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

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.

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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1 Response to Pathfinder Update 3

  1. Pingback: Open Access Good Practice at Northumbria | Northumbria Research Support

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