Tag Archives: scholarly communication

Open at scale: sharing images in the Open Research Pilot

Dr Ben Steventon is one of the participants in the Open Research Pilot. He is working with the Office of Scholarly Communication to make his research process more open and here reports on some of the major challenges he perceives at the beginning of the project.

The Steventon Group is a new group established last year which looks at embryonic development, in particular focusing on the zebrafish. To investigate problems in this area the group uses time-lapse imaging and tracks cells in 3D visualisations which presents many challenges when it comes to data sharing, which they hope to address through the Wellcome Trust Open Research Project. Whilst the difficulties that this group are facing are specific to a particular type of research, they highlight some common challenges across open research: sharing large files, dealing with proprietary software and joining up the different outputs of a group.

Sharing imaging data 

The data created by time-lapse imaging and cell tracking is frequently on a scale that presents a technical, as well as financial, challenge. The raw data consists of several terabytes of film which is then compressed for analysis into 500GB files. These compressed files are of a high enough quality that they can be used for analysis but they are still not small enough that they can be easily shared. In addition the group also generates spreadsheets of tracking data, which can be easily shared but are meaningless without the original imaging files and specific software to allow the two pieces of data to be connected. One solution which we are considering is the Image Data Resource, which is working to make imaging datasets in the life sciences, which have not previously been shareable due to their size, available to the scientific community to re-use.

Making it usable

The software used in this type of research is a major barrier to making the group’s work reproducible. The Imaris software the group uses costs thousands of pounds so anything shared in their proprietary formats are only accessible to an extremely small group of researchers at wealthier institutions, which is in direct opposition to the principles of Open Research. It is possible to use Fiji, an open source alternative, to recreate tracking with the imaging files and tracking spreadsheets; however, the data annotation originally performed in Imaris will be lost when the images are not saved in the proprietary formats.

An additional problem in such analyses is the sharing of protocols that detail the methodologies applied, from the preparation of the samples all the way through data generation and analysis. This is a common problem with standard peer-review journals that are often limited in the space available for the description of methods. The group are exploring new ways to communicate their research protocols and have created an article for the Journal of Visualised Experiments, but these are time consuming to create and so are not always possible. Open peer-review platforms potentially offer a solution to sharing detailed protocols in a more rapid manner, as do specialist platforms such as Wellcome Open Research and Protocols.io.

Increasing efficiency by increasing openness

Whilst the file size and proprietary software in this type of research presents some barriers to sharing, there are also opportunities through sharing to improve practice across the community. Currently there are several different software packages being used for visualisation and tracking. Therefore, sharing more imaging data would allow groups to try out different types of images on different tools and make better purchasing decisions with their grant money. Furthermore, there is a great frustration in this area that lots of people are working on different algorithms for different datasets, so greater sharing of these algorithms could reduce the amount of time wasted creating algorithms when it might be possible to adapt a pre-existing one.

Shifting models of scholarly communication

As we move towards a model of greater openness, research groups are facing a new difficulty in working out how best to present their myriad outputs. The Steventon group intends to publish data (in some form), protocols and a preprint at the same time as submitting their papers to a traditional journal. This will make their work more reproducible, and it also allows researchers who are interested in different aspects of their work to access the bits that interest them. These outputs will link to one another, through citations, but this relies on close reading of the different outputs and checking references. The Steventon group would like to make the links between the different aspects of their work more obvious and browsable, so the context is clear to anyone interest in the lab’s work. As the research of the group is so visual it would be appropriate to represent the different aspects of their work in a more appealing form than a list of links.
The Steventon lab is attempting to link and contextualise their work through their website, and it is possible to cross-reference resources in many repositories (including Cambridge’s Apollo), but they would like there to be a more sustainable solution. They work in areas with crossovers to other disciplines – some people may be interested in their methodologies, others the particular species they work on, and others still the particular developmental processes they are researching. There are opportunities here for openness to increase the discoverability of interdisciplinary research and we will be exploring this, as well as the issues around sharing images and proprietary software, as part of the Open Research Pilot.

Published 8 May 2017
Written by Rosie Higman and Dr Ben Steventon

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Where did they come from? Educational background of people in scholarly communication

Scholarly communication roles are becoming more commonplace in academic libraries around the world but who is actually filling these roles? The Office of Scholarly Communication in Cambridge recently conducted a survey to find out a bit more about who makes up the scholarly communication workforce and this blog post is the first in a series sharing the results.

