Monday 16 July 2012

UKCoRR blog has moved

Please note that the UKCoRR blog is now part of our main web-site -

This blog will not be updated; all content will remain but has also been migrated to the new site

Friday 11 May 2012

EThOS Update!

Guest Post by EThOS Service Manager, Sara Gould:

I’ve been following the recent posts here with interest. The open access discussions are fundamental to EThOS of course although theses generally make up only a small portion of your repository content and are unlikely to be anywhere near the most challenging content to manage.

In many ways EThOS is in a privileged position: it simply needs to reflect your own policies and practice in making thesis metadata and full-text content open to the world. If you want it in EThOS, we’ll do what we can to get it in there. We’re so close to 60,000 theses and 300,000 records now – watch out for that mini celebration.

Interestingly OpenDOAR considers EThOS out of scope because of its requirement for users to log in to access full-text theses. True, the login process is a bit of a deterrent but it does provide some reassurance for authors that we could track users if we ever needed to, and it does give us a chance to look at user demographics.

We’re about to send out a summary of usage stats to all member institutions, and here’s an example. This is a JISC Band C member institution that we’ve been harvesting from for some months now. I’m watching the balance between clickthroughs to the repository-held copy and downloads from EThOS with interest. We might expect clickthroughs to quickly overtake, especially as the proportion of harvested content that includes a link URL v. older digitised content in EThOS rises steadily.

Theses Harvested
Digitisation Requests
Records Created
Referrals to Organisation Repositories
Theses downloaded

This institution also supports digitisation of its own older theses. 20 in-demand theses digitised in the last 6 months: not bad at all. I love this part of the EThOS service – creating a critical mass of digitised theses was one of its original aims and it’s still a really neat function.

Harvest and interoperability – the subject of Nick Shepherd’s post here – has been a little more challenging. But we’re getting there. Last month we harvested 2600 theses from 33 institutions. Within the BL, we’ve transferred the metadata harvest over to the metadata experts – seems logical – and Heather Rosie will be in touch with everyone waiting to be harvested over the next couple of months. She’s also overseeing the upgrade of records by the cataloguing team and trying to keep EThOS and the BL Primo catalogue consistent in their display of EThOS content. She’s desperate to eliminate the many duplicate records on EThOS, and we have a plan for that too.

What about flows of records and theses in the other direction? Heather’s responding to requests from resource discovery services to share the metadata, and we’re expecting Primo Central to announce that EThOS data is available via their services any day now. And a reminder that the rather clunky EThOS Download Tool can be used to pull back your own digitised theses from EThOS. Contact Customer Services for more info on that.
But what we all want is full OAI-PMH interoperability. The tech guys at the BL are aiming to crack that challenge soon so everyone would be able to easily harvest the metadata without intervention from us. We ask you to be OAI-PMH compliant so we can harvest from you so it seems only fair we do what we can in the other direction.

Finally, a quick trailer for our EThOS workshop at Open Repositories 2012 in July. Hope to see you in Edinburgh.

Sara Gould

Thursday 3 May 2012

Jimmy Wales to advise government on open access to research

Interesting press coverage on the 2nd May 2012 that Jimmy Wales is to help the government ensure that all publically funded research is available freely online within two years. David Willetts made this announcement in a speech delivered to the Publishers Association on the evening of 2nd May.

Reading the OA lists, there’s a range of opinion from scepticism to warm welcome for his involvement. He’s certainly high profile and long been a proponent of open access. Remember, the 24 hour closure of Wikipedia in protest at the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation in the US. Celebrity involvement does guarantee that the press will take note.

On balance, UKCoRR believes that we should welcome the plans put forward today but there is a need to ensure that the government also listens to those who have been working in UK academia to promote and extend open access. It would seem a sensible approach to work with that resource and experience that already exists than simply starting from scratch and that existing projects and infrastructure are built upon.

According to the Guardian,

“This initiative is most likely to result in a central repository that will host all research articles that result from public funding. The aim is that, even if an academic publishes their work in a traditional subscription journal, a version of their article would simultaneously appear on the freely available repository. The repository would also have built-in tools to share, comment and discuss articles.”

