On Wednesday, I got an email from my dissertation supervisor about a potentially-useful meeting based on research and what UWE’s Open Access policies are. This sounded interesting, so I went to investigate, and it actually did give me a lot of information about how researchers understand Open Access.
The meeting opened with a talk from one of the staff responsible for running UWE’s research repository. This talk focused on what the new research guidelines are around Open Access research, and what researchers need to do to comply with those rules.
Listening to the talk, and to questions from the other researchers, the general attitude seemed to be tentative familiarity with Open Access, but mostly as another hoop to jump through for researchers. While the presenter mentioned the “moral argument” often used in talking about OA – that the public already pays for a lot of research to be carried out, so it’s unfair for them to pay again to get the results of that research- he concentrated on the researcher benefits of OA, such as increased citations and readership. Mostly, the talk took the route of “you have to do it now, so here’s how”.
Gold OA was mentioned, but the subject was mostly Green OA, which was explained and described as a compromise in many ways. Some of the researchers’ questions seemed to see the Green OA version as a second class resource- such as a researcher asking if it’s worth fixing small mistakes such as a missing reference in the Green OA version when they could just wait for it to be up on the “proper” website- whether that’s influenced by the way Green OA is commonly described is up for debate.
The next section was on the specifics of uploading papers to UWE’s repository. The golden rule for researchers to remember was described as “as soon as the paper is accepted for publication, place your copy in the UWE repository”. In academic-land, as soon as possible means within 3 months, and the presenter was forthright in saying that the 3-month timeframe was to encourage researchers to do OA properly, as a priority, rather than considering it to be an administrative afterthought. I’m not sure yet how much that idea will be adopted.
One potential sticking point with the OA process is the exact version of a paper which is needed;
- Researchers can’t submit before the paper is accepted to a journal, as then they risk submitting a paper that may never be published.
- Researchers also can’t submit the proof paper from before peer-review, as any changes introduced from the peer-review process would mean the two versions no longer have the same content.
- While the content needs to be the final version, researchers also can’t use the article submitted to the publisher: that version will contain the publisher’s copyediting and formatting so will be under their copyright restrictions.
Also, corrections can be manually added by the research later, but this is a fiddly process that doesn’t yet have a simple solution. Before even reaching the point of submitting the OA paper, choosing a journal can also add complications;
- Some journal publishers have deals with specific universities, allowing researchers to submit Gold OA papers without paying fees. However, this knowledge is not widely shared, which could affect researchers’ choice of journal.
- Some journals are now reacting to the rise in OA papers by forcing longer embargoes on publishing papers anywhere else. This means some journals are not compatible with the HEFCE requirements, which can lead to researchers accidentally making their papers incompatible without knowing they’ve done so.
- There isn’t an easy way to check which journals are compatible with the HEFCE requirements. JISC have developed a tool called SHERPA RoMEO which lists the embargo period for many journals, but that doesn’t include every journal. Also, RoMEO belongs mainly to library staff, not to researchers. (However, a researcher-centric tool called SHERPA ref is in development).
Overall, the presenter seemed to be putting across two main messages. Firstly, researchers need to know about OA given that it is now necessary. Secondly, the UWE repository is a meaningful and popular service that should ideally be used to store all research outputs. I think people are much more likely to see OA from the first perspective at the moment; the idea of someone outside of an academic audience actually accessing research seemed to be unlikely enough not to bring up in the discussion.
Ultimately, I’m glad I attended the talk, despite feeling rather out of place as the only person there who wasn’t a career academic.
This was firstly because I learned a lot about the repository itself. I didn’t know there were dedicated research repository staff- honestly, I’d never thought much about what kind of work goes into running the repository and making sure everything is functional and accessible. Repository staff do almost all of the admin work, such as managing updates to an output’s details and metadata, managing whether outputs are freely visible or under publisher embargo, where only metadata is visible.
Mostly, it allowed me to understand things more from a researchers-eye-view, such as how many minutiae and often-redundant levels of complexity are involved in the process of submitting, maintaining and managing the research that they do. I also got to find out how supportive they were of the idea of OA- hearing their questions meant understanding more about why people could be unsupportive of the idea, which I hadn’t understood very well before.