In what is hopefully not going to become a long series I am today dealing with the joys of compliance reporting in the context of HEFCE’s Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The policy requires that conference papers and journal articles that will be submitted to the next REF – a research assessment through which funding is allocated to UK universities – have to be deposited in a repository within three months of acceptance for publication. Outputs that are published as open access (“gold OA”) are also eligible, and during the first year of the policy the deposit deadline has been extended to three months of publication. The policy comes in force on 1st April and considering the importance of the REF the UK higher education sector is now pondering the question: how compliant are we?
As far as Imperial College is concerned, I can give two answers: ‘100%’ and ‘we don’t know’.
‘100%’ is the correct answer as until 1 April all College outputs remain eligible for the next REF. While correct, the answer is not very helpful when trying to assess the risks of non-compliance and for understanding where to focus communications activities. Therefore we have recently gone through a number crunching exercise to work out how compliant we would be if the policy had been in force since May last year. In May 2015 we made a new workflow available to academics, allowing them to deposit outputs ‘on acceptance’. The same workflow allows academics to apply for article processing charges for open access, should they wish to.
You would imagine that with ten months of data we would be able to give an answer to the question for ‘trial’ compliance, but we cannot, at least not reliably. In order to assess compliance we need to know the type of output, date of acceptance (to work out if the output falls under the policy), the date of deposit and the date of publication (to calculate if the output was deposited within three months). Additionally it would help to know whether the output has been made open access through the publisher (gold/immediate open access).
Below are eight issues that prevent us from calculating compliance:
- Publisher data feeds do not provide the date of acceptance
Publishers do not usually include the date of acceptance in their data feeds, therefore we have to rely on authors manually entering the correct date on deposit. Corresponding authors would usually be alerted to acceptance, but co-authors will not always find out about acceptance, or there may be a substantial delay.
- Deposit systems do not always require date of acceptance
The issue above is made worse by not all deposit systems requiring academics to enter the date of acceptance. In Symplectic Elements, the system used by Imperial, the date is mandatory only in the ‘on acceptance’ workflow; when authors deposit an output that is already registered in the system as published there is currently no requirement to add the date – resulting in the output listed as non-compliant even if it was deposited in time. Some subject repositories do not even include fields for date of acceptance.
- Difficulties with establishing the status of conference proceedings
Policy requirements only apply to conference proceedings with an ISSN. Because of the complexities with the publishing of conference proceedings we often cannot establish whether an output falls under the policy, or at least there is a delay (and possible additional manual effort).
- Delays in receiving the date of publication
It takes a while for publication metadata to make it from publishers’ into institutional systems. During this time (weeks, sometimes months) outputs cannot be classed as compliant.
- Publisher data feeds do not always provide the date of publication
This may come as a surprise to some, but a significant amount of metadata records do not state the full date of publication. The year is usually included, but metadata records for 18% of 2015 College outputs did not specify year or month. This percentage will be much higher for other universities as the STEM journals (in which most College outputs are published) tend to have better metadata than arts, humanities and social sciences journals.
- Publisher data feeds usually do not provide the ‘first online’ date
Technically, even where a full publication date is provided the information may not be sufficient to establish compliance. To get around the problem that publishers define publication dates differently, HEFCE’s policy states that outputs have to be deposited within three months of when the output was first published online. This information is not usually included in our data feeds.
- Publisher data feeds do not usually provide licence information
Last year, Library Services at Imperial College processed some 1,000 article processing charges (APCs) for open access. We know that these outputs would meet the policy requirements. However, when the corresponding author is not based at Imperial College – last year around 55% of papers had external co-authors – we have no record on whether they requested that the output be made open access by a publisher. For full open access journals we can work this out by cross-referencing the Directory of Open Access Journals. However, for ‘hybrid’ journals (where open access is an (often expensive) option) we cannot track this as publisher metadata does not usually include licence information.
- We cannot reliably track deposits in external repositories
Considering the effort universities across the UK in particular have put into raising awareness of open access there is a chance that outputs co-authored with academics in other institutions have been deposited in their institutional repository. Sadly, we cannot reliably track this due to issues with the metadata. If all authors and repositories used the ORCID identifier it would be easier, but even then institutional repositories would have to track the ORCID iD of all authors involved in a paper, not just those based at their university. If we had DOIs for all outputs in the repositories it would be much easier to identify external deposits.
