Check Out In Verba – Royal Society’s Science Policy Blog

In Verba, the Royal Society’s Science and Policy blog has been active now since 2010 and features posts on a range of topics at the intersection between science and policy and aims to give an insight into the Society’s policy work. Recent posts have covered geoengineering, food security and health policy. It’s mainly written by science policy staff at the Royal Society but also features some guest posts from Fellows.


Survey to help major research project understand how you use books

Domesday-book-1804x972 - Public DomainOAPEN-UK, an AHRC and Jisc-funded project on open access monographs, is currently running a survey to understand how researchers in the humanities and social sciences use books, and especially monographs.

The survey design has been informed by a range of funders including HEFCE and Jisc, and the findings will help build an evidence base for future policies to support monograph publishing in the UK.

No identifiable data will be made public or shared beyond the OAPEN-UK project team. All respondents to the survey can enter a prize draw to win up to £100 of Amazon vouchers.

I hope you’ll spare 10-15 minutes to participate, and to help the researchers understand what you want as both authors and readers of books.

The survey can be found here: 

The deadline for completed surveys is 6th June.

If you have any questions, please contact the survey researcher, Ellen Collins, on”


HEFCE announce review of metrics in research assessment

Remember when HEFCE suggested replacing peer review with metrics after RAE2008? They backed off fairly quickly following strong opposition, and the REF ended up, as the RAE, largely based on peer review. Well, now that REF2014 is over, talk of metrics-based research assessment is back and HEFCE have just announced an independent review, chaired by Prof James Wilsdon. It will report by spring 2015. More from THE [£] and Research Fortnight [£].


HEFCE Open Access Policy for post-2014 REF

Open Access promomaterial by biblioteekje CC BY-NC-SA 2.0HEFCE has today released its open access policy for the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework.

I was intending to write a short summary this morning, but I’ve already been beaten to it by the ever-excellent Martin Eve, who’s got a “Really Short Version” in four bullets, and an extended abridged version if you want to dig a little deeper.

Martin’s full summary is posted below thanks to the magic of open access (Creative Commons Attribution license to be specific). This guide is aimed at academic staff, so it doesn’t cover some of the stuff around “discoverability” of outputs since that will largely be handled by institutional repository staff. (Incidentally, you shouldn’t worry about the veracity of this account – Martin’s version has already been praised by Ben Johnson, the HEFCE policy manager who co-authored the original policy, on Twitter):

The Really Short Version:

  1. Submit journal article.
  2. Check journal policy at (the bits on “post-print” are the thing to pay attention to).
  3. On acceptance go to your institution’s repository and create a record. Upload your author’s accepted version setting the embargo as per SHERPA/RoMEO [at Northumbria repository staff are available to help with this and check it’s set it correctly].
  4. That’s it.

The Geekier Longer Version
Source: “Policy for Open Access in the Post-2014 Research Excellence Framework“, March 31, 2014


  • Applies to all: journal articles and published conference papers (with ISSN) accepted after 1 April 2016. (Paras 11, 13)
  • Exempted: monographs (“and other-long form publications”), edited collections (without ISSN), non-text outputs, data. (Para 14)
  • Outputs to which this applies are subject to open access deposit, discovery and access requirements. (Para 16) It is anticipated that the “discovery” requirement will be met at the institutional and technological level.
  • “Credit will be given” to institutions exceeding the letter of this policy in a future “research environment” component. (Para 15)
  • “Non-compliant outputs will be given an unclassified score and will not be assessed in the REF.” (Para 42)

Deposit Requirements

Authors MUST:

  • upload the “accepted and final peer-reviewed text” to “an institutional repository, a repository service shared between multiple institutions, or a subject repository such as arXiv”. (Paras 17, 19)
  • do so “as soon after the point of [firm (Para 19)] acceptance as possible, and no later than three months after this date”. (Para 18)

Allowable exceptions:

  • the author did not work at an HEI at time of acceptance.
  • “it would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output”.
  • “depositing the output would present a security risk”. (Para 36)

Authors MAY:

  • upload a subsequent version as a supplement or replacement if the publisher allows it. (Para 19) If a replacement, it must also fulfil the access requirement (Para 33).