There is a dearth of detail about implementation at the moment – understandably as the group convened by Dame Janet Finch won’t be reporting until June 2012. But it seems likely that the “central repository” won’t be a physical thing but will build on current infrastructure and projects. There has to be a pivotal role for Repository Junction which is “a standalone middleware tool for handling the deposit of research articles from a provider to multiple repositories” thus avoiding the thorny problem of duplicate deposit, which is understandably disliked by academics. See

However, the bigger stumbling block is that old chestnut copyright. Simultaneous traditional publication and availability in an open access repository of publically funded research is restricted depending on the publisher’s policy’s, which can change in an instant. We repository workers all know the minefield that is journal copyright policies and the care which our host organisations take to avoid breaching them. The solution is to replace a practice where the author signs away their copyright with one where they give the publisher a non-exclusive licence to publish the article. Let’s get that in the two year plan and we’d really be making progress!

The text of David Willetts speech was published this morning and it makes interesting reading. He makes much reference to the gold road to open access but, given the context, this is not surprising. We might take issue with his definition of green: “Green means publishers are required to make research openly accessible within an agreed embargo period” but this is a minister telling the publishing industry that open access is here to stay. “Our starting point is very simple. The Coalition is committed to the principle of public access to publicly-funded research results. That is where both technology and contemporary culture are taking us. It is how we can maximise the value and impact generated by our excellent research base. As taxpayers put their money towards intellectual enquiry, they cannot be barred from then accessing it”.

Right at the end of the speech, there was a reference to the REF which indicates that open access is being considered for inclusion in the criteria for assessment: “HEFCE is also considering the issue. Peer review and assessment of impact are crucial to their allocation of research funding. The debate on open access will inform HEFCE's planning for the research excellence process that succeeds the current one which concludes in 2014. Open access could be among the excellence criteria for qualifying articles in the future”. This is really exciting stuff – it would really change academic’s practice and behaviour. Let’s keep this on the

 All in all, a good day for open access.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

UKCoRR Responds to RCUK's Revised Policy on Open Access

As members will be aware over the past couple of weeks we have been collating feedback and comments from you all on the RCUK's revised policy on open access. Many, many thanks to those members and Committee whom have contributed to the drafting of UKCoRR's response - which I can confirm has just been submitted to their communications officer.  In the spirit of the openness that underlies everything UKCoRR does - the text of the communication follows.  Naturally we'll share with you any and all response the Committee receives.
UKCoRR, on behalf of its membership, wishes to respond to the RCUK’s proposed policy on access to research outputs, given that it is an area that directly impacts on the activities of our 250+ members across the UK’s research establishments.

At the outset, UKCoRR would like to commend the RCUK for a very clear, positive and explicit statement. In particular the restriction of support for embargoes longer than 6 months post-publication (12 for AHRC and ESRC funded work). UKCoRR are also delighted to note the tone of the policy in favouring more Open Access friendly journals and publishers for RCUK funded research outputs.

There are, however, several issues, concerns and clarifications that our membership would like us to flag up for your attention and consideration.

Definition of Open Access
UKCoRR would query the definition of Open Access to scholarly publications as digital journal articles. "The Research Councils define Open Access to mean unrestricted, on-line access to peer reviewed and published scholarly research papers." [p2] and likewise your classification of books or monographs as “grey’ literature” [p3]. There are many other types of authoritative research output besides pdfs of journal articles, especially in arts and humanities research. It is our belief that the OA movement needs to lobby for access to all research outputs, and that there is a need to ensure that RCUK’s policy does not exclude this significant portion of the scholarly literature. The contents of our members’ Open Access repositories clearly demonstrate the richness, value and readership of such scholarly works.

Creative Commons
The CC licence is a potentially contentious issue [p2] and one that UKCoRR believes may create more problems than it solves.

The current model of Green OA (i.e. self-archiving in an IR) as opposed to Gold (i.e. author-institution pays), is predicated on a pragmatic negotiation of copyright with academic publishers and, along with high profile initiatives like SHERPA RoMEO, has encouraged growth of the number of RoMEO green journals which allow self archiving, and therefore in the potential number of OA papers that can be self-archived in repositories. UKCoRR is concerned that the new policy will potentially impact on this strategy, and on repositories which will have to assert CC-BY on relevant papers after a maximum embargo period of 6 months.

It is not clear what effect the policy may have on journals defined as ‘green’ by SHERPA RoMEO and on the application of embargoes. Journals may choose to become RCUK-compliant, to remain RoMEO green but not compliant, or to reject green and compliance altogether with individual publishers’ policy likely to be informed by the potential loss of revenue resulting from a universal 6 month embargo and by the extent to which other funders will follow RCUK's lead on CC-BY.

