3 things we can do to make open access better

Open access is being pulled and pushed in different directions by groups who each have their own intentions and motivations:

  • Research funders want to maximize their investment and – by holding the purse-strings – are the change instigators accelerating the pace of adoption of open access. Some are more proactive than others pushing scholarly communication towards Gold OA in certain subject disciplines, whilst other funders are less active preferring change to be more organic.
  • Publishers, as gate-keepers of the scholarly written record, influence how open access happens through innovation (developing new business models and products), control of intellectual property (open licensing or imposing journal embargoes) and controlling the spiraling costs. Some publishers are profit-driven and seek the highest returns that the market can burden. Others are more motivated by the academic community
  • Libraries are change agents who can help to enable open access in institutions, for example through implementing repository platforms and offering support services and expertise. Their motivations to be involved are many; Library core values are well-aligned with open scholarship, they have a strong interest in and are well-placed to ensure institutional funds are efficiently allocated, and there is a drive to enhance their relevance through redefining roles within research institutions.
  • Academics. It is easily to fall in to the trap that academics are passive actors in all of this. It feels like the silent majority go along with the status quo as research is their prime concern, and scholarly communication is a side-show with which they have little interest in how it works. Because publishing is increasingly being outsourced they lack a sense of agency or ownership. However, some researchers are driven to innovate and change their scholarly communication practices.

The interaction of each of these players in the scholarly communication game has led to the development of a system driven by interlocking policies, platforms and processes, which we have shown over the course of the last few blog posts, is unnecessarily complex, expensive, inefficient and increasingly at risk of being not fit for purpose.

What steps should libraries be doing to improve scholarly communication?

1. Remove complexity

The problem with Green OA is – it’s not immediate (journals embargoes are far too long), it’s not compliant with all funders policies and it’s unnecessary complexity (checking and matching funders policies and journal embargoes) is inefficient and has many hidden costs.

Help your institution to adopt the UK-Scholarly Communications Licence and most of these problems are diminished. [Read more here]

2. Reduce OA publishing costs

Hybrid OA Gold is the most popular and expensive route for paid open access. A side effect of lowering embargoes is that authors can comply with their research funders open access policies via Green OA.

Where possible, stop paying Hybrid OA costs, and use the open access block grants for pure Gold OA only. [Read more here]

3. Innovate and nurture academic-led publishing

Academic and National Libraries should support academic-led publishing and open access initiatives that are inclusive and open to scholars who do not have budgets for publishing.

Help your staff and students set up their own open access journals using software like Open Journal Systems. Support initiatives like the Open Library of Humanities by becoming a supporter member, and if you are from a larger institution then you should offer to support at a higher rate. [Read more here]

Academic-led publishing

Our last #openaccess week blog post finished with the observation that publishers are increasingly becoming in control of scholarly infrastructure, and that it is now more important than ever for academics to retain control over their research and publishing activities. To help with this we made the recommendation that Academic and National Libraries should support ‘low cost and no cost’ Gold OA  – meaning open access initiatives that are inclusive and open to scholars who do not have budgets for publishing. To paraphrase Martin Eve who could articulate this better than I could ever hope to:

“….the economics of the humanities are different. The majority of research in the humanities remains unfunded except through institutional time. For this reason, Article Processing Charges are not a palatable option for these disciplines.“

Compared against STEM subjects and the lifesciences, commercial publishers have not made much headway with Gold OA in the arts and humanities disciplines. Partly in response, I believe in recent years this has led to lots of academic-led publishing initiatives being set up. You can read more in this excellent paper by Adema & Stone:

The surge in New University Presses and Academic-Led Publishing: an overview of a changing publishing ecology in the UK

Open Library of Humanities

One of my favourite initiatives in the humanities is the Open Library of Humanities. It is funded through a model of library partnership subsidies which collectively funds the platform and its array of journals. A large number of libraries and institutions worldwide already support the OLH, which makes for a sustainable, safe platform.

