Monthly Archives: October 2015

Open Access around the world

As part of the Office of Scholarly Communication Open Access Week celebrations, we are uploading a blog a day written by members of the team. Friday contains some observations from Dr Lauren Cadwallader on the bigger picture.

For researchers new to Open Access, it can often feel like policies are imposed on them by their institution. This is possibly because the wider context of Open Access has not been explained or revealed to them.

In a recent workshop held by the Office of Scholarly Communication we were asked “whether Open Access was just a UK thing and that the rest of the world were benefiting from the research funded by the taxes that we pay”. The answer is NO! Open Access is a global movement and involves both developed and developing countries. It is true that other people can benefit from our research but we can also benefit from theirs.

In the beginning…

The Open Access movement as it stands today had its beginnings in 2003 in a report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust on the economics on scientific research funding. Subsequent reports in 2004 by the Wellcome Trust and the House of Commons looked at the viability of alternatives to the subscriber-pays model used by journals. Over the other side of the world Queensland University of Technology in Australia introduced the world’s first University-wide open access mandate in 2004. Since this was introduced they have seen a correlation between research being open access and the rise in the ranking of the university.

OA timeline_V2

Following this, the US National Institute of Health, RCUK and the Wellcome Trust all released policies on open access in 2005. The next major development occurred in 2012 with the release of the Finch report, which has really set the scene for open access in the UK. Since then the open access movement has grown and spread around the world to both developed and developing countries. There is a potted history of open access listed here.

Open Access globally

Sixty-one countries have open access policies or repositories. Funders and governments throughout Europe, North America and Australia have open access policies already in place:

ROARMAP, the Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies, lists 730 policies that are active in 2014-15.

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Map of countries listed on ROARMAP – registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies – available here

Fourteen countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, Uruguay and Venezuela – have come together to form the SciELO network – an Open Access repository of papers published by over 1000 journals from these countries and SciELO has been active for over 15 years.

Statistics from university repositories can give us an idea of who in the world is accessing Open Access articles. Harvard’s repository DASH has had over 21,000 downloads from Nigeria and 350,000 from the UK. The repository of the Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela – whose motto is ¡concimiento libre! (free knowledge!) – has had over 2 million downloads from users in the US since 2008 and almost 38,000 from the UK.

This goes to show that there is a two-way (or rather multi-way) knowledge transfer between countries.

Benefits to All

So, what are the benefits of this two-way knowledge share? What do the UK tax payers gain?

Benefits of open access

Benefits of open access: A high resolution of this graphic is downloadable here

In academia itself open access can have an impact on a researcher’s visibility. Papers that are open access are more likely to be cited by other researchers and more like to be shared on the internet in blogs, news outlets and social media. This all raises the profile of the researcher and their metric scores – an increasingly important tool for deciding who gets funding or hired in some universities.

Individuals carrying out research – academics, school children, professionals in industry – can gain access to knowledge that they might otherwise not be able to get. The Harvard repository, DASH, encourages users to leave their personal stories of using the repository to access open access material. For example, a potential PhD student from the UK accessed papers to strengthen their application to Oxford; a nurse working in a remote Australian aboriginal community could pursue her interests in literature; a journalist in Mexico has been able to access material on the history of Mexican books that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get.

These stories give us a handle on how the research is used and the impact that Open Access can have beyond academia. In the future we are hoping to record stories like this from our own repository, Apollo.

UK taxpayers benefit from Open Access research because it can be used to make a difference to society and the economy. Research can influence public policy, industry can draw on ideas that propel their work forward, universities’ research profile is raised making them more likely to attract funding and the brightest minds, medical advancements can be made. For example, openly available research was used by a 15 year old schoolboy in the US to invent an inexpensive early detection test for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. Whilst no cancer-detecting 15 year olds have come to light in the UK (yet!) this demonstrates the possibilities that come with Open Access, not just for academia but for everyone.

Published 23 October 2015
Written by Dr Lauren Cadwallader
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Where to from here? Open Access in Five Years

As part of the Office of Scholarly Communication Open Access Week celebrations, we are uploading a blog a day written by members of the team. Thursday is a piece by Dr Arthur Smith looking to the future.


Academic publishing is not what it used to be. Open access has exploded on the scene and challenged the established publishing model that has remained largely unchanged for 350 years. However, for those of us working in scholarly communications, the pace of change feels at times frustratingly slow, with constant roadblocks along the way. Navigating the policy landscape provided by universities, funders and publishers can be maddening, yet we need to remain mindful of how far we have come in a relatively short time. There is no sign that open access is losing momentum, so it’s perhaps instructive to consider the direction we want open access to take over the next five years, based upon the experiences of the past.

So how much is the University of Cambridge publishing and is it open access? Since 1980, according to Web of Science, the University’s publications increased from 3000 articles per year to more than 11,000 in 2014 (Fig. 1). Over the same period the proportion of gold open access articles rose steadily since first appearing on the scene in the late 1990s. Thus far in 2015 nearly one in ten articles is available gold open access, although this ignores the many articles available via green routes.


