Brunel’s 10 year journey towards open scholarship: Measuring ‘openness’ over managing mandates

Open in Action - Brunel and Beyond - Hindawi Blog

By David Walters and Christopher Daley (Brunel University London)

Over the last decade we at Brunel University London have passed a number milestones on a journey towards open scholarship. In this context, and one year on from the implementation of HEFCE’s open access requirements, we present an overview of Brunel University London’s research outputs portfolio through emergent open access data services, revealing a scale of engagement, collaboration and duplication of effort not previously visible to our request driven service. We’ve held a prepayment account with Hindawi for over 2 years to support the publication of our academics in pure oa journals.

In this blogpost we review the effect of ten years of open access policies and mandates and consider whether a retrospective measure of ‘openness’ could now provide a better tool to promote the open dissemination of scholarly works as an embedded academic practice.

Our data is currently published on figshare and will form part of a journal submission later in the year. David Walters and Christopher Daley will be sharing some of these results at the 2017 UKSG annual conference.

Come and join us at Brunel for open access week. On 27th October from 9:30-13:00 we are hosting a conference with talks from scholarly communications experts like Cameron Neylon (Curtin U), Mike Taylor (Digital Science) and Veerle Van den Eynden (UK Data Archive), discussing current perspectives on open scholarship, open data, impact and altmetrics. Click here to access a livestream of the event on the day.

2006-2015: The growth of OA at Brunel and beyond

At the turn of the millennium the growing prevalence of paywalled, online access to scholarly literature and exploding subscription costs for University Libraries were widely seen to be stifling the dissemination process and preventing the discovery of scholarly works. Rises far and above the rate of inflation have been happening for decades, diminishing library budgets and hence the levels of access to current research. The inception of the open access movement provided research organisations and scholars an opportunity to extend global and immediate access to current research. This led to a rapid growth of subject-specific and institutional repository systems.

The Finch Report in 2012 pushed the UK towards a future of Gold OA, and this was quickly followed by such a policy from the Research Councils UK (RCUK). Since 2006 there has also been a large growth in OA policies from medical charities like the Wellcome Trust, the establishment of COAF (Charity Open Access Fund) and EU Horizon grants. Universities must now ensure that their researchers comply with these OA policies in order to continue to receive research grants. Additionally, institutions must manage the Gold OA funds set up to address the numerous Article Processing Charge (APC) payments that come along with the Gold model.

Fig1. – An analysis of open access dissemination at Brunel across an array of open data services.
AreaOA data serviceImplications
  • Lantern: a service for gathering OA compliance metrics. DOAJ serial holdings identify ‘pure’ oa journals
GreenInstitutional Repository/ CORE/ arXiv/ Europe PMC
  • Our previous CORE project work also checks publication titles. CORE is limited to PDFs and does not yet cover all repositories
  • Symplectic establishes a connection to the repository, and records metadata on filetypes from some data services, where available
PurpleSherpa RoMEO/ Sherpa REF
  • Sherpa services hold serials policies for self archiving research papers; in this case title permissions for accepted/published manuscript were assessed
  • No open access option/location available

For green open access, our data shows: an on-going, proportional increase in the dissemination of our current research via our repository; highly embedded practice in the use of external subject repositories; and collaborations with other institutional repositories.

It must be stated that the identification of institutional content hosted on external systems is by no means easy or complete. Our Current Research Information System (CRIS) presently relies on academics manually depositing outputs or specifying an open access location. Our investigations through the CORE service has brought us closer to a true understanding of our academics publishing and dissemination activities, with over half of our publications appearing to be available in other subject or institutional based repositories. However, CORE is in-part limited because deposited manuscripts that are subject to embargo may not be harvested by the service for quite some time. Even beyond this restriction CORE does not universally represent the holdings of the world’s repository content. That being said, the Sherpa Services do highlight a gulf of papers that could have been made available through a repository, and so may offer an effectual measure of improvement – at least on a retrospective basis.

