As its Open Access Week and yesterday was #ThesisThursday we thought we would write a blog post about how we support our PhD students in Research Data Management (RDM) at Imperial.
Good RDM is important for all researchers, whatever stage they are at in their careers. In particular, we recognise that for PhD students, understanding the benefits of RDM and Open Science can help them with their studies and also set them up for success in their future careers.
PhD students carrying out research at Imperial are required to deposit a copy of their final thesis in Spiral, the College’s institutional repository. They are also often required by funding bodies to produce a Data Management Plan for their project, to archive the research data underpinning their thesis, and to make this data publicly available where possible.
To support them with these requirements we’ve developed a number of initiatives.
What we offer
Once a term the RDM team hosts a ‘Managing Your Data’ session for PhD students, organised through the Graduate School Professional Development Programme. This tailored course familiarises PhD students with the Imperial College Research Data Lifecycle and explains how they can plan, store, archive and publish their research data as well as pointing them to the support available within the College. The session combines presentations with hands on exercises and activities that engage the students and encourage them to think about their particular RDM needs. Running since 2016, this course has already been delivered to over 200 PhD students.
In conjunction with this the RDM team also host a termly ‘How to write a Data Management Plan’ webinar which all Imperial PhD students can attend. This hour long tutorial introduces students to Data Management Plans, explains the key pieces of information contained within them, and how a plan may evolve over the course of a research project. This helps students to consider their own research data and the specific data management requirements of their projects in particular.
Finally, the RDM team attempt to attend as many wider PhD library inductions as possible to introduce themselves and outline the RDM service to the students. These brief introductions are a key activity as they make visible the support available to PhD students, which otherwise may be overlooked. The offer of project specific and one-to-one support is emphasised, as are the benefits of good data management and open science. These drop in presentations are often delivered in conjunction with the Open Access team in order to promote RDM’s relevance to the wider Open Research movement.
Rather than waving the stick of compliance, the aim of all of these initiatives is to highlight the benefits of RDM to individual PhD researchers and the wider academic community. They form part of a broader objective to foster a positive culture of responsible and open science within Imperial’s research community.
This blog post is directed to our Open Access colleagues in Higher Education.
The rising price of Gold OA
A big part of what OA Teams in libraries/research offices do – in those institutions that are fortunate enough to have the funding – is make decisions on which publications can (or need to) be published via the Gold OA route. As we diligently work away to process the scores of article processing charge (APC) applications we receive each month, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of what we are actually authorising each time we approve an application: namely, the payment of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’/charities’/institutions’ money to (often exceptionally profitable) publishers.
A recent survey of authors around the world found that many had never published OA, but for 27% of them this was because they could not afford the APCs required to do so. The cost of Gold OA has been rising beyond the rate of inflation for many years now (as reported by Jisc in 2016 and in Universities UK in 2017), and although funders have increased the amounts given to institutions to pay for APCs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the demand from authors to publish their work OA.
At Imperial College we are lucky to be the recipients of generous block grants from the Research Councils (RCUK – now UKRI) and the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) to help our authors meet their OA requirements, as well as having access to an institutional fund to pay for APCs in fully OA journals. However, these funds are not bottomless, and can only stretch so far in the face of rising APCs and increasing demand from authors who are publishing more and more. Indeed, we have very recently realised that our RCUK grant is close to running out, and we will be need to be much more restrictive in how we use that fund to pay for APCs for the foreseeable future. This blog post from the Office of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge clearly demonstrates the issues faced in trying to use OA funds in a sustainable way.
The Gold route is of course not the only way authors can make their work OA (and does not always require an APC). When funds run low we can use this as an opportunity to advise how the Green route can meet funders’ and REF requirements, and to promote the benefits of our institutional repository. However, what we aim to offer is a fair and consistent service to our authors, and this is difficult when we cannot be sure how long our funds will last, and whether or not we will be able to approve APC applications from one month to the next.
With the announcement by a consortium of European funders of Plan S (with a key change that hybrid open-access journals are not compliant with their key principles) and rumours of imminent changes to research funders’ open access policies in the UK (e.g. in the upcoming Wellcome OA Policy Review), there is hope that the unsustainable model of increasingly expensive Gold OA will be curtailed. It is important to recognise that the cost of APCs is not the only thing we should be considering, but also the approach that publishers are taking towards a transition to OA (through their self-archiving embargo policies, for example), as is acknowledged in Cambridge’s new policy.
