16 December 2014

Looking ahead to the next REF

The results for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) are due in this week, but work is already well under way to prepare for the next one!

What is the REF?
The REF is a system for assessing the quality and impact of research outputs by UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The reasoning being that there needs to be an impartial method for evaluating public investment in research. The results will also be used to inform the distribution of future public investment in HEIs. The 2014 REF assessed research outputs produced between 2008 and 2013 (inclusive).

©h_pampel via Flickr
So what's going to be different?
The rules for the next REF include a specific policy on open access which states that in order to be eligible for submission, articles and conference proceedings are to be deposited in a repository as soon as possible after the acceptance date. The version to be deposited must be the accepted manuscript, which has been peer-reviewed, but not copy-edited. The new policy is led by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and supported by all four UK higher education funding bodies. And, although the policy will come into effect in April 2016; HEFCE strongly urges institutions and researchers to follow the requirements as soon as possible in order to ensure all outputs are eligible for the next REF.

The Open Access team have already started contacting researchers by email in order to advise on the use of PURE to comply with the policy. We have also been going out to Schools directly to deliver presentations on the new HEFCE policy, most recently at the School of Chemistry. So far, we have been delighted with reaction we have received, one researcher even reported a time of 2 minutes 30 seconds for creating a Pure record and depositing his accepted manuscript!

If you want to know more about making your research compliant with the HEFCE Open Access policy please email the Open Access team openaccess@st-andrews.ac.uk. We also have a new website which offers guidance and useful links.

5 December 2014

Open Access Books: “Books fall open, you fall in”

"Books fall open, you fall in, delighted where, you've never been." 
David T. W. McCord

With this post we want to highlight the importance of open access books. When people think of open access, their minds might naturally think of journal articles and conference papers. But, there are a growing number of Open Access book publishers as well. Recently, we were lucky enough to have representatives from OAPEN and DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books), and Open Book Publishers speak at a roadshow event in the University. Judging by the energy of the presenters and the enthusiasm of the attendees, there is growing momentum behind open access book publishing at the moment.

Mike Lee, CC-BY 2.0
A search of the St Andrews library catalogue reveals the efforts we have taken to deliver open access monographic material. For instance recently the cataloguing team have created records for the entire Open Book Publishers catalogue. Open Book Publishers was started in 2008 by a small group of academics at the University of Cambridge. It is now an international enterprise that publishes books in hardback, paperback, ebook, and free online formats. Elizabeth Cuthill, a member of the cataloguing team here at St Andrews, has been adding value to the catalogue by creating high quality MARC records for the OBP content. These MARC records can then be harvested and re-used by other libraries, ensuring maximum discoverability. Elizabeth commented on the rich variety of material published by OBP:

"There are some very interesting and unusual titles on this publisher’s list of around fifty so far. For example, I’ve just completed cataloguing several titles on Quechan folklore (Quechan is a native American language spoken by a tribe living in southern California and in Arizona south of the Colorado River). It is a language and culture so rare that there are only around 700 native speakers left. One of the titles can be found at this link http://library.st-andrews.ac.uk/record=b2106224~S5. This work documents the tribe’s creation myths. I’m assuming this work must be quite unique in that it is a written document from what is primarily an oral tradition. The book is part of Open Book Publishers’ World Oral Literature series, published  in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project, a collaborative project which describes itself as "An urgent global initiative to document and make accessible endangered oral literatures before they disappear without record." It’s becoming apparent as I work through cataloguing this material that the vision of a not-for-profit venture such as Open Book Publishers provides a fantastic outlet for freely distributing material which is very specialised and does not conform readily to existing publishing models." Elizabeth Cuthill

We also have records for all of the books created as part of the Knowledge Unlatched project. This unique publishing platform has been covered in the blog before. In the catalogue there are currently records for 28 books produced as a result of the project covering a wide range of subject areas. In total we have 173 open access books on our catalogue, but there are many more to be discovered. Using resources like OAPEN and DOAB you can find thousands of fully open access books, which can be downloaded onto your computer, phone, tablet, or e-reader.

Open access books offer a different way of interacting with subjects, for instance Diderot's 'Rameau's Nephew': A Multi-Media Edition published by Open Book Publishers contains mp3 recordings of contemporary music by the Paris Conservatoire embedded into the book. Why not give the book a read and a listen!

Publishers like Open Book Publishers are developing new means of expressing scholarly research through e-books. And, in recent years new e-reader technologies have emerged making reading electronic books more comfortable for longer periods. Now really is a great time to discover the possibilities of electronic open access books.

2 December 2014

Nature takes steps towards wider access

Nature Publishing Group has announced today that research papers in Nature, and other journals published by NPG, will be free_to_read via links that can be shared by subscribers. Using these special links, content going back to 1869 will be available to view using special software that allows reading on screen through a browser, but not downloading, printing or other re-use.


This is an interesting development in the transition towards open access, though perhaps not as well-received as Nature might have hoped. Open Access advocate John Wilbanks has commented on the limitations of this approach, comparing it to the technological protection imposed by Apple's iTunes. The free research papers will still reside only on Nature's website, and not be available under Creative Commons licences or for depositing into institutional repositories.

This model, being run as a trial, appears to go some way to legitimise a practice of sharing that is already common through informal mechanisms. Nature Publishing has also made efforts to help researchers share their work through options such as their Manuscript Deposition service, available for research supported by certain funders. Both options do however leave control over re-use in the hands of the publisher, with the underlying business model remaining based on subscriptions. Meanwhile, Nature Communications has become fully open access, so NPG are definitely making moves to see what works best in the changing realities of scientific publishing.