Fig. 1. Publications at the University of Cambridge since 1980 according to WoS (accessed 14/10/2015).


The HEFCE policy

By far the most important development for open access in the UK has been the introduction of HEFCE’s open access policy. As the policy applies to all higher education institutions it affects every university researcher in the UK. While the policy doesn’t formally start until April 2016, so far progress has been slow (Fig. 2). We believe that less than a third of all the University’s articles that are published today are currently compliant with the HEFCE policy, and despite a strong information campaign, our article submission rate has stagnated at around 250 articles per month, well off the monthly target of 930.

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Fig. 2. Publications received to the University of Cambridge open access service. The target number of articles per month is 930.

It’s understandable that some papers will fall through the cracks, but even for high impact journals many papers still don’t comply with the policy. But let’s be clear, aside from any policy compliance issues and future REF eligibility, these numbers reveal that fully two thirds of research papers produced at the University cannot be read without a journal subscription. And if readers can’t afford to pay for access then they’ll happily find other means of obtaining research papers.

What about inviting authors to make their research papers open access? Since June I have tracked five high impact journals and monitored the papers published by University of Cambridge authors (Fig. 3). Upon first discovery of a published paper, only 29% of articles were compliant with the HEFCE policy, which is consistent with our overall experience in receiving AAMs. But even after inviting authors to submit their accepted manuscripts to the University’s open access repository, the number of compliant articles rose to only 42%. Less than a third of authors who were directly contacted and asked to make their work open access eventually submitted their manuscripts. Clearly, the merits of open access are not enough to convince authors to act and distribute their manuscripts.


Fig. 3. Compliant articles published in five high impact journals. Even after direct intervention less than half of all articles are HEFCE compliant.


The SCOAP3 initiative is a publishing partnership that makes journals in the field of particle physics open access. This innovative scheme brings together multiple universities, funders and publishers and turns traditional journals, that are already widely respected by the physics community, into purely open access journals. No intervention is required by either authors or university administrators, making the process of publishing open access as simple as possible. The great advantage of this scheme is that authors don’t need to worry about choosing an open access option from the publisher, nor deal with messy invoices or copyright issues. All of these problems have been swept away.

Jisc Springer Compact

Like SCOAP3 the recently announced Jisc Springer Compact is a coalition of universities in the UK that have agreed a publishing model with Springer that makes ~1600 journals open access. Following a similar Dutch agreement, this publishing model means that any authors with qualifying institutional affiliations will have their publications made open access automatically. We’ve already started receiving our first requests under this scheme. However, unlike the SCOAP3 initiative which ‘flips’ entire journals to gold OA, the journals under the UK Jisc Springer Compact are still hybrid and only content produced by qualifying authors is open access. While this is great for those universities signed up to the deal, it still leaves a great many papers languishing under the subscription model.

Affiliation vs. Community

So which of these strategies will prove to the most successful? Will universities take ownership of open access publishing or will subject based communities come together in publishing coalitions.

The advantage of subject based initiatives is they flip entire journals for the benefit of a whole research community, making all the work within a specific discipline open access. However, without sufficient cohesion and drive within an academic community it’s likely that adoption will be fragmented across the myriad of disciplines. It’s no surprise that SCOAP3 emerged out of the particle physics community, given this scholarly community’s involvement in the development of arXiv, but it’s unrealistic to expect this will be the case everywhere.

Publishing agreements based around institutional affiliations will undoubtedly become more common, but until all universities have agreements in place with all the major publishers (Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, etc.) then a large fraction of scholarly outputs will still remain locked down.

What does the future hold?

Ultimately I want to do myself out of a job. As odd as that sounds, the current system of paying publishers for individual papers to be made open access is a laborious and time consuming process for authors, publishers and universities. Similarly the process of making accepted manuscripts available under the green model is equally ridiculous. Publishers should be automatically depositing AAMs on behalf of authors. There is no evidence that making AAMs available has ever killed a journal, and besides, the sooner we can reach agreements with all the major publishers and research funders that result in change on a global scale the better it will be for everyone.

Published 22 October 2015
Written by Dr Arthur Smith
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Software Licensing and Open Access

As part of the Office of Scholarly Communication Open Access Week celebrations, we are uploading a blog a day written by members of the team. Wednesday is a piece by Dr Marta Teperek reporting on the Software Licensing Workshop held on 14 September 2015 at Cambridge.

Uncertainties about sharing and licensing of software

If the questions that the Research Data Service Team have been asked during data sharing information sessions with over 1000 researchers at the University of Cambridge are any indicator, then there is a great deal of confusion about sharing source code.

There have been a wide range of questions during the discussions in these sessions, and the Research Data Service Team has recorded these. We are systematically ensuring that the information we are providing to our research community is valid and accurate. To address the questions about source code we decided to call in expert help. Shoaib Sufi and Neil Chue Hong* from the Software Sustainability Institute agreed to lead a workshop on Software Licensing in September, at the Computer Lab in Cambridge. Shoaib’s slides are here, and Neil’s slides on Open Access policies and software sharing are here.