Access Requirements

Authors MUST:

  • allow others “search electronically within the text, read it and download it without charge”. (Para 25)
  • respect any ‘embargo period’ (an open access delay) specified by the publisher. (Para 25)
  • but an embargo MUST NOT be longer than 24 months for panels C and D and 12 months for panels A and B. (Para 30)
  • regardless of whether publisher specifies delay, you MUST deposit at time of acceptance (deposit requirement)
  • no specific license is required. It is suggested that CC BY-NC-ND could meet the above provisions. (Para 25)
  • if provisions are made to allow text-mining, which could include more liberal licensing, then credit will be given in the “environment” component. (Para 34)

The ONLY allowable exceptions:

  • third-party rights couldn’t be obtained for material within to be made OA
  • the embargo period was above the maximum allowed, or the journal disallows deposit, but the venue was “the most appropriate” (Para 37)

Open Access, Research and Government Policy

Open Access storefrontBack in November last year I attended a couple of useful and interesting events on open access policy which involved a mix of publishers, academics and HE managers, and government representatives. I’ve been meaning to blog my notes for a while but the small matter of the REF intervened…

I haven’t edited these much so they are more or less my thoughts and snippets that I thought would be useful to others. I’m putting them up here to share and hopefully contribute to the ongoing debate on open access in HE. It’s a little long for a blog post, but I’ve summarised the key messages at the start of each section.

Westminster HE Forum on Open Access:

[important]Summary of event: This event was definitely the most diverse of the two in terms of participants as it involved a mix of HE, funders, publishing industry and policymakers on the panels and in the audience. This made for some lively debate particularly as the question of what value publishers actually add to the academic publication process came up frequently.

Key messages: Most funders already mandate OA, if not they are moving in that direction, but concerns surround how this is to be paid for – not all allow Gold OA costs as part of the grant. There was an interesting discussion of the OA landscape around Europe which showed a very mixed picture in the details, but a general trend towards OA as a requirement for publicly funded research. There was fierce debate about whether Gold is necessary, with OA advocates such as Harnad arguing strongly that increasing adoption of Green OA will eventually lead to worldwide adoption of OA without excessive costs. Publishers – needless to say – argued that Gold is a necessary part of the transition to sustainable OA.[/important]

