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This post was originally posted over at the LSE Impact blog where I was kindly invited to write on this theme by the Managing Editor. It’s a widely read platform and I hope it inspires some academics to upload more of their work for everyone to read and use

Recently I tried to explain on twitter in a few tweets how everyone can take easy steps towards open scholarship with their own work. It’s really not that hard and potentially very beneficial for your own career progress – open practices enable people to read & re-use your work, rather than let it gather dust unread and undiscovered in a limited access venue as is traditional. For clarity I’ve rewritten the ethos of those tweets below:

Step 1: before submitting to a journal or peer-review service upload your manuscript to a public preprint server

Step 2: after your research is accepted for publication, deposit all the outputs – full-text, data & code in subject or institutional repositories

The above is the concise form of it, but as with everything in life there is devil in the detail, and much to explain, so I will elaborate upon these steps in this post.

Step 1: Preprints

Uploading a preprint before submission is technically very easy to do – it takes just a few clicks, but the barrier that prevents many from doing this in practice is cultural and psychological. In disciplines like physics it’s completely normal to upload preprints to arXiv.org and their submission to a journal in some cases has more to do with satisfying the requirements of the Research Excellence Framework exercise than any real desire to see it in a journal. Many preprints on arXiv get cited and are valued scientific contributions, even without them ever being published in a journal. That said, even within this community author perceptions differ as to the exact practice of when to upload a preprint in the publication cycle.

Within biology it’s relatively unheard of to upload a preprint before submission but that’s likely to change this year because of an excellent well-put article advocating their use in biology and the very many different outlets available for them. My own experience of this has been illuminating – I recently co-authored a paper openly on github and the preprint was made available with a citable DOI via figshare. We’ve received a nice comment, more than 250 views and a citation from another preprint. All before our paper has been ‘published’ in the traditional sense. I hope this illustrates well how open practices really do accelerate progress.

This is not a one-off occurrence either. As with open access papers, freely accessible preprints have a clear citation advantage over traditional subscription access papers:

graph

Outside of the natural sciences the situation is also similar; Martin Fenner notes that in the social sciences (SSRN) and economics (RePEc) preprints are also common either in this guise, or as ‘working papers’ – the name may be different but the pre-submission accessibility is the same. Yet I suspect, like in biology, this practice isn’t yet mainstream in the Arts & Humanities – perhaps just a matter of time before this cultural shift occurs (more on this later on in the post…)?

There is one important caveat to mention with respect to posting preprints – a small minority of conservative, traditional journals will not accept articles that have been posted online prior to submission. You might well want to check Sherpa/RoMEo before you upload your preprint to ensure that your preferred destination journal accepts preprint submissions. There is an increasing grass-roots led trend apparent to convince these journals that preprint submissions should be allowed, of which some have already succeeded.

If even much-loathed publishers like Elsevier allow preprints, unconditionally, I think it goes to show how rather uncontroversial preprints are. Prior to submission it’s your work and you can put it anywhere you wish.

 

Step 2: Postprints

 

Unlike with preprints, the postprint situation is a little trickier. Publishers like to think that they have the exclusive right to publish your peer-reviewed work. The exact terms of these agreements will vary from journal to journal depending on the exact terms of the copyright or licencing agreement you might have signed. Some publishers try to enforce ’embargoes’ upon postprints, to maintain the artificial scarcity of your work and their monopoly of control over access to it. But rest assured, at some point, often just 12 months after publication, you’ll be ‘allowed’ to upload copies of your work to the public internet (again SHERPA/RoMEO gives excellent information with respect to this).

So, assuming you already have some form of research output(s) to show for your work, you’ll want these to be discoverable, readable and re-usable by others – after all, what’s the point of doing research if no-one knows about it! If you’ve invested a significant amount of time writing a publication, gathering data, or developing software – you want people to be able to read and use this output. All outputs are important, not just publications. If you’ve published a paper in a traditional subscription access journal, then most of the world can’t read it. But, you can make a postprint of that work available, subject to the legal nonsense referred to above.

If it’s allowed, why don’t more people do it?

