Lessons Learned: Poster and Leaflet

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Following the end of the Pathfinder project last year, we’ve been working with our marketing team to summarise the lessons learned and good practice developed during the project into a shareable leaflet and poster. You can now download the finished products … Continue reading


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Optimising Resources to Develop a Strategic Approach to Open Access – final report

The final report for our Jisc OA Pathfinder project is now available to download from Northumbria Research Link: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/27834/

As well as summarising our activities during the project, the report presents our project outputs and outcomes, impact and recommendations.


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RCUK Open Access Compliance

Northumbria University reported 83% compliance with the RCUK policy on Open Access for the year 2014-2015. The University Library compiles a report, using the Jisc APC template, showing all relevant publications resulting from RCUK funded projects. We show itemised expenditure on article processing charges from the RCUK block grant and our institutional Open Access fund, and details of articles where Open Access was achieved through deposit of the accepted manuscript to Northumbria Research Link. This report is now available on Figshare: https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.2067909.v1

In addition to the article-level compliance data held in the Jisc spreadsheet, we also provide RCUK with a report detailing the University’s commitment to Open Access. This includes many aspects of our approach to Open Access that underpin our Pathfinder project, including the provision of an institutional fund for article processing charges to make up the shortfall in our RCUK block grant and to support our research strategy. The report is available in Northumbria Research Link: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/25712/

For comparison to the last reporting period, our report for 2013-2014 is also available on NRL: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/25714/

The following table (Table 2 Northumbria RCUK block grant 1st August 2014 – 31st July 2015, from the 2015 report to RCUK) summarises our expenditure on Open Access from the RCUK block grant from 2013-2015:


We reported a negative balance, which was predicted in the cost modelling used to support our bid for an institutional OA fund. The project team are currently drafting more detailed analysis of our compliance and expenditure, which will be either written up or linked to in future posts on this blog. In the meantime, any questions can be directly to me – ellen.s.cole@northumbria.ac.uk

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Pathfinder Update 4


Once They Unlocked so Many Doors by Viewminder CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Since our last update in September, we have been busy:

Next Steps: We are planning two workshops on “Turning OA Challenges into Opportunities” targeting other UK HEIs which have received limited RCUK OA block grant funding. We are currently aiming to deliver these in March 2016. Further information and an agenda will follow soon.

We are also preparing a paper for ARMA’s Vistas journal about our own institutional journey from 0% to 83% compliance with RCUK’s OA policy in one year.

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OA Good Practice: What We’ve Learned So Far…

path path path by Barbara Agnew CC BY-NC 2.0

path path path by Barbara Agnew CC BY-NC

Over 2015, our Pathfinder worked with a group of four diverse HEIs (Hull, Lincoln, Durham and Teesside) to develop case studies on open access in different institutional contexts. These give an overview of different approaches to dealing creatively with the problems posed by OA policies.

It should come as no surprise that all institutions, no matter how large or small in research terms, face issues in implementing OA policy and approaches or strategies which work in one context may not always work in another.

Nevertheless, it is useful to reflect on what we have learned so far. This post pulls together some of the good practice identified in the case studies and summarises the challenges still to be addressed. In the New Year, we plan to expand this ‘good practice identification’ work through a series of workshops targeted specifically at institutions which have received low RCUK block grants for OA, but which have ambitious research aspirations.

Cost management

Institutional approaches to cost management are often dependent on the extent of external funding available for this, which in turn is linked to (historical) research activity primarily through the RCUK block grant. The four institutions we worked with had received block grants of varying sizes and this was reflected in the different approaches to managing and paying for APCs:

Durham: £371,326

Hull: £26,333

Lincoln: £14,913

Teesside: N/A

Good practice: Both Durham and Lincoln offer APC funds on a “first-come, first-served”. In both cases the full block grant was not spent in 2014/15, although in Lincoln’s case the full grant was spent quickly in early 2015/16 after awareness raising. Where institutions have higher block grants, then it makes sense to put more robust processes and procedures, and potentially staffing, in place to deal with higher levels of request, but for those lower down the scale, a simple first-come, first-served institutional-level process may be more efficient and effective. Hull, meanwhile, emphasised the importance of devolving decision-making to faculties to ensure academic selection is the basis of any funding decisions. Teesside received no block grant in 2015/16 so APCs are managed at departmental level.