Other institutions (such as LSHTM and Bath) have also already introduced steps to prolong and distribute their OA funds in different ways, by introducing extra conditions such as caps on APC costs and restricting which types of hybrid journal they will pay for. Although at Imperial we have not yet introduced a cap for the APCs we will pay, this is something that is likely to be rolled out by funders in the near future, so we think it is important to record the APCs we have paid for already that were particularly costly.
Recording expensive APCs
Connected to the work done by my OA Team colleague Danny Smith in his Publisher Problems spreadsheet another sheet was created to record particularly expensive APCs. This sheet has been populated with examples of APCs paid for by the Imperial OA Team in 2018, where the cost was £3,000 or over (before VAT), and is now available at the following link:
How APC costs are calculated and justified by publishers is a contentious issue, as argued by recent Imperial alumnus Jon Tennant in his blog post: “Why the term ‘Article Processing Charge’ (APC) is misleading”. The aforementioned potential caps on APCs from funders are yet to be announced, and in the meantime it is difficult to set an exact figure for what is an “expensive” APC. However, for the purposes of the resource being discussed, this figure reflects what we consider to be a significantly higher amount than the average cost of an APC (calculated as £2,269 in the Wellcome’s 2016/17 report).
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all journals that would fit within the cost criteria, as it only includes APCs we have paid for at Imperial in 2018, and may miss those journals where we have received a discount that reduced the end cost below the threshold. Although we have paid for APCs for multiple articles in many of the journals included, we have included one example article for each to avoid duplication. We would like this to be a shared resource so we would encourage members of the community to add their own examples from different journals. So far the sheet includes examples of articles published in 39 different journals, from 10 publishers, with a total net cost of £137,609.17 (see table below). More detailed data on APC payments is available through the various reports that institutions produce (e.g. for Jisc).
APC Cost (excl. VAT)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (total)
American Chemical Society (total)
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
ACS Chemical Biology
ACS Synthetic Biology
Chemical Research in Toxicology
Chemistry of Materials
Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling
American Heart Association (total)
Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health
Current Opinion in Structural Biology
International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Journal of Cleaner Production
Journal of Power Sources
Lancet Infectious Diseases
Lancet Public Health
The Lancet Haematology
Elsevier (Cell Press) (total)
EMBO Press (total)
The EMBO Journal
Nature Publishing Group (total)
Oxford University Press (total)
Journal of the Endocrine Society
Rockefeller University Press (total)
Journal of Cell Biology
Advanced Functional Materials
American Journal of Transplantation
Clinical and Experimental Allergy
Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
As identified in the Publisher’s Problems spreadsheet there are many factors that can make the process of paying for an APC unnecessarily complicated. One issue that the Expensive APCs sheet has further highlighted is the confusion and variations in price that can arise from APCs being advertised, invoiced and paid in different currencies. We have also included a column to identify those publishers who (often confusingly) separate out the cost for a “standard” APC and additional charges for CC BY licenses (including an eye-watering example of this where $3000 was paid just for CC BY). Other potential areas for discussion are the differences between APCs for open access and hybrid journals, and the value and impact of discounts/offsetting.
While we should recognise that much progress has been made by the OA movement in disrupting and reshaping traditional academic publishing models, there is still much work to be done, as is passionately argued in the documentary Paywall: The Business of Scholarship which has received many screenings in OA Week. It is hoped that this spreadsheet will be useful as a way of not only identifying those publishers that are currently charging seemingly excessive amounts, but also monitoring change over time and (hopefully!) a transition away from rising costs. There is also the potential to use the examples to help authors make educated choices about where they publish, and increase their awareness of the charges levied.
We plan to add a link to the sheet (and the other resources we have shared) on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page. Please go ahead and start editing/adding your own examples (checking the notes and instructions first), and we welcome any feedback for how these resources can be improved and best used.
The #thesisthursday infographic was produced for Open Access Week 2018 to provide statistics of Imperial College theses collection in Spiral, the College’s repository. The infographic includes the top ten most downloaded theses in Spiral (from Sept 2013-Sept 2018) including the total number of downloads.
This is the first Thesis Thursday and was begun to commemorate the anniversary of Professor Hawking’s 1966 doctoral thesis ‘Properties of expanding universes’ being made available by the University of Cambridge for the first time and which received so many downloads it crashed their site. (1,089,008 views so far).
You can view the infographic online and click on the hyperlinked theses which will take you to the Spiral record, where you will be able to download the thesis.
