Project Close and Wrap-up

The JISC funded Research Communications Strategy (RCS) project has now come to a close and we are wrapping up. The final outputs of the project are available here.

These outputs include consultancy reports on the following topics:
• Chemists and Economists knowledge, beliefs and behaviours surrounding OA (Data Analysis of survey results)
• Further Exploration of the Views of Chemists and Economists
• Social Networking Sites and their role in Scholarly Communication
• Open Science (including filmed interview clips with advocates and practitioners available on our YouTube Channel)

Watch our video below to hear a few word from us on the project.





Please feel free to use the resources we have created to your benefit.
We would also appreciate any feedback you would be willing to provide.

ARMA Conference

I spent the first few days of this week in Glasgow attending the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) UK conference. I presented a poster on some of the findings from our Chemists and Economists survey, and had a delightful time speaking with many Research Administrators and Managers, all who seemed quite educated about Open Access and also more interested in the topic than I expected.

I attended a variety of sessions and learned quite a bit about research management and administration, gaining a new insight into this profession. Below are a few notes onwhat I saw as the highlights.

The opening Plenary had two speakers, Professor Anton Muscatelli, the Principal from the University of Glasgow, and Ehsan Masood, the Editor of Research Fortnight and Research Europe. Both speakers gave engaging talks, and both, of course, identified that we are in challenging times when it comes to research funding.  Professor Muscatelli identified a number of things that institutions could focus on in order to meet these challenges. These were: 1) recognise the value of research (knowledge transfer, identifying and quantifying impact, etc.), 2) disseminate research imaginatively (changing approaches to IP), and 3) manage research efficiently and effectively. Mr. Masood discussed some of the other ongoing issues: funding cuts, concerns about using metrics, and using research assessment to allocate funding (which he noted encourages game-play and concentration).

I attended a session on the REF Assessment Framework, presented by Chris Taylor, Deputy REF Manager. Although a lot of the details about the REF will not be released until later in the summer, this session did give me a good idea of what will be expected in the REF process. The conference delegates had many questions of course, and the thing that I found particularly interesting (which I hadn’t realised before) was that for the next REF, the “impact” will be measured for the unit as a whole and not linked to submitting staff (this, I think is the attempt to get away from Impact Factor measurements, which is good!).

I also attended an interesting session on choosing a Research Management system – with Jonathan Cant discussing Hull’s experience using AVEDAS- CONVERIS and Jill Golightly describing Newcastle’s experience with a built in-house system. Ellie James, from Keele, did a session describing her experiences as a Research Planning and Project Manager (responsible for Keele’s REF submission) setting up a repository. It was interesting to see repositories from a different perspective – and it reminded me how important it is that institutions have set goals and objectives when setting up repositories.

It was a really interesting conference – and most importantly I learned that researcher managers and administrators definitely know how to have a good time! 🙂

JISC Collections event – hybrid pricing

Last week (25th May 2011),  JISC Collections held an interesting workshop in London for various stakeholders in the area of Hybrid OA journals – publishers, funders, librarians – which looked at some of the issues in their pricing, sustainability and growth.

One of the observations from publishers was that there is now a general acceptance in the publishing community that Open Access was here to stay and that, as publishers, they had to accommodate OA approaches within their business models. This is now being more widely reflected and does represent a change over the last few years and is a positive move.

One major question was whether Hybrid OA journals – subscription journals that charge additional fees for OA articles – were a transition model or an option which would remain as a part of a future publishing landscape and used against a larger subscription base.

Discussion touched on, but did not explore, the idea of what transition actually means. Transition to what? One view, perhaps the most common in the community, is that hybrid journals are a transition between Journal X being subscription-only, moving to funding from a mix of OA fees and subscriptions, before emerging as a completely OA journal. This was the model that was discussed when hybrid publication was first mooted and introduced.

Since then, developments in other models of research communication have introduced another transition possibility. This second and more radical view is that these could be transition models in allowing Journal X to remain operational as a half-way house in the medium term – but that the future state might be an OA future without Journal X at all. Models such at PLoS One and Scientific Reports, both discussed, might show the way towards a different style of dissemination.

Another significant discussion area was pricing. Some publishers at the event made a case as to why a ten percent rise in OA articles and fees would not mean a ten percent reduction in subscription costs for a hybrid journal. This lack of transparent linkage between rise in additional OA fees and reduction in subscription costs has led to suspicions of “double-dipping“. Although one publisher was of the opinion that the idea of “double-dipping” was promoted by and limited to librarians, experience at the CRC shows this is a fairly common unprompted reaction from academic authors to the idea of hybrid publication. This remains as a credibility issue for publishers that they realise that they have to address, probably by some form of transparent linkage between pre-payment and post-payment levels.