Challenges: In terms of challenges, one of the main ones for Durham has been monitoring compliance with RCUK policy as it is difficult to accurately identify RCUK funded publications involving Durham authors – both things independently can be identified, but linking the two is much more challenging. Other issues include cases where APCs were paid but the publisher failed to make the article OA in a compliant format.

Structure and Workflows

In all cases, the Library is primarily responsible for the operational aspects of OA though often in close collaboraiton with the Research Support Office. As many institutions prioritise Green OA over Gold, the institutional repository workflow is often central to this, and here there may be differences with some institutions opting for “fully mediated” deposit and others mandating “self deposit”. In reality, even for those who choose the latter route, Library staff are often involved in mediation of deposit to some extent, for example checking compliance with publisher and funder policies.

Good practice: Durham have opted for a ‘partly mediated’ approach to deposit: staff make a request via the online staff profile system by filling in basic details about the publication (title, authors, publication, RCUK grant reference etc). This not only updates the staff member’s profile but also automatically sends an email to the repository team which notifies them whether an APC is required and enables them to edit or approve metadata for entry in the repository. This replaces a previous two-step system and is seen as a more efficient way to prepare for REF while at the same time ensuring publications are open access. Hull and Lincoln’s case studies both focused on the importance of clear lines of responsibility for OA with a single point of contact as the focus for staff. Teesside offers fully mediated deposit for researchers, which has saved time in going back and correcting incorrect metadata, for example.

Challenges: Most of the challenges in this area were around staffing levels to cope with increased demand expected from the introduction of the HEFCE REF OA policy. There are also concerns about system interoperability, particularly with introduction of new CRIS systems.

Institutional Policy and Strategy

There was some variation in lengths of time institutions had policies in place. Durham’s policy has been in place for several years and it has been updated as new funder policy requirements have come to light. Teesside, meanwhile, has only recently (June 2015) adopted their policy, but a high profile announcement from the VC also saw deposits in the repository shoot up that month.

Good practice: Policies are important, but equally if not more important to ensure engagement is senior academic staff who are willing to act as OA ‘champions’. Both Lincoln and Hull testified to the importance of senior academic staff and management being aligned with and supportive of OA. Durham’s approach is to ensure that policies and workflows relating to OA APC funding in particular are approved by University Research Committee, which includes an OA and Research Data Subcommittee with representation from Research Office, the Library, Finance, Legal services, academics and IT. The significance of cross-university representation on OA committees cannot be overstated. This is something echoed at Teesside, which has set up a user forum for the repository and wider open access issues. Participants in this forum include institute directors, administrators, library and graduate school.

Challenges: Durham is concerned about HEFCE policy dominating OA discussions, especially as we move towards April 2016. Other HEIs expressed similar concerns and also questioned whether policies alone would effect a behaviour change around OA.


Embedding knowledge about OA systems and processes is a big challenge for HEIs, not least when the external policy environment is constantly shifting. Nevertheless all HEIs surveyed as part of our case studies had undertaken some form of advocacy programme, albeit some were more embedded than others. Disciplinary differences between engagement were also noted, and sometimes this was to do with typical publishing processes in some areas: for example, Durham noted that humanities and social sciences researchers tend to be less willing to deposit accepted manuscripts in the repository, as in these areas papers can be subject to editing much later in the publication process than in STEM fields.

Good practice: Advocacy at research group or department level was seen as a more effective approach than Faculty/College or institutional level. While Durham had found an approach focusing on policy compliance to be more effective than a moral argument, Hull cautioned that we should not lose sight of the positive benefits of OA: don’t focus entirely on the sticks, otherwise you risk creating disengagement. Durham runs an OA module on a ‘Leading Research’ course annually which consists of 10-20 minutes of presentation and 40 minutes of Q&A. This balance has been more effective and productive.