Similar to the cultural issues discussed with preprints, for some reason, researchers on the whole don’t tend to use institutional repositories (IR) to make their work more widely available. My IR at the University of Bath lists metadata for over 3300 published papers, yet relatively few of those metadata records have a fulltext copy of the item deposited with them for various reasons. Just ~6.9% of records have fulltext deposits, as published back in June 2011.

I think it’s because institutional repositories have an image problem: some are functional but extremely drab. I also hear of researchers full of disdain who say of their IR’s (I paraphrase):

“Oh, that thing? Isn’t that just for theses & dissertations – you wouldn’t put proper research there”

All this is set to change though as researchers are increasingly being mandated to deposit their fulltext outputs in IR’s. One particular noteworthy driver of change in this realm could be the newly-launched Zenodo service. Unlike Academia.edu or ResearchGate which are for-profit operations, and are really just websites in many respects; Zenodo is a proper repository – it supports harvesting of content via the OAI-PMH protocol and all metadata about the content is CC0, and it’s a not-for-profit operation. Crucially, it provides a repository for academics less well-served by the existing repository systems – not all research institutions have a repository, and independent or retired scholars also need a discoverable place to put their postprints. I think the attractive, modern-look, and altmetrics to demonstrate impact will also add that missing ‘sex appeal’ to provide the extra incentive to upload.

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Providing Access to Your Published Research Data Benefits You

A new preprint on PeerJ shows that papers with associated open research data have a citation advantage. Furthermore other research has shown that willingness to share research data is related to the strength of the evidence and the quality of the results. Traditional repository software was designed around handling metadata records and publications. They don’t tend be great at storing or visualizing research data. But a new development in this arena is the use of CKAN software for research data management. Originally CKAN was developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation to help make open government data more discoverable and usable; the UK, US, and governments around the world now use this technology to make data available. Now research institutions like the University of Lincoln are also using this too for research data management, and like Zenodo the interface is clean, modern and provides excellent discoverability.

CKAN

Repositories are superior for enabling discovery of your work

Even though I use Academia.edu & ResearchGate myself. They’re not perfect solutions. If someone is looking for your papers, or a particular paper that you wrote these websites do well in making your output discoverable for these types of searches from a simple Google search. But interestingly, for more complex queries, these simple websites don’t provide good discoverability.

An example: I have a fulltext copy of my Nature letter on Academia.edu, it can’t be found from Google Scholar – but the copy in my institutional repository at Bath can. This is the immense value of interoperable and open metadata. Academics would do well to think closely about how this affects the discoverability of their work online.

The technology for searching across repositories for freely accessible postprints isn’t as good as I’d want it to be. But repository search engines like BASE, CORE and Repository Search are improving day by day. Hopefully, one day we’ll have a working system where you can paste-in a DOI and it’ll take you to a freely available postprint copy of the work; Jez Cope has an excellent demo of this here.

Open scholarship is now open to all

So, if there aren’t any suitable fee-free journals in your subject area (1), you find you don’t have funds to publish a gold open access article (2), and you aren’t eligible for am OA fee waiver (3), fear not. With a combination of preprint & postprint postings, you too can make your research freely available online, even if it has the misfortune to be published in a traditional subscription access journal. Upload your work today!

Science Europe denounces ‘hybrid’ Open Access [another repost]

May 8th, 2013 | Posted by rmounce in Open Access - (Comments Off on Science Europe denounces ‘hybrid’ Open Access [another repost])

This is a re-post, originally first blogged by myself on the Open Knowledge Foundation main blog here

Recently Science Europe published a clear and concise position statement titled:
Principles on the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications

This is an extremely timely & important document that clarifies what governments and research funders should expect during the transition to open access. Unlike the recent US OSTP public access policy which allows publishers to apply up to a 12 month access embargo (to the disgust of some scientists like Michael Eisen) on publicly-funded research, this new Science Europe statement makes clear that only up to a 6 month embargo at maximum should be accepted for publicly funded STEM research. The recent RCUK (UK research councils) open access policy also requires 6 months embargo at most, with some caveats.