Considering the issues above, reliably establishing ‘compliance’ is at this stage a largely manual effort that would take too much staff time for an institution that annually publishes some 10,000 articles and conference proceedings – certainly while the policy is not yet in force. Even come April I would rate such an activity as perhaps not the best use of public money. Arguably, publisher metadata should include at least the (correct) date of publication and also the licence, although I cannot see a reason not to include the date of acceptance. If we had that, reporting would be much easier. If we had DOIs for all outputs (delivered close to acceptance) it would be even easier as we could track deposits in external repositories reliably.
Therefore I call on all publishers: if you want to help your authors to meet funder requirements, improve your metadata. This should be in everyone’s interest.
Colleagues at Jisc have put together a document to help publishers understand and implement these and other requirements: http://scholarlycommunications.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2015/03/26/how-publishers-might-help-universities-implement-oa/
What we can report on with confidence is the number of deposits (excluding theses) to our repository Spiral during 2015: 5,511. Please note: 2015 is the year of deposit, not necessarily year of publication.
In recent years, universities have become more interested in the data researchers produce. This is partly driven by funder mandates, in the UK in particular the EPSRC Expectations, but also by a concern about research integrity as well as an increasing awareness of the value of research data. As a result, universities are building (or procuring) data repositories and catalogues – and these require metadata.
The world is not short of metadata schemas, and yet there is no widely used standard for how research data should be catalogued (not to replace disciplinary schemes, but simply to enable universities to track their assets and others to discover potentially valuable resources). In my keynote at RDMF14 I questioned whether universities building their own data infrastructures is always the most efficient way to address research data challenges, and I suggested that as a minimum we should aim for an agreement on a simple metadata schema for research data. This would save universities the trouble of having to come up with their own metadata fields, and perhaps, more importantly, such a consensus should help us in discussions with platform vendors and other data repositories. Academics are already using a wide range of disciplinary resources as well as generic repositories, and if we want to be able to harvest, search and exchange data we need a core metadata schema. This would also reduce the burden on academics to have to re-enter metadata manually.
One of the colleagues interested in this idea was Marta Teperek from Cambridge. After RDMF we exchanged the metadata fields currently used for research data at Imperial and Cambridge, with the idea to start a wider discussion. Today Marta and myself attended the kick-off meeting of Jisc’s Research Data Shared Service Pilot where we learned that Jisc are working on a schema for metadata – and there is considerable overlap, also with other initiatives. It seems the time is ripe for a wider discussion, and perhaps even for a consensus on a what could be the minimalist core of metadata fields or research data. Minimalist, to make it easy for researchers to engage; core, to allow institutions to extend it to meet their specific requirements.
To facilitate that discussion, I am going to propose a Birds of a Feather session at next week’s International Digital Curation Conference on this topic. As a starting point I have put together a suggestion, inspired by the fields used in the data catalogues at Imperial and Cambridge:
• Author/contributor name(s)
• Author/contributor ORCID iD(s)
• Licence (e.g. CC BY)
• Identifier (ideally DOI)
• Publication date
• Institution(s) (of the authors/contributors)
• Funder(s) (ideally with grant references; can also be “none/not externally funded”)
I would be interested to hear your thoughts – in person at IDCC or another event, or in the comments below. I will update this post with feedback from IDCC.
Update, 23/03/2016: Having discussed this with colleagues at IDCC I thought it useful to clarify something. As I mentioned above there are already several metadata schemas out there, and as you will see from the fields I have proposed above this is not about introducing something new. The issue that we face is that systems either don’t include such fields or they are not mandatory. I would like to explore if we can find a consensus on what is considered the mandatory minimum for discovery and funder compliance (including reporting). For example, institutions need to know who funded an output, but a widely used schema designed for a different purpose may list funder as optional. So in that sense this is not about a new schema as such, but about agreeing what has to be implemented as mandatory in order for us to link systems, reduce duplication etc. That could result in a new schema, but doesn’t have to.