HE institutions are increasingly adopting policies on OA and self-archiving in their repositories and UKCoRR has some concerns that the policy should more explicitly consider implications to this Green route to Open Access

Limitation on Publication Destination
While UKCoRR acknowledges the value of this part of the policy, we note that it is likely to cause anxiety among academic stakeholders unless backed up by clear support mechanisms. If our members’ author stakeholders are made to feel more constrained on their choice of where to publish [p3] it could generate an adverse perception and consequent resistance towards the implementation of Open Access policies within their organisation; already an issue that many of our members encounter in the course of their work. However, we look forward with interest to the impact this may have on those publishers who to date have been reluctant to embrace more Open Access compliant author copyright licence agreements.

Impact on Publisher Policy
The policy would require a significant change in many publishers’ policies, and would limit the choice of journals to those that are recognised as compliant. Sources of funding for Open Access compliance will therefore become a more pressing issue across many institutions, where few currently have resources set aside to cope with such moves [p5]. We would encourage RCUK to be more proactive in ensuring that all researchers, especially PIs, and research administrators are made fully aware that this is part of the indirect costs allocated within the grant application and award. Clarity on RCUK’s stance in this regard would be especially welcomed by our membership.

Access to Data Outputs
The final paragraph in section 8 says "The underlying research materials do not necessarily have to be made Open Access" [p6]. While UKCoRR understands that mandating open data publication is out of the scope of this policy, we would welcome an approach that encourages this. There is an opportunity here to get more open data for use and reuse by the research community while respecting the normal provisos about commercial sensitivity, patient confidentiality etc.

Compliance Mechanisms
Our membership would also be interested in knowing more about how the “mechanisms to help ensure compliance” will operate [p6]. Given the time scales and workloads already placed upon our members, greater clarity in this regard and at the earliest opportunity will make such mechanisms more practicable for us to implement.

OA Fields and ROS
Given the timing of this, we would also query the lack of proper OA fields built in to the recently launched Research Outcomes System (ROS). There are fields for SHERPA/RoMEO data and preprint/postprint, but nothing to clarify if an OA version actually exists. While we are aware of discussions ongoing with the JISC that UKCoRR has also been party to, we would welcome this being highlighted in the policy.

Final Comments
Overall, as strong advocates of the cultural, economic and intellectual benefits of Open Access to the UK’s unique research outputs UKCoRR keenly supports this bold policy.

We welcome any opportunity to enter into a dialogue with the RCUK as to how this could be cascaded, both to our membership and our academic stakeholders.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Using Google Analytics Statistics within DSpace

Thank you to Claire Knowles of Edinburgh University who provides this overview of how they have been able to display statistics from Google Analytics in DSpace.
In 2009 Edinburgh University Digital Library adopted Google Analytics (GA) to track usage statistics within the DSpace Repositories it supports on behalf of the Scottish Digital Library Consortium (SDLC).  The GA statistics have proven much more reliable than the existing plugins available for DSpace previously with which we experienced lost statistics and inflated pageviews resulting from robots.

Unfortunately the GA statistics for sites being tracked are only viewable via the GA dashboard for which users require a Google account and managed permissions.  This limits the visibility of statistics to a few people at each institution.   Prompted by the presentation given by Graham Triggs (then working for BioMed Central) at the Open Repositories Conference 2010, we decided to write some code to make the Google Analytics statistics visible to all users of the DSpace installations.

The work has been broken into phases:

1. Capture of downloads in DSpace by Google Analytics. 
The basic GA tracking code within DSpace is unable to capture the number of file downloads as these are not links within pages.  To address this we added code to the two downloads on the item page to enable these download actions to be measured.  This captured all downloads within Dspace but not those users coming directly from search engines to the download file.  To capture these statistics we decided to reroute all users back through the item page. This means that they now have two clicks instead of one to reach the download but it enables us to capture these statistics and also raises the visibility of the Repository to users.  To reduce the inconvenience to the users we moved the file downloads links on the item page from the bottom to the top so that they do not have to scroll down to find the download. 

2. Adding page views to each item page within DSpace
Secondly, we added the number of page views within the last year to the item page.  This was a proof of concept which showed that we could connect to the Google Analytics API and pull back statistics into DSpace.  We decided to only include the number of views for the past year to reduce any disparities between the the number of pageviews between older and new items.

3. Making statistics viewable within the DSpace web pages. 
We decided to make the GA statistics available at three levels: item, collection and repository as this provides most of the statistics which are requested by users.  Using the Query Explorer provided by Google we were able to test and refine our queries before starting development.  The pages were developed using the Google Analytics java API, jQuery and the Google Chart tools to draw graphs and maps.  

