Gone to conference… Back soon!

The blog’s a bit quiet at the moment since most of us have been helping out with Northumbria University’s annual research conference over the last couple of days.

We’ll be back up and running again soon, but in the meantime why not have a look at a few of the recent stories we’ve found interesting enough to save on delicious? Different views on impact, a new global research council and a reminder from EPSRC about the importance of open access are some of the things we’ve been reading recently.


Wikipedia founder to advise UK government on open access research

The Guardian reports today that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been called upon by the UK’s coalition government to help make all taxpayer-funded research openly accessible. Universities minister, David Willetts, wants Wales to advise on the Research Councils’ Gateway to Research, previewed in the Innovation and Research strategy last year. Wales, a strong advocate of openly accessible knowledge, will also advise on the format of research papers and recent moves to make underlying research data openly accessible.

This latest development comes in the context of a grass-roots campaign by academics to boycott large research publishers such as Elsevier on the grounds that they charge high prices for access to publicly funded research. Some of these large companies are even encouraging students to buy essays online. Campaigners also claim that their business practices force libraries into buying “bundles” of journals, some of which they don’t want.

Harvard University has also sent a memo to all teaching and research staff describing the “untenable situation” wherein large journal publishers have made “the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive”. Alongside the announcement by Wellcome Trust requiring all of their funded research to be made publicly available, this adds to the growing sense that there could be a seismic shift in the academic publishing landscape sooner rather than later.

*UPDATE* 03/05/2012: Research Professional reports that, in Willetts’ speech, he suggests that open access may become an excellence criterion in the next REF: Full text of Willetts’ speech on open access [PDF].


Blogging and Tweeting Academic Research

There was an interesting post on the LSE Impact Blog last week which describes one academic’s experiences using blogging and tweets to highlight her research, which she made freely available in her institution’s open access repository:

The verdict: is blogging and tweeting research papers worth it?

As Melissa Terras explains, the bottom line is that tweeting and blogging about her papers prompted a significant increase in the number of downloads: from one or two downloads per paper to 70 on average! It also means that Melissa is author on 7 out of 10 of the most downloaded papers from her department on the UCL Discovery repository.

Of course this is just one person’s experience and we should be careful in drawing any conclusions about the value of blogging and tweeting academic research from this case study. For instance, the experience could be different in different disciplines and the effect of the “long tail” on actual citations has not yet been realised, as Melissa herself admits. Even so, it’s a timely reminder of the increasing importance of engagement with social media for researchers.

Northumbria staff who wish to emulate Melissa’s experiment could start by looking at Northumbria Research Link – make sure your research papers (at least the reference metadata) is uploaded and accessible. You’ll need to check compliance with publisher policies if you want to upload the full text. Once done you can set up a blog, either using a free provider such as WordPress or Blogger, or contacting LTech and asking them to set up a blog on the research.northumbria.ac.uk subdomain. Create an account on Twitter and remember to read the useful hints and tips in the guidance from LSE Impact Blog about academic tweeting.


Wellcome Trust adds fire to Open Access debate

There are some very interesting articles in the Guardian this week about what the paper is labelling the ‘academic spring’ (though with the weather recently, they’ll need to think carefully about that label) – i.e. the growing move towards open access publishing being required by research funders.  The Wellcome Trust has just added  impetus to this debate by requiring open access publishing of the research it funds, following other funders in recent months.  Today’s article suggests that even allowing six months before papers are made openly available, as agreed by research councils, is too long a delay.

The paper sides  largely with the view that conventional publishing inhibits the sharing of publicly-funded knowledge through the high costs charged for access, which enables publishers to make high profits whilst relying on unpaid peer review by academics.  But it also provides a fair summary of the arguments from publishers that they provide the infrastructure needed for dissemination of research findings.  The question is whether initiatives to bypass that  infrastructure can replace the current structure of academic publishing whilst retaining the necessary rigour and credibility.

The Guardian’s ongoing coverage of this debate can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/peer-review-scientific-publishing.


Survey on researchers’ views about open access publishing of research monographs

The following request for survey responses has been circulated from OAPEN-UK, an Arts and Humanities Research Council and JISC funded project exploring the issues impacting upon the publishing of scholarly monographs in the humanities and social sciences (HSS). The project is working with Taylor & Francis, Palgrave Macmillan, Berg Publishers, Liverpool University Press, University Wales Press, research funders and universities, to understand the challenges and steps required to move towards an open access publishing model for scholarly monographs. Further information on OAPEN-UK is available on the project website:


In an open access model, the monograph is made freely available – readers (or their libraries) do not have to pay to read it online, rather the costs of the publishing process (e.g.  peer review, typesetting, marketing) are recovered through alternative routes such as research grants, institutional funding or perhaps through readers purchasing print editions or particular formats for their iPad or Kindle. Various models are being tested at the moment.

OAPEN-UK has two strands: an open access pilot gathering data on the usage, sales and citations of 60 monographs, and a wider research project which explores the environment for open access publishing.

We’re six months into the project and, following a series of focus groups, have identified some key questions for researchers – both as authors and readers.

We invite you to complete the researcher survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/oapenukresearcher. The findings from this survey will combine with interviews and surveys of other stakeholder groups to help us understand the big issues and priorities that an open access publishing model must accommodate.

To thank you for your help, if you complete the survey you will be entered into a draw for Amazon vouchers – we have three £100 vouchers, three £50 vouchers and three £25 vouchers available to win.

If you’d like any further information, please contact Ellen Collins (ellen.collins@researchinfonet.org) or Caren Milloy (c.milloy@jisc-collections.ac.ukwww.jisc-collections.ac.uk). The OAPEN-UK website also contains more information about the project, and our findings so far.

Twitter: @oapenuk