The annual cost for supporting libraries is less than one Gold OA article processing charge which is excellent value for money – if you had £1000 would you prefer to provide open access to one article or for a whole suite of journals? If your institution hasn’t already signed up – you can check here (https://www.openlibhums.org/plugins/supporters/) – then I would wholeheartedly recommend that you sign up to be a supporting member. In fact, if you are from a larger institution then you should offer to support at a higher rate (which is STILL cheaper than one Hybrid Gold OA publishing fee):

University of Edinburgh further supports OLH

Edinburgh University Library Open Journals

Edinburgh University Library supports the publication of academic and student-led open access journals by providing a journal hosting service using the Open Journal Systems software. The Open Journal service is available to University of Edinburgh students and academics and is provided free of charge.

http://journals.ed.ac.uk/

The Library helps with the initial set up of all new journals and provides ongoing support. We:

  1. Provide the service free of charge on the condition that journals requirements can be met without additional cost or time to the Library.
  2. Provide advice and support to help editorial teams set up their journal and training on using OJS
  3. Provide limited customisation of the new journal according to the design brief supplied by the journal editorial team. Provide initial training and documentation and ongoing support
  4. Provide training (as required) for new publishing staff
  5. Consult with experts in the Library to offer copyright advice
  6. Set up a Google Analytics account for each journal. Please note, the Library may make appropriate use of the statistical data
  7. Manage (and pay for) Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) which use the Library’s DOI prefix: 10.2218
  8. Apply  for an ISSN on behalf of the journal
  9. On publication, apply to DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals).

Currently there are 16 journals on the platform and we are looking to grow the service over the new two years.

UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL)

In the first blog post in this series we set out the position that – whilst Gold OA is an important component of future scholarly communications – Hybrid Gold OA as it currently stands is too expensive to be adopted sector wide, and we recommend alternative paths to openness, like Green OA. The second post in the series highlighted a successful implementation of Green OA in a large research-intensive institution. However, we pointed out a number of problems with Green OA – it’s not immediate  (journals embargoes are far too long), it’s not compliant with all funders policies and it’s unnecessary complexity (checking and matching funders policies and journal embargoes) is inefficient and has many hidden costs. In this third blog post of the series we are going to introduce a potential solution to these problems – the UK-Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL).

Motivation and policy

The UK-SCL is an attempt to fix the problems of Green OA and provide a one-step deposit action by which researchers can comply with multiple funder policies. It is a model open access policy with a standard set of actions which can easily be adopted by UK HE Institutions. If adopted institutions will:

  • Make accepted manuscripts of scholarly articles of its staff available online
    1. on or shortly after the date of first publication, be it online or in any other medium
    2. with a Creative Commons licence that allows non-commercial reuse as long as the authors are fully credited (CC BY NC 4.0)
  • Allow authors and publishers to request a temporary waiver for applying this right for up to 12 months for AHSS and 6 months for STEM (aligned to REF panels).
  • Where a paper is co-authored with external co-authors, the institution will:
    1. Automatically sub-licence this right to all co-authors credited on the paper and to their host institutions.
    2. Not apply the licence if a co-author (who is not based at an institution with a UK-SCL-based model policy) objects.
    3. Honour waiver requests granted by other institutions which have adopted the UK-SCL model policy.
  • Where an output is available immediately on publication with a CC-BY licence, the accepted manuscript will remain on closed deposit.

Implications

If we adopted the policy today what would happen? Well, immediately it would enable institutions and researchers to comply with sixteen research funders by deposit in institutional repositories without further action. This simplification – of messages we give to authors, and to our processes – will lead to efficiency savings in staff time and cost.

Long journal embargoes would be a thing of the past and research could be legally shared without having to resort to methods where copyright is infringed, for example by using Sci Hub or uploading papers to ResearchGate.

Researchers funded by the RCUK wouldn’t be beholden to pay for Hybrid Gold OA anymore. The authors can make their own choice whether they want to pay the APCs or not. If they think it is good value for money they can pay to have their research published, but if they think the APC is too expensive they can also choose to go green.