As we complete the rollout of Google Analytics to all the SDLC partners we are starting to look to what other statistics we would like to make available both from Google Analytics and also possible exposing statistical information about DSpace using Google's chart tools. One statistic that would be of interest to researchers is collating and presenting download figures for authors (rather than by item/collection/community).

We have encountered problems separating the item, collection and community statistics within DSpace as all of their urls are formatted in the same way, we therefore have to query DSpace data to do this and cannot distinguish them using the statistics data alone.  If the requested item, file, collection or community is not available in DSpace an error page is returned, these were being recorded in the same way as successful page which has led to invalid items being listed in the statistics top ten tables.  To prevent this error pages are now recorded as an error event within Google Analytics.

These changes have given us much greater understanding of how our repository is being used with the majority of users coming directly from Google.  The URLrewrite change led to a double of our download statistics as we now capture users who previously went straight to the download.

Thanks to: Scottish Digital Library Consortium, Stuart Wood and Gareth Johnson of University of Leicester for information on the URLrewrite, Graham Triggs formerly of BioMed Central and now Sympletic.

The code to enable GA stats within DSpace is freely available from github:

You can view our collection and item statistic changes at

Are your repository policies worth the HTML they are written in?

In Neil Stewart's recent guest post on this blog he lamented the The Unfulfilled Promise of Aggregating Institutional Repository Content;  in the context of his work with the CORE projects at the Open University Owen Stephens (@ostephens) commented on that post about  "technological and policy barriers to a 3rd party aggregating content from UK HE IRs" and has subsequently posted in more detail over on the CORE blog.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I think Owen has identified issues that are fundamental to the potential value of our repository infrastructure in UK HE, at least in terms of responsible 3rd parties building services on top of that infrastructure - though Owen also asks in the title of his post "What does Google do?" for which the short answer is that it indexes (harvests) metadata and full text for (arguably) commercial re-use unless asked not to by robot.txt. This is not necessarily to suggest that Google is irresponsible, it may well be but that is a rather bigger discussion!

For CORE, by comparison, it has understandably been important to establish individual repository policy on re-use of metadata and full text content; where such policies exist at all they are invariably designed to be human readable rather than machine readable which is obviously is not conducive to automated harvest, in spite of guidance being available on how to handle both record, set and repository level rights statements in OAI-PMH from

To quote Owen in his review of policies listed in OpenDOAR he found that "Looking at the 'metadata' policy summaries that OpenDOAR has recorded for these 125 repositories the majority (57) say "Metadata re-use policy explicitly undefined" which seems to sometimes mean OpenDOAR doesn't have a record of a metadata re-use policy, and sometimes seems to mean that OpenDOAR knows that there is no explicit metadata re-use policy defined by the repository. Of the remaining repositories, for a large proportion (47) OpenDOAR records "Metadata re-use permitted for not-for-profit purposes", and for a further 18 "Commercial metadata re-use permitted"."

It might be suggested that machine-readability is actually secondary to what is potentially misconceived policy in the first place - or which hasn't perhaps been fully thought through and at the very least is fatally fragmented across the sector - and that arguably is the result of lip-service rather than based on what actually happens in the real (virtual) world.

For my own part, in my institutional role, I was very, er, green (no pun intended) when I defined our repository policies back in 2008 using the OpenDOAR policy creation toolkit - - and to be frank I haven't really revisited them since. I suspect I'm not terribly unusual. To quote Owen once more, "the situation is even less clear for fulltext content than it is for metadata. OpenDOAR lists 54 repositories with the policy summary "Full data item policies explicitly undefined", but after that the next most common (29 repositories) policy summary (as recorded by OpenDOAR) is "Rights vary for the re-use of full data items" - more on this in a moment. OpenDOAR records "Re-use of full data items permitted for not-for-profit purposes" for a further 20 repositories, and then (of particularly interest for CORE) 16 repositories as "Harvesting full data items by robots prohibited".

The (reasonably unrestrictive) metadata and full-text policies I chose at Leeds Metropolitan University state that "the metadata may be re-used in any medium without prior permission for not-for-profit purposes and re-sold commercially provided the OAI Identifier or a link to the original metadata record are given" and "copies of full items generally can be reproduced, displayed or performed, and given to third parties in any format or medium for personal research or study, educational, or not-for-profit purposes without prior permission or charge". Even this, with the word "generally" implicitly recognises the fact that there may be different restrictions that apply to different items which to some extent reflects the complexity of negotiating copyright for green OA, not to mention the other types of records that repositories may hold (e.g. our repository also comprises a collection of Open Educational Resources [OER] which are in fact licensed at the record level with a Creative Commons URI in dc:rights as in this example -

Nor are my policies available in a machine readable form (which as we've established is typical across the sector) and I'm not actually sure how this could even be achieved without applying a standard license like Creative Commons?

