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Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Metropolitan University


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Guest Blog – Open Access: Access to Knowledge

 In an article published today for the European GeoSciences Union, Dr Sam Illingworth, Lecturer in Science Communication at MMU, writes an in-depth overview of Open Access. 

The full article can be read on GeoLog – the European Geosciences Union blog page here.

“Access to knowledge is a basic human right.” Yet sadly as scientists we are often forced to operate in a framework in which this is not always the case. This week sees the celebration of the eighth Open Access Week, and whilst there have undoubtedly been many achievements by the Open Access (OA) movement since 2009, there is still a long way to go before mankind’s basic human right to knowledge is restored.

Open Access-1Open for business: The Open Access logo (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

So why all the big fuss about OA in the first instance? If you are reading this as a layperson or as a scientist at the outset of their scientific career, then you may be surprised to find out that it costs (often large sums of) money to read online research articles. Even if these fees are not being charged to you personally, the chances are that it is costing your research institution or library thousands of pounds/euros/dollars that could otherwise be spent on research, resources, jobs, or infrastructure (as an example, in 2009, Clemson University in the US, an institute with less than 17,000 students, spent an astonishing $1.3 million on journal subscriptions to the publishing magnate Elsevier alone).

Over the past 30 years, journal prices have out priced inflation by over 250%; but it wasn’t always like this. In the past journals existed for two reasons: as an affordable option for scientists to publish their work in (as opposed to the more expensive option of personally-published books), and as a place where members of the general public and the wider scientific community could find out about the advances in science that their taxes were helping to fund. Sadly, in recent times many journals seem to have lost their way on both counts, hence the need to open it up again.

Open Access-2Climbing Higher: The cost of journal articles continues to rise completely out of proportion to inflation (Photo credit: Association of Research libraries)

The beginning of the modern OA movement can be traced back to the 4th July 1971, when Michael Hart launched Project Gutenberg, a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works for free. However, it wasn’t until 1989 (and with the advent of the Internet) that the first digital-only, free journals were launched, amongst them Psycoloquy by Stevan Harnad and The Public-Access Computer Systems Review by Charles W. Bailey Jr.

Since then, the OA movement has grown considerably, although it is important to note that publishing articles so that they are free for all is itself not without expense. Despite the lack of print and mailing costs, there are still large infrastructure and staffing overheads that need to be taken into consideration, and so rather than make the reader pay, alternatives have to be found.

One alternative, known as the Gold route to OA, is to make the author(s) of the article pay for the right to have their research accessible by all. Many journals already require an Article Processing Charge (APC) to be paid before publication, and so some journals have simply elected to add an additional charge if the author wants to make their journal open to the general public.

The other main alternative is the Green route to OA, which involves the author placing their journal in a central repository, which is then made available to all. The journal in which the article was originally published will usually enforce an embargo period of a number of months or years that must pass before the published articles can be placed in these repositories, although this can often be circumnavigated by uploading final, ‘accepted for publication’, drafts of the article. You can read more about OA subject repositories in this article.

Open Access-3A sea of golden green: the availability of gold and green OA journal articles by scientific discipline in 2009 (Source: Björk, et al.).

Both of these approaches to OA have their respective advantages and disadvantages, and normally research intuitions and/or funding bodies guide the route that researchers choose. The Research Councils UK (RCUK), for example, has a policy (which can be found here) that supports both the Gold and the Green routes to OA, though it has a preference for immediate access with the maximum opportunity for reuse. It is worth noting at this point that another key aim of the OA movement is that published research is free to reuse in future studies. This might seem like a fairly trivial point, but currently for any articles published in closed access journals, express permission is needed from the publishers if the results are to be used in any future studies.

The major barrier that still needs to be overcome with regards to OA is determining who pays for the right to free access. At the moment many governments have a centralised pot, which they allocate to their different research institutes. However, issues arise when one considers the limitations that this imposes on poorer countries, institutes, research disciplines, and independent researchers. There is also the minefield of determining who gets how much and why; my own institute, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has only been allocated enough funds to pay for 7 academic papers a year via the Gold route to OA. When you consider that some researchers would hope to publish that many papers themselves on a yearly basis, there is clearly a disconnect. It is for these reasons that many are pushing for ‘OA 2.0’, an initiative in which articles are, in the words of EGU’s former executive secretary Arne Richter, “Free to Read, Free to Download and Free to Publish.” However, such an approach will require a major change in the modus operandi of almost all publishing companies. It is worth noting that Copernicus, who are responsible for publishing the majority of EGU’s affiliated journals are very strong proponents of the Open Access movement, and have been one of the leading lights in an otherwise murky world.

Open Access-4

 

Top of the food chain: the top 10 UK universities in terms of APC funding distribution (Source: RCUK).

