Scholarly reports on aspects of open access (OA) are coming through thick and fast while institutions, publishers and a range of stakeholders work to optimise the benefits that they want OA publishing to bring to themselves, to scholarly publishing and to the UK’s wider research community.
In one of the most recent reports the British Academy examines the practical difficulties that arise in OA journal publishing for the humanities and social sciences and asks whether UK OA policies might unintentionally restrict the reach of research and adversely affect the international standing of our institutions and research.
...and how to overcome them
It’s encouraging to see questions like this being asked so that if stumbling blocks really do exist a course can be navigated around them. Frequently, this is necessary. Everyone who is involved with research and publishing in academic research institutions is walking along the road set out in the Berlin Declaration on Open Access more than a decade ago and as we do, it becomes clearer just how much of it is uphill and how many obstacles lie along the way.
We’re working with several stakeholders across a number of related projects to scope out concerns and work on practical solutions where they are needed. Time really is of the essence, because over the past 12 months major research funders have made fresh policy announcements on the subject of OA and raised their expectations of what universities and colleges must do to comply – and when. Institutions face a dual challenge: they must make sure they are compliant with funders’ OA policies while also securing as many of the benefits that OA offers as possible.
OA good practice
Our current suite of inter-connecting projects includes OA good practice, which will support and complement universities’ work on compliance and enable the creation of a range of resources that they can tap into as their own need dictates. There won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but there will be a rich variety of experience and support to draw upon.
OA good practice includes several institutional pathfinder projects which at the moment will be based at the following lead institutions, supported by a range of associate partner institutions:
- Coventry University (lead)
- Northumbria University (lead)
- Oxford Brookes University (lead)
- UCL (University College London) (lead)
- University of Bath (lead)
- University of Hull (lead)
- University of Glasgow (lead)
- University of Manchester (lead)
The projects will help us search out what’s working well for institutions as they implement OA policies so that these examples can be shared widely across the sector. Each project will explore diverse issues, including ways to manage and monitor compliance with funder and institutional mandates, management of publication charges and ways to bring fairness to the sharing out of finite funds set aside to cover publication charges.
Through working to bring librarians, repository managers, research managers, researchers and others together to open up focused conversations, the projects will ensure that lessons learned once don’t need to be learned afresh by someone else.
At the same time, we are setting up events like workshops and webinars and encouraging guest blogging via which we want professionals from librarians and research managers to researchers themselves to come together to create an OA implementation community sharing effective practice and providing mutual support and help.
We’ll be evaluating the cost and time savings that these interventions bring to the sector to make sure we are providing significant value for our customers and stakeholders. And as examples of good practice emerge, these will inform the provision of shared services such as Sherpa RoMEO and now Jisc Monitor.
It’s a collaborative project with Mimas, based on open source and open standards and linked with emerging international initiatives. It will develop services to help universities to monitor publication activity, comply with funders’ OA policies and also keep a close eye on associated expenditure on publication charges.
By working hand in hand with institutions and publishers the project team will be agile, responsive and able to develop solutions within a tight timeframe.
It’s a way to bring all the UK’s open access research outputs – both green and gold – together in a single place, making them easier to find and to use. If we could create such a thing and ensure that every research output within it was accurately marked with its provenance and licensing information, it could help to standardise curation methods, enable text-mining, support better business intelligence gathering (for example, working with Jisc Monitor) and link up with international initiatives to improve the impact of research outputs.
As part of Jisc's co-design work, we have identified some of the steps that would need to be taken to achieve it, many of which can best (and most cost-effectively) be done above-campus, but institutions will still need to invest in appropriate systems of their own to ensure interoperability. This, too, may not be wholly straightforward but we have flagged up some of the issues that might come up in our new report on the open mirror. It includes some practical suggestions that will help.
Given that the gradient of the Berlin Road is so steep, and that it is littered with obstacles, much has been achieved in the 11 years since the Berlin Declaration on Open Access. Shared service infrastructure has been developed and content is being aggregated.
The challenge now is to support the excellent services that already exist, and to build on them and join them all up, helping to improve their interoperation and usability and extending their potential use to all parts of the UK community and economy.
Consultation will be a key aspect of any further work, and if you’d like to take part in that please get in touch with me via email email@example.com. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more, take a look at the report on the open mirror, and at the open mirror blog.