Update, 26/03/2016: Back from IDCC; we had an interesting and wide-ranging discussion. Perhaps not surprisingly, we spent most of the time agreeing on definitions and understanding the use case. Most of the participants of the session were not from the UK and therefore not familiar with UK funder requirements.UK institutions are essentially looking for a pragmatic solution that helps us track datasets, report and meet funder requirements for discoverability. Introducing the concept of discoverability may not have been helpful for the international discussion as it made the proposal sound bigger than it is. We have no plans to replace or supersede disciplinary schemas (where these exist); the aim simply is to be able to point to disciplinary or other external repositories so that someone looking at data from an institutional system can learn that there is a dataset, what it may be about and where to locate it – and, ideally, further information such as detailed disciplinary metadata.
From the discussions with this international audience I am mostly drawing two conclusions: 1) This may be, at least partly, a UK-specific issue. 2) When engaging in discussions with metadata experts there is no such thing as a pragmatic definition – speaking about funder compliance and internal track of datasets for reporting is the more useful question.
Despite claims to the contrary, open access as such is not very complicated. Either publish your scholarly output with a publisher who will immediately make it available as open access, or put a copy of the (peer-reviewed) manuscript in a repository. What makes open access complicated is the myriad of policies that regulate it.
The Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies (ROARMAP) alone lists way over 700 OA policies – just from research organisations and funders. If you add publisher policies it gets even more confusing. As a sector we often complain about the difficulties publishers create with journal embargoes. We are also criticising funders for not aligning their policies. These criticisms are valid, but we tend to gloss over that universities are not always aligning their policies either. Policies that vary across universities make it more difficult for third parties to provide solutions as they need to map onto a wide range of workflows resulting partly from different policies. Different institutional policies also make it harder to communicate open access to academics.
I have on a few occasions suggested that we should aim to align institutional policies more, and that we should also simplify them. Thankfully, I am not the only one thinking about this. Jisc, SHERPA Services and ROARMAP have jointly developed a Schema for Open Access policies. The schema should help policymakers “to express their policies in a systematic manner”, as “an initial step to ensure greater clarity and uniformity in the way information about OA policies is recorded and made available”. Imperial College was one of 30 institutions that provided information to the new initiative. You can read more about the schema, initial findings and how to engage on the Jisc blog.
My ideal would be that over time we move to a single open access policy, or at least to a core policy to which institutions can add a selection of clearly defined elements to reflect their specific needs – where this is really necessary, of course. In the UK we do already have what could be considered the core of an OA policy, the Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework. Leaving the details aside, the policy requires deposit on acceptance (for publication). Currently it only applies to scholarly articles and conference proceedings, but I would argue that that makes it ideal as a starting point as these more formalised outputs (compared to e.g. performances) are easier to deal with across institutions.
Therefore, my suggestion for a minimal universal OA policy would be:
- Publish in the journal of your choice, including full open access journals (subject to availability of funding).
- Deposit a copy of the peer reviewed manuscript of your journal article or conference proceeding into a repository on acceptance for publication.
Incidentally, that is effectively the OA policy at Imperial College. As the vast majority of College publications are articles or conference proceedings we can effectively limit the policy to these, at least for the moment. An institution with a more diverse range of outputs may decide to add monographs, videos, websites etc., and those who cover costs for hybrid open access (Imperial’s own fund does not support it) may want this included as well.
I fully understand that just two bullet points will not be enough. However, I would like to put out a challenge: look at your institution’s open access policy and think about which elements you really need, and how you could simplify it in a way that would help us moving towards a universal policy. And make sure to check out the schema!
Earlier today Imperial College London submitted its open access compliance report to RCUK. Like most UK universities, the College is in receipt of an annual open access block grant from RCUK. The funds are made available to support universities in meeting the requirements of the RCUK open access policy, in particular meeting the cost of article processing charges (APC) to make articles open access through the publisher. RCUK allocate funds in relation to research effort and Imperial College receives the second largest grant – £1,353,480 for 2014/15 (Cambridge is #1 with £1,355,073). The report, based on a template developed by Jisc, details how the money has been spent and provides headline compliance figures. It has been put together by the College Library and the Research Office, with support from ICT.
You can access the report via Spiral, the College repository.
The headline figure is an estimated 31% compliance via the gold and 38% compliance via the green route; we also provide details on APCs for 350 open access articles processed by the College Library. However, before you delve further into the spreadsheet or start comparing these figures to other universities I would like to draw your attention to some of the inherent issues with these reports and figures.