1 December 2014

Open Access in the Humanities Roadshow - highlights

The SPARC Europe road show in Lower College Hall 26 November was a great success attracting interested University staff and students from St Andrews and beyond. It was good to see a number of postgraduate students attending. What unites them is a shared interest in Open Access (OA) and enthusiasm for the possibilities of making research more accessible and to discover new ways of engaging in and with research.

Eelco Ferwerda (OAPEN and DOAB)
Eelco gave an excellent introduction to Open Access for those new to the area and expanded this to talk about particular issues in the Humanities and Social Sciences:
  • Two thirds of research outputs are book chapters compared to one third journal articles
  • Less than 15% of publishers in humanities ask for an APC 
  • There is a traditional and continuing preference for print. Even when e-book formats are provided there is still an expectation that there will be a print version to help cover costs
  • He also dispelled several standard myths about OA publishing, reassuring the audience that OA is compatible with peer review, Creative Commons is compatible with copyright, CC-BY does not endorse plagiarism, and OA does not endanger academic freedom.
Guy Rowlands (St Andrews)
Guy gave an interesting and entertaining talk on his path to online publishing and Open Access. Charting the ups and downs of trying to find a publisher for a 25-50K word long essay (between a journal article and a monograph) he eventually decided to "stuff it" and publish works of this length in a new format dubbed the "midigraph" by his four year-old son. Guy is now the Editor-in-Chief of a series published by the Centre for French History and Culture. It has proved an effective way to disseminate research, e.g. Hold still, Madame: wartime gender and the photography of women in France during the Great War in the St Andrews Studies in French History and Culture series has received 250 page views and been downloaded 120 times just this year. As there is no way of telling where the digital copies have gone it is probably safe to factor in another 50% of readers for the downloads. Guy has had very positive responses from publishers agreeing to review his upcoming titles. This kind of attention is good for the School of History and the University in terms of esteem measures. He concluded by questioning why the long essay form, of which the noted historian Hugh Trevor-Roper had been a master, had died out.

Rupert Gatti (OpenBook Publishers and Cambridge)
Rupert agreed with Guy that "stuff it" is often the starting point for researchers to take an interest in Open Access. He introduced the idea of legacy publishing, i.e. publication in printed books as the primary means of dissemination. Limited print runs of these books make it difficult for researchers in HSS fields to justify relevance to funders leading to the "crisis of dissemination". He suggested that Open Access is part of the solution to this. He explained that legacy publishers have typically missed IT opportunities to change and improve publishing models although he emphasised that traditional rigorous peer review is still in place. He gave a demonstration of an amazing electronic translation of Diderot that included recordings of contemporary music by the Paris Conservatoire embedded in the footnotes (the printed book has QR codes that point to the same recordings on the internet). The recordings are licensed CC-BY by the Conservatoire. This offers new opportunities to develop scholarship and criticism not currently available under the legacy publishing model.

The talks were followed by a lively Q&A session with the speakers as panelists and Lily Neal of SPARC Europe was a warm and gracious guide throughout.


From left: Dr Rupert Gatti, Janet Aucock, Eelco Ferwerda, Lily Neal, Dr Guy Rowlands

28 November 2014

British Library EThOS coverage expanded

Digitising theses and making them available free of charge over the internet has been one of the great successes of Open Access that is often forgotten.  The British Library Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) recently announced a significant expansion of coverage, which is great news for researchers:





Image: © The British Library Board

Cambridge - 8000 new theses records added resulting in a coverage of recent theses increase from 7% to 78%

Imperial College - 2000 new records

King's College London - 1000 new links to the KCL Research Repository added to records; a further 500 new records created

Nottingham Trent and Coventry - Records now being harvested following set-up issues

University College London - New "all PhDs" Open Archives Initiative (OAI) set created allowing linking to an additional 1600 records in UCL Discovery.

Repositories added - School of Advanced Study, University of Gloucestershire, Edge Hill University and University of Brighton records are now being harvested

The EThOS advanced search function allows limiting to full text items available for immediate download. This search currently returns 1755 items for University of St Andrews.  Where no full text is available it is possible to request digitisation on demand or, if digitisation is not permitted, to source a physical copy through the traditional inter-library loan service.

Please visit our web pages if you need help and support finding St Andrews theses.

25 November 2014

Open Access Feedback Form Now Live

Good news! We now have a feedback form so that you can share with us your thoughts about Open Access. Please let us know your story; general or specific. For example, your story could be about your general feelings regarding the ethics of free availability to research, or you could tell us about how you benefited from accessing a specific Open Access research output in our repository.

Whatever you choose to share, we look forward to hearing from you.

21 November 2014

Access to Understanding 2015 science writing competition

The Access to Understanding 2015 science writing competition has been announced. Now in its third year, the aim of the competition is to promote public understanding of complex research in Biomedical Science. If you are a PhD student or early career postdoctoral researcher working in this field who believes in creating and using accessible research, then choose one of the papers on which to write 800 words to explain the research and why it matters to a general reader. You could be in with a chance to win a first prize of publication of your article by eLIFE (and an iPad too!).


Closing date: 9 December 2014 16:00 GMT


This competition is sponsored by the British Library, eLIFE and Europe PMC*.
Use the links to see the results of previous competitions.
Image: © Access to Understanding collaboration

*Europe PubMed Central is a stable, permanent and free-to-access digital archive of the full text, peer-reviewed research publications (and datasets) that arise from research funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust and other members of the Europe PMC Funders Group. (Source: Medical Research Council)

If you are a St Andrews researcher and need help with Europe PMC deposit as part of funder requirements, please contact the Open Access and Research Publications Support (OARPS) team open-access-support@st-andrews.ac.uk.