Response

We have immediately seen a push back from the Publishers Association who seem to have three main concerns:

  1. Cancellations to journal subscriptions because embargoes are removed/lowered
  2. Loss of income from Hybrid Gold OA charges.
  3. Loss of control in the scholarly communication process

In my experience the first point is a complete red herring. The fear from publishers is that because something is available for free then their product won’t be bought. What is not being mentioned is that a lot of this content is already available for free – via SciHub, or #icanhazPDF, or other illegal sharing methods – and subscriptions have not dropped. Additionally, a number of significant academic publishers (including the Royal Society, Cambridge University Press, Emerald and SAGE) already have zero month embargoes for selected titles and they are not affected by cancellations.

The loss of income from Hybrid Gold OA charges is a legitimate concern and to be honest publishers should be worried about this. The thing is, over the last 5 years Hybrid Gold OA has been a bonus to many publishers. It is an additional income stream on top of subscription charges. The total cost of publication has risen something like 25% in the last five years directly due to Hybrid Gold OA. The behaviour we have seen from many commercial academic publishers is that it is their unalienable right to extract as much profit from the open access block grants given to UK universities.  As an administrator of one of these funds I am well aware that the block grants are given to us from charitable organisations, and taxpayers money, via the government. We have to make sure that these funds are used responsibly and that we receive maximum value for money. I would like to see the open access block grants used only for pure Gold OA charges and to stop paying unnecessary Hybrid Gold OA charges.

The final point about loss of control in the scholarly communications process comes at a time where many large academic publishers are aggressively diversifying from their traditional publishing activities. Their aim is to be an integral part of the entire research process – from the inception of research via lab notebooks, pre-print servers and academic social networks, through to its conclusion via research data management, repository platforms, and research information management. I am not against paying for useful services, however when researchers are prevented from sharing their work because profit is more important, then something has clearly gone wrong with the system. It is now more important than ever for academics to retain control over their own research and publishing and this topic will be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post – academic-led publishing.

Green open access and REF compliance

Yesterday’s blog post suggested that our reliance on Hybrid Gold Open Access to meet research funder’s open access requirements was too expensive and libraries should be supporting alternative pathways. In terms of pure numbers the main way the University of Edinburgh is making access to it’s research open is via Green Open Access (OA) – where the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version of the research output is deposited in a repository and made available as soon as publishers copyright policies allow.

Since we started compiling monthly reports in 1st April 2016 we have made 6266 journal articles and conference proceedings open access which equates to around 92% of the University’s total output.

The University of Edinburgh has always had a preference for Green OA because there are no upfront costs for authors so everyone can participate without requiring access to large research budgets. But since the REF2021 open access requirements were published, Green OA has become even more important. The HEFCE policy states that, to be eligible for submission to the next REF, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must be deposited in a repository. The University of Edinburgh has adopted this policy and provided the infrastructure and support for all it’s researchers to make their research Green OA. The programme which was adopted to facilitate open access in the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine is described in more detail in the following paper:

Large scale implementation of open access: A case study at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

The results of the open access implementation plan have been extremely successful and we can report a 92% adoption rate for Green OA. The Scholarly Communications Team prepares monthly reports using data from our repository to identify the current level of compliance with the REF open access policy. These monthly reports indicate the numbers of in-scope research outputs (journal articles and conference proceedings with ISSNs) and whether they meet the requirements for the next REF, as per our repository’s compliance-checker functionality.

The figure and table below show the growth in the percentage of research outputs made open access since April 2016 and also a more detailed breakdown by subject area. The reporting period is a rolling window three months behind the current date.

