20,000th item in the Edinburgh Research Archive

We are delighted to announce the deposit of the 20,000th item into our institutional repository the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA). ERA is a digital repository of original research which contains documents written by academic authors based at, or affiliated with, the University of Edinburgh that have sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by the Library, but which are not controlled by commercial publishers. Holdings include full-text digital doctoral theses, masters dissertations, project reports, briefing papers and out-of-print materials.

Our milestone 20,000th item is a PhD thesis written by Susan Ahrens at the Moray House School of Education and was awarded in 2016:

Understanding sport as the expansion of capabilities: the Homeless World Cup and Street Soccer (Scotland)

2016 Homeless World Cup in Glasgow : image courtesy of the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36819350)

This work investigates the relationship between sport, homelessness and poverty, and considers the way two social enterprises – the Homeless World Cup and Street Soccer (Scotland) – help overcome homelessness and its associated effects.

Managing publisher’s open access memberships with Trello

Screenshot - 14_06_2016 , 16_18_06

As more and more publishers have started to offer open access institutional memberships we have started to struggle with the effective management of the various schemes. We are currently signed up to 12 active deals and are scoping half a dozen more. All of the memberships are at different stages of maturity leading to a fairly complex situation if you are trying to stay on top of things.

Currently this work is all carried out by one member of the Scholarly Communications Team; however, we are trying to move towards a more transparent decision making and management process which is available to the whole team and other associated staff members.

After reading an interesting post about the use of Trello within Libraries we decided to try out this project management tool for managing our open access membership schemes. I won’t go into detail about about Trello, as this is covered by the blog post linked above, but I will talk about how we are using the tool for this specific purpose.

Screenshot - 14_06_2016 , 16_35_12

Each project you wish to manage with Trello gets assigned it’s own board which you can keep private to an individual or share with a team. In the screenshot above you can see that I have 3 private boards and am sharing 2 boards with the Scholarly Communications Team. Looking in more detail at the OA Prepay membership board (screenshot below) you can see that we have created 4 vertical columns, known as lists, each populated with a number of cards. You can assign tasks to cards, but in this case we have chosen to allocate them to publishers membership deals. If you want to you can even assign cards to be monitored by specific people within the team, but we have not yet opted to do this.

Screenshot - 15_06_2016 , 10_50_29

The lists are a way to keep the cards organised – for example each list could represent a workflow step. If you like the ‘Getting Things Done‘ methodology you could have To Do, Doing and Done lists.

When looking at publishers’ open access membership deals there are a number of tasks that need to be carried out which can be arranged into 4 general groups:

  1. Evaluating the initial offering
  2. Sign-up procedures
  3. Day-to-day administration and usage monitoring
  4.  Renewal/ deactivation decision making

We decided to use 4 lists to represent the workflow of moving from evaluating new publisher deals, through completing the sign up procedures and monitoring usage, finishing with renewal/deactivation processes:

Scoping -> Current Memberships <-> Action required ->Dropped memberships

Each new potential open access membership deal would be given a new card (see below for an example). The card is firstly populated with a brief description of the membership. We then add a Label (to enable filtering by publisher), a Checklist of to-do items, and a Due Date when a decision is needed. It is possible to add attachments to the card, for example the offer documents or contracts, but we have decided not to do this. Instead we show the file path where the documents are saved on shared network drives accessible only to the team. We don’t trust giving a third party our business documents in case of a data breach.

Screenshot - 15_06_2016 , 10_59_19

Once the checklist items have been worked through, if successful and the membership was activated, the card would move over right to the Current Membership list. If unsuccessful we would place at the bottom of the Scoping list with a sticker indicating this (a big red thumbs down).

Screenshot - 15_06_2016 , 11_43_21

Once on the Current memberships list (2) the cards are ordered by dates, with the membership deals that are ending first placed at the top. Any member of the Scholarly Communications Team can then see which deals are active, when the membership runs out, find out details of the deal including costs, sales rep contact details and links to other documentation. This is preferable to having all the membership knowledge retained by one member of the team.