The sad truth of the matter is that many of the more traditional journals are now run as big-business, moneymaking machines, safe in the knowledge that they can get away with charging large fees, because scientists are still desperate to publish in places with a ‘high-impact’. However, if enough scientists rise up and move away from these restrictive journals, and migrate towards those with an OA policy, then the impact factors will soon follow suit (in fact, there is already strong evidence that publishing in an OA journal will result in more citations for your research). Only then can we begin to reinstate knowledge as a basic human right available to all, rather than as an expensive luxury dolled out to the privileged few who can afford it.

 

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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part III

Open AccessGuest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian m.pickstone@mmu.ac.uk 

This article was originally posted on 26th March 2014

In this week’s blog I’m going to look at some of the advantages, and some of the disadvantages, of OA.

Two of the advantages are a wider readership and quicker dissemination of research.

Research published OA is more widely read, therefore authors get a much wider audience than they would through the readership of a subscription journal.  Readers, for example those in developing countries, who may have only limited access to research literature because of the high cost of pay-per-view charges (journal subscriptions and article viewing charges) can access more journals.  The general public, small businesses, and other readers from ‘outside the academy’ can access research literature, which is, after all, often paid for by their taxes.

Research published OA is disseminated more quickly than research that is published via a more traditional subscription route and can also be re-used, subject to the conditions of the relevant Creative Commons (CC) licence attribution.

A key factor in the success of research is its impact, and funding bodies, including HEFCE via the Research Excellence Framework (REF), are looking for evidence of how this can be demonstrated. Widening the readership and a more rapid dissemination of the research through OA publication can contribute to this.

Some of the disadvantages of OA include:

The article processing charge, or APC, required by many journals to publish articles via the gold route; embargo periods imposed by traditional subscription journals on articles deposited in subject or institutional repositories; the potential threat to the viability of journals published by small publishers such as Learned Societies if subscription charges disappeared; the perceived threat to peer review, and hence quality control, of research in OA journals.

How funds are allocated amongst researchers to pay for APCs is a question currently vexing many universities, and there is a perception that it could disadvantage new and early career researchers who may need to bid for funds against more senior colleagues. APCs are an additional expense for many institutions whose libraries are paying subscriptions for journals, often the very same ones which charge APCs to publish via the gold route.

The green route to OA via repositories is thought to hinder OA as publishers try to maximise subscription income and prevent full-text access to their articles.  They do this by imposing embargo periods on published articles.  Research Councils UK (RCUK) in its OA policy has stipulated that these embargoes should be no longer than 6 months for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects and 12 months for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

The concerns about the demise of peer review are probably unfounded.  There are now many OA journals that are highly reputable and insist on a rigorous peer review process, for example PLOS One and PubMed.  Hybrid journals, which publish some articles via the gold route, apply as rigorous a peer-review process to these articles as they do to those published conventionally.

Next time I will round off this series by outlining MMU’s response to OA.    


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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part II

Open Access

Guest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian m.pickstone@mmu.ac.uk

This article was originally posted 14th March 2014.

This week’s Open Access (OA) blog will explore the different types of OA.

OA research articles are primarily delivered to the reader via OA journals – the so-called ‘Gold’ route – or repositories (institutional or by discipline) – the ‘Green’ route.

Gold Open Access is immediate OA ie accessible to the reader with no charge.  However, this route often comes with a charge to the author, the so-called Article Processing Charge, or APC, which is levied by publishers for articles published in their journals. The APC is therefore a charge to ‘pay-to-publish’.

OA journals operate under a variety of business models which have been developed to accommodate different disciplines, or the situation in different countries.  Some traditional subscription journals from the mainstream publishers offer an option of publishing OA articles in a so-called ‘hybrid’ model.  The author, or their institution or sponsoring body, will usually have to pay an APC to publish these articles OA, and they will appear alongside the majority of articles in the journal which are ‘pay-per-view’.

It just so happens that many of the high prestige, high impact journals – in which you are probably being encouraged to publish – come with APCs to publish OA, but there are many OA journals which do not charge, or whose APC charges are very low. I will discuss MMU’s response to this in a later blog.

The use of APCs is inevitably controversial, particularly when libraries are already paying to subscribe to the very same journals where APCs are being charged to publish OA.

The Finch Report favours gold OA so, to try to help with the transition to a fully OA model of publishing, the RCUK has given some Universities money to help pay for APCs.  However, the allocation is based on previous and projected funding by the Research Councils so universities such as MMU, which are aspiring to expand their research output but which have not traditionally received a lot of RCUK funding, have not received much of this transition money.

The alternative to the gold route to OA is the green route.  By this route an article can be made available via a repository, either a subject repository eg ArXiv in Physics, Maths and Computer Science, or an institutional repository such as MMU’s e-space, usually after an embargo period imposed by individual publishers (typically 6 months for STEM subjects, longer for the Humanities).  Articles made OA by the green route will not usually be the published version but an ‘author final copy’, or post-print, which has been peer-reviewed and corrected and is, as far as the content is concerned, the same as it appears in the journal.

E-space, MMU’s repository, is managed by the Library.  It contains journal articles, both pre-prints (journal articles submitted for peer-review) and author final copies, as well as book chapters, working papers, conference presentations and other types of output in a variety of file types and formats.