Malcolm Grimshaw and Chris Arnot from Cambridge Enterprise also came to the workshop to answer questions about Cambridge-specific guidance on software commercialisation.

We had over 50 researchers and several research data managers from other UK universities attending the Software Licensing workshop. The main questions we were trying to resolve was: Are researchers expected to share source code they used in their projects? And if so, under what conditions?

Is software considered as ‘research data’ and does it need to be shared?

The starting question in the discussion was whether software needed to be shared. Most public funders now require that research data underpinning publications is made available. What is the definition of research data? According to the EPSRC research data “is defined as recorded factual material commonly retained by and accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings”. Therefore, if software is needed to validate findings described in a publication, researchers are expected to make it available as widely as possible. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if there is an intention to commercialise the software there might not be a need to share it, but the default assumption is that the software should be shared.

The importance of putting a licence on software

It is important that before any software is shared, the creator considers what they would like others to be able to do with it. The way to indicate the intended reuse of the software is to place a licence on it. This governs the permission being granted to others with regards to source code by the copyright holder(s). A licence determines whether the person who wants to get hold of software is allowed to use, copy, resell, change, or distribute it. Additionally, a licence should also determine who is liable if something goes wrong with the software.

Therefore, a licence not only protects the intellectual property, but also helps others to use the software effectively. If people who are potentially interested in a given piece of software do not know what they are allowed to do with it, it is possible they will search for alternative solutions. As a consequence, researchers could lose important collaborators, buyers, or simply decrease the citation rate that could have been gained from people using and citing software in their publications.

Who owns the copyright?

The most difficult question when it comes to software licensing is determining who owns the copyright – who is allowed to license the software used in research? If this is software created by a particular researcher then it is likely that s/he will be the copyright owner. At the University of Cambridge researchers are the primary owners of intellectual property. This is however a very generous right – typically employers do not allow their employees to retain copyright ownership. Therefore, the issue of copyright ownership might get very complicated for researchers involved in multi-institutional collaborations. Additionally, sometimes funders of research will retain copyright ownership of research outputs.

Consequences of licensing

An additional complication with licensing software is that most licences cannot be revoked. Once something has been licensed to someone under a certain licence, it is not possible to take it back and change the licence. Moreover, if there is one licence for a set of software, it might not be possible to license a patch to the software under a different licence. The issue of licence compatibility sparked a lot of questions during the workshop, with no easy answers available. The overall conclusion was that whenever possible, mixing of licences should be avoided. If use of various licences is necessary, researchers are recommended to get advice from the Legal Services Office.

Good practice for software management

So what are the key recommendations for good practice for software management? Before the start of a research project, researchers should think about who the collaborators and funders are, and what the employer’s expectations are with regards to intellectual property. This will help to determine who will own the copyright over the software. Funders’ and institutional policies for research data sharing should be consulted for expectations about software sharing With this information it is possible to prepare a data management plan for the grant application.

During the project researchers need to ensure that their software is hosted in an appropriate code repository – for example, GitHub or Bitbucket. It is important to create (and keep updating!) metadata describing any generated data and software.

Finally, when writing a paper, researchers need to deposit all releases of data/software relevant to the publication in a suitable repository. It is best to choose a repository which provides persistent links e.g. Zenodo (which has a GitHub integration), or the University of Cambridge data repository (Apollo). It is important to ensure that software is licensed under an appropriate licence – in line with what others should be allowed to do with the software, and in agreement with any obligations there might be with any other third parties (for example, funders of the research). If there is a need to restrict the access to the software, metadata description should give reasons for this restriction and conditions that need to be met for the access to be granted.

Valuable resources to help make right decisions

Both Neil and Shoaib agreed that proper management and licensing of software might be sometimes complicated. Therefore, they recommended various resources and tools to provide guidance for researchers:

The workshop was organised in collaboration with Stephen Eglen from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (University of Cambridge) who chaired the meeting, and with Andrea Kells from the Computer Lab (University of Cambridge) who hosted the workshop.

The Research Data Service is also providing various other opportunities for our research community to pose questions directly of the funding bodies. We invited Ben Ryan from the EPSRC to come to speak to a group of researchers in May and the resulting validated FAQs are now published on our research data management website. Similarly, researchers met with Michael Ball from the BBSRC in August.

These opportunities are being embraced by our research community.

*About the speakers

Shoaib Sufi – Community Lead at the Software Sustainability Institute

Shoaib leads the Institute’s community engagement activities and strategies. Graduating in Computer Science from the University of Manchester in 1997, he has worked in the commercial sector as a systems programmer and then as software developer, metadata architect and eventually a project manager at the Science and Facilities Technologies Council (STFC).

Neil Chue Hong – Director at the Software Sustainability Institute

Neil is the founding Director of the Software Sustainability Institute. Graduating with an MPhys in Computational Physics from the University of Edinburgh, he began his career at EPCC, becoming Project Manager there in 2003. During this time he led the Data Access and Integration projects (OGSA-DAI and DAIT), and collaborated in many e-Science projects, including the EU FP6 NextGRID project.

Published 21 October 2015
Written by Dr Marta Teperek
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