Owen goes on to consider "What does Google do?", if you haven't already it's certainly worth reading the post in full but he concludes that "Google, Google Scholar, and other web search engines do not rely on the repository specific mechanisms to index their content, and do not take any notice of repository policies". Indeed, I think in common with many repository managers, I devote a lot of time and effort on SEO to ensure my repository is effectively indexed by Google et al and that full-text content can be discovered by these global search engines...which seems somewhat perverse when our own parochial mechanisms and fragmented institutional policies make it so difficult to build effective services of our own.

Monday 19 March 2012

UKCoRR, RSP and DRF - Japan and the UK in Agreement

As you'll have probably seen last week on the lists UKCoRR, in collaboration with the RSP and Japan's DRF (Digital Repository Federation) have signed a memorandum of understanding.

The Memorandum includes a commitment to
  • Sharing experience and expertise
  • Inviting and possibly sponsoring representatives from partners to participate in RSP and DRF events
  • Joint efforts to seek funding and/or support

Obviously from UKCoRR's perspective (and being unfunded as we are) we're mostly about the first option in the agreement; but all the same it's the first time we've signed up to an international agreement and is something that all members can be proud of - the furtherance of recognition of the importance of the repository worker and manager around the world. 

You can read more about this, and view the memorandum on the RSP's pages.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

The Unfulfilled Promise of Aggregating Institutional Repository Content (Guest Post)

Our thanks to Neil Stewart, Digital Repository Manager at City University London for the following guest post which raises some interesting questions for us all.
A very good question was posed on Stephen Curry’s blog by Bj√∂rn Brembs recently (Curry and Brembs are a couple of the more prominent figures supporting the Elsevier boycott):
I’ve always wondered why the institutional repositories aren’t working with, e.g. PubMed etc. to make sure a link to their version is displayed with the search results. I mean, how difficult can this be?
This got me thinking, how difficult can it be? Aggregating and re-using institutional repository (IR) content at subject level is, after all, one of the promises of the Green road to Open Access.
The infrastructure is already in place, in the form of the many OAI-PMH compliant institutional repositories out there, and there is also the SWORD client, which allows flexible transfer of repository content. Some examples do exist- for example the Economists Online service, which harvests material from selected economics research-intensive universities, then makes it available via a portal. But (to my knowledge) there has been no work done to provide a way of e.g. ensuring all a repository’s eligible physics content is automatically uploaded to ArXiv, or all biomedical research to UKPMC.
Subject repositories have gained critical mass in certain disciplines (to add to the examples above, see also RePEC for economics, SSRN for social sciences and DBLP for computer science), meaning that if a paper doesn’t appear there, it’s far less visible. This means that the incentive to post locally is greatly reduced- yes, your paper will appear in Google, but a paper in ArXiv will appear both in Google and in the native interface of the repository where everyone else in your discipline is depositing.
So if the infrastructure is there and the rationale to create these links exists, why has it not been happening to any meaningful extent already? I suspect it’s because of the fact that the IR landscape is, by its very nature, a fragmented one. Those with responsibility for IRs (managers, IT people, and senior management) are understandably concerned with local issues: ensuring that IRs are properly managed and integrated with the university’s systems, as well as the usual open access and service awareness-raising and advocacy. Having time to think about the automatic population of ArXiv with papers from your home repository is probably pretty far down one’s to-do list.
That’s not to say that repository managers are oblivious to these issues- but here another problem arises. Few individual repository managers, I would guess, would think that they individually could negotiate with and persuade ArXiv that  automatic harvesting of physics content from their repository, and their repository alone, would be worth ArXiv’s while. This is, perhaps, where UKCoRR (or other national bodies- JISC perhaps?) might come in. If ArXiv or similar subject repositories could be persuaded of the merits of harvesting IR content (whether full text or metadata pointing back to IR holdings), it would allow all repositories to plug in to this system, and offer it as a service to academics (two for one deposit- local IR and ArXiv at the same time!)
So, what do people think? Is there any appetite for turning this into a project that UKCoRR members could take forward, perhaps with UKCoRR and/ or JISC oversight? Comments please!

