How Have We Tried to Address OA Issues? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 2)

The second session focused on how we have tried to address the issues identified in the first part of the workshop. We considered whether the methods used were effective, and how we might have responded more effectively as institutions, departments and individuals to the challenges posed by OA. We also thought ahead: how might these challenges develop, and will we still be dealing with the same issues in two years’ time, or will there be new agendas and problems?

OA Pathfinder address issues

The discussion ranged over several related areas, roughly these can be grouped under the following headings:

  • Policy and procedures: since OA policies came into force our awareness raising, advocacy and training has placed increasing emphasis on compliance with policy. We discussed the fact that we’d focused on compliance with the forthcoming REF policy in particular, but there’s a danger that this creates a “REF divide” particularly in universities with a growing research culture. Additionally, in some cases this has obscured other benefits of OA such as greater visibility and – potentially – impact. While this previously formed a key part of our advocacy work, many of us found that we now focus more on how to be compliant with policy. It may be that we need to rebalance this to stress the benefits of OA other than avoidance of sanctions. However, we also identified a potential benefit linked to REF, which was in understanding how we link open access to REF impact case studies as a way of highlighting impact (not just a way of linking to the REF).
  • Systems vs behaviour: information is stored in many different systems, and is frequently not shared between them. For example, Northumbria’s repository and grants management system store information about outputs and awards separately and there is no link between the two. Often the institutional response is to put another system in place to join the dots. From an academic perspective, this proliferation of systems and information frequently becomes “noise” which is ignored. For those institutions with a CRIS, this may be mitigated to some extent and indeed this has been behind a recent drive at Northumbria to procure a CRIS. However, there is no system available which will do everything we want. We need to be cautious not to seek technical solutions without also carefully considering user behaviour.
  • Disciplinary differences: There was some discussion about whether, in our work to promote OA, we had favoured STEM disciplines, as OA is typically more embedded in STEM subjects. There is more journal publishing, and therefore an individual academic may encounter OA processes 4-6 times per year which means they are more likely to remember how the processes work, who to contact etc. Humanities and social sciences academics may only experience the OA workflow once every year or couple of years. These different needs and levels of understanding must to be taken into account.
  • Training and support: It was recognised that, by now, research support services (Library, Research Offices, Faculty/School/College research administration) generally have a good collective pool of knowledge about OA processes and procedures. However, this may be patchy and some areas may know more than others. The routes into this knowledge for academics are various: they may attend a 30 minute training session (Northumbria’s Library run sessions like these twice per year at a Researcher Development Week in November and May). We need to get better at signposting and knowing where people should go. Who knows what? It was suggested that generic “Want to know more about OA?” messages on promotional material for academics were less effective than straightforward directions and advice (e.g. first do this, then this, or FAQs). In addition, we need to make better connections between our OA/repository training and IPR, copyright and rights management. If there are no other Pathfinders working on rights management we need to flag this to Jisc.

This sets out where we are now. It also provided a starting point for the third session of the day, on what practical steps we can take to address the issues arising from this discussion.

In addition, Julie Bayley (Project Manager of the Coventry-led Pathfinder, O2OA) is taking forward a separate piece of work to create an “intervention map” based on the areas identified here and in the previous session. The idea is to turn problems into positive change statements in order to fill the communication space around OA with “good” messages.

Read the other sections of this report here:


About David Young

I'm a Research Funding & Policy Manager based in Research & Business Services at Northumbria University. I support research funding bids to a range of funders, focusing on the Faculty of Engineering and Environment. I also support a number of research policy areas across the university: open access, research data management, CRIS, research strengths, and REF impact.
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4 Responses to How Have We Tried to Address OA Issues? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 2)

  1. Pingback: OA Pathfinder Workshop Report | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

  2. Pingback: How have we responded to the challenges of Open Access? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 1) | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

  3. Pingback: How could we address OA issues in the future? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 3) | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

  4. Pingback: Open Access Pathfinder Workshop Report | Northumbria Research Support

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