The power of preprints: an omicron case study

Much has been recently been written about the value of preprints which facilitate rapid and open dissemination of research findings to a global audience (if you’d like to read more about the rise of preprints in the life sciences I would recommend this editorial published in Nature Cancer). However, much of the discourse surrounding the benefits of preprints has been anecdotal. Of course sharing research findings early is a good thing, but what actual impact can a preprint have?

We present here a mini case study which highlights the initial effects of sharing a topical preprint during a pandemic. I plan to track the preprint over the next few months to see how this will translate into future publications.

Case Study: the EAVE II project

There were various headlines in the media on 22 and 23 December which reported the the discovery that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to be much milder than Delta. This news was prompted by research from the EAVE II study carried out at the Usher Institute. The EAVE II team only finished their analysis on 22 December and were very keen to get their results out in a transparent manner as part of a media briefing they had agreed to do later that day.

Our Scholarly Communications Team helped the EAVE II project to post the results in the University of Edinburgh’s repository as a preprint. Subsequently, the University’s Press Office contacted us to say that this was initially beneficial when the world’s media contacted them to request the underlying data. The preprint is available here:

https://www.ed.ac.uk/usher/eave-ii/key-outputs/our-publications/severity-of-omicron-variant-of-concern-and-vaccine

The reaction was quick as the preprint was picked up and reported by the mainstream media like the BBC (this article in the BBC Science Focus Magazine is a good read), and also specialised services like the Science Media Centre:

expert reaction to preprint on the severity of the omicron variant and vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection in Scotland, from the EAVE II study

Various national advisory groups (e.g Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) were then quickly able to read the research and fold it into their evolving guidance on boosters.

https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-the-omicron-variant-and-the-timing-of-covid-19-booster-vaccination

To date the preprint has 22,535 downloads, of which the majority were within the final week of December 2021. 21, 005 downloads in 10 days – that sure is RAPID communication!

If the EAVE II project team had sat on their results and waited for publication in a traditional journal article then all of this activity would have been not possible. I’m extremely interested to see what happens next to the publication.

Questions….

At the moment I mainly have many questions that I don’t have the answer for. Will this piece of research be submitted for publication in a journal? Publication in a journal and the peer review process will add validation of the results and subsequent kudos from basking in the reflected glow of an esteemed journal title and possibly good citation metrics. But how can the value of preprints be more widely recognised and rewarded? For me, this is a missing part of the process. Or, perhaps the benefit of rapid communication is good enough?

 

 

 

Introducing Edinburgh Diamond: Library-supported Open Access Books and Journals

Library and University Collections currently offer a journal hosting service, free of charge to staff and students, which you may already be familiar with.

Open Access Week is the perfect time to share that that we have rebranded as Edinburgh Diamond and added a book hosting service to our offering!

The book hosting service will offer much of what the journal hosting service offers: ISBN and DOI allocation, a hosting platform for textbooks, monographs and edited collections, metadata deposits, indexing arrangements, annual reporting, ongoing technical support, guidance on publishing best practice… and more!

Bringing our journal and book services under one umbrella allows us to promote our services as a whole. Edinburgh Diamond does what it says on the tin: promotes diamond open access, transparency, and high-quality research. If you know someone who may benefit from using our service, please put them in touch with Rebecca Wojturska: rebecca.wojturska@ed.ac.uk.

Find out more about Edinburgh Diamond: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/edinburgh-diamond

Take a look at our new book hosting site:
https://books.ed.ac.uk/

Transformative Agreements: a new way to ‘Read & Publish’

Open access to research publications is one of the key principles of the open science movement. It is often one of the last steps taken, but thankfully, it is also one of the easier steps for researchers to participate in due to investment in infrastructure and support from universities, publishers and research funders. When you publish your research there are three publishing routes you can follow:

Route 1: Publish in a traditional subscription journal and take responsibility for making the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) OA in an institutional or subject repository. (Also known as Green OA).

Route 2: Publish in a fully OA journal or platform. (Also known as Gold OA).

Route 3: Publish in a traditional subscription journal through a transformative agreement that is available to you via your organisation. (Also known as ‘Read & Publish’ deals).

The University of Edinburgh’s open access preference is Route 1 using our institutional repository (Pure) to ensure that you are compliant with the REF open access policy. If you have access to funding then you can take Route 2 as the costs should be covered by research funders. Route 3 is a relatively new option that Libraries are exploring to lower barriers to participate in open access publishing, and hopefully restrain and lower the total cost of publishing.

Moving towards a ‘Read & Publish’ model

The idea behind a transformative agreement is that it converts subscription expenditure into a publishing fund that makes all research output OA on publication, whilst maintaining access to any paywalled content. If enough libraries sign up this will shift the publishing business model away from selling subscriptions and paywalls to providing high quality open research.

Recently we have seen an explosion of ‘Read & Publish’ deals being offered by publishers, partly due to the Plan S initiative and also due to the activity of Jisc Collections – the UK organisation who has been taking a leading role in negotiating a transition to open access on behalf of UK libraries. In 2020 the University of Edinburgh had signed up to 3 transformative agreements, but in the space of one year this figure has leaped to 21, with an additional 2 pilot agreements being tested.