The survey was advertised in October 2016 via several mailing lists targeting an audience of library staff who worked in scholarly communication. For the purposes of the survey we defined this as:

The process by which academics, scholars and researchers share and publish their research findings with the wider academic community and beyond. This includes, but is not limited to, areas such as open access and open data, copyright, institutional repositories and research data management.

In total 540 people responded to the calls for participation with 519 going on to complete the survey, indicating that the topic had relevance for many in the sector.

Working patterns

Results show that 65% of current roles in scholarly communication have been established in respondent’s organisations for less than five years with fewer than 15% having been established for more than ten years. Given that scholarly communication is still growing as a discipline this is perhaps not a surprising result.

It should also be noted that the survey makes no distinction between those who are working in a dedicated scholarly communication role and those who may have had additional responsibilities added to a pre-existing position. These roles tend to sit within larger organisations which employ over 200 people although whether the organisation was defined as the library or wider institution was open to interpretation by respondents.

Responses showed an even spread of experience in the library and information science (LIS) sector with 22% having less than five years’ experience and 27% having more than twenty.  Since completing their education just over half of respondents have remained within LIS but given the current fluctuations in the job market it is not surprising to learn that just under half of people have worked outside the sector within the same period.

Respondents were also asked to list the ways in which they actively contributed to the scholarly publication process. The majority (72%) did so by authoring scholarly works or contributing to the peer review process (44%). Although not specified as a category a number of respondents highlighted their work in publishing material, indicating a change in the scholarly process rather than a continuation to the status quo.

LIS qualifications

Most of those (71%) who responded to the survey either have or are currently working towards a postgraduate qualification in LIS, an anticipated result given the target population of the survey. The length of time respondents had held their qualification was evenly spread in line with the amount of time spent working in the sector with 48% having achieved their qualification less than ten years ago whilst 49% having held their qualification for over a decade. Just over half of this group felt that their LIS qualification did not equip them with knowledge of the scholarly communication process (56%).

Around a fifth of respondents (21%) hold a library and information science qualification at a level other than postgraduate, with the majority of being at bachelor level. Of these there was a fairly even divide between those who have held this qualification for five to ten years (31%) and those who qualified more than twenty years ago (28%). Only 17% of this group felt that their studies equipped them with appropriate knowledge of scholarly communication.

Qualifications outside LIS

A small number of respondents do not hold qualifications in LIS but hold or are working towards postgraduate qualifications in other subjects. Most of this group hold/are working on a PhD (69%) in a range of subjects from anatomy to mechanical engineering.

This group overwhelmingly felt that what they learnt during their studies had practical applications in their work in scholarly communication (74%). This was a larger percentage than those who had studied LIS at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. These results echo experiences at Cambridge where a large proportion of the team is made up of people from a variety of academic backgrounds. In many ways this has proven to be an asset as they have direct experience of the issues faced by current researchers and are able to offer insight into how best to meet their needs.

So what does this tell us?

The scholarly communication workforce is expanding as academic libraries respond to the changing environment and shift their focus to research support. Many of these roles have been created in the past five years in particular within larger organisations better positioned to devote resources to increasing their scholarly communication presence.

Although results from this survey indicate that the majority of staff come from a library background a diverse range of levels and subjects are represented. As noted above this can provide unique insights into researcher needs but it also raises the question of what trained library professionals can bring to this area. Given that the majority of those educated in LIS felt that their qualification did not adequately equip them for their role this is a potentially worrying trend which needs to be explored further.

We will be continuing to analyse the results of the survey over the next few months to address both this and other questions. Hopefully this will provide insight into where scholarly communications librarians are now and what they can do to ensure success into the future.

Published 9 March 2017
Written by Claire Sewell
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2016 – that was the year that was

 In January last year we published a blog post ‘2015 that was the year that was‘ which not only helped us take stock about what we have achieved, but also was very well received. So we have decided to do it again. For those who are more visually oriented, the slides ‘The OSC a lightning Tour‘ might be useful. 

Now starting its third year of operation, the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) has expanded to a team of 15, managing a wide variety of projects. The OSC has developed a set of strategic goals  to support its mission: “The OSC works in a transparent and rigorous manner to provide recognised leadership and innovation in the open conduct and dissemination of research at Cambridge University through collaborative engagement with the research community and relevant stakeholders.”

1. Working transparently

The OSC maintains an active outreach programme which fits with the transparent manner of the work that the OSC undertakes, which also includes the active documentation of workflows.

One of the ways we work transparently is to share many of our experiences and idea through this blog which receives over 2,000 visits a month. During 2016 the OSC published 41 blogs – eight blogs each on Scholarly Communication and Open Research, 14 on Open Access,  nine on Research Data Management and two on Library and training matters. The blogs we published in Open Access week were accessed 1630 times that week alone.