The infographic also includes three graphs:
Theses numbers and their status in Spiral – showing the percentages of open access theses and restricted access theses in Spiral.
Thesis downloads in Spiral – showing the increase of downloads to Spiral over a 5 year period (from Sept 2013-Sept 2018).
Thesis downloads in British Library EThOS (e-theses online service) – presents the projection of the number of thesis downloads from Spiral on the EThOS platform
This is the third of a series of blog posts by Imperial’s Open Access Team for OA Week. You can also read our first post on Publisher Problems, and our second post on Accepted Manuscript definitions.
This blog post is directed to our Open Access colleagues in Higher Education.
Exaggeration for comic effect is used at the author’s discretion.
You have some papers where a fee has been paid for immediate Open Access months ago. The funders require that they be available with a CC BY license by now. They aren’t. Time to chase up the publishers. So you can just grab the email addresses from the publisher’s websites, send them a quick note, and move on with your day, right?
You head to the publisher’s website for the first item on your list. But should you contact the OA team? Production? Author services? Customer services? Copyright team? This journal is published by a large commercial publisher on behalf of a learned society and so far you have only looked at the commercial publisher’s page. On linking through to the society’s page, you are confronted with yet another list of contacts, these with (even more) arcane job titles arranged in a mysterious hierarchy. You could email them all, but on receiving a query that was sent to twenty people, how many would assume that someone else would deal with it? (I probably would, to be fair).
You move on to the next publisher in your list (let’s leave the tricky ones until last). There are about a hundred “contact us” links from a variety of different pages, and they all lead back to the same generic Customer Services web-form. You know from experience that that web-form leads to a Kafka-esque dance as your query is forwarded and cc’ed back and forth and up and down and always, ultimately, around and back to where it started, losing clarity and formatting at every step, but never accumulating any answers.
Fortunately there is now a list of publisher contacts available. In some cases, this should alleviate situations like those just described.
If someone else has successfully found a way of approaching a particular publisher that works well, you can find out about it.
If you have successfully found a way of approaching a particular publisher that works well, you can share it.
If no-one has successfully found a way of approaching a particular publisher that works well, you can be comforted that it isn’t just you.
The spreadsheet linked here is one that we have just started using internally at Imperial, and so far we have found it useful for all three of the above reasons. We hope to have a link available on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page soon. We will continue to add to it as time goes on – updating is always a concern with community resources, but we planned to maintain this resource internally anyway, so we felt we might as well share it. We hope that some of you will update it too. Feel free to edit, but please see the Readme tab for updating rules; if you think the rules need to be changed/added to (and they might well as this is a new resource), please contact email@example.com.
I have a suspicion that publishers are moving increasingly towards generic web-forms as the only way to contact them, and as recorded in the spreadsheet some of them actually seem to work very efficiently. If this becomes the norm, this resource may become redundant. If/when that happens, we will delete it with pleasure!
This is the second of a series of blog posts by Imperial’s Open Access Team for OA Week, our first was on Publisher Problems.
What is an accepted manuscript? Depends who you ask…
The REF 2021 open access policy requires authors of journal articles and conference proceedings to deposit their work to an institutional repository within three months of acceptance. The version required for deposit by Research England, and permitted by most publishers, is the accepted manuscript version, but selecting the correct version is sometimes confusing for authors. There’s generally a lack of standardization in publishing, and a good example of this concerns accepted manuscripts. There is, in theory, an agreed definition, as follows:
The version of a journal article that has been accepted for publication in a journal. A second party (the “publisher”—see “Version of Record” below for definition) takes permanent responsibility for the article. Content and layout follow publisher’s submission requirements.
This is taken from NISO-RP-8-2008, or to give it its full title, Journal Article Versions (JAV): Recommendations of the NISO/ALPSP JAV Technical Working Group*. The definition is followed by these notes.
Acceptance must follow some review process, even if limited to a single decision point about whether to publish or not. We recommend that there should be a link from the Accepted Manuscript to the journal’s website that describes its review process
If the Accepted Manuscript (AM) is processed in such a way that the content and layout is unchanged (e.g., by scanning or converting directly into a PDF), this does not alter its status as an AM. This will also apply to “normalized” files where, for example, an author’s Word file is automatically processed into some standardized form by the publisher. The content has not changed so this essentially constitutes a shift of format only, and our terms are format neutral.