Challenges: Teesside were concerned that there are not enough opportunities to engage with staff around the OA question and that this can lead to the spread of misunderstandings. Lincoln indicated that, despite all of their efforts to get the message out, there is still persistent confusion about the correct version to upload.


The proliferation of systems around research management generally, and OA in particular creates huge headaches for academics, research managers and librarians tasked with inputting or extracting data from them. In some cases, bespoke systems are being developed internally to try to link together data from different systems, while in many other institutions are procuring commercial CRIS solutions.

Good practice: The principle for academic users should be inputting information once which can then be reused. Durham have achieved this to some extent with their staff profile system which also notifies the Library repository team. Hull are transitioning towards a self-deposit system which places emphasis on authors to take responsibility for engaging with HEFCE policy. Lincoln have developed their own “Research Dashboard” system, based on WordPress which is primarily designed to link and track disparate sources of data, effectively an in-house mini-CRIS. Teesside meanwhile have found that implementation of an Altmetrics plugin has been successful, giving a visual appraisal of article-level impact.

Challenges: Primarily, these are related to interoperability between systems, with Durham citing RCUK’s adoption of Researchfish as particularly problematic.

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Open Access and the Research Excellence Framework Workshop

Open Access and the Research Excellence Framework Workshop

University of Southampton

10th September 2015


This workshop was organised by the End-to-End Pathfinder Project team, and was hosted by University of Southampton, and was very well attended. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the implementation of the recently revised open access policy for the next Research Excellence Framework exercise, and to find out more about the development of some of the technical solutions.

The day began with a brief update on the Pathfinder projects by Sarah Fahmy, followed by an overview of the End-to-End project by Valerie McCutcheon of Glasgow University. The End-to-End project is looking at how to improve metadata management, and it was great to have Valerie demonstrate Glasgow’s repository workflows. I was particularly interested in the additional tabs they’ve installed: specifically, ‘Funding’, ‘OA’, and ‘RCUK’. I can see how these might really streamline the process of information acquisition, and could seriously assist in answering the inevitable, ‘do I qualify for the REF?’ questions we’re going to be fielding very soon. There was also time during this session for the attendees to deploy inevitable post-it notes; in this instance, a chance for us to note the issues we saw in implementing OA requirements, as well as how we might solve these problems (that column was a lot less full!). The End-to-End team will collate this information, and I’ll update this post with the results when I get them.

Perhaps the most enlightening session of the day came from Ben Johnson of HEFCE. His ‘Key points in implementing the Research Excellence Framework Open Access Requirements’, was both timely and reassuring. The most important message for repository managers to take from Ben’s presentation was that, ‘We are not going to change our policy again before the next REF’.

He presented a number of extremely quotable remarks that I’ll be stealing for advocacy purposes, my favourite being: ‘How open [research] is, [is now] linked with how good it is’, and he also reiterated the point that HEIs may receive ‘bonus points’ for making outputs beyond the scope of requirements open access. The tone of his presentation was certainly based around the concept of moving beyond compliance with requirements toward the benefits to research – something I applaud.

He recommended that we ‘keep the message simple’ regarding advocacy, particularly with regard to depositing the correct version of accepted manuscripts; he suggested the following: ‘look at your sent box, and give me the postprint’(!).

Cameron Neylon then spoke about working with publishers to meet the requirements of the next REF. Having previously worked with PLOS, and currently Professor of Research Communications at Curtin University, Australia, Prof Neylon began his presentation by declaring, ‘most publishers are keen to help’. He went on to say that some of the barriers to open access are due to the dominance of third-party submissions used by publishers, and that often publishers don’t own the metadata demanded by repository managers. It’s always good to hear the opinions of all parties (and it’s easy to demonise parties that ostensibly hinder what we want!), and we were reminded that there is a huge range of publishers with a wide variety of aims and expertise. Prof Neylon stressed that publishers want global solutions to the issues surrounding Open Access, since there are larger markets than the UK out there – something we need to remember I think.

