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/

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.

 

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

Edinburgh Research Downloads: November 2020

Edinburgh Research Downloads: November 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 relative to other institutions across the UK. Overall they’ve done OK but probably could/should have done better: they’ve just about hung on to the coat-tails of the big guns, but they’ve been outperformed by a few smaller establishments.
• Looking at theses specifically, things look better: UCL have had a good year but ERA’s managed to stay ahead of them, allowing both to make the minutest of inroads into Manchester’s lead; White Rose though, are bigger and growing faster than everyone else.
• The usual snapshot of last month’s performances.
• A snapshot of the year-so-far. Continue reading

Attending LIBER and REDUX 2020 Conferences Online

In our continuous shift towards digital culture, and of course during the pandemic, conferences have been adapting their programmes to online formats. This is no mean feat, particularly as even the best laid plans can have technical issues. But at least online you can fix yourself a cup of tea or stretch your legs while the hosts sort issues out, rather than sitting awkwardly in the audience. 

I attended two big conferences online that I usually would have attended in person: LIBER (Europe’s largest association of research libraries) 2020 and the 2020 University Press Redux ConferenceThe former took place over one week while the latter had five webinars spread out over four months. Both conferences had plenty of sessions that revolved around open access and, as open access is very much my area (I run the open access journals hosting service), I was excited to dive in and attend as many as I could. I’ve popped a few of my highlights below and hope you find them useful! 

LIBER 

With an excellent keynote on marketing (by Christine Koontz) two panels, ten sessionssix workshops, and paper presentations, LIBER 2020 was a packed week.

Open Access Insights

Denis Bourguet (UMR CBGP, INRAE, Montpellier) made the case for preprints and argued they are important as a tool of accessibilityas they are free for authors and readers and offer immediate access for researchers. However, as there is no peer review all types of research will be hosted, including the not so good stuff Denis works on the Peer Community In (PCI) project (Winner of the LIBER Award for Library Innovation!) which aims to add peer review into the mix. Meanwhile, in Finland, Malin Sofia Fredriksson (The Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture) reported that one of the major funders in Finland requires open access publishing now and that humanities have the smallest proportion of peer-reviewed journals but has the largest share of monographs and edited works. Their biggest hurdle is challenging the idea that open access means lower quality and less visibility. Leo Waaijers (QOAM, The Netherlands) introduced Quality Open Access Market (QUAM) which is an online instrument that helps authors share their publishing experience with colleagues by completing a four-question scorecard about the peer review, editorial board, the value and recommendability of the journal they were publishing in. The journal is then given a Quality of Service indicator, alongside information about publication fees. Sounds handy! 

Libraries as Open Innovators and Leaders

The next session, and one I was really looking forward to given my role. Dr. Markku Roinila, Kimmo Koskinen and Kati Syvälahti (Helsinki University Library, Finland) spoke about their use of the Open Journals System (OJS) to host academicled journals, at no cost to the editors and with maintenance and technical support provided by the library (exactly like us at Edinburgh!)Helsinki University Library empowered the journal managers to become “teachers”, so they could teach the use of OJS and of academic workflows to students. They gathered great feedback about the pilotrealised the importance of technical support from the library and are now looking into launching some student-led journals. Next, Shane Collins and Siobhán Dunne (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland) spoke of open scholarship (instead of open science, so that they are inclusive of AHSS) and how they created a taskforce of staff who look at Plan S and Trinity’s strategic open access targets. They ran events and podcasts with inclusivity at the forefront and found high levels of collaboration between departments. They also said that “bringing the melting pot of people together for culture change requires this type of grass-roots approach”. Finally, Dr. Coen Wilders and Martine Pronk (Utrecht University Library, The Netherlands) see the library as experts on making scientific information fair in a world that is increasingly more open and digital. They spoke of how libraries support the entire research process and said they choose to focus on metadata and repositories (instead of catalogues) as this is in line with their internal target audience. 

Tools for Transparency and Open Access

First up, Sarah Ames (National Library of Scotland, Scotland) spoke about NLS’s Digital Scholarship Service, which encourages, enables and supports use of computational research methods with their collections, among other aspects. They focused on internal and external engagement and worked hard to communicate transparency, including utilising social media, which was highly engaged with. Next, Maurits van der Graaf (Pleiade Management & Consultancy, The Netherlands) looked at a library toolkit for open access and pointed out that institutional repositories are a vital form of green open access. There are currently 5,367 repositories and 82% of publishers allow self-archiving. Maurits concluded by stating the importance of green and gold routes in the move to open access and highlighted the need for more Read and Publish deals as well as more library support for APC-free publishing. Finally, Nicole Krüger and Dr. Tamara Pianos (ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Germany) spoke of the importance of considering open educational resources (OER) before designing learning materials. They used H5P as it was mobile-friendly and allowed for interactive content. Although content hosted via this route isn’t indexed by search engines, it can be downloaded and adapted for other sites, such as WordPress. Overall, they found H5P very user-friendly.  

REDUX 

Monographs, open access and public policy: UKRI OA consultation 2020

Helen Snaith (the Senior Policy Adviser at Research England) said that monographs should not try to replicate journal open access models and that they need to ensure that policy doesn’t create accessibility issues. Richard Fisher (Vice Chair of Yale University Press) said that removing the financial barrier is only one aspect of open access, and that money needs to be spent on marketing in order to make the book successfulOverall, it was agreed that publishing open access shouldn’t affect the quality of the content. 

Open Access: Sales – Open Access business models for books and journals

Martin Paul Eve (Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck, University of London) pointed out that books are much more expensive to produce than journals, and this can be an issue for the humanities and social sciences in particular as there is generally less funding. He said that it isn’t as simple as a library switching the book purchasing budget to the book processing charge (BPC) budget, as the former wouldn’t sufficiently cover the latter, and that COVID19 has shown the inaccessibility of books online compared to journals. Similarly to Richard Fisher, Martin said that gold open access may not be the way to go for books. Emily Farrell (Library Sales Executive, The MIT Press) said they rely on a hybrid approach to funding their open access activities, including article processing charges (APCs) and crowdfunding approaches for books, such as Knowledge UnlatchedShe acknowledged that they see a lot more usage when books are open and they aim to roll out a librarycentred collective model by 2021. Lastly, Vivian Berghahn (Manging Director, Berghahn Books) spoke about the subscribe-to-open (S2O) model, where subscribers get discounted access to the content and, if enough subscribers participate, the content is made open access.  Vivian said they have 305 participants to date and the model is working particularly well for their anthropology journal. 

Conclusion 

Having the conferences online, in my opinion, worked well. More people could attend due to the lack of a financial barrier (no travel, no accommodation, no delegate fee). And the less air travel the better, of courseWithout these barriers, knowledge can be shared more widely too. The main downside is the lack of organised networking and ability to have in-depth discussions with your colleagues and peers. Perhaps a solution is on the horizon for conference organisers. 

It was brilliant to see so much conversation about open access, including accessibility, be given through open and accessible platforms with no financial restrictions. Open access policy is still developing, and it’s important that conferences continue to highlight and discuss the impact of this.  

A final positive of hosting an online conference is the ability to record and share online for those who can’t make it or to have the information to handSpeaking of which, you can access all the LIBER sessions here and the REDUX ones here. I thoroughly recommend checking out both. Happy watching!