Next time I will explore some of the issues surrounding OA including the  impact and dissemination of research, and how OA works with different disciplines and outputs.


Leave a comment

Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part III

Open AccessGuest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian m.pickstone@mmu.ac.uk 

In this week’s blog I’m going to look at some of the advantages, and some of the disadvantages, of OA.

Two of the advantages are a wider readership and quicker dissemination of research.

Research published OA is more widely read, therefore authors get a much wider audience than they would through the readership of a subscription journal.  Readers, for example those in developing countries, who may have only limited access to research literature because of the high cost of pay-per-view charges (journal subscriptions and article viewing charges) can access more journals.  The general public, small businesses, and other readers from ‘outside the academy’ can access research literature, which is, after all, often paid for by their taxes.

Research published OA is disseminated more quickly than research that is published via a more traditional subscription route and can also be re-used, subject to the conditions of the relevant Creative Commons (CC) licence attribution.

A key factor in the success of research is its impact, and funding bodies, including HEFCE via the Research Excellence Framework (REF), are looking for evidence of how this can be demonstrated. Widening the readership and a more rapid dissemination of the research through OA publication can contribute to this.

Some of the disadvantages of OA include:

The article processing charge, or APC, required by many journals to publish articles via the gold route; embargo periods imposed by traditional subscription journals on articles deposited in subject or institutional repositories; the potential threat to the viability of journals published by small publishers such as Learned Societies if subscription charges disappeared; the perceived threat to peer review, and hence quality control, of research in OA journals.

How funds are allocated amongst researchers to pay for APCs is a question currently vexing many universities, and there is a perception that it could disadvantage new and early career researchers who may need to bid for funds against more senior colleagues. APCs are an additional expense for many institutions whose libraries are paying subscriptions for journals, often the very same ones which charge APCs to publish via the gold route.

The green route to OA via repositories is thought to hinder OA as publishers try to maximise subscription income and prevent full-text access to their articles.  They do this by imposing embargo periods on published articles.  Research Councils UK (RCUK) in its OA policy has stipulated that these embargoes should be no longer than 6 months for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects and 12 months for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

The concerns about the demise of peer review are probably unfounded.  There are now many OA journals that are highly reputable and insist on a rigorous peer review process, for example PLOS One and PubMed.  Hybrid journals, which publish some articles via the gold route, apply as rigorous a peer-review process to these articles as they do to those published conventionally.

Next time I will round off this series by outlining MMU’s response to OA.    


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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part II

Open Access

 

Guest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian m.pickstone@mmu.ac.uk

This week’s Open Access (OA) blog will explore the different types of OA.

OA research articles are primarily delivered to the reader via OA journals – the so-called ‘Gold’ route – or repositories (institutional or by discipline) – the ‘Green’ route.

Gold Open Access is immediate OA ie accessible to the reader with no charge.  However, this route often comes with a charge to the author, the so-called Article Processing Charge, or APC, which is levied by publishers for articles published in their journals. The APC is therefore a charge to ‘pay-to-publish’.

OA journals operate under a variety of business models which have been developed to accommodate different disciplines, or the situation in different countries.  Some traditional subscription journals from the mainstream publishers offer an option of publishing OA articles in a so-called ‘hybrid’ model.  The author, or their institution or sponsoring body, will usually have to pay an APC to publish these articles OA, and they will appear alongside the majority of articles in the journal which are ‘pay-per-view’.

It just so happens that many of the high prestige, high impact journals – in which you are probably being encouraged to publish – come with APCs to publish OA, but there are many OA journals which do not charge, or whose APC charges are very low. I will discuss MMU’s response to this in a later blog.

The use of APCs is inevitably controversial, particularly when libraries are already paying to subscribe to the very same journals where APCs are being charged to publish OA.

The Finch Report favours gold OA so, to try to help with the transition to a fully OA model of publishing, the RCUK has given some Universities money to help pay for APCs.  However, the allocation is based on previous and projected funding by the Research Councils so universities such as MMU, which are aspiring to expand their research output but which have not traditionally received a lot of RCUK funding, have not received much of this transition money.

The alternative to the gold route to OA is the green route.  By this route an article can be made available via a repository, either a subject repository eg ArXiv in Physics, Maths and Computer Science, or an institutional repository such as MMU’s e-space, usually after an embargo period imposed by individual publishers (typically 6 months for STEM subjects, longer for the Humanities).  Articles made OA by the green route will not usually be the published version but an ‘author final copy’, or post-print, which has been peer-reviewed and corrected and is, as far as the content is concerned, the same as it appears in the journal.

e-space, MMU’s repository, is managed by the Library.  It contains journal articles, both pre-prints (journal articles submitted for peer-review) and author final copies, as well as book chapters, working papers, conference presentations and other types of output in a variety of file types and formats.

Next time I will explore some of the issues surrounding OA including the  impact and dissemination of research, and how OA works with different disciplines and outputs.