Wellcome Trust

  • Policy is OA as soon as possible
  • Supports green and gold with strong preference for gold, but gold funding is eligible grant cost
  • Compliance is 65% general upward trend
  • CC BY requirement from April 2013
  • Currently spend £4m per year to support OA
  • If Wellcome funded everything through OA it would cost £9m, but that would only be 1-2% of total spend
  • Market may be dysfunctional, so double-dipping etc happens
  • Have commissioned research into Gold OA with RCUK RLUK etc
  • Discussing Green vs Gold is not helpful any more
  • Was part of Finch review
  • UK is not alone in this process of transitioning to OA
  • Horizon 2020 APCs are in the grant
  • Lots of US funding agencies accept APCs as eligible cost in grant
  • (… But RCUK does not!)
  • What about people not funded through grants?
  • What about humanities and social sciences? How might research funders cope with this?
  • Has there been any progress on OA for books and monographs?
  • How does the argument for Green > Gold work? How will the market suddenly flip from Green to Gold?
    • Springer not sure. But whole Springer portfolio allows Green.
  • What about books/monographs?
    • Springer: Books, totally agree no progress. Question of time.
    • Wellcome: requires monographs and book chapters to be available.
    • Wellcome: we all want to be at the place where publications are freely available.
  • How much is too much?
    • Imperial: need an evidence base to determine how much it’s worth paying.
    • Harnad: goal is not Gold, it’s open access. Only the UK mandates Gold. As we approach 100% OA, institutions will cancel journal subscriptions.
    • Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers: if all we want is accepted version, then we go Green, but if we want the ‘value add’ that publishers provide in terms of the ‘version of record’ then we need to go Gold.
British Embassy Prague, Science attaché – A European perspective on OA
  • 50% of scientific papers published between 2008-2011 are now available for free
  • It’s already happening
  • Spain is only EU country with clear OA legislation at national level
  • Denmark: prefers Green. Funder mandates. Should be OA providing it’s accepted by the journal in question
  • France: mix of Green and Gold = Platinum, no details of what this means or how to bring it about
  • Germany: prefers Green. 6 months for STEM subjects. Gold is considered a ‘parallel route’
  • Netherlands: no official policy but all universities have signed Berlin declaration since 2005. Dutch association of universities have reached agreement with Springer such that all publications by Dutch authors will be freely available next year.
  • Similar concerns and questions across Europe as in the UK: e.g. licensing, CC BY, if gold where do we get the funds?, if green how do we set optimum embargo periods?
Martin Hall, VC Salford – New colonialism in the knowledge economy: Opportunities in the ruins of book publishing
  • Changing nature of research by allowing publication to make reference to data source through hyperlinks etc
  • The power of the hashtag, allows aggregation of massive amounts of information
  • The importance of the copy of record, vital importance of the research repository
  • Repositories will serve as archives for data sets as well as publications
  • OAPEN offers shared open access platform to get material out there
  • Opportunity for social sciences and humanities to learn from previous discussion in science publishing
  • Social media: MOOCs closely connected to publication and OA publication. Coursera likely to be commercialised. Used to outsource 101 teaching courses in US. Implies loss of jobs among junior staff. MOOCs used publications in OA repositories, dependent on OA model.
  • Books: strange that there’s so little movement on this. Is it so different to the journal area? Driver for Finch came from BIS, which was about driving business-oriented innovation. OA publishing may have greater impact in humanities and social sciences than on sciences. Format of papers haven’t changed in transition to OA. But book format constrained very much by format. Might this change? Used correctly digital publishing may have transformative effect on the way arts and socsci publish.
  • Are repositories publishers? No reason why they can’t become primary place for publication. Would be better to develop sensible consortia to do this together. Gets away from ridiculous competitiveness between universities.
  • Is difference between author accepted version and publisher version different enough to pay Gold for? It’s an open question for debate. Need cost-benefit analysis.
Wolfram Horstmann: maximising potential of OA 
  • Commercialisation of results, text mining
  • Government needs to support universities to optimise exposure of research through OA in institutional repositories
  • Pre-publications could be used for text mining etc, so there is an advantage of Green
  • Trend is that there is a growth in journal titles, but also a rise in mega-journals
Mark Ware Consulting
  • How will it benefit SMEs? Large range of SMEs, covers everything from window cleaners to biotech consultants
  • Difference between access to knowledge and tech transfer
  • Main barriers to research for SMEs are paywalls and discoverability
  • Deepdyve and Proquest Udini provide discovery portals, as well as new business models
Nicholas Canny, ERC chair on OA policies
  • Recommending to deposit in institutional repository and discipline repositories because this is the best way to reach the widest possible expert audience – though Harnad disagreed.
  • OA can be paid for through grant if cost is incurred during grant
  • Embargoes: 12 months for HSS and 6 months for STEM
  • OA on its own is not sufficient to draw attention of industry, which is why ERC have developed Proof of Concept grant to work with business/industry
Phill Jones, Macmillan Science and Education
  • Discoverability problem of Green OA
  • Institutional repositories are difficult to find and navigate (disputed point!)
  • Readcube trying to create a single portal for access – publishers well placed to solve this problem
  • Green OA model enables you to be much more agile and innovative
  • Knock on effect to ECRs. Presumption that publishing in high impact journals is the only way to get research out there. Lowered barrier to publication, eg data sets.
  • Economic shift away from library and publisher towards author
  • Incentivises publishers to make it easier to publish, broaden types of publication
  • Discoverability is key for Green
  • Funding is key for Gold – awareness raising
  • Ensure there is an appropriate IR compliant with Openaire EU standard
  • No clear understanding of what a publication is, introduce quality controls?!
  • Upload author manuscript on OA IR
  • Ensure there’s a DOI
  • Increasing amount of “born digital” publications, need to urgently give higher recognition to these journals
  • “Quality”: not talking about removing peer review, but shifting away from impact citation/view potential determined by editors, towards research quality determined by academic peer review
  • Can language used be changed in the paper? A lay abstract? Nothing to do with OA. Kudos providing services to authors to make papers more discoverable, eg lay summaries, using social media
BIS select committee
  • Select committee rejected Govt report recommendations on the basis that not enough evidence had been presented. Saw it as propping up a dysfunctional market.
  • Does Green maintain status quo? Or does Gold?
  • Where is the funding coming from for humanities and social sciences?
  • Govt needs to do more to come up with a model which will deliver open access

Open Access: Measuring the costs to universities of implementing RCUK policy

[important]Summary of event: This event was co-organised by ARMA and London Higher (a consortium of London universities) so it was very much populated by HE policy and research manager types (like me). However, it was useful to get a sense check of what other institutions are doing around OA and how the sector is preparing to implement RCUK and HEFCE policy in the run up to the next REF.