But among the many excellent principles is a particularly bold and welcome proclamation:

the hybrid model, as currently defined and implemented by publishers, is not a working and viable pathway to Open Access. Any model for transition to Open Access supported by Science Europe Member Organisations must prevent ‘double dipping’ and increase cost transparency

Hybrid options are typically far more expensive than ‘pure’ open access journal costs, and they don’t typically aid transparency or the wider transition to open access.

The Open Knowledge Foundation heartily endorses these principles as together with the above they respect, and reinforce the need for free access AND full re-use rights to scientific research.


About Science Europe:

Science Europe is an association of European Research Funding Organisations and Research Performing Organisations, based in Brussels. At present Science Europe comprises 51 Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations from 26 countries, representing around €30 billion per annum.

Panton Fellowship wrap-up [OKF repost]

April 5th, 2013 | Posted by rmounce in Conferences | Open Access | Open Data | Open Science | Panton Fellowship updates - (Comments Off on Panton Fellowship wrap-up [OKF repost])

My final repost today (edited) from the Open Knowledge Foundation blog. It’s a little old, originally posted on the 16th of April, 2013 but I think it definitely deserves to be here on my blog as a record of my activities…

So… it’s over.

For the past twelve months I was immensely proud to be one of the first Open Knowledge Foundation Panton Fellows, but that has now come to an end (naturally). In this post I will try and recap my activities and achievements during the fellowship.

okfhelsinki

The broad goals of the fellowship were to:

  • Promote the concept of open data in all areas of science
  • Explore practical solutions for making data open
  • Facilitate discussions surrounding the role and value of openness
  • Catalyse the open community, and reach out beyond its traditional core

and I’m pleased to say that I think I achieved all four of these goals with varying levels of success.

 

Achievements:

Outreach & Promotion – I went to a lot of conferences, workshops and meetings during my time as a Panton Fellow to help get the message out there. These included:

Conferences

At all of these I made clear my views on open data and open access, and ways in which we could improve scientific communication using these guiding principles. Indeed I was more than just a participant at all of these conferences – I was on stage at some point for all, whether it was arguing for richer PDF metadata, discussing data re-use on a panel or discussing AMI2 and how to liberate open phylogenetic data from PDFs.

One thing I’ve learnt during my fellowship is that just academic-to-academic communication isn’t enough. In order to change the system effectively, we’ve got to convince other stakeholders too, such as librarians, research funders and policy makers. Hence I’ve been very busy lately attending more broader policy-centred events like the Westminster Higher Education Forum on Open Access & the Open Access Royal Society workshop & the Institute of Historical Research Open Access colloquium.

Again, here in the policy-space my influence has been international not just domestic. For example, my trips to Brussels, both for the Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists workshop (which may help shape the direction of future FP8 funding), and the ongoing Licences For Europe: Text and Data Mining stakeholder dialogue have had real impact. My presentation about content mining for the latter has garnered nearly 1000 views on slideshare and the debate as a whole has been featured in widely-read news outlets such as Nature News. Indeed I’ve seemingly become a spokesperson for certain issues in open science now. Just this year alone I’ve been asked for comments on ‘open’ matters in three different Nature features; on licencing, text mining, and open access from an early career researcher point-of-view – I don’t see many other UK PhD students being so widely quoted!

Another notable event I was particularly proud of speaking at and contributing to was the Revaluing Science in the Digital Age invite-only workshop organised jointly by the International Council for Science & Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, September 2012. The splendour was not just in the location, but also the attendees too – an exciting, influential bunch of people who can actually make things happen. The only downside of such high-level international policy is the glacial pace of action – I’m told, arising from this meeting and subsequent contributions, a final policy paper for approval by the General Assembly of ICSU will likely only be circulated in 2014 at the earliest!

