MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

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

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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part III

Open AccessGuest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian 

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

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.

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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part I

Open AccessGuest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian

This article was originally posted 6th March 2014.

Over the last 18 months or so the concept of Open Access (OA) publishing has risen up the research agenda.  I thought it might be timely to share some of the things I’ve discovered about OA, and discuss how MMU is responding, in a series of weekly blogs throughout March.

This week I shall try to explain why OA has become important and look at some of the drivers behind the movement.  I will follow this over the next few weeks with blogs on the different models of OA (eg ‘gold vs green’) including the role of e-space, MMU’s Institutional Repository, a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of OA, how OA affects academic libraries, and how MMU is responding to this agenda.

‘Open Access (OA) literature is digital, online and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.’ as defined by Peter Suber (2004), one of the leading proponents of OA.  It can apply to any digital content, for example journal articles, e-books, data, images, audio, video, multimedia and software.

The idea of OA has been around for a while but there has been a recent upsurge in interest triggered by the Government sponsored report ‘Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications’ popularly known as the Finch Report, 2012, and the research community’s responses to it.

One of the arguments for OA is that publicly funded research should be accessible by everyone at point of use rather than accessible only to those who can pay for articles or subscribe to journals, or has access paid on their behalf by academic and other institutions.  It is also argued that timely access to the outputs of research, which the OA model brings, offers significant social and economic benefits, and contributes more quickly to the development of new research.

Since the Finch Report, the Research Councils and other funders have responded by issuing policies and guidelines, or reinforcing their existing policies, advising researchers about how research funded by them should be published in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.

Another driver pushing the OA agenda is ‘impact’.  OA articles are generally read more quickly and by a wider readership than conventionally published articles, and their findings are therefore used more quickly in further research.

The current Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 is looking at the role of the impact of research submitted and, while the exact criteria for the next REF in 2020 are still being decided, it can be assumed that impact will remain an important factor.  It is highly likely therefore that there will be a mandate ensuring the majority of submissions will be published Open Access.

Next week I shall look at the different types of Open Access Publication – gold and green – and the role e-space and Article Processing Charges play in this.

Suber, P. (2004, last revised December 16, 2013) Open Access Overview: Focusing on open access to peer-reviewed research articles and their preprints. [Online] [Accessed on 03.03.14]

Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings. (2012) ‘Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications’ [Online] [Accessed on 03.03.14]

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International Open Access Week 2014

Open Access WeekThis week is Open Access week (20-26th October). We have two events happening this week so if you haven’t already, please book via the links below.

We will also be re-running the Guest Blogs from Mary Pickstone -MMU Research Support Librarian. These blog articles give an overview of Open Access and how MMU is responding.

For more information please see the MMU Open Access page here and visit the Open Access Week website here.

Events this week

Wednesday 22nd October – Open Conversations
12 – 1.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections
A light-hearted and provocative exploration of different perspectives on Open Access. Speakers include MMU’s Dr. Sam Illingworth, Professor Cathy Urquhart, Ruth Jenkins and Rob Johnson (Director of Research Consulting and lead of a national project on costs associated with Open Access). Book tickets at Eventbrite

Friday 24th October – RKE Social “Open All Hours”
4 – 5.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections
Join the RKE team at their regular end of the month networking session. Join MMU’s Sam Illingworth, Mary Pickstone and Jayne Burgess who will talk you through their perspectives on Open Access. Book tickets at Eventbrite

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Open Access Events – starting tomorrow!

Open Access WeekWith the run up to International Open Access week (20-26 October) we have 3 events taking place at MMU. The first event starts tomorrow, there are still places so if you haven’t already booked on – please do!


16th October, Open Access in the Humanities, 12 – 2pm in Geoffrey Manton

Includes talks from MMU Professor Cathy Urquhart, Dr. Frances Pinter (Manchester University Press) and Dr. Martin Eve (Open Library of Humanities) as well as a “tradeshow” with representatives from Open Access publishers. Book tickets at:


22nd October, Open Conversations, 12-1.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections

A light-hearted and provocative exploration of different perspectives on Open Access. Speakers include MMU’s Dr. Sam Illingworth, Professor Cathy Urquhart, Ruth Jenkins and Rob Johnson (Director of Research Consulting and lead of a national project on costs associated with Open Access). Book tickets at:


24th October, RKE Social “Open All Hours”, 4 – 5.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections

Join the RKE team at their regular end of the month networking session. Join MMU’s Sam Illingworth, Mary Pickstone and Jayne Burgess who will talk you through their perspectives on Open Access. Book tickets at:


There will be further information and blog posts regarding Open Access next week. For more information about Open Access week, please see the website here.

