The University of Edinburgh is a strong supporter of open access (OA), and in 2018, researchers at Edinburgh published over 7,000 peer reviewed research outputs, of which over 5,181 (74%) are openly available from the University’s research portal (www.research.ed.ac.uk). As a large and diverse organisation there is naturally a large variation in the way in which we make our research openly available. From our total of 5,181 open access research outputs we find that 2,959 outputs (or 57%) are published as Gold OA – where the publisher makes the version-of-record open sometimes for a fee – and 2,222 (or 43%) are available as Green OA – where the author makes their accepted manuscript open from our Institutional or Subject Repositories for free.
Over the last 5 years the University has spent in the region of £5 million with publishers to make around 2,800 papers Gold OA. The majority of these papers were published as ‘hybrid OA’ in subscription journals where the publisher charges subscription fees to access the closed content, and also charges an open access fee to make individual papers open access. This practice of charging twice is called ‘double-dipping’ as large research intensive institutions have not seen their subscription costs lowered in proportion to their open access expenditure.
Over the last 5 years we have seen a period of significant consolidation of the open access publishing market with just three companies responsible for publishing 51% of Edinburgh’s journal articles, whilst receiving 57% of the money available for open access. The bulk of the University of Edinburgh’s RCUK block grants have been spent on ‘Hybrid OA’ journals as shown in the diagram below. Only 3 out of the 10 most popular publishers are purely Gold OA and don’t charge subscriptions :
Research funders like UKRI and the Wellcome Trust previously supported this ‘hybrid-OA’ model, but they no longer believe that it supports a transition to full OA which is their aim. To precipitate a change in the publisher’s behaviour and to increase the adoption of open access, a number of important European research funders, co-ordinated by Science Europe, developed Plan S.
Plan S update
Plan S requires that, from 2020, scientific publications that result from research funded by public money must be published in compliant Open Access journals, and specifically states that ‘hybrid OA’ journals won’t be supported. As it currently stands, Plan S will be hugely disruptive as researchers will potentially not be able to publish in their journal of choice.
In order to understand the impact of how Plan S will affect our research staff, departments and the broader academic community, Library & University Collections carried out a wide ranging consultation exercise. The Scholarly Communications Team held a series of eight open meetings, during the period 23rd – 30th January 2019, which were attended by over 260 staff. As far as we are aware this was the largest consultation held by a HE institution.
Based on feedback gathered at these meetings, the University has submitted a balance response to that is supportive of Plan S and the time frames set down, but also reflects the concerns raised about risks to international collaboration – specifically co-publishing work with collaborators in non-Plan S regions of the world. The response, and more general information about Plan S, can be read in full on our web pages:
UKRI will decide how to apply the principles of Plan S once it has concluded an ongoing review of its own open-access policies, which is not likely to be completed until next autumn. The current Open Access policy is firmly in place until 31st March 2020 and it would be improbable for UKRI to change terms and conditions of grant awards midway through the year. We can therefore expect UKRI to adopt Plan S from 1 April 2020.
Every week is open access week at the University of Edinburgh. From April 2016 – June 2018 the University of Edinburgh has made 11,793 research outputs open access. This represents 89% of the research published that could be submitted to the REF2020 exercise.
During the period Sept-2017 to Sept-2018 over 774,535 research outputs were downloaded from the Edinburgh Research Explorer. This equates to nearly 65,000 downloads per month.
The five most popular papers written by University of Edinburgh authors are listed below:
|Personality Structure in the Domestic Cat , Scottish Wildcat , Clouded Leopard, Snow Leopard and African Lion: A Comparative Study||Gartner, Marieke Cassia; Powell, David M.; Weiss, Alexander||http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11820/fd973849-7ae1-48a8-833c-d4da8a7c9de3||27,846|
|Tubby’s dub style :The live art of record production||Williams, Sean||http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11820/510f47ca-8881-4691-a6a6-23dd5fcea473||10,782|
|Predicting loss given default (LGD) for residential mortgage loans:A two-stage model and empirical evidence for UK bank data||Leow, M.; Mues, C.||http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11820/485b5935-f0cc-4944-ab93-4abb2511e7fc||5,673|
|There’s no madness in my method: Explaining how your research findings are built on firm foundations||Saunders, Mark N. K.; Rojon, Celine||http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11820/43a5d933-01fb-46f7-a2ec-a6691f157c6b||5,585|
|The past, present and future of China’s automotive industry: a value chain perspective||Oliver, N.; Holweg, Matthias; Luo, Jianxi||http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11820/26a252cc-4c3d-437f-a645-a086f5e70303||4,958|
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]
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:
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%|
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.