There seems to be an area of difficulty for publishers in scoping hybrid models and balancing percentage increases in fees against decreases in subscription rates. For one thing, it was said that the articles in a journal may only be a part of the costs: that editorial pieces might represent a substantial part of the cost. It would be interesting to see if readers’ perceptions of value in different forms of content reflected the costs of that content:  would editorial content sell as a separate piece for example, allowing closer correspondence between OA fee rise and subscription fall? Of course, it is possible that academic concerns about pricing for a journal already reflect just this issue.

Another issue is that every factor is fluid and linked. The number of articles submitted may change; the number sent for peer review may change; the number published per year or per issue may change; the number of open access fee-paid articles may change; the number of subscriptions may change. And each factor probably depends on the others and overall also relate to variables in the subscription costs and OA article charges.

Of course, this is what any commercial business is about, balancing supply, demand, production costs, price points etc. However, this is also taking place against a changing landscape. Publishers admit that, as a business, they are balancing fee and subscription levels with the view of maximising sustainable profit and they have to measure their models against their existing margin. But what if the world has changed, through technology offering possible alternatives and the financial crisis cutting available revenues, so that scholarly communication cannot or will not support past profit levels? Where is the fixed ground against which publishers can measure new models?

Is it up to customers to offer some fixed level and underwrite commercial experiment, or for the commercial organisation to gamble and create an offering which it hopes will be both sustainable and acceptable to its customers? Normal customer/ business relations may not apply when customers have no wish to risk the sustainability of a journal.

From clarity from publishers to clarity from other stakeholders. The final point from the day that I will touch on is the repeated concern throughout discussions that there is a difficulty for authors in paying open access and hybrid charges. In spite of funding agencies making money available, there is still confusion for authors as to whether the money exists, let alone how to access it. This is an area that the RCS has highlighted before, bringing together research support offices, libraries, repository and open access advisers, publishers and funders. Our survey of chemists and economists, full results forthcoming, shows that one of authors’ primary blocks to use of open access is the expense of publishing and one of the identified chief drivers that would support change would be institutional support for payments.

Funders are in favour and can supply the money; institutions are in favour and will facilitate if there is a clear process; open access advocates exist in institutions to advise; authors would value the support and information. This is an issue which *can* be solved, but we do need joint action to bring clarity for everyone involved: without this, growth in open access publication in general, let alone hybrid journals, could stall for lack of a clear, usable process.

Bill

Future of Scholarly Communications Roundtable

New videos have been released by JISC documenting a roundtable debate on the future of scholalry communications. These videos provide a good summary of the issues and provide some very interesting insight and discussion.

The 8 videos are available on the JISCmedia youtube channel.

1. Changing Scholarly Communications Landscape and Future Models.
2. Dynamics Of Transition to Open Access.


3. Problems and challenges of Gold Open Access.
4. The Hybrid Journal path to Gold Open Access?


5. The mixed economy approach: Here today, gone tomorrow? Or is it here to stay?
6. The advantages of electronic-only journals & data in an Open Access world.
7. Identifying roles and ownership in respect to Digital Preservation.
8. Electronic technologies in the Arts & Humanities and other disciplines.

Ministerial announcement on Open Access development

In a further display of the high-level attention that open access now routinely attracts, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, announced on 24th May a joint commitment from RCUK and HEFCE to ensure they make general open access a reality.

RCUK and HEFCE have released a statement setting out the principles of their future joint work:

‘Research Councils UK and HEFCE have a shared commitment to maintaining and improving the capacity of the UK research base to undertake research activity of world leading quality, and to ensuring that significant outputs from this activity are made available as widely as possible both within and beyond the research community. Open access to published research supports this commitment and, if widely implemented, can benefit the research base, higher education, and the UK economy and society more broadly. To achieve this, open access needs to be implemented with clear licensing agreements, sustainable business models, and working with the grain of established research cultures and practices.

‘HEFCE and the Research Councils will work together and with other interested bodies to support a managed transition to open access over the medium term, and welcome the work of the UK Open Access Implementation Group in support of this aim.’

Bill

4th Report: Open Access – the View from the Academy

The fourth RCS report in now available online. See the Reports link above or view from the CRC website.

This report describes the attitudes of academics and research support staff towards Open Access, including what may dissuade them from adopting it and what might persuade them of its value. It looks at the following questions:
• What do researchers and support staff think about Open Access?
• Is there an alternative they might prefer?
• How might future OA advocacy be addressed?

A two-page discussion paper of this report will be available soon (within the week).

Briefing Papers Online

We have recently released 4 briefing papers about Open Access that are now available on our website and also here on our blog.

The briefing papers cover the following topics:

  • Open Access: In Support of Research
  • Open Access: Beyond the Numbers
  • Open Access: Embedding Repositories
  • “Gold” Open Access Publishing

If you are interested in receiving paper copies please do contact me.