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Science 2.0 – the European Commission consults on the changing face of research


“Now digital technology and tools offer the chance for a new transformation: improving research and innovation and making them more relevant for citizens and society. We are moving towards open, digital science – a trend that is gradual but unstoppable. That trend, and the desire to embrace it, comes, not from politicians, but from the scientific and academic communities themselves. ”

– Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President responsible for the Digital Agenda, Brussels, 3 July 2014.

The European Commission has launched a consultation on Science 2.0 – a term coined in deference to Web 2.0 which is often used to refer to the way digital technologies are being used by the research community to enhance gathering and sharing of information.

Science 2.0: Science in Transition’ will run until 30 September 2014 and the Commission is seeking input from citizens, organisations and public authorities. It is looking for thoughts on what is driving Science 2.0, what the implications are (for society, economy and the research system) and where policy interventions could be useful.

As a starting point, the Commission’s background paper explores a range of aspects of Science 2.0 looking at the benefits and challenges that this approach offers. It looks at the way in which opening up of research can offer benefits (e.g. greater accountability, less duplication, faster solutions, wider engagement) and where challenges might lie (e.g. traditional models for personal reward).

As flagged in the Blog’s round-up of the recent UKRO annual conference, this consultation is seen by the Commission as having a key role in shaping future policy, so it’s worth taking a look at the documents and sharing your views (Ed – even those expressing some scepticism on the execution are encouraging fellow researchers to engage in the discussion).

If you would also be interested in lending your opinions to a MMU response, please do get in touch (

As you might expect, the consultation also has its own hastag (#Science20) for those who want to follow and contribute to the debate as it unfolds!




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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part IV

Open Access

Guest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian

In my final blog on Open Access I will look at MMU’s response to OA.

MMU, in common with many other Universities, is adopting the green route to OA.  This means that we are putting research outputs into e-space, our institutional repository, which will then allow them to be viewed freely over the Internet.  This will increase readership and disseminate the research beyond traditional journal subscribers as described in my previous blogs.

One of the reasons MMU is not going down the gold route for OA publication for most of its research output is that there is usually a cost involved. This cost, the Article Processing Charge, or APC, will have to be paid for by the University.  In the wake of the Finch Report, RCUK gave some help to offset APC costs in the form of transition funding to Universities, but in 2013/14 MMU received only £11,442 (compared with £824,459 received by the University of Manchester).  On current rates of APC charges in high impact journals, this will only pay for about five or six APCs!  However, although MMU is adopting the green route to OA, there may be occasions when it is strategically advantageous to MMU to publish research in prestigious, high impact journals (which usually charge an APC).  In these cases, funds will be released to pay the APCs.

The current method of getting outputs into e-space is to send them to the Library, and we will carry out the necessary administration and deposit them for you.  In future, outputs will be put into Symplectic Elements, our new CRIS (Current Research Information System) and from there, subject to routine checks, they will be deposited automatically into e-space, the ‘public face’ of MMU’s research.  (See Christian Woodward’s recent RKE blog post about Symplectic for further information.)

Many publishers, having introduced APC’s to offset the revenue they will lose from subscriptions as more journals become OA, are responding by introducing deals to universities.  These often take the form of discounts on APCs if universities sign up to publishers over a period of time.  At present, MMU does not publish enough articles with one publisher to make these sorts of deals worthwhile or cost effective.

OA publication is a complex and evolving area, which all universities and university libraries are grappling with.  Research Council funded research already stipulates that outputs should be published OA; this will be reinforced further as plans for the next REF are rolled out.  In these blogposts I have attempted to explain some of the issues surrounding OA and why you should engage with OA publication.

If you would like to know more or want to discuss any of the issues raised, please get in touch , and to give you further help and guidance the Library will shortly be launching an online guide to OA.