Category: PhD

Plan U: Open access initiative

Plan U: A mandate for universal access to research using preprints 

Introduction: 

A preprint is a full draft of a research paper that is shared publicly before it has been peer reviewed. They are a growing form of scholarly communication. Plan U aims to make use of preprints to provide universal access to research. We are at a point where traditional forms of scholarly communication are slow and inaccessible. Can a preprint mandate change this?

Plan U is an open access initiative that seeks to mandate depositing research papers to a preprint server before publication. This mandate would come from funders.

 

What are the problems? 

  1. The process of getting a research paper published is slow and arguably this is getting slower. This means that research is delayed in being seen and used.
  2. Plan U aims to tackle issues of accessibility. Once a paper is accepted it remains behind the journal paywall. Even if papers are deposited into open access repositories there are usually embargoes. This means that research papers are inaccessible to those who do not have access to the journal platforms.
  3. The final issue is the expense. Some are lucky enough to have funds to pay for Article Processing Charges (APCs) at which point your research is made available at the point of publication. However, even the richest universities struggle to find money to pay for these fees.

Preprint servers: 

Plan U suggests that by using preprint servers you can speed up the access to the research and make it widely accessible for minimal costsPreprint servers are free for both the reader and the author. Posting preprints is already widely accepted in many disciplines and is growing in others. 

arXiv is generally considered the first preprint server and has been around since 1991arXiv hosts approximately 1.5 million papers and this is growing at the rate of 140,000 a year. In the last five years, the success of arXiv has sparked the creation of other subject specific preprint servers such as bioRxivchemRxivEarthArxivmedRxiv to name a few. It is estimated that by depositing preprints this could speed up scientific research by five times over 10 years. 

arXiv logo. White text on red background

Benefits of preprints: 

There are recognised benefits to posting preprints. Plan U highlights the benefits of preprints to the community. Here are some benefits to the authors: 

  • Credit: Preprints are citeable pieces 
  • Feedback: Preprints accommodate wide feedback from a wide-ranging audience 
  • Visibility: Papers that appear in preprint servers receive more alternative metrics 
  • Reliable: Preprints often do not differ significantly from the published article 

If you want any advice on your preprints please contact the Imperial Open Access team. 

 

Better use of money: 

Without the burden of paying for high APCs more money will be freed up to work on improving systems of peer-review and academic publishing processes. 

Plan S vs Plan U: 

Plan S is an open access initiative that aims to make research papers freely accessible by mandating 10 key principles. The problem facing plan S is that it requires many changes to existing infrastructures of academic publishing. 

Plan U, on the other hand, doesn’t require a lot of change as it plans to make use of preprint serversPreprints are a growing form of scholarly communication and are widely accepted by researchers and publishers alike. Plan U is not an alternative to Plan S and the two could run concurrently if any funder wished to do so. 

EarthArxiv logo. An open orange lock with blue and green earth surrounded by the text Earth ArXiv

Conclusion: 

The Plan U website is a very basic text only webpage. It doesn’t include information on who is responsible for Plan U. To find this out you should look at the article published in PLoS. As the websites doesn’t contain any references or links to follow I think further development is still needed. At this point Plan U is still just an idea and whilst everyone is focused on Plan S this mandate may be one for the future.

Event: 

If you are interested in learning more about Plan U and Preprints, there will be a free event hosted at Silwood Park Campus on November 27, 2019. Please visit Eventbrite to view the programme and sign up for your free ticket. 

Most useful for: All postgraduate students (masters and PhD), and staff involved in research. 

Copyright for Repository Administrators: Open access, Theses and GDPR

Part of my role in the Open Access team is depositing theses to Spiral and providing guidance and advocacy to students. I recently attended the Copyright for Repository Administrators: Open access, Theses and GDPR event held at the Foundling Museum which focused on best practices for e-theses in open access repositories. It specifically focused around the issues of copyright and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance; advocacy and clear guidance for students.

GDPR and repositories: making the Apollo repository compliant

There were some very interesting talks presented by the four speakers. I think one of the more interesting talks was by Zoe Walker-Fagg, Project Coordinator of Scholarly Communications at at the University of Cambridge. Her talk, entitled GDPR and repositories: making the Apollo repository compliant addressed the issue of student personal data being live on repositories. The GDPR policy came into effect in May 2018 to provide new guidelines around the handling of personal information for all EU citizens.

Zoe covered four areas where Cambridge were making their repository GDPR compliant. Firstly, the issue of student signatures in both their printed and electronic theses, a GDPR breach of personal data.   An issue face by many HEIs, including Imperial. This was tackled by manually covering up student signatures in their printed thesis as well as users’ signatures (from completed Thesis form attached to the thesis). A similar process was undertaken to delete signatures from electronic theses, which is on-going, along with retrospectively removing signature from older theses, in order to be GDPR compliant.

The second action Cambridge took was to update permission forms /deposit licences where potentially a signature would have been required and replace it with a declaration statement.  Where personal data like signatures were still required for permission forms, for example to from student for inter-library loan, these data were stored and clearly marked to be easily identifiable and kept until the appropriate length of time.

Thirdly, to update their guidance for both students and researchers depositing data into their data repository, so that it falls in line with new GDPR policy. To ensure that students and researchers have clarity around making personal information openly available and in what instances personal and sensitive datasets could be deposited. Finally, to ensure GDPR compliance, Cambridge also checked that external suppliers and support systems such as Sharepoint kept personal data in secure locations.