Screenshot - 15_06_2016 , 13_05_36

Towards the end of the membership period the cards are moved over to the Action Required list (3) to indicate that a renewal or deactivation decision is needed to be made. If renewed the card is placed back into the Current Memberships list with details updated and the Due Date reset (4). If the renewal is rejected then the card is passed right to the Dropped Membership list (5), with the decision details recorded so they can be revisited at a later date if the renewal is questioned.

In summary, the workflow we present here might not work for every institution however we have found Trello to be a very useful tool to manage the process of managing open access membership schemes within a team setting. It’s main benefits are that it is highly visual and thus easy to use with minimal training, very adaptable to fit different circumstances and the basic version is free.


Edinburgh Research Archive access stats: Q1 2016

Screenshot - 04_05_2016 , 14_55_13

Image: Bass valve trumpet. Nominal pitch: 8-ft C  (CC-BY from the MIMEd collection)

Not one to blow our own trumpets too often, I’m pleased to report that during the first three months of this year we have achieved 334,913 page views and an incredible 207,945 downloads from the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA).

ERA contains documents written by, or affiliated with, academic authors, or units, based at Edinburgh that have sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by the Library, but which are not controlled by commercial publishers. Holdings include full-text digital doctoral theses, masters dissertations, project reports, briefing papers and out-of-print materials.

Top 10 downloads from the Edinburgh Research Archive during Q1 2016

The most widely accessed items in ERA are an eclectic bunch of materials; mostly PhD theses, but also including an out-of-print civil defence manual from 1949, and a Psychological Screening Test produced by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.

Screenshot - 04_05_2016 , 14_11_20

It is pleasing to see that ERA is providing a platform for wide dissemination of materials that would otherwise not easily be available for consultation. We can’t second guess what people will find useful so by putting all our doctoral research online – in a structured format that is indexed by all major search engines – we can maximise the reach of these carefully written words in the hope that it will fall into the hands of someone who would be grateful to read them.


Fake invoice warning

Here is a quick blog post to warn you of targeted attempts to distribute malware by unknown and hostile persons. Over the last few weeks we have been sent numerous emails similar to the one below:

Screenshot - 28_04_2016 , 09_02_12At a first glance it looks relevant. It is addressed to me personally, it references my place of work, it has some invoicing details that could conceivably be genuine. However, alarm bells should be ringing as it is from a contact I have never heard of, the company is not relevant, the email address is not consistent with the contact name, and the email is hosted from an american cable TV/ISP company. This type of email has been dubbed a spear-phishing attack by threat researchers.

If you were to download and open the MS Word file it contains a macro which deploys a Malware payload which sniffs out data on your computer and sends it back to the command and control server. More info at:

The return of the Microsoft Word macro virus

A colleague was recently infected by malware distributed by opening a MS Word document. Whilst the infection was caught and dealt with quickly they were unfortunately a victim of online bank fraud a few weeks later which may, or may not be connected, but the timing is highly suspicious. Here is a reminder to:

  • Only open expected email attachments that come from a trusted source.
  • Don’t rely on all anti-malware software to detect viruses in email attachments as not all macro viruses are detected by antivirus software.
  • Delete any suspect emails without opening them.




APCs paid in the wild

As part of the Lessons in Open Access Compliance for Higher Education (LOCH) project we have been looking at the problems of identifying Article Processing Charges (APCs) that the Library is not currently aware of – which we colloquially call ‘APCs paid in the wild’. We have written a short case study that is currently under open review at The Winnower:

Improving estimates of the total cost of publication by recognising ‘APCs paid in the wild’

The take home message from our ‘APCs paid in the wild’ case study can be summarised as:

We estimate that these costs could account for up to 20% extra in the total cost of publication that is not currently being accounted for. This additional cost is important to take into account when institutions are negotiating fair offsetting agreements for open access publishing.

We would welcome any constructive criticism on the work so please have a read and leave an open review so that we can improve the article.

