This year’s International Open Access week is now approaching its end.
It has been an active, exciting time for us here at Surrey, with an open access roadshow around campus, the launch of a new open access toolkit for our academics, and a new campaign to increase awareness among students.
It has also been a time for us to reflect on what we have achieved and plan our next steps.
Repository growth and usage.
We have many reasons to be proud this year. Our open access repository, Surrey Research Insight (SRI) Open Access, has over 7,000 full-text records, most of which are peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings; book chapters, monographs and theses are also included. Over the summer we reached our 1,000,000th download, and are still going strong, with at least 2,000 downloads a day. Besides the less immediate citation advantage that we anticipate, our authors already notice the attention that their open access papers receive: the downloads from over 200 countries; the expression of interest from practitioners and potential students; the engagement of the wider public. Four of our academics have shared their views; click on the captions below to watch their interviews.
Staff engagement: has the mandate helped?
The University of Surrey has had a deposit mandate (initially drafted as a ‘soft’ policy) since its setup in 2005. We were lucky to receive institutional approval right from the start; however, as has also been the case with funders’ policies in the past, a mandate alone is not adequate without an implementation plan. Over the years we worked hard to refine and strengthen the policy; we worked both at top-down and local level to take into account various research cultures; and we put together resources and a service that can support the mandate through advice, advocacy and practical help.
Today, our mandate is no longer just a statement. In its current form, it is close to the much advocated immediate deposit/optional access model. It requires authors to deposit the author version for every accepted peer-reviewed journal article or conference proceeding, as soon as possible after acceptance and no later than 3 months after publication. Compliance is measured, monitored and taken into account in performance reviews.
As a result, we have seen staff engagement rise to over 75%, an improvement in line with other cases of mandated deposit. More than three quarters of our academics more or less systematically deposit their newly accepted papers – and a lot of their past papers – in our publications database. Deposit in the publications database is immediate; the papers are made available in the repository as soon as copyright allows.
We have reached this point through a closely implemented mandate supported by advocacy. Deposit rates are on the rise because this is what the authors are required to do, and because we promote the benefits to them. This is the theme of Neil Stewart’s blog post earlier this week, where he highlights the role of repositories in supporting open access through advocacy and policy.Advocacy in particular must not be underestimated if our goal is to shape a culture where authors, especially new researchers, know the choices available to them and are able to make informed decsions with respect to open access. The answer to this is, of course, education.
Open access training programmes at Surrey
Green or Gold? Copyright transfer agreement or Creative Commons Licence? Which CC licence should I use? What does my funder require, and how do I comply? Can I achieve maximum visibility through the Green option? Which version should I deposit? What are my open access options for a monograph? How do I know open access makes a difference for me?
We have been addressing these and other questions in our advocacy work through discussions, presentations, e-mails and literature. But, especially following the Finch report, these questions have become increasingly complex. Our default position at Surrey is Green open access. Our message is simple: deposit your own accepted manusrcipt author’s version as soon possible after acceptance; we will do the rest. At the same time, as Neil Stewart mentions, authors also need to know what the Gold option entails and under what conditions it is available to them. More generally, we need to give authors the knowledge, skills and tools to make their own choices on where and how they should publish and share their work.
Our training programme began from practical workshops focusing at implementing our mandate: managing versions, understanding copyright jargon, using our platforms to deposit papers. We have expanded this to include broader training on understanding author rights, tracking usage and impact, and using open access to build a web presence. In other words, we are moving from a ‘how to comply’ culture to a ‘think and act for yourself’ culture – which is what academia is about, after all.
Our courses are tailored to research students and early career researchers as part of the University’s Researcher Development Programme and to more senior staff via the Staff Development Programme. We only consider a session successful if researchers leave with a stance on open access; not just a knowledge of the technicalities.
In short: preaching is necessary to get quick compliance; but teaching shapes well-informed, competent researchers.
Moving towards our goal
We are very lucky to have such strong support from the Vice-Chancellor and senior management at the University. We are also fortunate to have a Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation with a commitment to make open access straight-forward, pragmatic and sustainable for researchers and for the University.
We have very busy times ahead: access to research in the Arts and Humanities and to research data, compliance with HEFCE and funders’ requirements and continuous growth of the repository will be prominent in our work. Training researchers to think and act about open access will also remain our focus.