Azhar Hussain’s session, ‘Publisher policies, Funder policies and the REF – SHERPA Services’, presented an overview of what we can expect from the upcoming SHERPA REF service. He began by suggesting the formerly private relationship between author and publisher has changed to a very public one, and that the new service – due for beta launch in November 2015 – will help authors comply with the various open access policies. The service is aimed at authors but will prove useful for repository managers, and the interface looks very promising with a tool that allows feedback from every page.

Azhar really stressed the importance of the content of author contracts, and said that ‘Contract Law trumps Copyright Law’ – again, this is something I might fall back on when selling the repository here at Sunderland.

In the final session of the morning, Steve Byford (JISC) spoke about the JISC Publications Router. This service, ‘automates the delivery of research publications from multiple data suppliers (such as publishers and subject repositories) to multiple repositories (such as institutional repositories)’. This tool certainly has the potential to help reduce effort on the part of repository staff. Steve also reiterated the message of the previous speaker: that acceptance has become a public rather than private event, and he raised questions about what ‘acceptance’ actually means.

The afternoon session began with a demonstration of the EPrints REF Plugin. This was a parallel session that ran alongside a discussion of other considerations in implementing REF OA requirements. EPrints has collaborated with HEFCE to create a ‘REF support package’ that is not so much a rewrite of the REF2014 Plugin, but rather a set of additional tools designed to help with implementing the requirements of the next REF.

By inputting a series of additional metadata, this tool will give repository managers confirmation of a given output’s eligibility for the next REF. The system is as self-explanatory as existing EPrints systems, and will take into account HEFCE exceptions, so should be extremely helpful both in terms of workflow, and advocacy. I very much liked the ‘Not OA Compliant’ warning that displays when certain criteria are not met – very explicit!

A number of additional plugins will be required before installing this, and it’s not yet at the Beta stage, but I was certainly interested in its possibilities, and, given the input from HEFCE, I think it’s going to be pretty much essential going forward.

The day concluded with a brief overview of the CORE (COnnecting REpositories) OA aggregation tool by Nancy Pontica. Nancy demonstrated the CORE Dashboard and reported that CORE now harvests ‘99% of new institutional repositories’.

This workshop was extremely successful – one of the most useful events I’ve attended under the open access umbrella. It was a bit of a confidence boost to see both the variety of tools available (or soon to be available) to help with implementation and advocacy of OA requirements for REF2020, and the very sensible attitude to compliance HEFCE is taking. Very enjoyable!

More information: http://padlet.com/klw/oa_ref_workshop

Barry Hall, University of Sunderland

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Pathfinder Update 3

mapreading by wockerjabby CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

mapreading by wockerjabby CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Since the last update in March, we’ve had a significant policy announcement from HEFCE on Open Access in the next REF, as well as RCUK’s response to the Burgess review of Open Access implementation. HEFCE’s announcement in particular has shifted the goalposts for OA compliance in the next REF, by deferring the deposit upon acceptance requirement by a year to 1st April 2017. Response from the sector has been mixed, with some welcoming the chance to further embed OA systems and processes, while others bemoan confusing and mixed messages.

RCUK’s response to the Burgess review was less controversial, confirming that they accept and will implement all recommendations, including the formation of a Practitioner Group, making ORCID a requirement, and a review of the algorithm to apportion OA block grant. More recently, RCUK have also set out their arrangements for monitoring of the 2014/15 OA block grant, the deadline for which is 30th October which suggests a busy autumn ahead for research and library staff! Northumbria’s implementation of ORCID has advanced considerably over the past year, and our work on the Jisc-ARMA funded ORCID pilot project has allowed the University to embed ORCID sign up into the postgraduate research student workflow on project approval and at annual progression.

Our Pathfinder has continued to be active over Spring and Summer 2015. Both Northumbria and Sunderland have been further developing their own internal processes, procedures and awareness raising work, but we have also made significant progress in three areas of our workplan. In summary:

  1. Case studies: we have published case studies of good practice and challenges at three UK HEIs
  2. Cost modelling: we have developed and released an early version of our OA cost modelling tool
  3. Decision making: we have developed and released an early version of an OA decision-making tool for academic staff

We’ve also been continuing to engage with the wider Pathfinder programme to disseminate our work (at the June ARMA conference and an upcoming Jisc-ARMA webinar) and developing ideas for a touring OA workshop which we’re planning on rolling out over the autumn this year.