In addition to our websites for Scholarly Communication and Open Access, our Research Data Management website has been identified internationally as best practice and receives nearly 3,000 visitors a month.

We also run a Twitter feed for both Open Access with 1100 followers, and Open Data with close to 1200 followers. Many of the OSC staff also run their own Twitter feeds which share professional observations.

We also publish monthly newsletters, including one on scholarly communication matters. Our research data management newsletter has close to 2,000 recipients. Our shining achievement for the year however has to be the hugely successful scholarly communication Advent Calendar (which people are still accessing…)

We practise what we preach and share information about our work practices such as our reports to funders on APC spend and so on, through our repository Apollo and also by blogging about it – see Cambridge University spend on Open Access 2009-2016. We also share our presentations through Apollo and in Slideshare.

2. Disseminating research

The OSC has a strong focus on research support in all aspects of the scholarly communication ecosystem, from concept, through study design, preparation of research data management plans, decisions about publishing options and support with the dissemination of research outputs beyond the formal literature. The OSC runs an intense programme of advocacy relating to Open Access and Research Data Management, and has spoken to nearly 3,000 researchers and administrators since January 2015.

2.1 Open Access compliance

In April 2016, the HEFCE policy requiring that all research outputs intended to be claimed for the REF be made open access came into force. As a result, there has been an increased uptake of the Open Access Service with the 10,000th article submitted to the system in October. Our infographics on Repository use and Open Access demonstrate the level of engagement with our services clearly.

Currently half of the entire research output of the University is being deposited to the Open Access Service each month (see the blog: How open is Cambridge?). While this is good from a compliance perspective, it has caused some processing issues due to the manual nature of the workflows and insufficient staff numbers. At the time of writing, there is a deposit backlog of over 600 items to put into the repository and a backlog of over 2,300 items to be checked if they have been published so we can update the records.

The OA team made over 15 thousand ticket replies in 2016 – or nearly 60 per work day!

2.2 Managing theses

Work on theses continues, with the OSC driving a collaboration with Student Services to pilot the deposit of digital theses in addition to printed bound ones with a select group of departments from January 2017. The Unlocking Theses project in 2015-2016 has seen an increase in the number of historic theses in the repository from 700 to over 2,200 with half openly available. An upcoming digitisation project will add a further 1,400 theses. The upgrade of the repository and associated policies means all theses (not just PhDs) can be deposited and the OSC is in negotiation with several departments to bulk upload their MPhils and other sets of theses which are currently held in closed collections and are undiscoverable. This is an example of the work we are doing to unearth and disseminate research held all over the institution.

As a result of these activities it has become obvious that the disjointed nature of thesis management across the Library is inefficient. There is considerable effort being placed on developing workflows for managing theses centrally within the Library which the OSC will be overseeing into the future.

3. Research Support

3.1  Research Data Support

The number of data submissions received by the University repository is continuously growing, with Cambridge hosting more datasets in the institutional repository than any other UK university. Our ‘Data Sharing at Cambridge’ infographic summarises our work in this area.

A recent Primary Research Group report recognised Cambridge as having ‘particularly admirable data curation services’.

3.2 Policy development

The OSC is heavily involved in policy development in the scholarly communication space and participates in several activities external to the University. In July 2016 the UK Concordat on Open Research Data was published, with considerable input from the university sector, coordinated by the OSC.

We have representatives on the RCUK Open Access Practitioners Group, the UK Scholarly Communication License and Model Policy Steering Committee and the CASRAI Open Access Glossary Working Group, plus several other committees external to Cambridge. The OSC has contributed to discussions at the Wellcome Trust about ensuring better publisher compliance with their Open Access policy.

We are also updating and writing policies for aspects of research management across the University.

3.3 Collaborations with the research community

The OSC collaborates directly with the research community to ensure that the funding policy landscape reflects their needs and concerns. To that end we have held several town-hall meetings with researchers to discuss issues such as the mandating of CC-BY licensing, peer review and options relating to moving towards an Open Research landscape. We have also provided opportunities for researchers to meet directly with funders to discuss concerns and articulate amendments to the policies. The OSC has led discussions with the sector and arXiv.org, including visiting Cornell University, to ensure that researchers using this service to make their work openly available can be compliant under the HEFCE policy.