1 April 2016 – 31 May 2017 Number of papers Indicative compliance
Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Business School 123 out of 126 97.62%
Divinity, School of 22 out of 22 100%
Economics, School of 21 out of 21 100%
Edinburgh College of Art 111 out of 118 94.07%
Health in Social Science, School of 118 out of 125 94.40%
History, Classics and Archaeology, School of 86 out of 88 97.73%
Law, School 102 out of 104 98.08%
Literatures, Languages and Cultures, School of 59 out of 61 96.72%
Moray House School of Education 155 out of 160 96.88%
Philosophy, Psychology and Language Science, School of 402 out of 405 99.26%
Social and Political Science, School of 181 out of 191 94.76%
Medicine & Veterinary Medicine
Clinical Sciences, Deanery of 1183 out of 1387 85.29%
Biomedical Sciences, Deanery of 214 out of 239 89.54%
Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences, Deanery of 794 out of 910 87.25%
Veterinary Studies, Royal (Dick) School of 550 out of 573 95.99%
Edinburgh Medical School 672 out of 732 91.80%
Centre for Medical Education 7 out of 8 87.50%
Science & Engineering
Biological Sciences, School of 407 out of 455 89.45%
Chemistry, School of 203 out of 231 87.88%
Engineering, School of 373 out of 385 96.88%
GeoSciences, School of 354 out of 373 94.91%
Informatics, School of 366 out of 376 97.34%
Mathematics, School of 135 out of 135 100%
Physics and Astronomy, School of 340 out of 380 89.47%
Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre 6 out of 7 85.71%

Problems

Despite a hugely successful Green OA implementation programme at the University of Edinburgh there are a number of significant outstanding problems. To my mind the main issues are that Green OA is:

Not immediate. Most publishers (but not all) require an embargo period of between 12-36 months before the AAM can be made open access. Not only are long embargo periods are hugely detrimental for scholarly communication, but I believe they are unnecessary. Many academic publishers insist on long embargo periods to protect journal subscription revenue from cancellations. However, a number of academic publishers (including the Royal Society, Cambridge University Press, Emerald and SAGE) have zero month embargoes for selected titles are they are not unduly affected by cancellations.

Not compliant with all research funders policies. Unfortunately, these long embargo periods are not compliant with all research funders policies (e.g. RCUK) which means that many researchers are forced to pay Hybrid OA fees for their publications. As we discussed yesterday Hybrid OA accounts for 70% of our open access expenditure. In the UK researchers are faced by a myriad of different funders policies (e.g. HEFCE, RCUK, Horizon 2020) which currently require different routes to open access.

Not cost-free. If you factor in hidden costs – such a repository platform fees and staff costs for mediated deposits/copyright checking – Green OA is more expensive than you would initially imagine. Whilst gathering data for a recent HEFCE open access questionnaire we estimated that we have around eleven full time equivalent staff distributed across the entire University working on open access implementation. If you aggregate all these costs then the cost per paper to deliver Green OA is somewhere in the region of £45 which I think is too expensive (but put in context this is still pretty good value for money as our average Gold OA costs are £1,676 per paper).

In summary, Green OA is a step in the right direction but still does not answer all of the problems that we currently face. What we can do to alleviate the issues of long embargo periods, harmonising research funders policies and simplifying processes and thereby lowering costs is the topic of tomorrows blog post – the UK Scholarly Communications Licence.

University of Edinburgh 2016/17 Gold open access spend analysis

The University of Edinburgh receives two main block grants from Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) to support researchers funded by them to comply with their open access policies. The Library’s Scholarly Communications Team manages these block grants on behalf of the institution. In 2016/17 we spent £1,167,966 to make 697 articles open access via the Gold open access route. In addition, £28,951 was spent on other publication costs, for example page and colour charges.

A summary of the open access charges made to the top 15 publishers is shown in the table and figures below:

Row Labels Count of APC paid Sum of APC paid (£) Ave APC (£)
Elsevier 108 £283,413 £2,624
Wiley 71 £122,685 £1,728
Nature 47 £97,296 £2,070
Springer 107 £70,240 £656
Oxford Journals 28 £56,742 £2,026
Royal Society of Chemistry 49 £51,840 £1,058
BioMed Central 33 £46,295 £1,403
BMJ Publishing Group Ltd 24 £43,650 £1,819
Public Library of Science 29 £43,210 £1,490
Frontiers 16 £24,508 £1,532
American Heart Association 6 £20,693 £3,449
Taylor & Francis 28 £20,605 £736
American Chemical Society 8 £18,278 £2,285
BioScientifica 8 £16,215 £2,027
Royal Society Publishing 9 £15,984 £1,776

Points and trends to note:

  • Our overall spend on open access in 2016/17 was £1,167,966 which bought 697 papers, with an average Article Processing Charge (APC) of £1,676.
  • The open access expenditure is dominated by three large publishers: Elsevier, SpringerNature and Wiley. These 3 publishers account for 53% of our total spend. Note that we have shown SpringerNature as three individual publishers in the table and figure as they have distinct publishing identities – Springer, Nature and BioMedCentral.
  • The top individual publisher (Elsevier) alone accounted for 24% of the total spend, with their APCs 56% more expensive than the average.
  • Generally speaking, we found the highest individual APCs were from US society publishers, like the American Heart Association or American Chemical Society.
  • Best value APCs were from publishers where we have offsetting or national agreements with – for example Taylor & Francis, Springer and Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • 70% of our expenditure is on Hybrid Gold OA  – where journals charge a subscription and APCs – rather than pure Gold OA (30%) where APCs are the only charge.
  • Looking at the whole dataset Hybrid Gold OA is more expensive (£2,075) than pure Gold OA APCs. (£1,581).

Discussion

The University of Edinburgh publishes 6 -7,000 journal articles and conference proceedings per year. In the current market conditions if we were to fully transition to Gold OA then we estimate it would cost in the region of £10M per year. To put this in context Edinburgh University Library spends approximately £4M per year on e-journal subscriptions so this represents a significant uplift on the total cost of publication. I suspect this figure is similar for other research-intensive universities.

At its current scale and intensity, open access as purely delivered by Hybrid Gold OA and Gold OA alone is not likely to happen. Any increase to the total cost of publication is not acceptable.

If we wish to transition to full open access then significant cost mitigation for paid open access needs to occur, and alternative low cost or no cost options need to be investigated and adopted. Some options are described below.

Reducing cost recommendations

  1. Push for offsetting deals : Libraries should be a) requesting offsetting deals, b) pushing for significant discounts, and c) helping publishers adopt transformative business models.

Examples of publishers offering good offsetting schemes are IOP – where an actual rebate is given depending on Gold OA spend – and SAGE Publishing who globally discount the subscription rate of journals where more than 5% of articles are published as Gold OA. SAGE also offer steep open access discounts of 80% for some members of consortia subscriptions. Taylor & Francis are another publisher which significantly reduce APC cost (by 75%) to consortia members. These steep discounts are welcome, but have a fundamental problem in that they rely on privilege. Discounts are not available to all authors as they rely on institutions having a subscription.

Transformative business models such as the UK Springer Compact national agreement, or the Royal Society of Chemistry Read and Publish agreement, are also welcome as they lower transactional barriers for authors to participate in Gold OA. This leads to a greater coverage of open access articles in journal titles, rather than the patchy open access that Hybrid Gold OA delivers. The overall costs are also appreciably lower than the cumulative costs seen with Hybrid Gold OA – look at the difference in our expenditure between Elsevier and Springer for a similar amount of Gold OA articles published.

  1. Support ‘low cost and no cost’ Gold OA : Academic and National Libraries should support open access initiatives that are inclusive and open to scholars who do not have budgets for publishing.

Gold OA does not necessarily equate to paid open access. Many academic or library-led publishing initiatives do not charge Article Processing Charges as the costs are covered through alternative mechanisms. Some examples of innovative academic or library-led publishing activities are described below.

Edinburgh University Library provides an Open Journal Service which is available free of charge to University of Edinburgh students and academics. It provides a hosting platform for academic and student-led groups to create and publish their own Open Access journal. Currently the service has a portfolio of 16 journals and is looking to grow and develop in the coming year.

The Open Library of Humanities (OLH) is a charitable organisation dedicated to publishing open access scholarship with no author-facing article processing charges. The OLH publishing platform supports academic journals from across the humanities disciplines, as well as hosting its own multidisciplinary journal. The University of Edinburgh has opted to support the Open Library of Humanities at a higher rate than required. This additional support will enable the OLH to continue its growth mission to convert subscription journals to a solid, ongoing, open-access model, with no author-facing charges.

  1. Reduce reliance on Hybrid Gold OA : Hybrid Gold OA – where journals charge both subscriptions and Article Processing Charges – is too expensive.