Monday 27 February 2012

The COAR Question

Those of you whom attended the Portsmouth meeting last month, and hopefully everyone on the list, should be aware of COAR.  As you know there have been some very tentative discussions going on behind the scenes relating to the question of should UKCoRR become a member of COAR. 

There are a number of obstacles to membership in our way - not least of which is the question of how as a lightweight unfunded organisation we would afford to pay the annual membership fee.  There are also broader policy questions about whether membership of COAR would be in the best interests of UKCoRR's long term Independence of action, policy and governance.  You only have to glance at the recent announcements from us both on the Elsevier question to see that while the two groups have for the most part allied goals that we are likely to come from two different angles on some issues.

COAR is an organisational membership body funded by subscriptions pushing ahead the interests of open access and repositories.  UKCoRR is a individual membership organisation unfunded and independent that pushes forward the representation and development of its members, as well as the role of repositories in the UK.  There are other differences but I encourage you all to study the goals of both COAR and UKCoRR and come to your own conclusion on the compatibility or otherwise of the two organisations.

As I said in Portsmouth, as Chair while I can see a certain simpatico in establishing strong lines of communication and liaison with COAR (or indeed any other similar body) I do have a number of concerns over formal membership for UKCoRR. 

Not least among these are these questions:
  • What does UKCoRR the organisation really get out of membership? 
  • What do UKCoRR members get out of our membership?
  • How closely does membership tie us to COAR's agenda and policy?
  • Is it better to maintain our independence rather than interdependence?
As Chair I wouldn't like to be in circumstances where UKCoRR couldn't be seen to disagree with COAR's position on an issue where our membership felt strongly.  COAR encourages participation of its membership in its governance, but as an unfunded body this would leave our Committee in the awkward position of requiring our employers to fund our travel to Europe to attend meetings on behalf of UKCoRR; something that in these budget conscious times I might anticipate would not be that easy a task to achieve
Rather than UKCoRR becoming a member, would it not perhaps be a better idea for our host institutions to become members of COAR (UK membership is currently negligible)?  Would this better suit the aims of both organisations, and our employers to boot?

As such I am looking to you the membership to give the Committee a steer on this.  Leaving aside the fee question, the core question is: Should UKCoRR explore routes to becoming a formal member of COAR?

Najla Rettberg of COAR has helpfully provided a bit more information from their perspective that I'd encourage you all to read before responding.

I await your thoughts with considerable interest - please feel free to comment here or if you prefer contact myself or any of the Committee offline.

[Update 2/April/2012: As UKCoRR members will know already; following the discussions on the list and inside the Committee it has been decided that membership within COAR is not something that will be pursued. As Chair I've written to COAR to inform them of our decision, and warmly welcomed them to consider entering into a memorandum of understanding and support with us; in much the same way as we have with the RSP and the DRF.]

Friday 17 February 2012

Elsevier: The Big Bad or Walking with Dinosaurs?

You can't help but have seen in the last few weeks all the press about Elsevier in the blogsphere and news media, especially The Cost of Knowledge Petition.  It's been hard to avoid, and it's been a matter of debate within the UKCoRR Community as well.  One thing that raised my eyebrows more than their prices was the statement from COAR urging them " reconsider its prohibitive approach to open access and revise its policies to allow the deposit of research articles with minimum delay."  I think it's a brave move, although one fraught with political issues - coming down so heavily on the "anti" side of the debate.

UKCoRR certainly feels that the support of such retrograde ideas as the RWA by the AAP, and chief among them Elsevier, is something that has the potential to have significantly deleterious long term effects on the cause of opening access for all to the treasures of human knowledge.  As the Big Bad (it seems) for the RWA, we are not at all surprised that they are now reaping the whirlwind.  Not to mention their continued muddying of the authors licenses and permissions which causes each and everyone of us a headache I'm quite sure.  But they are not the only publisher to be guilty of these sins against open access, and part of me feels that singling them out for such a public barracking perhaps might let other issues or publishers slip back into the shadows.  I think we all need to remain vigilant and sound the alarm just as loudly should any other organisation or stakeholder in the scholarly publishing domain make such similar policy moves.

One thing UKCoRR has striven to do from our very earliest days is attempt to engage with publishers, along with other stakeholders, to seek a joined up future of scholarly communication.  To date I will confess these giants in the playground have ignored the minnows in the corner (from their perspective at least).  However, one only needs to point to the lessons of history and perhaps remind them that the massive and preeminent lifeforms that were the dinosaurs were once as all dominant while tiny rodents scampered around their feet.  When the sea change came in the shape of the K-T extinction event the dinosaurs were so locked into their evolutionary niche that they were unable to adapt, and their successors rose from beneath their claws.

