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:

Barry Hall, University of Sunderland


About Barry

Immodest, rarely right.
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