Case studies

Back to Work by Paul Stainthorp CC BY-SA 2.0

Back to Work by Paul Stainthorp CC BY-SA 2.0

Since the start of the project last year our aim has been to “enable HEIs with limited external funding to develop evidence-based, creative responses to the challenges and opportunities of OA.” Our project has always felt an important part of this is sharing good practice and challenges faced by different types of institutions (large and small, research intensive and teaching-led). One key way in which we strive to achieve this aim is to publish a series of case studies which give a reasonably complete at-a-glance picture of the various approaches to OA which are being pursued by UK HEIs. We chose to structure these around five key areas of OA implementation:

1) Costs
2) Structure and Workflows
3) Institutional Policy and Strategy
4) Advocacy, training and awareness
5) Metadata and Systems

In March and April members of our Pathfinder travelled to three different HEIs to hold semi-structured, multi-disciplinary focus group discussions. We have published the results as three case studies over the summer. Here are the links and main lessons learned in each:

  • HullThe focus at Hull in 2015 is on compliance with HEFCE’s OA policy. There are clear challenges in terms of both staff engagement and understanding around OA. This area is complex and there is unlikely to be a single solution which will work across the University – something which was recognised by all participants. The University is seeking to address these challenges by adopting a new policy and re-structuring to form a team of Library staff whose roles will include OA management. Working together across services is a strength which will need to be developed if the various challenges are to be addressed effectively.
  • DurhamDurham University has strong research communities, central to which is the idea of academic choice. As a result, open access funds are available on a first-come-firstserved basis, open journal publication platforms are not hosted centrally (though there is demand) and there is little intervention in the process of publication. This could become problematic where compliance with HEFCE is concerned, particularly with the scale of Durham’s research operation making checking after publication difficult. However, the research support infrastructure seems flexible and responsive to the environment, seen in the development of a new CRIS, repository and changes to processes relating to OA.
  • LincolnLincoln has found that early adoption of an OA policy and mandate, as well as buy-in at senior level has helped “on the ground” advocacy efforts around open access. An approach has been taken to target interventions at research group level, and while there are differences in levels of engagement, this is generally seen to be effective. Misunderstanding around versions is still an issue. More time-intensive one-to-one support and website trawling has worked in the short-term to address this, but there’s a recognition that this is not a sustainable strategy for repository and OA support. Some of the key challenges are around systems and linking information on awards and outputs. An in-house CRIS-like tool is being developed to address this, and this has benefits in terms of customisability and control, but there are clearly also risks and drawbacks if this does not provide the results the University is looking for.

Anecdotal feedback from participants suggests that most found the process a useful one, enabling them to reflect on their own systems, structures, processes and procedures, and in some cases just to get a chance to sit down in a room and focus on OA for an afternoon.

We had originally planned to undertake four case studies but this proved difficult to schedule given limited staff availability at the target institutions. We are still aiming to publish an additional case study before the end of the year, and we’d like to revisit all four next year before the project is over to see how the challenges identified were addressed. As with all of our outputs, we welcome feedback, comments and questions either here on the blog or on Twitter (@davidyoungres, @ellencole, @barryhall01).

Cost modelling tool

Business chart by S Falkow CC BY NC 2.0

Business chart by S Falkow CC BY NC 2.0

Our sub-group, led by Senior Planning Analyst, Mark Harland, has made excellent progress on designing and developing a cost-modelling tool for OA. The resulting Excel-based tool is intended to be used to help establish an internal business case to set up an APC fund for Open Access publishing. It allows you to model different cost projections based on variables such as FTE, number of articles, REF submission targets, and % Green vs Gold OA.

We anticipate that this will be most useful to institutions which have received a lower/no block grant from RCUK, but there may be other use cases that we have not yet considered.

This is an interim version of the tool and it is still under development. Our Pathfinder would welcome any comments or questions about this tool in order to improve and widen usability. Please either comment on this blog post or email Mark Harland if you have any comments or suggestions.