Fig2. – Published outputs identifed as green open access. CORE reveals a huge scope of activity beyond our institutional systems

Gold open access publishing has increased significantly at Brunel over the last five years; just 1 in 3 gold papers identified were funded by RCUK block grants or centrally funded by the library; the growth in adoption of creative commons attribution license is also very substantial, with CC-BY now by far the license of choice for academics at Brunel.

Fig3. – Proportion of open access dissemination habits. Lantern and DOAJ show that a huge increase in Gold publishing habits has not dented many scholars from the continued usage of repositories
Fig4. – Proportion of open access licenses. Lantern and DOAJ show how CC-BY has increasingly become the license of choice for Gold published academics

2006: Brunel University Research Archive (BURA) and the growth of repositories

We deployed the Brunel University Research Archive repository system in 2006. We have seen a progressive increase of deposits on BURA, reflecting the changing practices of our scholars in disseminating current research. The CORE/Lantern services have provided greater insights into affiliated outputs available in external repository systems. Research-intensive universities are more likely to host externally funded research activities but, in addition, many funding agencies focus on one particular geographic area and/or field of study. This uneven patchwork of policies and mandates, coupled with the collaborative nature of research practice has understandably fragmented dissemination across a huge array of resources and platforms.

With the introduction of HEFCE’s Open Access policy for the next REF, repositories continue to be vital to institutions – not only as a route to the open dissemination of research outputs, but also as a means for assessing compliance with funder policies.

2008: The establishment of Gold funding at Brunel

Brunel was very quick in establishing a central fund for gold open access for academics that was managed within the library. This was just one of several initiatives designed to support the open access agenda alongside the development of research support services in the library to complement expertise in tracking scholarly communications and managing payments to publishers. The central fund is available to all academic staff irrespective of funding body affiliations. A global and uneven distribution of funder mandates has helped alter the relationship between researchers and the library, who now provide much expertise on assisting faculty with compliance.

2013: The introduction of the RCUK block grant and the growth of Gold open access

Interestingly, the uptake of Gold open access at Brunel has not been ubiquitous, despite a generous funding policy by the University. Nonetheless, since 2012 we have seen the uptake of this resource grow dramatically and this is a trend we might expect to continue.

Our data sample indicates that, as suspected, there is a much greater proportion of gold publishing for Brunel taking place outside the visibility of our institutional funding requests service. This may highlight further challenges in establishing the true costs to institutions, especially where funding takes place from research grants or collaborating institutions and funders.

Fig5. – Gold published outputs. Lantern and DOAJ show how the majority of gold funded papers over the period has been from sources outside the library and the strong adoption of pure oa journals by Brunel academics

2016 – From open access to open scholarship

The heavy involvement with OA research has changed the way researchers see the library. The extension of the support now provided is radically redefining the relationship we’ve had with our research community. Open dissemination is fundamentally about maximising discovery opportunities within the scholarly corpus. Our developing research support services in the library are really about helping academics to increase discovery opportunities for their own outputs – to increase the attention, impact and transfer of scholarly ideas as part of the research lifecycle. The role of institutional services is to guide their local communities through a cultural change as we transition toward 100% open scholarship. We argue that the value of our services are being suppressed through an unnecessary burden of administration. This should be addressed through dedicated and automated services that can provide new insights into research publishing activity at institutions.

To this end we have been full participates in developments around the JISC Monitor service. Jisc is exploring how a managed shared service might support institutions in meeting HEFCE and Funder policies. The project has constructed two main prototypes to respond to specific use cases, and a general release is expected around open access week. A key development partner in the project was Cottage Labs LLP (of the Open Article Gauge and Lantern tools).

To limit consideration of open scholarly activity to the walls of the institution denies the realities of research as a global collaborative enterprise and of open scholarship as the natural evolution of this process. The dissemination of results is shared responsibility between all authors and as reflected in our sample there is a lot of activity taking place in this area within and without the localities of institutional services. Is there now enough momentum to move away from a compliance approach? We argue that additional services are required to measure activities of ‘openness’ – which go beyond the visibility of request driven services and local systems.

The text, image and figures in this blog post were provided by David Walters and Christopher Daley and are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY).