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’.


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.

Hybrid open access revenue

fifty-pound-notesPhoto courtesy of Images_of_Money

Over the last few weeks I’ve been preparing and reviewing various compliance and financial reports for funding agencies on their annual open access block grants awarded to our institution. One of the benefits of having sets of large data in front of you is that you start seeing trends and think of mildly* interesting things to do with it.

(* I say mildly because “The best thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else“, which is one of the many reasons it is important to make your data open.)

Sequentially issued invoices

One of the things I’ve noticed is that one of the larger publishers (Elsevier) issues sequential invoices of the form W1234567 and 12345CV0. If we had enough invoices spread over a reasonable period of time we could estimate what their hybrid open access revenue is during that time period, and potentially extrapolate further. Just to be clear I’ve only picked Elsevier because they are the publisher that we have gathered the most information about open access expenditure due to their large market share.

Invoices issued from the European office

I looked through our admin records and noted invoice # W1274177 was issued on 30 April 2015 whilst invoice # W1300445 was issued on 22 October 2015. During this 175 day period there appears to be 26,268 invoices issued by the publishers European Corporate Office, which works out at about 150 APCs per day for their portfolio of hybrid journals.

Our average APC in 2014/15 (n=65) for this publisher is £2066.81 so their revenue for this period was in the region of £54,290,965, or an APC daily revenue of £310,234.

Invoices issued from the North American office

The publishers also issues invoices of the form 12345CV0 from their North American Corporate Office. Noting that invoice 11795CV1 was issued on 19th May 2015 and invoice 12306CV0 was issued on 15th October 2015 this suggests that 511 APCs were charged over the 149 day period, or around 3 APCs per day.

Using the same average APC (£2066.81) as before this gives us an estimate revenue of £1,056,140 during the time period, or £7,088 per day.

Note that the invoices issued from the regional offices do not reflect the revenue generated in that geographical area.

Global APC revenue

The combined daily APC revenue from the European and North American offices is in the region of £317,322. If we upscale this to a full year we can infer an annual APC revenue in the region of £115,822,530. This sounds like a hell of a lot of money, but put into perspective against the company’s total 2014 revenue of £5,773M (figure from the RELX Group annual report) this represents only 2% of their business income.


These are rough and ready calculations and should be taken with a pinch of salt because I make a number of assumptions including:

  1. The invoices really are sequentially issued
  2. No other types of transactions (e.g. journal subscriptions) are included in the invoicing sequence
  3. We have large enough data set to infer an annual revenue
  4. Daily APC rate is a good enough estimate


Stuart Lawson pointed out on Twitter that this estimate is likely to be on the high side:

Screenshot - 30_10_2015 , 14_38_17

Open Access in Scottish Universities Video

The JISC-funded Enhancing Repository Infrastructure in Scotland (ERIS) was left with some money underspent. University of Edinburgh’s proposal on how use the remaining money to the best possible effect for Scottish HEIs was the Open Access Toolkit for Scotland (OATS). The main objective was to produce a video which included interviews with well-regarded, pro-open access academics from a range of universities in Scotland.

Over several weeks in February, March and April – myself, the filmmaker Marie Liden and her cameraman Nick – met and interviewed Open Access enthusiast academics from Strathclyde University, St Andrews University, Stirling University and the Scottish Agricultural College. In total we interviewed 11 academics and librarians and recorded over 240 minutes of footage out of which, after editing and post-production, only 17 were used for the final video (which is still a wee bit too long). The film was presented at the Repository Fringe Conference (30 & 31 July @ Informatics Forum) and the feedback was very encouraging.

“Producing” a (short) film for the first time was quite a steep learning curve and I started to enjoy it only towards the end. Undoubtedly, we had our fair share of ‘strange’ moments like when we were interviewing one researcher in this beautiful, old meeting room, but where it was impossible to move at all since even shifting your body weight from one leg to the other would make the floor squeak and ruin the shoot!

See the video at Open Access in Scottish Universities


Eugen Stoica – Scholarly Communications Team

Open Access in the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

My name is Anna Krzak, and I am an Open Access Research Publications Administrator for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. I have been in this role since March this year. Previously, I worked as an Open Access Publications Assistant (also for MVM) so I am not entirely new to the University and its Open Access (OA) project. I have been assisting academics within the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine with the RCUK OA policy implementation since April last year but, since I used to work mostly from home, I should introduce myself properly now.

The main purpose of my new role is to gather Open Access full text versions of research papers and the accepted peer-reviewed manuscripts and to upload the files to the Institutional Repository. As part of that, I ensure that the licensing terms and conditions are adhered to, including any embargo periods, and that any licenses or set phrases are acknowledged in PURE. In addition, I often advise academic staff on research funders’ Open Access policies and relevant Open Access options. If necessary, I consult the publishers in regard to their often unclear self-archiving policies (this is probably my least favourite bit..). As such, my role combines both theoretical and practical aspects of the OA implementation project that’s currently being undertaken throughout the University.

As the RCUK OA policy has been in force since April 2013, I thought it would be a good idea to evaluate the progress of its implementation in my College:

Please note that the collected evidence refers only to peer-reviewed research articles (including review articles) and conference proceedings that were submitted for publication after 1 April 2013 and that acknowledge the RCUK funding (as per the RCUK OA policy).

RCUK Compliance for the reporting period 1/04/13 – 4/06/14:

Approximately 224 research outputs have been identified, of which 192 have open access documents available to the general public. This means an 85% open access compliance rate (as of 4th June 2014).

All outputs All Open Access Gold/Gratis OA Green OA
         223      191      164            27

However, a more detailed analysis of the RCUK requirements for OA has revealed few secondary problems:

  • Licensing: Although the majority of all OA articles have been published under the CC-BY and CC-BY-NC licence (as required by the RCUK), in approximately 18 cases the articles were published under the CC-BY-NC-SA or CC-BY-NC-ND licences
  • Length of embargo periods: In 18 out of 27 cases the embargo periods were 12 months and longer
  • Self-archiving issues: In several cases journals didn’t offer any green options

If we take these points into consideration, the compliance rate for the specified period stands at approximately 67%, as compared to the required 45%. Overall, it’s quite a good result for MVM.

I’m afraid that my introduction has come across all too serious. However, in a face-to-face conversation you may find out that I am not really that bad 😉

-Anna Krzak, Open Access Research Publications Administrator, MVM

Confusing Green Open Access policies

Elsevier’s Green Open Access policy on self-archiving is so confusing even the Elsevier Customer Service department don’t know what it is.

A few weeks ago one of my colleagues was trying to find out whether they could self-archive a paper published in an Elsevier journal in our institutional repository. The normal procedure is to check the SHERPA RoMEO database, followed by looking at the journal’s webpages. In this particular case there was no information from either sources:

Screenshot - 25_04_2014 , 11_49_48

Given the lack of information my colleague took the reasonable step of contacting Elsevier via their ‘Help & Contact’ web form on 7th April 2014 to ask what is the self-archiving policy for the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The following response was received (names have been pixelated to preserve anonymity):


The same response was sent again on 16th and 22nd April. Finally my colleague received the following email asking why they wanted to know:ElsevierEmail4

So far it has taken 12 working days to not answer a simple question.

If Elsevier’s customer support staff don’t know what the Green Open Access policy of one of their own journals is then how is an academic author supposed to find out?

As it turns out the journal in question has a 12 month embargo period. After digging round the Elsevier webpages we found the information is buried in a link to a PDF.

The length of embargo periods is a contentious area. Most reasonable people would agree that a period of exclusivity is required for publishers to reap some financial benefit from their subscription-based business model. The majority of UK based funders of research (Research Councils and Charities) recognise this and typically implement a 6 month time period in their open access policies to accommodate any journal embargo periods. It is telling to note that many hybrid publishers have increased journal embargos to periods longer than those recommended by research funders. This in effect forces many researchers to choose paid for open access services offered by publishers.


After more than 3 weeks the enquiry was finally passed to the correct Customer Support Team who provided a full satisfactory response on 30 April 2014:

Please accept my apologies that your original enquiry dated 7th April has just been brought to the attention of the Open Access Customer Support Team. I believe that your enquiry was regarding an explanation as to ‘s self-archiving policy for The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and the relevant embargo period, but to date you have yet to receive a full response. I would like to provide you with the following information.Elsevier

The process in which an Author can share their research by self-archiving a draft copy to a repository or website, is referred to as Green Open Access. The following link will provide you with full information and clear instructions as this approach to Open Access http://www.elsevier.com/about/open-access/green-open-access. The website also provides clear details of ’s journal specific posting policy Elsevierhttp://www.elsevier.com/about/open-access/open-access-policies/article-posting-policy and confirms that the embargo period for this journal title is 12 months.


International Earth Day

Tuesday 22nd April has been designated by the UN as International Mother Earth Day. It is a day of action where people from all over the planet do something on behalf of the environment – through local campaigns to pick up litter, plant trees and clean up their communities, to online activism to contact their elected officials and influence policy changes. The University of Edinburgh contributes in part by carrying out original research and freely sharing this knowledge with the world adding to the growing global body of knowledge.

We wanted to highlight some of the materials in our Open Access collections that looks at research themes closely related to #MotherEarthDay – including sustainable development, renewable energy and global climate change:

1. Reducing uncertainty in predictions of the response of Amazonian forests to climate change (Lucy Rowland, PhD 2013)

Our understanding of global climate change is mainly based on computer modelling. To date there are few studies which have comprehensively tested vegetation models using ecological data from Amazon forests. Using data this thesis presents an investigation of how tropical forests respond to changes in climate and with what certainty scientists can model these changes in order to predict the response of Amazon forests to predicted future climate change.

2. Climate change uncertainty evaluation, impacts modelling and resilience of farm scale dynamics in Scotland (Michael Rivington, PhD 2011)

Climate change is a global phenomena that will have a wide range of local impacts on land use. The work undertaken in this PhD thesis indicates that agriculture in Scotland has the potential to cope with the impacts but that substantial changes are required in farming practices

3. Making sustainable development a reality: A study of the social processes of community-led sustainable development and the buy-out of the Isle of Gigha, Scotland (Robert Didham, PhD 2007)

This PhD thesis examines the concept of sustainable development with a primary focus on its advancement and implementation at a local level. This work is based on original ethnographic research that was conducted on the Isle of Gigha, Scotland following the community buy-out of the island that occurred in 2002.

4. Climate change and renewable energy portfolios (Dougal Burnett, PhD 2012)

The UK has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This will see the proportion of energy generated in the UK from renewable resources such as wind, solar, marine and bio-fuels is increasing and likely to dominate the future energy market over the next few decades. This PhD thesis explores the influence of climate change on renewable electricity generation portfolios and energy security in the UK, with the aim of determining if climate change will affect renewable energy resource in such a way that may leave future low carbon generation portfolios sub-optimal.

5. An Assessment of the Impact of Climate Change on Hydroelectric Power (Gareth Harrison, PhD 2001)

This PhD thesis describes a methodology to assess the potential impact of climatic change on hydropower investment, and details the implementation of a technique for quantifying changes in profitability and risk. A case study is presented as an illustration, the results of which are analysed with respect to the implications for future provision of hydropower, as well as our ability to limit the extent of climatic change.

University of Edinburgh Open Access update: March 2014

As of 31st March there are approximately 76,800 records in our Current Research Information System (PURE), of which 16,795 have open access documents available to the general public (22% open access). In addition there are 170 records with documents waiting for validation.

Looking specifically at just journal articles and conference proceedings:

All time OA docs Open access % 2008 onwards OA docs Open access %
Medicine & Veterinary Medicine 6513 33 4476 41
Humanities & Social Science 3002 22 2509 36
Science & Engineering 5687 22 3826 30

Monthly application figures to the Gold Open Access funds:

Month Applications to RCUK Applications to Wellcome
January 2014 32 13
February 2014 24 13
March 2014 23 14

Status of the RCUK fund – currently there is £367,400 left in the fund*, with an additional £74,400 committed on articles submitted for publication. Altogether the fund has 35% left in the account.

(*this figure was slightly wrong last month – apologies!)

Status of the Wellcome fund – since the start of the new reporting period (November 2013) the cumulative open access spend has been £137,078

Access To Research – A Public Library Initiative

[This post first appeared online at The Informed Blog and is re-posted here with their kind permission. Since it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license it doesn’t actually need their permission to do this but it is always polite to ask] 


In January 2014 the Access to Research initiative was launched. This initiative was sparked by and is a response to a key recommendation in the Finch Report – “Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications” (Page 7; recommendation v). The two year pilot co-ordinated by the Publishers Licensing Society aims to give free at the point of use, walk-in access to academic literature in public libraries across the UK. The launch quickly generated a fair amount of publicity, albeit with equal measures of scorn poured upon it.

This blog post is not going to spend a long time explaining what the initiative is and how it works – others do it better here – but rather I’d like to talk about some of the good points and some of the not so obvious bad points so you can make up your own mind on the matter.

Before we start, it should be pointed out that, despite arising from the Finch report which has rather a lot to say about open access, this initiative actually has nothing to do with open access as most people understand the term, and should not be confused with developments in this area.

Lets begin by looking at some of the good stuff that the initiative promises:

1. Costs

Firstly, the cost to participating libraries and the general public is zero. The initiative is intended to be free at point of use for the user, and free for libraries to sign up to participate with all the costs being borne by the publishers. While we are not aware of the actual costs they are presumably not trivial. Hazarding an educated guess I doubt you’ll see much change from £100k if you wanted to set up a two year pilot preceded by a 3 month technical trial.

2. Content

The 17 publishers that are included at the start of the pilot have contributed between 1.25 to 1.5 million articles from a portfolio of approximately 8000 journals. The figures remain a bit hazy as David Willetts in his launch presentation mentions one figure and the promotional text states another. However, knowing how these kind of statistics are pulled together I can appreciate the vagueness.  At a first glance this is a sizable corpus of material to access for free, although I will return to this point to put the figure in more context later on.

3. Building bridges

One of the less tangible benefits of this initiative is that it could help to break down barriers between research and the wider community. The portrayal of science in the popular media is personal bug bear of mine. For many people the only exposure they have to current research topics is when they are covered in the newspapers and television news. Unfortunately lazy journalism seems to propagate an ‘us v them’ mentality – one of the most commonly heard phrases in the news must be “Scientists state that X causes cancer*” which is rarely productive for all involved. If journalists or the public can engage better with the primary literature (i.e. find more interesting news articles to broadcast/ carry out follow up reading) then this can only help with perceptions and engagement with research. Even proponents of the Access to Research initiative admit that a key challenge is how to digest information obtained from scholarly journals. At least making the literature available for citizens to begin to make informed decisions is a good start.

*where X is an activity/thing regularly done/consumed by the public

4. Footfall

At a time when public libraries are struggling in the face of cuts to maintain services and prove their relevance librarians will seize upon any opportunity to offer more services for no initial outlay (other than staff training). Already there is anecdotal evidence* that offering new services such as Access to Research will entice new users who wouldn’t normally think of visiting. Although most people would agree that providing information online is much more desirable, an increased footfall at public libraries is a good thing.

* Sarah Faulder at 7min20 mentions  “ ….a glowing testimonial”

5. Usability

Although I’ve not yet actually used the pilot Access to Research service, from all accounts the search delivery service – Summon from ProQuest – is extremely easy to use and doesn’t require specialised training to use. Furthermore, it doesn’t require tricky authentication to access on site which is a major failing whenever I’ve tried to use some online electronic public library services in the past.

6. Leadership

Another less tangible benefit mentioned by David Willetts is ‘thought leadership’ and UK PLC to be seen to be doing the right thing.

Now lets move on to some of the criticisms raised against the initiative:

1. Terms & Conditions

Perhaps some of the most serious criticisms are the limitations imposed on accessing the content. It always pays to read the small print which reveals serious restrictions on use – here are some of the worst:

  • I will only use the publications accessed through this search for my own personal, e.g. non-commercial research and private study
  • I will not download onto disc, CD or USB memory sticks or other portable devices or otherwise save, any publications accessed through this search;
  • I will not allow the making of any derivative works from any of the publications accessed through this search;
  • I will not copy otherwise retain, store or divert any of the publications accessed through this search onto my own personal systems;

Some of these points are extremely patronising – the derivative works one for example. We have all heard the famous quote that science is based upon standing on the shoulders of giants. To not be able to make derivative works goes against one of the underlying principles of scholarship. What this point makes clear is that users are meant to be consumers not creators of knowledge.