Decision-Making Tool

SignpostNorthumbria’s OA webpages present a great opportunity to design and test the Pathfinder project’s OA decision-making tool which guides researchers through the University’s OA policy and any relevant funder policies.

The tool is built on the widely used Libsurveys platform, enabling the researcher to answer questions about their research to find out what options are available to them and how to get further information. Libsurveys was chosen deliberately to show how an existing tool could be used to support OA at limited additional cost. See Ellen’s blog post for more details.

Use of the tool can be monitored as it automatically sends an email to the central OA account whenever someone completes the questions. Our Pathfinder intends to monitor this and update it as we discover any issues or problems. We’d also really appreciate any feedback about the tool from outside the University either through comments on this post or by contacting us at openaccess@northumbria.ac.uk.

What’s Next?

  • We’re planning a series of touring workshops around UK HEIs which have lower RCUK OA block grants and which are not currently part of the OA Pathfinder community. This will take place in the autumn and will feed into our “good practice” workpackage.
  • To feed into these workshops we’re planning to audit point of acceptance data in both Northumbria and Sunderland repositories.
  • We aim to complete a further case study by the end of 2015 and to revisit all of our case studies in 2016 to see how they have progressed in the run up to HEFCE’s OA policy implementation.
  • We’ll also be publishing a blog post on our first impressions of using the RIOXX plugin for Eprints.
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Open Access decision tool

At Northumbria we launched web pages to support our policy on Open Access, which requires all staff to deposit the accepted manuscript of their journal articles in Northumbria Research Link (NRL), our repository, while also making funds available for the payment of article processing charges. The pages are hosted by the library, as both NRL and the institutional OA fund are managed and administered by its Scholarly Publications Team. The pages aim to provide practical support for our researchers, including giving information about our policy, how to meet funders’ requirements for OA and eligibility for accessing the fund.

A key part of these web pages is a decision making tool. This was created by the library’s Resource Discovery and Access team using the Libsurveys platform, enabling the researcher to answer questions about their research to find out what options are available to them and how to get further information, including links to SHERPA Services wherever relevant. This self-service approach means most basic enquiries are quickly answered at the point of need by the user, at any time.

In some cases where the tool cannot fully resolve an enquiry, it recommends that the user contacts the Scholarly Publications team. This is seen below, where the researcher indicates that their research received external funding but they do not know the policy of the funder toward OA. With most basic enquiries already covered by the decision making tool and the FAQs on the Open Access webpages, the team are able to dedicate more time to these more complex enquiries.

Open Access decision tool

Open Access decision tool

The first version of the tool is available now. We’d really appreciate any feedback about the tool, or our OA pages more broadly, either through comments on this post or by contacting us at openaccess@northumbria.ac.uk.

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OA Pathfinder Case Study: Lincoln

The University of Lincoln is the third case study report from our Pathfinder project. As mentioned in our previous post, as part of our Jisc-funded Pathfinder we have travelled to HEIs around the country to hold Open Access focus groups, aiming to find out about good practice across five key areas of OA implementation:

1) Costs
2) Structure and Workflows
3) Institutional Policy and Strategy
4) Advocacy, training and awareness
5) Metadata and Systems

You can read the case study below, or download it. Please get in touch with any questions or comments, either below this post, by Twitter (@davidyoungres) or email (david.g.young@northumbria.ac.uk).

Links to other case studies: Durham, Hull, Teesside

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OA Pathfinder Case Study: Durham University

This is the second case study report of our pathfinder project. As mentioned in a previous post, as part of our pathfinder we have travelled to HEIs around the country to hold Open Access focus groups, aiming to find out about good practice across five key areas of OA implementation:

1) Costs
2) Structure and Workflows
3) Institutional Policy and Strategy
4) Advocacy, training and awareness
5) Systems and compliance

You can read the report from Durham University below, or download it. Please get in touch with any questions or comments, either below this post, by Twitter (@ellencole) or email (ellen.s.cole@northumbria.ac.uk).

Links to other case studies: Hull, Lincoln, Teesside

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