broader work of the university in which it is based. The aim is to seamlessly integrate the repository with other services, in such a way that the repository becomes “invisible”, in the sense that it is so well integrated with other services that its clients (both academic colleagues and others) no longer even notice its presence. He noted a few points which pertain to us at City particularly:

  • Glasgow is attempting to get rid of the word “repository” from all of its documentation, on the basis that the term is not widely understood by academic colleagues.
  • Use of the term “mandate” when talking about OA is also perhaps unhelpful: Glasgow have used the phrase “publications policy”, since there are many policies which university members are expected to adhere to. Glasgow’s policy was created and implemented in close collaboration with the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research.
  • The cultural aspect of repository integration is very important, but must be underpinned by proper integration of the Current Research Information System (CRIS) and the repository, and the ability to inter-operate repository and other systems’ data. Silos of data and other information are things of the past!
  • There is a strong element of reputational management in handling research information; academic colleagues are understandably sensitive about the correct and accurate management of this information.

Mendeley: the elephant in the repository room (Victor Henning, Mendeley)

Mendeley’s founder, Victor Henning, talked about the inexorable rise of Mendeley, the research management software tool. He actually gave the exact same talk twice, which was rather cheeky, but it did highlight some very interesting points about Mendeley:

  • The service’s startling levels of growth- some 90 million papers have been uploaded to Mendeley in the last 18 months!
  • Its ambivalent attitude towards OA. Mendeley is agnostic toward the content it allows its users to upload to the service, and it would seem that more often than not these are the “published” versions of papers. There is no emphasis on provision of OA material, though as Southampton’s Les Carr has shown, there are significant amounts of OA content and sharing of scholarly material within the service.
  • Its “wild west” approach to copyright. Mendeley allows the sharing of scholarly articles within groups, meaning that uploading a PDF to the service is likely to infringe that article’s copyright. Henning’s response, when pressed, was that infringement of copyright was the responsibility of end users, not the service. This is a large topic, and one that can’t be examined in detail here, but I think it unlikely that repositories could take such an attitude towards the material with which it deals.
  • The emphasis on the “ego driven” nature of research sharing. In Henning’s view you have to demonstrate to researchers what’s in it for them before they will share research- to expect this to happen for altruistic reasons is unrealistic.

Henning’s talk was very thought provoking. Mendeley is in many ways a fantastic service, but its ambiguity on questions of OA and copyright pose some challenges to the OA community. It is positive, though, that Mendeley is engaging with OA events such as OAI7.

SHERPA CRIS plug-in tool (Peter Millington, Centre for Research Communications, University of Nottingham)

I talked to Peter Millington, a developer at SHERPA, during a break-out session. He has developed a plug-in which works with Symplectic (and should be easily switched on by Symplectic services). The plug-in runs a query against the repository holdings, and does the following within the Symplectic interface:

  • Where a paper is already present in the repository, it alerts the user to that fact.
  • Where a paper is not present, it runs a query for that journal title against the SHERPA RoMEO database, and returns the following results:
    • If the paper in question is eligible for deposit, the plug-in tells you this, and provides a button to upload a version of the paper.
    • If the paper is not eligible, a notice to that effect is displayed.

Peter’s poster can be viewed online. In my view, this could be an excellent way of fostering OA deposit to the repository.

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