A new Research Data Management Project Group brings researchers and administrators together to work on specific issues relating to the retention and preservation of data and the management of sensitive data. We have also recruited over 40 Data Champions from across the University. Data Champions are researchers, PhD students or support staff who have agreed to advocate for data within their department: providing local training, briefing staff members at departmental meetings, and raising awareness of the need for data sharing and management.

The initiative began as an attempt to meet the growing need for RDM training, provide more subject-specific RDM support and begin more conversations about the benefits of RDM beyond meeting funders’ mandates. There has been a lot of interest in our Data Champions from other universities in the UK and abroad, with applications for our scheme coming from around the world. In response to this we have proposed a Bird of a Feather session at the 9th RDA plenary meeting in April to discuss similar initiatives elsewhere and creating RDM advocacy communities.  

3.3 Professional development for the research community

The OSC provides the research community with a variety of advocacy, training and workshops relating to research data management, sharing research effectively, bibliometrics and other aspects of scholarly communication. The OSC held over 80 sessions for researchers in 2016, including the extremely successful ‘Helping researchers publish’ event which we are repeating in February.

Our work with the Early Career Research (ECR) community has resulted in the development of a series of sessions about the publishing process for the PhD community. These have been enthusiastically embraced and there are negotiations with departments about making some courses compulsory. While this underlines the value of these offerings it does raise issues about staffing and how this will be financed.

The OSC is increasingly managing and hosting conferences at the University. Cambridge is participating in the Jisc Shared Repositories pilot and the OSC hosted an associated Research Data Network conference in September. In July 2016, the OSC organised a conference on research data sharing in collaboration with the Science and Engineering South Consortium, which was extremely well received and attracted over 80 attendees from all over the UK.

In November, the OpenCon Cambridge group – with which the OSC is heavily involved – held a OpenConCam satellite event which was very well attended and received very positive feedback. The storify of tweets is available, as is this blog about the event. The OSC was happy to both be a sponsor of the event and to be able to support the travel of a Cambridge researcher to attend the main OpenCon event in Washington and bring back her experiences.

Increasingly we are livestreaming our events and then making them available online as a resource for later.

3.4 Developing Library capacity for support

We have published a related post which details the training programmes run for library staff members in 2016. In total 500 people attended sessions offered in the Supporting Researchers in the 21st century programme, and we successfully ‘graduated’ the second tranche of the Research Support Ambassador Programme.

Conference session proposals on both the Supporting Researchers and the Research Ambassador programmes have been submitted to various national and international conferences. Dr Danny Kingsley and Claire Sewell have also had an abstract accepted for an article to appear in the 2017 themed issue of The New Review of Academic Librarianship.

4. Updating and integrating systems

The University repository, Apollo has been upgraded and was launched during Open Access Week. The upgrade has incorporated new services, including the ability to mint DOIs which has been enthusiastically adopted. A new Request a Copy service for users wishing to obtain access to embargoed material is being heavily used without any promotion, with around 300 requests a month flowing through. This has been particularly important given the fact that we are depositing works prior to publication, so we have to put them under an infinite embargo until we know the publication date (at which time we can set the embargo lift date). The huge number of over 2,000 items needing to be checked for  publication date means a large percentage of the contents of the repository is discoverable but closed under embargo.

In order to reduce the heavy manual workload associated with the deposit and processing of over 4,000 papers annually, the OSC is working with the Research Information Office on a systems integration programme between the University’s CRIS system – Symplectic – and Apollo, and retaining our integrated helpdesk system which uses a programme called ZenDesk. This should allow better compliance reporting for the research community, and reduce manual uploading of articles.

But this process involves a great deal more than just metadata matching and coding, and touches on the extremely ‘silo’ed nature of the support services being offered to our researchers across the institution. We are trying to work through these issues by instigating and participating in several initiatives with multiple administrative areas of the University.  The OSC is taking the lead with a ‘Getting it Together’ project to align the communication sent to researchers through the research lifecycle and across the range of administrative departments including Communication, Research Operations, Research Strategy and University Information Systems, termed the ‘Joined up Communications’ group. In addition we are heavily involved in the Coordinated and Functional Research Systems Group (CoFRS) the University Research Administration Systems Committee and the Cambridge Big Data Steering Group.

5. Pursuing a research agenda

Many staff members of the OSC originate from the research community and the team have a huge conference presence. The OSC team attended over 80 events in 2016 both within the UK and major conferences worldwide, including Open Scholarship Initiative, FORCE2016, Open Repositories, International Digital Curation Conference, Electronic Thesis & Dissertations, Special Libraries Association, RLUK2016, IFLA, CILIP and Scientific Data Conference.