Unfortunately, Hybrid Gold OA which accounts for 70% of our expenditure are significantly more expensive than pure Gold OA costs. It is not uncommon to receive invoices of $5,000 for individual APCs. Our open access block grants are supported either directly by taxpayers money (RCUK), or from charitable organisations (COAF), so it is imperative that anyone managing these funds should be seeking best value for money. I would find it very difficult to explain to someone who has raised money for Cancer Research UK the hard way by running the London Marathon that their sponsorship money has only paid for half an APC. Where research funders policies allow we should be seeking to reduce our reliance on Hybrid Gold OA by utilising alternative mechanisms like Green OA, which we will visit in more detail in tomorrow’s blog post.

Open Access week: 23-29th October

For Open Access week we have a series of blog posts lined up to be published every day. We’ll start by describing the current state of play of open access here at Edinburgh, before moving on to highlight some of the innovative projects and initiatives we are involved in to develop and promote scholarly communication. We will round off the week by sharing our long-term strategy to support our academics to make their research open. Our blog-posting schedule will look something like this:

Monday : University of Edinburgh 2016/17 Gold open access spend analysis.
Tuesday : University of Edinburgh Green open access and REF compliance.
Wednesday : Implementing the UK-Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL)
Thursday : Academic-led publishing supported by the Library and other actors.
Friday : The University of Edinburgh’s longer-term strategy for open access.

University of Edinburgh Further Supports Open Library of Humanities

 

The University of Edinburgh has opted to support the Open Library of Humanities at a higher rate than required. This additional support will enable the OLH to continue its growth mission to convert subscription journals to a solid, ongoing, open-access model, with no author-facing charges.

Theo Andrew, Scholarly Communications Manager at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The OLH is such good value for money. Library budgets are always tight, but we feel that we should be doing more to support academic-led publishing. OLH puts a lot back into the academic community and we are pleased to help with its ongoing sustainability.”

 

Professor Martin Paul Eve, a CEO of the Open Library of Humanities, added: “We are greatly indebted to the University of Edinburgh for its support and flattered by its praise. It is intensely gratifying to see libraries who can, in the face of budgetary difficulty, still find ways to support their core mission: the dissemination of knowledge to all. We understand that not every institution can do this, but when it does happen, it genuinely makes a difference to us in what we can provide.”

OAI10, Geneva, 21-23 June 2017

image courtesy of Elena Giglia (https://www.flickr.com/photos/eg65/35327695980/in/album-72157682640272443/)

The CERN – UNIGE Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication took place at the University of Geneva in June 21st-23rd 2017. Two and a half days of speakers and workshops left us with lots to think about. The emphasis of the conference is innovations in scholarly communication and attracts attendees from across Europe and further afield.

There were seven main sessions;

  • Opening keynote by Jean-Claude Burgelman
  • Technical session
  • Copyright and Licensing session
  • OA transformation session
  • OA outside session
  • Social media session
  • Future of repositories session

For me, one of the of most insightful sessions was the OA outside session,  the experiences of the three speakers with open access really brings home what open access is all about and why it is so important beyond complying with funder’s policies and the next REF exercise. First up ElHassan ElSabry, a PhD candidate, talked about Who needs access to research? an overview of available evidence describing how there is more discussion about OA than actual studies on the benefits of OA. Next up, Dr. Nilam Ashra-McGrat from COMDIS reminding us how privileged we are in our institutions to be able to access so much research through journal subscriptions which non-governmental organization’s (NGO’s) have little or no access to. Her presentation ‘Is open access helping or hindering the international development agenda? Reflections from a consortium of developing country NGOs’ highlighted how many barriers there are to research, even so called ‘free’ research which requires users to register to access it. Finally, on a more positive note Alasdair Rae’s presentation ‘How open access opens doors – reflections on my recent ‘Megaregions of the United States’ paper’ came from a researcher’s perspective and he talked the benefits of open science and how open access opens door, he then talked us through one of his most recent OA papers which was only made possible through the benefits of open science.

Slides, recordings and links from all the presentations can be found online here.

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.