ORCID is turning into the Yellow Pages

As pointed out to me a number of times the use of ORCID.org IDs is rapidly growing:

Oct 16, 2012: 0
Nov 21, 2014: 1,011,557
March 4, 2016: 2,014,645

(stats via Martin Fenner @mfenner)

Which I don’t need to point out is a good thing. But…..

Screenshot - 09_03_2016 , 12_40_42

After a tip off by @generalising (Andrew Gray) on Twitter – I don’t believe all this growth reflects actual bona fide researchers. Want some proof? Try searching for ‘laywers’ and you’ll see that there are a LOT of spam accounts:


Screenshot - 09_03_2016 , 12_45_50

Each of the spam accounts looks to be a real business with URLs – something strange  is definitely going on. It’s not just lawyers, but Taxi firms, Pizza restaurants, Plumbers. Try it for yourself. Dry cleaning? Sure ORCID has it covered:Screenshot - 09_03_2016 , 12_57_55ORCID is turning into the Yellow Pages.

If I didn’t know any better then I’d say that ORCID is being used as a link farm for Search Engine Optimisation. Which is not really a good reflection on ORCID.org at all. I’ve pointed out a dozen spam accounts to support@orcid.org, but other than remove these specific accounts they don’t seem to be tackling the underlying problem. I’ve not looked at how prolific the problem is, but just a visual inspection shows that it is very widespread. So how many of those 2 million IDs are genuine? I really don’t know, and unless ORCID care to comment we’ll never find out.

If I was ORCID.org I’d be a bit more bothered about being used like this and made to look unprofessional, but to borrow a brilliant Polish phrase – ‘Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys’.


Some thoughts on the impact of Sci-Hub

Sci-Hub has been getting a lot of attention recently – for those of you not up to date there are some really good pieces written here:

What should we think about Sci-Hub?

Next moves in the Sci-Hub game

Signal not solution

The last article raised some interesting points that prompted a reply from the Sci-Hub founder, who I think mistook critical thinking for criticism. If you would indulge me I’d like to spend 5 minutes thinking about the impact of Sci-Hub and what the longer term implications for scholarly communications are. I’m not particularly saying anything new, just crystallising a few thoughts that have been floating around.

What is the short term impact of Sci-Hub?

The impact is massive for anyone stuck outside of a subscription paywall. Immediate free access to articles that you would have had to pay ~$30 each. For these people it is a game changer. I don’t need to eulogise how important this is for enabling access.

For publishers, at a first glance it looks terrible. Their pirated content is being distributed for free. Shock! Horror! Quick unleash the legal dogs of war!

But take a closer look and the disruption enabled by Sci-Hub is not quite like the disruption that has occurred in other digital media (think Napster etc). This is because the customers who pay for content are mainly institutions and not individual customers, and they have very different behaviours. I would estimate that the long term financial impact of pirated material for academic journal publishers would be negligible at best, and at worst just a small dent in their 30%-40% profit margins.

Longer term effects.

If you step away from the warm rosy glow of immediate access, you’ll find that the change in scholarly communication is not as drastic as you first thought. On the whole, institutions will not drop all of their journal subscriptions because a website is offering free downloads of articles. Organisations, who in this case have the purse strings, do not think and behave like individuals.

Any reputable institution would not be able to tell their researchers that they have cancelled subs to the journals they read and that they have to find and use pirated content instead. Like them or not, we can trust publishers to make their content available 24/7 (well, most of the time) because we have service level agreements and other legally binding contracts. What is the longevity of Sci-Hub? I don’t know, but the Sci-Hub founder freely admits that the site runs on donations and it costs several thousand dollars per month to keep running. Unlike other scholarly communication nodes – for example arXiv* – there is no funding mechanism that organisations can use to pay Sci-Hub to keep running because it’s activities are illegal and that status is not going to change any time soon. As such, institutions cannot rely on Sci-Hub to provide access to it’s services 24/7 and will always stick with the publishers.