Increasingly the OSC team is being asked to share their knowledge and experience. In 2016 the team gave four keynote speeches, presented 18 sessions and ran one Master Class. The team has also acted as session chair for two conferences and convened two sessions.

5.1 Research projects

The OSC is undertaking several research projects. In relation to the changing nature of scholarly communication services within libraries, we are in the process of analysing  job advertisements in the area of scholarly communication, we have also conducted a survey (to which we have received over 500 respondents) on the educational and training background of people working in the area of scholarly communication. The findings of these studies will be shared and published during 2017.

Dr Lauren Cadwallader was the first recipient of the Altmetrics Research Grant which she used to explore the types and timings of online attention that journal articles received before they were incorporated into a policy document, to see if there was some way to help research administrators make an educated guess rather than a best guess at which papers will have high impact for the next REF exercise in the UK. Her findings were widely shared internationally, and there is interest in taking this work further.

The team is currently actively pursuing several research grant proposals. Other research includes an analysis of data needs of research community undertaking in conjunction with Jisc.

5.2 Engaging with the research literature

Many members of the OSC hold several editorial board positions including two on the Data Science Journal, and one on the Journal of Librarianship and Scientific Communication. We also hold positions on the Advisory Board for PeerJ Preprints. We have a staff member who is the Associate Editor, New Review of Academic Librarianship . The OSC team also act as peer reviewers for scholarly communication papers.

The OSC is working towards developing a culture of research and publishing amongst the library community at Cambridge, and is one of the founding members of the Centre for Evidence Based Librarianship and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) Research Network.

6. Staffing

Despite the organisational layout remaining relatively stable between 2015 and 2016, this belies the perilous nature of the funding of the Office of Scholarly Communication. Of the 15 staff members, fewer than half are funded from ‘Chest’ (central University) funding. The remainder are paid from a combination of non-recurrent grants, RCUK funding and endowment funds.

The process of applying for funding, creating reports, meeting with key members of the University administration, working out budgets and, frankly, lobbying just to keep the team employed has taken a huge toll on the team. One result of the financial situation is many staff – including some crucial roles – are on short-term contracts and several positions have turned over during the year. This means that a disproportionate amount of time is spent on recruitment. The systems for recruiting staff in the University are, shall we say, reflective of the age of the institution.

In 2016 alone, as the Head of the OSC, I personally wrote five job descriptions and progressed them through the (convoluted) HR review process.  I conducted 32 interviews for OSC staff and participated in 10 interviews for staff elsewhere in the University where I have assisted with the recruitment. This  has involved the assessment of 143 applications. Because each new contract has a probation period, I have undertaken 27 probationary interviews. Given each of these activities involve one (or mostly more) other staff members, the impact of this issue in terms of staff time becomes apparent.

We also conducted some experiments with staffing last year. We have had a volunteer working with us on a research project and run a ‘hotdesk’ arrangement with colleagues from the Research Information Office, the Research Operations Office and Cambridge University Press. We also conducted a successful ‘work from home’ pilot (a first for the University Library).

7. Plans for 2017

This year will herald some significant changes for the University – with a new Librarian starting in April and a new Vice Chancellor in September. This may determine where the OSC goes into the future, but plans are already underway for a big year in 2017.

As always, the OSC is considering both a practical and a political agenda. On the ‘political’ side of the fence we are pursuing an Open Research agenda for the University. We are about to kick off of the two-year Open Research Pilot Project, which is a collaboration between the Office of Scholarly Communication and the Wellcome Trust Open Research team. The Project will look at gaining an understanding of what is needed for researchers to share and get credit for all outputs of the research process. These include non-positive results, protocols, source code, presentations and other research outputs beyond the remit of traditional publications. The Project aims to understand the barriers preventing researchers from sharing (including resource and time implications), as well as what incentivises the process.

We are also now at a stage where we need to look holistically at the way we access literature across the institution. This will be a big project incorporating many facets of the University community. It will also require substantial analysis of existing library data and the presentation of this information in an understandable graphic manner.

In terms of practical activities, our headline task is to completely integrate our open access workflows into University systems. In addition we are actively investigating how we can support our researchers with text and data mining (TDM). We are beginning to develop and roll out a ‘continuum’ of publishing options for the significant amount of grey literature produced within Cambridge. We are also expanding our range of teaching programmes – videos, online tools, and new types of workshops. On a technical level we are likely to be looking at the potential implementation of options offered by the Shared Repository Pilot, and developing solutions for managed access to data. We are also hoping to explore a data visualisation service for researchers.

Published 17 January 2017
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
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