Is open access the world killer for the publishing dinosaurs?  Personally I hope not, but seeing this increasing reactionary inflexibility from the big boys of publishing does certainly ring one or two points of commonality in my head.  The more they dig into their 19th/20th Century position as gatekeepers, guardians and protectors of the IP of the scholars of the world, and the more the 21st Century makes it easier, faster and simpler for others to fill the various roles, the more I think they're going to back themselves down into their very own Chicxulub crater.

But it also means that we in the repository sector have to remain just as agile if we are to survived the impact.  I often say to my team that what we do and how we work with repositories today is very much evolved from where we were when I entered the field in 2006.  We've been evolving, and we need to keep evolving if we are to meet the needs of our academics as they, hopefully, finally wise us to the fact that they don't need publishers like they used to; and that the apparatus and expertise to help them share, curate and celebrate their knowledge output is just a short walk across the campus to the repository office.

One thing I would charge all UKCoRR members with is going through the signatories on the petition to see if they can find any local authors and academics.  It is without a doubt a golden opportunity to make use of these self-declared opponents of restrictive knowledge exchange paradigms.  These fine people are willing to speak out, and up, about open access and should be approached as potential local champions of the cause.  Cherish them, support them and above all make use of their insights from the academic perspective; because I often sense that we repository workers don't always quite manage to chime to right bells for academics. 

As some UKCoRR members have said to me - the press visibility in the academic sphere over the restrictions that publishers make on access to our shared knowledge has never been higher.  If nothing else the Cost of Knowledge row is not going to go away quickly, and there will be more than a handful of previously unaware and perhaps uncaring academics who can be brought into the open access fold and the light of a new, better, more open tomorrow.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

It was the Year of Fire...

Those of you in Portsmouth last week had the chance to hear my Babylon 5 themed talk thinking about the future direction of UKCoRR.  The aim was to get not just the membership in the room talking and thinking about where we go next with UKCoRR, but also to give an idea of some of the obstacles and opportunities that currently exist.  You can view the slides here and view the quote that drove my thinking here.

New look for Repository Managers?
One of the reasons I picked the Babylon 5* is for the key questions that are asked that define a person I think perfectly transfer to help define or at least clarify what UKCoRR stands for, should be doing as well as aiming to do.  For those of you not familiar with Babylon 5 lore here are the questions.
  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why are you here?
  • Do you have anything worth living for?**
  • Who do you serve?
  • Who do you trust?
  • Where are you going?
Leaving aside one of those these neatly give us a guide with which to look to how the membership of UKCoRR is comprised, how we can serve the needs of our membership and our members' stakeholders along with the more tricky questions of interactions with those entities and organisations who lie beyond the rim...or at least outside of UKCoRR itself.

Some of these questions I believe are easier to answer than others.  Some though need continued and protracted thought and consideration.  I can say, for example, the question of funding vs Independence is one that has vexed the Committee for some considerable time; and I suspect will continue to.  As Chair I'm personally ethically opposed to the introduction of any fee for membership structure, but at the same time conflicted as there are opportunities that would be far easier for UKCoRR if we had some form of funding stream.

Naturally there are those organisations out there whom might wish to provide us with an alternate funding stream - but with great funding comes great responsibilities (apologies, mixing my genres there) - to whit to accept a quid means there may a pro quo around the corner.

Likewise there is the prospect of UKCoRR entering into arrangements of mutual benefit with external bodies that may well serve the interests of our members well; but at the same time once again these come with strings attached.  Is it better to simply be in formal liaison with key players rather than partnership, or is loss of our Independence a small price to pay for advancing the cause of professional repository management and administration?  I remain to be convinced but over 2012 we will continue to talk to a variety of other organisations that do overlap with our concerns to explore where mutual benefits do exist, whilst not giving away the home world at the same time.  I'll be talking more about one of these in particular where I want you the membership's views in my next post!

There are two major reasons why I raised all these questions in this post and the talk.  Firstly because I believe that UKCoRR as an organisation, like open access and repositories, is a field that continues to evolve at a relatively cracking pace.  As the professional membership body for repository practitioners we too must evolve likewise.  And secondly because as part of the annual cycle which begins anew in April the Committee will be charged with drawing up a strategic and operational plan of action for the next year - and this is your opportunity to feed directly into the process.

So contact us, comment on this or catch us at the various repository events around the Country over the coming couple of  months because, as I never tire of saying, UKCoRR is the membership - we the Committee simply try and run it according to your desires and needs; not to mention enlightened best interests!

