How to be Popular (in Edinburgh Research Explorer)

Edinburgh Research Explorer • www.research.ed.ac.uk

These are conclusions from a survey of the Top 100 MOST POPULAR downloads from Edinburgh Research Explorer in August 2019, it contains some VERY obvious biases and doesn’t reflect the breadth, depth, or usefulness of the repository as a whole; and shows that whilst OPEN ACCESS can reach a wider audience, it can also be ignored by a wider audience.

1. STEER CLEAR OF SCIENCE

Top 100 downloads in Edinburgh Research Explorer by school: science and Non-science
Fig i. Top 100 downloads in Edinburgh Research Explorer by school: science and non-science

Research items from science-related schools made up 18% of the Top 100, dropping to 12% in the Top 50 and 0% in the Top 10.


2. DON’T COLLABORATE

Edinburgh Research Explorer: Downloads (x) vs. No. of authors (y)
Fig ii. Edinburgh Research Explorer: Downloads (x) vs. No. of authors (y)

With each additional author, the number of items and the average number of downloads decreased.


3. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WRITE IN ENGLISH, BUT IT HELPS

In the Top 100, one item was written in Italian, the remainder in English:
that was also one of only five items that month, that failed to find an audience outwith the UK.


4. GO OPEN-ACCESS

8 of the Top 100 items didn’t offer Open-Access Permissions, they averaged 25% fewer downloads than the overall average.

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Edinburgh Research Explorer | ER-data: Jan. – June 2019

Edinburgh Research Explorer | ER-data: January 2019 - June 2019
Edinburgh Research Explorer • www.research.ed.ac.uk • ERdata: Jan. – June 2019

The first six-months of 2019, as now seems inevitable, have proved to be the busiest six-months in Edinburgh Research Explorer’s brief history, with 543,152 downloads. This is not only the first time that the half-a-million milestone has been breached within such a short period, but represents a 35% increase on the previous best. As the chart below indicates, this rate of growth is unprecedented following a full 6-months:

Edinburgh Research Explorer: downloads May 2017- June 2019, in six-monthly blocks
Fig i. Edinburgh Research Explorer: downloads May 2017- June 2019, in six-monthly blocks

This report aims to offer an overview of the last six-months of download activity on Edinburgh Research Explorer. The data generated through the IRUS-UK download statistics portal is somewhat limited, it won’t tell us much about the users, in terms of who is downloading what, but it will offer up a few broad clues. This report will investigate those clues under the following headings:

[Also available as a PDF]
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Open Access update

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 :

Block chart showing the top 10 publishers

Block chart showing the top 10 publishers who received funds from the RCUK open access block grant during 2013-2018. The number in the top left of each box is the total number of Gold OA papers published, the number in the middle of the box is the total expenditure and the name of the publisher is in the bottom left of the box.

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:

https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/publish-research/open-access/plan-s

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.