Sci-hub is a sticking plaster

It is worth repeating that the bottom line is that organisations will most definitely not stop paying subscriptions to journal publishers because of Sci-Hub. More knowledgeable people than me have pointed out that Sci-Hub is a symptom of the problem, or that it is palliative care which alleviates the immediate problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think Sci-Hub will be the main catalyst for wider change in scholarly communication that people want, or need, it to be. Subscriptions will still be paid, researchers will still publish in those pay-walled journals, we will still have restrictive licences, text-mining will still be difficult. Plus ça change. The problem is that authors and readers need better than this.  



[*Other scholarly communication nodes have sustainable business models – for example arXiv raises ~$350,000 per year through membership fees generated by approximately 186 institutions.]





Copyright waffle and the illusion of choice.


ice cream cone trio by stu_spivack : http://edin.ac/1Rm0wEi

An academic colleague of mine recently had an article accepted for publication in a journal. As usual they were emailed by the publisher who asked them to sign an Author Publishing Agreement which would transfer copyright to them. However, the author noticed that the publisher also allowed authors to retain their own copyright by instead signing a Licence to Publish.

Keep your copyright!

The researcher wasn’t sure whether to assign copyright to the publisher, or if it would be preferable for them to retain copyright. On the face of it, it seems like a no-brainer – keep your copyright rather than signing it away. This is the mantra that open access advocates have been saying for years.

BUT more importantly.

Always read the small print – or get someone else to do it for you – and understand what you are getting yourself into.

The illusion of choice

In this particular case, if you read both the standard Publishing Agreement (to transfer copyright) and the Licence Agreement (to keep copyright) with a fine-tooth comb you will find that they pretty much contain the same language verbatim. There is no practical difference between them both in the end results. Both the author and the publisher will end up with exactly the same rights for exactly the same duration. There is the illusion of choice but it literally doesn’t matter which piece of paper is signed. This is an example of Copyright Waffle and it sidetracks from the important things.

Waffles by Brenda Wiley: http://edin.ac/1Rm13Gq

Waffles by Brenda Wiley: http://edin.ac/1Rm13Gq

Important things:

  1. By hook, or by crook, make your work open access.
  2. If you don’t know how, then ask someone who does; generally speaking Librarians will always be able to help you.
  3. If you have the option, publish your work with a Creative Commons licence; CC-BY is our favourite flavour.



Institutionally Authored Books

performingcivilityThe Scholarly Communications Team estimates that staff at the University of Edinburgh write, edit or contribute to over 500 books annually and the Library aspires to hold two copies of each of these books (one for general loan, one for preservation).  In light of this aspiration, Edinburgh University Library has developed a policy relating to the acquisition of institutionally authored books, which encourages staff to donate two copies to the library, wherever this is possible.

Today we received our first donations under this policy, Performing Civility by Dr Lisa McCormick.  Lisa generously sent two copies to the Scholarly Communications Team, which has checked that there is a record of the research output on PURE.  The print copies have now been sent for cataloguing and should be available very shortly.

Congratulations to Lisa, firstly on her publication and secondly for being the first to donate copies of books under this new policy!

Dominic Tate, Scholarly Communications Manager. 

10,000th open access item added to the Edinburgh Research Archive


Thanks to a major digitisation project being undertaken by Library & University Collections we are proud to announce our 10,000th open access item has recently been deposited in the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA).

ERA is a digital repository of original research produced at The University of Edinburgh. The archive contains documents written by academic authors, based or affiliated with Edinburgh that have sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by the Library, but which are not controlled by any other organisations (for example commercial publishers). Holdings include full-text digital doctoral theses [6150], masters dissertations [950], project reports, briefing papers and out-of-print materials. Current research produced by the University is available from the research portal, which has 101,860 records, of which 28,220 have open access documents attached.

Since 2005 the majority of PhD theses issued by the University have been submitted in a digital format, and around 20 recently completed PhD theses are added each week. Our digitisation activities seek to make accessible older unique content which is only available onsite in the Special Collections reading rooms. The oldest University of Edinburgh thesis archived in ERA was originally published in 1819.