Key messages: Green tends to be preferred route for most HEIs unless Gold is necessary to meet a funder mandate. Having said that, even institutions which had a significant RCUK block grant to fund Article Processing Charges haven’t seen a major draw on those funds. OA to research data is a big unknown and lots of uncertainty exists around this. At the end of this event there was a useful final discussion session which acts as a good summary of the current state of OA in the HE sector.[/important]

Geoff Rogers – PVC Brunel, Chair of London Higher Research Excellence Group: Introduction

  • Context of RCUK policy, concern around emphasis on Gold, embargo periods etc.
  • Wrote to RCUK and BIS in early 2013 expressing concerns
  • Evolving picture, still trying to understand what’s happening and share experiences
David Price – UCL, Setting the Scene
  • OA is a solution to the problem of inaccessible research, paywalls
  • OA right in principle and a key way to disseminate research, yet it’s difficult to implement
  • Finch report contentious because strong recommendation for Gold OA and no one picked up need for extra money
  • RCUK first policy in July 2012 was too hasty, back-pedalled and we have latest iteration of OA policy
  • Publishing community is now alert to ‘threat’ of Green OA and are policing it
  • Sept 2013 BIS select committee report criticised Finch for Gold emphasis, prefers Green
  • HEFCE policy for OA in REF 2020 sets 2016 as start date for eligibility
  • Problems… Policing of embargoes more prevalent, lack of APC controls, double-dipping, rest of world swinging to Green over Gold
  • Price wanted a national subscription service (!?) for all institutions and SMEs – concern that current situation helps international industry more than UK industry and costs UK more to do this
  • UCL context: 9000 research outputs per year, publication ‘core to business’
  • Researchers select ‘most effective dissemination channels’ so OA no threat to academic freedom at UCL
  • 275,000 items on repository, 20,000 OA full text, 1,000,000 downloads on those items
  • Big challenge is compliance
  • No discrimination against younger, ECRs, etc, it’s UCLs responsibility to make it OA if it’s been funded by RCUK. Short by 2000 RCUK publications given RCUK OA fund (£2M). UCL put aside money to develop approach to OA.
  • Considering going directly to publishers every year and asking who’s published from UCL over last year and then making them Gold
  • UCL press, ‘overlay’ journals, and OA monograph publishing service

The following speakers then responded to the context talk and gave different views…