This stage is also known as “Author’s Manuscript” by, for example, the NIH, but we believe that the key point is the acceptance of the manuscript by a second party. Elsevier refers to it as “Author’s Accepted Manuscript”. SHERPA/RoMEO refer to it as “Postprint”, but this term is counterintuitive since it implies that it refers to a version that comes after printing.
Many authors are confused by the details of Green OA, not knowing what version(s) they can share, where they can share them, and how etc. This confusion arises in part because of the various permissions of each publisher, and even each journal within a publisher’s collection. Permissions are an issue for another day, but surely authors’ (and our) lives could be made easier if publishers were to agree on a definition, such as that above (assuming for the moment that the above is satisfactory)? This is indeed the definition used by Taylor & Francis, though other publishers offer their own interpretations of what an accepted manuscript is, increasing author confusion.
In processing deposits to Spiral, Imperial’s IR, we often have to reject items because the authors have uploaded the incorrect version. We of course contact the author when this happens and request the accepted manuscript. When explaining this we try to use publisher specific details and if possible, give an example. A spreadsheet has been setup for this purpose.
It gives definitions of accepted manuscript by publisher with a link to the information on the publisher’s site, and where available, an example, if the publisher provides clear or labelled accepted manuscripts. It’s in its infancy at the moment, but hopefully with community input this can grow to become a useful resource for everyone. Presumably we’re all sending similar communications to authors about accepted manuscripts, so this should hopefully save us some time, and increase author awareness.
Please contribute to the spreadsheet, and do let us know if you have any questions or comments.
The needs of the OA community have not and are not being met by established publishers, causing OA/SCM teams many headaches in their daily tasks. In a previous role I began to record the various problems I encountered, and I’ve been continuing this work with colleagues at Imperial. Our list currently contains 106 issues with 70 different publishers. Some publishers are only listed once in the document, whilst some repeat offenders feature as many as 7 times.
As we have a fairly large record of problems (and we’re librarians) we’ve decided to try and structure the information, currently recorded in an online spreadsheet.
We’ve added columns for contextual information, such as the type of publisher, their location, whether the problem relates to Gold or Green OA, and if Gold, whether hybrid or pure. This allows us to do some basic analysis on the data, for instance, we can filter to discover that most of the publishers who cause us problems in terms of licensing are small/society outfits based in the USA.
We’ve come up with 7 categories that we use to collate similar problems together, as below.
We record publishers whose basic APC costs we consider to be excessive and also those who have unfair or unusual charges, such as those who charge an additional fee for a CC-BY licence (a cynical attempt to exploit institutional UKRI/COAF OA grants?), compulsory page and colour charges, or APC charges based on article length.
For issues around CC licences, particularly changing them, and other licensing problems such as confusing or restrictive publisher-own Gold licences.
Examples of payment problems include using different systems for APCs and other charges, sending invoices for articles that should be paid via prepay, or a publisher being repeatedly unable to trace payments.
Predominantly for confusing, conflicting or very restrictive copyright/self-archiving policies, such as rolling embargoes or deposit only in closed access repositories, or only on an intranet (me neither).
Simply a way of recording potentially illegitimate publishing entities (PIPEs). PIPEs are often referred to as ‘predatory publishers’, and there is a list of PIPEs. To be listed as a predatory publisher/journal in our list the publisher/journal must have failed several of the checks on the ThinkCheckSubmit website.
For difficulties in arranging Green/Gold and the processes that we/the publisher go through. Examples include publishers requiring payment to be received before publishing, unintuitive dashboards for prepay schemes, or delays between ordering Gold and receiving an invoice. A problem recorded just this morning regards one publisher’s decision to set an exchange rate from $ to € in January of each year, which is then set until the following January, irrespective of currency fluctuations. This potentially increases costs as well as adding extra administrative burden when processing an invoice charged in €, to be paid in £, for an APC originally advertised in $.
To do with what the publishers actually produce, so for problems with their product, e.g. not stating whether something is CC-BY, broken DOIs, confusing article types, attaching adverts to articles, etc.
The purpose of the spreadsheet was to allow us to see which problems and which publishers were frequently reoccurring so that we could try and locate particular areas that need addressing. The information, it is hoped, will be of use to the rest of the OA community, as well as other interested parties, such as funders, to see how we can collectively petition publishers to change their practices and quicken the transition to a more open system of scholarly communication.
Many of the entries were recorded some time ago and may not be up to date, and we would welcome collaboration on the sheet to make it as accurate, current, and in depth as possible – we hope to have a link available on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page soon.
Please do make your own additions/amendments and get in touch and let us know if you have any questions or comments.