Because if we don't, it may all end in fire but this could also be the year of rebirth just as easily.
* Don't get me into who the Shadows, Vorlons and First Ones are in the repository world - that's a whole other talk!
** I think this one is a bit beyond us!

Monday 9 January 2012

SOPA and the AAP: Dumb and Dumber? Publishers seek to crush open access in US Congress

Happy New Year all; and if you'll indulge me I'd like to share some personal opinion on some rather troubling news to come across the pond.

As we all sidle into a new year, over in the States it seems that the season of goodwill to all men has faded faster than ever.  As you can't help to have seen in the last week or so that once again publishers in the body of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) are rattling their sabres and doing their level best to get the US Congress to push through the SOPA bill.  Bringing with it some of the worst aspects of our own lamentable Digital Economy Act 2010, SOPA seeks to strengthen copyright in such a way that will (at worst) do pretty awful things to the Internet; along the way scuppering open access to publicly funded research.

Hopefully you all had a chance to read the AAP's Christmas present "Publishers Applaud Research Works Act, Bipartisan Legislation To End Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing"; and personally I'm thankful I avoid reading it to the new year, lest I have choked on my turkey with bitter disgust.  As a (kinda) librarian I think the particular phrase that stuck in my craw was the following:

Journal articles are widely available in major academic centers, public libraries, universities, interlibrary loan programs and online databases. Many academic, professional and business organizations provide staffs and members with access to such content.
That is if you can afford their vastly inflated prices of course and I would be shocked to discover any public libraries in the UK whom had the fiscal ability to purchase research journals for their readers.  On top of this once again we see the private sector, on whom so much of our economy hangs, ignored.  They don't buy journals for the most part and rely heavily on open access repositories like those you and I run to provide access to the publicly funded research our taxes pay for. 

And a Happy New Year to you too Elsevier!

Publishers it seems seem to think we live in a dream pre-internet world, where the exchange of publications could be tightly controlled through subscriptions and licensed interlending.  Repositories have actually respected the rights base of publishers for many years, seeking only to archive and share where permitted.  One can almost sense that if this bill was to become law that open access advocates would push harder than ever for academics to disregard copyright law and start freely sharing and making available articles; not in controlled institutional repositories but on file sharing sites like the Pirate Bay.  Let's see how long they would be able to defend their old world economic model then.

I am naturally, not advocating the above, but it doesn't take a large suspension of disbelief to see the scholastic publishing world going down this route.  Do we really want anarchy in the OA?  Many of the academic evangelists of open access would probably be delighted to see such a move, as they feel that those of us in the repository community cleave too closely to respecting traditional understandings of author and publisher rights. 

My initial title to this post is sadly unprintable and doubtless those of us working to unlock the IP created by our scholars in open access can only roll our eyes in horror as yet another road block seems to be placed in our way.  It does rather raise the spectre of a similar bill being brought to bear in our own Mother of All Parliaments as I'm sure we've all heard from various publishers just how important they are to the UK economy; forgetting as usual that HE and the research conducted within it is actually worth far more.

Thankfully for those of you looking for a far more knowledgeable, less irascible and more detailed debate on the subject will find that other correspondents have written some eloquent demolitions of the bill and in particular the lamentable support that publishers seem to be throwing behind it. 

Every one of you needs to make sure that you bring this potential bill and the moves by publishers to tighten their stranglehold on the intellectual publication market to the attention of the movers and shakers in your own organisation.  The academics, the ProVCs for research and if you've got the metal the VCs as well.  You might also bring it to the attention of your serials and periodical librairans, especially those with links to publisher backed bodies like UKSG. 

Frankly it's time we stopped letting the publishers have their own ways in this arena!

As an organisation UKCoRR's voice may not be overly loud (yet), but we try hard for our members!  Certainly we lack the multimillions and billions of the publishing corproations and their lobbying potential, but that doesn't mean we can't all make a noise.  Publishers might not listen to those of use in supporting services but they need to listen to researchers; without whom they wouldn't have a publication to stand on.

But as always UKCoRR members, the Committee welcome your take on this!

UKCoRR: Opposes the SOPA and the APP's Position
(And now my offical hat back on)

UKCoRR's not in the habit of making policy statements; which is perhaps something that will have to change this year (and a topic for debate at the January meeting) but I can say that with the full support of the Commitee and as the Chair of this organisation I have no hesitation in stating that UKCoRR is firmly in opposition to SOPA and the AAP's position with respect to it.