First of all you may notice that the numbers do not seem to add up. We report an APC spend of £597,029 and yet the 350 APCs add up to £679,721.08. The reason for this apparent mismatch is that the first figure is for the period from April 2014 to March 2015, as requested in the spreadsheet, whereas the APCs are reported to RCUK until August 2015.
Secondly, the number of APCs does not equal 31% of the outputs we report on. This is because some of the articles originating from RCUK funding have been paid for by other institutions, usually because the principal investigator was based there and not at Imperial College.
Most importantly though I would caution against directly comparing compliance figures between universities – unless you know exactly how they have been calculated. The biggest challenge, especially for large research intensive universities, is establishing what 100% is: how many outputs are related to RCUK funding? Currently there is no reliable way to derive funder information from article metadata, even where authors report the funders to the publisher. RCUK-funded authors are asked to report outputs to the research councils, but the reporting period does not overlap with the OA reporting period. That means even if all authors would reliable link all outputs to all relevant grants (this is a manual process) the information would not be sufficient to report on. Earlier this year Imperial College introduced a new workflow (for depositing outputs on acceptance) that encourages authors to link outputs and funding, but it will be a while until we can be reasonably confident that close enough to 100% of outputs are linked to all relevant grants.
Why do we not just manually go through all articles and speak to the authors? It is a question of scale – College academics publish between 10,000-12,000 articles and conference proceedings per year. We estimate that some 4,000 of these outputs may be linked to RCUK funding.
So how did we come to the compliance figures reported to RCUK? We analysed a sample of some 1,500 outputs we know to be linked to RCUK funding. Sadly, there is currently no reliable way to automatically establish the open access status of an output as publishers do not usually add licence information to output metadata and tracking outputs in repositories also creates problems. We do of course know how many outputs the College Library paid an APC for and also which outputs were deposited into the College repository Spiral. We do not know where other universities have paid an APC for an article, or where an author may have used departmental or other funds to pay an APC.
We were able to identify additional open access outputs by cross-referencing our data with the list from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and the Europe PubMed Central database. Even so we will have missed outputs, for example papers deposited into repositories like arXiv. We do track arXiv deposits, but there is currently no way of telling what version has been deposited. Even if we knew the version, deposits in repositories pose another problem: where an APC has been paid and the output deposited, do we report it as green or gold OA? In the case of RCUK we have decided to mark it as gold, as that is the preferred route for the UK research councils, but others may have decided differently.
I could go on much longer, but I hope the above gives you an idea of the issues that universities face when reporting on open access. Should you still want to compare university open access reports, make sure to check the data source and methods. The good news is that in the future these reports should become more meaningful, in particular when publishers and system vendors add funder, institutional and author identifiers (such as ORCID) to output metadata.
Finally, I would like to highlight two issues we raised with RCUK when submitting the report:
Many points made by the College in last year’s submission regarding policy implementation are still valid (see paragraphs 35 ff.). The College has made good progress in delivering support infrastructure (significantly reducing processing time for gold and green OA), but concerns about the wider policy landscape and publisher support for open access remain. In particular, we would like to highlight two points:
Hybrid open access remains significantly more expensive than full OA (~50% more per APC), even without taking into account “double dipping”. Processing APCs for hybrid journals continues to require more resource, i.e. in relation to licensing and invoicing. The Finch report saw hybrid as a means of transitioning from a subscription to a full OA model, but there is very little evidence of that transition taking place. The majority of OA funds are still spent on hybrid.
Differences in funder policies make it harder for academics to understand how to comply and increase the workload for support services. RCUK is encouraged to harmonise policy requirements with other funders, in particular with the Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework. We note that HEFCE have made changes to align policies with regards to gold OA and we would encourage RCUK to consider a similar step for green OA.
On Monday 28th September representatives of over 50 UK universities, ORCID, Jisc, GuildHE, RCUK and CRIS vendors met at Imperial College London for the first UK ORCID members meeting, and to launch the Jisc ORCID consortium. ORCID provides a persistent identifier that links researchers to their professional activities and outputs – throughout their career, even if they change name or employer. The unique iD ensures that authors receive credit for their work and allows institutions to automate information exchange with other organisations such as funders, thereby increasing data quality, saving academics time and institutions money.