Cathy Urquhart – Manchester Metropolitan

  • Embargo periods for OA getting longer
  • Finch report best estimate was that it would cost sector £50-60M
  • Different environment at MMU, 300 publications per year, less resource
  • Green is preferred route for MMU, but they are going to set up APC fund (but not much money), Library will manage this fund, negotiating with publishers where necessary
  • MMU got £11K from RCUK for 2013/14 (similar ballpark to Northumbria)
  • Making REF 2014 outputs OA to see where costs lie in advance of 2020
  • Monitoring equal access to APCs
  • Will support Gold if funding is available from funder.
Trevor McMillan – Lancaster University
  • Divide figures from UCL by 5 to reach Lancaster’s figures
  • 30-35% science so big concerns about AHSS side of debate
  • 10 years ago debate was whether money should be put into repository – eprints vs DSpace
  • Lots of promotion around ePrints and resource in terms of Library staffing
  • 10-15% of total repository deposits have/had? full text
  • Only publisher PDFs were put into repository, but concerns from maths etc where working papers were more common – still policy, but fraying at edges
  • Using PURE which allows integration into University web pages of repository content
  • OA policy effectively says Green as standard, unless money exists to go Gold from elsewhere
  • Got £160,000 from RCUK and only spent 20% of this (similar to St Andrews experience)
  • But £25K made available for non RCUK funded research and this has all gone
  • Not expecting reduction in journal subscriptions, so OA is additional money (double dipping)
  • Publishers are starting to come out with deals, eg IEEE deal. Social Sciences directory institutional rate for OA journals. Will they create reputation and get traction with academic colleagues?
  • Worry about % compliance rates for HEFCE. Imagine having to say to people they can’t be included in REF because they have to hit OA compliance rate. Targets are a serious worry.
  • OA to research data is a major issue, even RCs are starting to worry about this.
Oriana Baddeley – University of the Arts
  • Small in some interpretations of a University, but large in terms of a monotechnic – only returning to one UoA!
  • UAL research online – 4000 live records, 37% have downloadable content, developed as part of KULTUR project funded by JISC customised for non text outputs
  • 15% of text based return is journal articles, lots is books etc
  • Firmly committed to Green
  • Lots of investment in staff because IR cannot easily automate non journal, non-standard content
  • Invest money on picture reproduction rights charged by journals to authors
  • Lots of QR income is to pay publishers for reproduction rights
  • APCs will be in addition to above costs. Will end up spending more
  • Self-archiving
  • How can universities collaborate with each other to solve some of these issues?
    • Collaborations around arts and humanities are important
    • Need to have debate
    • Is the future about disciplinary responses to OA rather than institutional response?
  • How much have universities been setting the agenda, and how much have we been responding?
    • Good in setting up IRs, but since then on the back foot
    • Sector didn’t see it coming, a bit naive. Need to start thinking now about open data question because that’s the next tsunami
  • How many universities thinking about retaining copyright as in Harvard’s case?
    • Not an option for those lower down the tree
  • Say more about national subscription model
    • Finland have an agreement with publishers that entire population has access to publications. Current UK subscription bill is £120M and some publishers have indicated this would rise by 20%
    • Netherlands tried this and got less than 200 applications for access. What problem are we really trying to solve here? Is there really a lack of access, do people want access? Do people know that this is available?
  • MOOCs
    • Real issue about OA is about timing. MOOCs may not rely on information produced in embargo periods.
    • Issue about copyright of images which MOOCs material may rely on.
  • Culture change and ensuring compliance?
    • Both carrots and stick required
    • Effective research is not just disseminated but engaging from the start
    • “Hitting people with bigger carrots”. Tie to HR processes, eg promotions and appraisals. Make process of uploading as painless as possible.

Afternoon session

Alma Swan – assessing costs and benefits to UK HEIs

  • ARMA issues:
    • Lack of author engagement
    • Disciplinary concern, eg arts and humanities
    • No system for monitoring publication practices
    • Impact factor still critical which makes advocacy difficult
    • How to spend RCUK funds?
    • Lack of ownership of OA agenda within institutions
    • What about other types of output?
  • SCONUL briefing:
    • Lots of helpful contextual information, based on case studies done at 8 institutions
    • Looked at advocacy, staffing, institutional position on OA, management of APC funds
  • RIN study:
    • Policy making practices
    • Focused heavily on research intensives
    • Looked at how 2012 pump priming money had been used
  • None of existing studies have looked at costs. London Higher report will focus on this aspect
  • Sample representative of UK HE sector
  • Questions:
    • Implementation and planning
    • Support for Gold and Green OA
    • Costs £££ how have you spent money from RCUK?
  • Alma Swan: if you want to be involved in this
Final discussion
  • Strong preference for Green among research intensives and research led institutions
  • Some institutions using RCUK block grant on a first-come first-served basis, and therefore concern about what will happen when this fund runs out (though Kent, St Andrews, Lancaster reported low demand for this)
  • Some are spending RCUK money on Green OA implementation – no one using this money for repositories
  • Some institutions had APC fund before RCUK block grant (Nottingham), many didn’t – often run by the Library
  • Having fund taken over by a third party does not necessarily reflect a cost saving
  • Final action plans not yet developed (many still evolving), but interim plans are in place in many cases
  • No rigorous compliance activity going on – this is seen as the major issue
  • Lead responsibility generally lies with Library, but research offices often involved in compliance activity/reporting to funders – often APC funds administered by Library
  • Some institutions getting involved in setting up OA journals, will self-publishing become increasingly important?