Other more knowledgeable folk like Cameron Neylon make a more eloquent assessment of the problems these terms and conditions create. All I want to add to this discussion is that in this day and age there is no reason to force users to adopt restrictions on use that are only appropriate for print media, unless you wish to severely handicap the usefulness and therefore the uptake of the service.

2. Postcode lottery

Closely related to the point above, but sufficiently serious to warrant its own point is the postcode lottery of whether you can actually use the walk in service. With 10 local authorities participating in the technical pilot and 11 new authorities joining, that means there are 400 libraries at the start of the initiative. There are around 4,265 public libraries which means the coverage is less than 10%. You could say that some access to public is better than no access at all, however the fact remains that currently the majority of UK citizens are excluded from the service. In mitigation, this is the start of a 2 year pilot and the initiative hopes to sign up a lot more local authorities as the pilot progresses. I would fully expect coverage to increase over time as more libraries opt in – although it’s hard to estimate quite what the final coverage will be.

3. Content put in context

1.25 – 1.5 million articles sound like a lot of content to read. However, if you consider that there are around 46.1 million records in Web of Science; and it is estimated that in 2006 the total number of articles published was approximately 1.35 million, the range of articles you can access through the initiative is a drop in the ocean. So if you are lucky to live close to enough to walk in to a participating library you can only access the equivalent of the research that was produced last year. As far as I know the selection process to be included in Access to Research is opaque – what papers are chosen and who decides?

4. Preserving the status quo

Perhaps one the most disappointing points for me is that this initiative is trying to preserve the status quo of academic publishing. It’s firmly rooted in the print distribution model and has built in sufficient obstacles for users to overcome that it is setting itself up for failure. The initiative goes against nearly all of Ranganathan’s five laws of library science:

i. Books are for use
…but the articles are digitally chained to prevent their removal.
ii. Every reader his [or her] book
…but the majority of readers can’t visit a participating library
iii. Every book its reader
…but the portfolio of journals is not comprehensive.
iv. Save the time of the reader
….restrictive terms and conditions prevent this.
v. The library is a growing organism.
….perhaps this is the saving grace as there is room for improvement.

5. Motivations

I’d like to take time to consider the motivations behind the initiative. Commercial organisations do not do anything for free unless there is a benefit somewhere further along the line. To put it in the crudest possible terms the benefits are the holy trinity ofcash, turf or fame. The Access to Research initiative certainly ticks all three of these boxes.

The Publishers Licensing Society who have co-ordinated the Access to Research initiative, and Nature Publishing Group have been very forthright in admitting that the scheme is about ‘creating a new audience for information’ and opening ‘another channel to the market’ for their content. I can’t comment on how publishers actually intend to monetise the situation, but the standard Modus operandi is to develop a market then sell products directly to it.

It has been widely commented that there has been a great deal of hard lobbying by publishers to position paid-for Gold Open Access services as the main method of delivery of open access in the Finch Report. The focus on Gold OA has been widely criticised by a broad spectrum of the academic community and has resulted in a partial backtrack. In the face of renewed criticism academic publishers will be keen to please to government and show everyone they are the good guys:

“Government has been extremely pleased to see how publishers have tenaciously pursued their welcome proposal for a Public Library Initiative (PLI) in the national and public interest.”

Certainly the response (above) from the Rt Hon David Willetts to Prof Dame Janet Finch indicates they are heading along the right lines.

6. Access to public funded research

In the last few years there has been legislative movement in the States pushing towards taxpayer access to publicly funded research, and this viewpoint is gaining momentum in the UK. One of the main criticisms levelled at the current subscription model is that public funded money is being used to produce the research, but the fruits of the labour are not available to the people who funded it. One way to stop dead this argument is to say the public has access to all the research they need through an initiative like Access to Research.

Personally I would rather not rely on the generosity of third parties to deliver a sub-set of content (from an opaque selection of materials), that can have access removed at any time (2 year pilot), and is made difficult to access (via restrictive terms and conditions of use). I would rather see all content funded by taxpayers (either directly via research councils, or indirectly via universities or other sources) to be available freely via the internet (either in a repository or via an open access publisher), preferably with generous reuse rights granted up front.

The Too Long; Didn’t Read (tl;dr) summary

My own personal take on all of this is that the ‘Access to Research’ is a step in the right direction, but falls short in the implementation, and is driven by motivations that are not so altruistic as you might first think.