One of the positive aspects of the first meeting of the Open Access Implementation Community last month was the mixture of research support staff and library staff discussing together how OA affects them – and the solutions to those challenges.
As someone working predominantly on the research management/support side of this equation, a large part of my job involves giving advice, guidance and practical support to academic colleagues in the business of finding and applying for (and hopefully winning) research grants. In this role I work closely with colleagues in our Grants and Contracts Team who are responsible for coordinating the costs of these research bids. Costing research grants is a complex balancing act which requires patience, meticulous attention to detail and knowledge of arcane concepts such as the distinction between directly allocated and directly incurred and FEC.
What does this have to do with open access? Well, OA publication costs (or article processing charges) are something that we don’t have lots of external funding for, so where possible we need to ensure that they are costed into the grant. As the wonderful SHERPA/JULIET service tells us, RCUK doesn’t allow this any more – funding APCs instead via a block grant. But some other funders do – notably the European Commission in Horizon 2020. So as one of the OA Pathfinder projects exploring how to approach open access in the context of a challenging funding environment, we felt it was important for the Grants and Contracts team to be briefed on the latest OA policy issues. This ensures they’re aware of who will fund what costs and the importance of including these costs in the grant from the outset as part of the full economic cost.
But there are other reasons to do this too: for a start, the team works across all four faculties (I only work directly with one) with all levels of academic and research staff, submitting approximately 500 research, consultancy and fellowship bids per year. Our pre-award coordinators (part of the G&C team) usually have at least 5 or 6 interactions with staff in the period leading up to the submission of a bid – and often many more. This involves everything from giving advice on which costs should be included to interpreting complex funder guidance.
It seems like this would be an excellent and appropriate opportunity to raise awareness of open access policies and good practice with these researchers. So the team has agreed to include OA costs as one of the standing issues to address for all research grants prior to submission. This will be on the template costing tool which the pre-award coordinators use. My hope is that this will be one among many ways that we can work smarter to raise awareness of OA in the lead up to adoption and implementation of the University’s new OA policy. In addition there will be the usual campaign events, workshops, fliers, emails and blog posts etc. But open access demands that we think about the whole life cycle of research and this is one way to raise awareness among groups of staff who we know are research active and likely to be submitting to the next REF.