In 2014, Imperial College London was one of the first universities in the UK to make ORCID available to researchers, working with the Jisc-ARMA-ORCID pilot. We have since actively engaged with ORCID and the community to increase uptake and improve systems integration.The UK ORCID meeting was designed to bring together different strands of these discussions, andto facilitate a broad discussion about the next steps for ORCID in the UK. Following the pilot programme, Jisc has negotiated an ORCID consortium through which universities can benefit from premium ORCID membership at significantly reduced cost. The meeting was the official launch event for the consortium.Over the last two years ORCID, a relatively new initiative, has gained a lot of momentum, not just in the UK:
- over 1.65m researchers registered globally
- ORCID iDs associated with over 4.3m DOIs
- over 300 member organisations
- 3 national consortia agreements signed (Italy, UK and Denmark) with more in progress
In 2011, Jisc had set up a “researcher identifier” task and finish group, that included funders, libraries, IT directors, research managers and organisations like HESA. This group eventually recommended ORCID as a solution for the UK. Since then, ORCID has seen increasing support from research organisations and funders. Recently, both the Wellcome Trust and NIHR have mandated the use of ORCID for grant applications. RCUK’s Overview of Systems Interoperability Project resulted in a strong endorsement for ORCID, as did HEFCE’s Report of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management.
The UK ORCID meeting was not in the first instance about funders and their mandates though, it was about a discussion between the ORCID member organisations, the Jisc consortium and the way we as a community want to move forward. Specifically, the meeting had four aims:
- to raise awareness and understanding of ORCID and the Jisc consortium offer and benefits
- to bring together the UK ORCID community and establish how we want to work together
- to discuss community expectations for system and platform providers, funders and publishers
- to inform the Jisc technical and community support offering
The aim of the morning session was to raise awareness and create a shared understanding of ORCID. It started with presentations from ORCID and Jisc, followed by four university case studies from the pilot programme (Kent, Imperial, Oxford and York) and a Q&A panel. After lunch we discussed community requirements, and ways to work together to achieve these. Four thematic areas were discussed in breakout groups, organised through a community document where participants and others who could not attend in person, had listed their issues and expectations in advance of the meeting. This approach helped focus the discussions and led to a broad agreement on key issues.
Below is my summary of the key community requirements:
CRIS and repository platforms:
- actively prompt users to link their ORCID iD
- facilitate iD creation by pre-populating ORCID profiles with institutional affiliation and other relevant information
- harvest metadata for outputs associated with an iD from other systems
- allow users to push output metadata into the ORCID registry
- collect ORCID iDs for all authors, not just the corresponding author
- make iDs of all authors available with output metadata
- mint DOIs on acceptance and link to authors’ iDs
- make the author accepted manuscript available on acceptance, with an ID
- fully integrate ORCID into their workflows and systems
- move towards mandating ORCID
This is only a high-level summary of a much richer discussion. Some of the detail that I have conveniently skipped over will no doubt lead to further discussions later, but I found it remarkable how broad the consensus was – across more than 50 universities with very different approaches, requirements and cultures. There is still a lot of work to be done until we can reap all of the benefits that ORCID can enable, but the members meeting showed that universities are keen to work together with Jisc and ORCID to make progress.
Universities across the UK are now actively considering how to roll out ORCID, and there was much interest in lessons learned and emerging best practice. A UK ORCID mailing list is currently being set up and Jisc and ORCID are looking into ways to capture and share information through the new consortium. Jisc are currently hiring for staff to support the consortium and help members to implement ORCID. I am looking forward to follow-on discussions with Jisc, ORCID and the community about the next steps.
Presentations (in order of appearance):
- ORCID: What, Who, Why, How? (Alice Meadows, ORCID)
- ORCID: where are we, and how did we get here? (Neil Jacobs, Jisc)
- ORCID at Kent (Simon Kerridge, Kent)
- Imperial College ORCID project (Torsten Reimer, Imperial College London)
- ORCIDs at Oxford (Sally Rumsey, Bodleian Libraries)
- ORCID iD implementation. Experiences at the University of York (Janette Colclough)