How to take advantage of a ‘Read & Publish’ deal

Each of the open access agreements are slightly different due to publishers demands, but generally speaking the process is simple:

  1. The corresponding author has to be affiliated with the University of Edinburgh, either as a staff member or student. Normally only original research or review articles are covered by the agreement.
  2. Check if the journal you are publishing in is part of a ‘Read & Publish’ deal. A handy searchable list is available here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/publish-research/open-access/read-and-publish-journals
  3. Upon submission, identify yourself as an eligible author, and then the request should automatically be passed to the Library for approval.
  4. Select an open licence – we recommend Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) as this will ensure you are compliant with any relevant research funders open access policies.

You can contact the Scholarly Communications Team (openaccess@ed.ac.uk) for more information about publisher ‘Read & Publish’ deals available at Edinburgh, or you can visit these dedicated webpages: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/publish-research/open-access/request-apc-payment/publisher-discounts

Unveiling the new Open Access policy at UoE

For Open Access Week 2021 we are pleased to announce a brand new Research Publications & Copyright Policy that will make it even easier for researchers from the University of Edinburgh to make their publications open access.

Earlier this month the University Executive approved the Research Publications & Copyright Policy (2021) which details our approach to the new open access requirements of major research funders from 1 January 2022.

The Research Publications & Copyright Policy (2021) can be read in full on the Information Services web pages, but the key details are outlined below:

  • The University of Edinburgh confirms staff members retain the copyright to scholarly works they produce (which is the opposite of UK employment law which states that employers own the copyright to works produced in work time).
  • To help comply with funders and other open access requirements, members of staff grant the right for the University of Edinburgh to make manuscripts of their scholarly articles publicly available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence upon publication.
  • This policy will begin on 1st January 2022, and will apply to journal articles and conference proceedings.

This new policy is in line with major organisations including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust and will allow all researchers to make their work open access immediately regardless of their funding situation. Support for implementation of the new policy is available through library research support staff. Any questions or comments regarding the policy can be directed to the Scholarly Communications Team at openaccess@ed.ac.uk.

 

Open Access Week 2021

Next week is the annual international Open Access Week where organisations celebrate and showcase open access developments and projects. It is a time for the wider community to coordinate in taking action to make openness the default for research.

This year’s theme of “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity” aligns with the recently released UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, of which Open Access is a crucial component.

We will be publishing a series of blog posts to showcase the best of Open Access at the University of Edinburgh. To give you a sneak peak here is the publishing schedule:

  • Monday: Unveiling the new UOE Research Publications & Copyright policy
  • Tuesday: Transformative Agreements: a new way to ‘Read & Publish’
  • Wednesday: Edinburgh Diamond: a new OA platform for UOE
  • Thursday: Repository Downloads: a year of Open Access
  • Friday: Meet the Team: the experts providing help and support at UOE

 

Open Library of Humanities Bronze Supporter

The University of Edinburgh has opted to support the Open Library of Humanities for another year- this time as a Bronze level supporter. 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.

Open Library of Humanities Bronze supporter badge

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.”

Edinburgh Research Archive: March 2021

Edinburgh Research Archive: March 2021 • https://era.ed.ac.uk

March saw a record number of downloads for ERA, with a 10% increase on the previous best of May 2020 and a 27% increase on the then-record of March last year. It also saw a record number of unique items downloaded, albeit just 200 up on the previous best from January.

The total downloads so far this year has seen a 40,000 increase over last year, the number of unique items downloaded this year is 1.0% higher than 2020, and the percentage of the total stock that has been downloaded has passed the 50% mark within 3 months for the first time.

 

We follow-up to the November 2020 report looking at the three institutional repositories, as monitored by IRUS, with the most thesis downloads in 2020. Previously, we saw that the University of Edinburgh had the third most downloads but that it is likely to be overtaken by Oxford in the not too distant future. This time we’re breaking those downloads down imto percentiles, and seeing that the other two are significantly outperforming Edinburgh all the way through the 10% divides. White Rose sees significantly bigger multiples of its downloaded titles and Manchester fares better when the figures are adjusted for the size of the active collection. ERA works its tail a lot harder: it has both a bigger digital collection and gets a much higher proportion of unique titles downloaded at least once. Overall though, ERA seems to sell the facility to its users but not the contents.

Continue reading

Edinburgh Research Explorer: March 2021

Edinburgh Research Explorer: March 2021 • www.research.ed.ac.uk

The dip in download numbers which seemed to inflict Research Explorer from the last quarter of 2019 onwards, due to some heavy-handed filtration implemented in an upgrade at that time, appeared to have eased following another upgrade in August 2020. ERA, which was a year ahead in its upgrade schedule, recovered from its dip and has been booming with record numbers across the board, Research Explorer though, has been somewhat subdued. The period from Sept.-March did see an overall improvement of around 4.5% over the previous year, but Jan.-March has been further behind 2019, than it is ahead of 2020.

There was also some expectation of another boost to the numbers resulting from the launch of the new interface at the beginning of March, but that is not yet apparent. March’s figures continued the general trend since October of the quieter months over-performing compared to last year and the busier months to under-perform, with none of them comparing to 2019. This parallels what we saw with the filtration, the bigger numbers being suppressed and the long tail being largely unaffected.

Continue reading

Edinburgh Research Downloads: December 2020

Edinburgh Research Downloads: December 2020 • www.research.ed.ac.uk • www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk

• Looking at how Edinburgh Research Explorer and ERA have performed over the last year.
• Research Explorer hasn’t had the best of years, the numbers being shackled by the same filtration that had repressed ERA a year earlier, although they picked-up enough at the end to scrape past the million downloads for the second-year running; ERA on the other hand, has been somewhat unleashed.
• The usual snapshot of last month’s performances.
• A snapshot of the year that’s gone. Continue reading