EThOS

Sara Gould, from the British Library talked about EThOS which is a national aggregated record of all doctoral theses awarded by UK Higher Education institutions. It offers free access to the full text of as many theses as possible for use by all researchers to further their own research. The service now holds over 500,000 UK theses, of which 54% is open access. Sara explained that the digitisation of theses via the ‘theses on demand’ service had reduced the issues of copyright (in relation to author permissions and third party copyright). This was because increasing numbers of theses are being made open access and therefore could be harvested via EThOS, either full-text or by a link to an institutional repository. The BL also encouraged repositories to mint DOIs for their theses, and students to use their ORCiD in their thesis as these identifiers can then be harvested.

Sara also touched on the issue of data protection and confirmed where possible, that the BL was removing signatures from theses when and where they found them. One caveat was the BL, understandingly, could not retrospectively remove signatures from all the copies of theses that they held. The question was raised of the difficulty of tracking down other copies (to remove signatures) on other platforms or aggregated repositories such as COnnecting REpositories (CORE)  which harvests the full-text copies of theses from UK HEI repositories as well as research outputs.

The BL is piloting their new open access shared repository, with partners from the Tate, British Museum, National Museum of Scotland and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). The shared repository will be launched later in the year and its aim is to increase the exposure and impact of cultural research.

Open by default: electronic theses at LSHTM

Dominic Walker, (who previously worked in the OA team at Imperial) talked about Open by default: electronic theses at LSHTM, which provided an overview of the London School of Hygiene of Tropical Medicine’s open access policy in relation to e-theses, which by default makes all their theses open access under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Non Derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) (students do have an option to choose their own licence). At Imperial, since November 2018, students are now able choose from 6 Creative Commons licences, instead of the former default licence CC-BY-NC-ND.

LSHTM decided to mint DOIs for all their theses using DataCite in recognition that theses downloads are higher than publications and they contained important research. The repository also has the Altmetric plugin to measure impact and downloads  Lastly, Dominic touched upon the work LSHTM was doing on training and advocacy provided to students questions and concerns around copyright and open access of their thesis.

London South Bank University

London South Bank University’s Stephen Grace from presented on Baby See, Baby Do: modelling good scholarly communications behaviour with doctoral which looked at best practices for training, induction and advocacy. The aim was to make guidelines and regulations clear for doctoral students on the subjects of open access, copyright, licences, embargoes, research data management. Stephen encouraged institutions to make sure that students are aware about the guidelines and processes from submitting their thesis to having their thesis open access online, and the implications of open access publishing. Stephen also mentioned that institutions should consider how students can receive feedback about the impact of their thesis through Altmetric.

Overall, I think the key messages were around data protection and GDPR compliance; providing clear and effective guidelines, procedures and training on open access and copyright to enable doctoral students to make right choices.

Your choice! Selecting a Creative Commons Licence for your thesis.

Until now, all doctoral theses awarded by Imperial College London and uploaded to Spiral were automatically licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives Licence (CC BY-NC-ND).

Some students felt that this licence was too restrictive and that they should be able to choose a more permissive Creative Commons licence for their thesis. In October this became possible.

So who are Creative Commons and what licences do they offer?

Creative Commons are a non-profit organization. They realised that even when the creator of work wanted their work to be available to be copied, shared and re-used, sometimes copyright laws prevented that from happening.  As a result, they created six easy to read licences that anyone could apply to their work. These are now widely used by publishers, photographers, and educational establishments to facilitate content sharing.

All the licences allow a licensed work to be copied and shared on the condition that the original creator of the work is attributed. Attribution is another term for acknowledgement and you should either acknowledge the work as requested by the creator or using your preferred referencing style. The acronym TASL (title, author, source, licence) can help you remember what to include.

A photograph of autumn leaves
Leaves by neiljs. https://flic.kr/p/6iaoA5. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence (CC BY 2.0)

NonCommercial licences (NC) prohibit a work being used commercially, for example in a commercially published book or journal article. While NoDerivative licences (ND) prohibit reuse and redistribution of adaptions of a work. ShareAlike licences (SA) require you to distribute any derivative works you create under the same licence as the original.

The table below show how the different elements are remixed to form the six licences.

A table comparing the permissions offered by different Creative Commons Licences
Creative Commons licenses by Foter. https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-SA 4.0))

 

Which licence do you recommend?

We understand that not all students will find it easy to make a choice. In this situation, we suggest you choose a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Licence.

This licence allows others to copy and redistribute all or parts of your thesis and also distribute modified versions of the work but only on the condition that they credit you as the author and do not use it, or any derivative works, for a commercial purpose.

It does not permit others to pass your work off as their own or ask a commercial publisher to publish it in a book chapter or journal article.

Having chosen my licence what next?

There are two actions you need to take. The first is to select a copyright statement to insert at the beginning of your thesis. This should be one of the statements displayed on the Selecting a Creative Commons licence webpage. Here you will see six different licences, one for each Creative Commons Licence.

The second is to select a matching Spiral licence when you upload the corrected version of your thesis to Spiral. As this won’t happen until after your viva examination we recommend that you look back at the copyright statement you inserted into your thesis before making your selection. The Creative Commons Licence mentioned in the copyright statement and the Spiral distribution licence must match.

Now I’m just confused!

Picking a licence for your work can be confusing. Try watching this short video. It will talk you through everything, show you a quick way to pick a licence and includes a screenshot of the spiral upload screen.

Good to go

You should now feel fully equipped to choose a Creative Commons Licence for your thesis but if not email library@imperial.ac.uk for further assistance.

 

Remember that if you cannot decide which licence to pick you can just select a Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Licence.

 

RDM for PhD students at Imperial

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.

Imperial College research data lifecycle

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.

For support

If you are an Imperial PhD researcher and would like help with managing your research data then you can email us at rdm-enquiries@imperial.ac.uk, check out our Research Data Management Guide, or visit our webpages here.

You may also find our quick guides on Data Management Plans, storing live data, data sharing, Data Access Statements, Symplectic and ORCiD iDs useful.