Edinburgh Research Archive • www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk • ERdata: Jan. – June 2019
The first half of 2019 saw the fifth highest total of downloads from ERA over a six-month period, unfortunately this is the lowest total of its ‘mature’ phase (since Jan-Jun 2017 download numbers have been consistently higher than 300,000 per 6-month block).
More disappointingly, this is the first time in ERAs history that we’ve witnessed a fall-off in numbers in two consecutive blocks: December 2018 saw a 15% decline and June 2109 has brought a further decline of 6.5%.
The remainder of this report aims to offer an overview of the last six-months of download activity on the Edinburgh Research Archive. Using data generated through the IRUS-UK download statistics portal to investigate that activity under the following headings:
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:
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:
Over the last few months Library Research Support has received a number of international visitors, from places like the University of Helsinki, University of Amsterdam, and the Czech Academy of Sciences Library, who have all come to visit and learn how our Library supports it’s researchers in open access publishing, digitisation, and research information and data management. We recently decided to reverse this trend and go visit somewhere to gain insights into how other institutions tackle similar problems that we face. The University of Amsterdam was chosen because they are a comparator institution, with a similar profile and size as the University of Edinburgh. The trip was funded by funding from a successful bid to the Erasmus+ mobility programme.
On the 8th March 2018 the Scholarly Communications Team visited the University of Amsterdam Central University Library. Over the course of two days we learnt about the services UvA offer to support open access publication, copyright support, research data management and bibliometrics. The visit was finished with a tour of the Central University Library which is based in the centre of the Amsterdam right next to the Singel canal.
The Central Library actually consists of three buildings, all of different sizes and ages, merged together which presents a quite a few challenges – particularly for accessibility and continuity of services. The current library site has a rich history beginning in the 1880s when the library moved in to the Handboogdoelen building (furthest left in the picture above), which was a former home of long-bow militia and incorporated a shooting range. The building next door (central building in the pic above), with a façade from 1600s, used to be a former royal stables (you can see the two large doorways for horses) and was added to the Library complex in the 1940s. Finally, the main building (building on the far right in the pic above) was built in a vacant plot alongside in the 1960s. The buildings are linked together, with short staircases used to account for the different levels of the buildings internally.There is a plan to move the Central Library to a purpose built building in 2020.
The Library has a unique contemporary style which tries to live up to Amsterdam’s reputation as being on-trend, forward thinking and liberal. It was redesigned by Amsterdam-based designers Roelof Mulder and Iro Koers who went for a minimalistic design moving away from the traditional stereotype of a library. An example of this is the Red Room (see first picture above), which provides a self-service pick-up point for closed stack materials. The Library also had many interesting small quirky features, like free-to-use massage chairs, relaxation pods, phone booth cubicles and standing tables. The Library will also be participating in a scientific study to assess the impact of plants used in interior decor to affect the mood and learning capabilities of students. One suite of rooms will be filled with plants, with another devoid of vegetation used for a control group. I really liked the idea of the library building being used as a natural laboratory space to test scientific hypotheses.
The visit has forged friendships between the two institutions which we hope to build upon in the future. We have come home from the trip with a whole new range of ideas to improve the services we currently deliver, but we also have a greater appreciation of our shared cultural similarities and differences.
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]
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.
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.
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:
- Evaluating the initial offering
- Sign-up procedures
- Day-to-day administration and usage monitoring
- 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.
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).
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.
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.