 

helsinkiTALK

The most exciting outreach I did for the fellowship were the ‘general public’ opportunities that I seized to get the message out to people beyond the ‘ivory towers’ of academia. One such event was the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki, September 2012 (pictured above). Another was my participation in a radio show broadcast on Voice of Russia UK radio with Timothy Gowers, Bjorn Brembs, and Rita Gardner explaining the benefits and motivation behind the recent policy shift to open access in the UK. This radio show gave me the confidence & experience I needed for the even bigger opportunity that was to come next – at very short notice I was invited to speak on a live radio debate show on open access for BBC Radio 3 with other panellists including Dame Janet Finch & David Willetts MP! An interesting sidenote is that this opportunity may not have arisen if I hadn’t given my talk about the Open Knowledge Foundation at a relatively small conference; Progressive Palaeontology in Cambridge earlier that year – it pays to network when given the opportunity!

 

Outputs

The fellowship may be over, but the work has only just begun!

I have gained significant momentum and contacts in many areas thanks to this Panton Fellowship. Workshop and speaking invites continue to roll in, e.g. next week I shall be in Berlin at the Making Data Count workshop, then later on in the month I’ll be speaking at the London Information & Knowledge Exchange monthly meet and the ‘Open Data – Better Society’ meeting (Edinburgh).

Even completely independent of my activism, the new generation of researchers in my field are discovering for themselves the need for Open Data in science. The seeds for change have definitely been sown. Attitudes, policies, positions and ‘defaults’ in academia are changing. For my part I will continue to try and do my bit to help this in the right direction; towards intelligent openness in all its forms.

What Next?

I’m going to continue working closely with the Open Knowledge Foundation as and when I can. Indeed for 6 months starting this January I agreed to be the OKF Community Coordinator, Open Science before my postdoc starts. Then when I’ve submitted my thesis (hopefully that’ll go okay), I’ll continue on in full-time academic research with funding from a BBSRC grant I co-wrote partially out in Helsinki(!) at the Open Knowledge Festival with Peter Murray-Rust & Matthew Wills, that has subsequently been approved for funding. This grant proposal which I’ll blog further about at a later date, comes as a very direct result of the content mining work I’ve been doing with Peter Murray-Rust for this fellowship using AMI2 tools to liberate open data. Needless to say I’m very excited about this future work… but first things first I must complete and submit my doctoral thesis!

So, the new RCUK open access policy is now in play… and guess what – there’s plenty of journals out there that are not accommodating it at the moment. Perhaps this is just out of ignorance? Perhaps this is an area where a little nudge from interested parties e.g. open access advocates, RCUK-funded academics, and other concerned people might help?

With this aim I have just emailed the editorial board of the Taylor & Francis journal Systematics and Biodiversity to let them know that their journal is not currently RCUK-compliant (see screenshot from FACT below).

Systematics & Biodiversity is not compliant

Dear Elliot, (and British-based members of the Systematics and Biodiversity editorial board)

As you may know, Research Councils UK (RCUK) have instituted a new open access policy to further the dissemination and re-use of all RCUK-funded research. Included within RCUK is BBSRC, MRC, NERC & STFC.
Further details here

This policy came into force on 1st April 2013.

All papers to be published in future, arising from RCUK-funded research must now comply with this new RCUK policy or they will not be REF-able. Publishing in a non-compliant journal may also adversely affect future grant applications.

The University of Nottingham has made a helpful website to let people check before they submit their manuscripts – which journals are RCUK policy compliant, and which journals are NOT compliant.
It is called the ‘Funders & Authors Compliance Tool

I was browsing this website and discovered that your journal: ‘Systematics and Biodiversity‘ (ISSN: 1477-2000) is NOT compliant with the new RCUK policy, for researchers with BBSRC, MRC, NERC or STFC funding.

This may deter many British academics from submitting manuscripts to your journal…
May I suggest you discuss this at your next editorial board meeting?

The simplest route to compliance would be to talk to your publisher – Taylor & Francis, point out the issue, and convince them to either:

* allow all RCUK-funded research to be published under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY)
OR
* allow the Accepted version of RCUK-funded articles to appear in open access repositories after a 6 month embargo

It may also interest you to note that an entire editorial board recently resigned from a Taylor & Francis journal over a similar dispute relating to open access & licencing. I’m sure you need not necessarily take such drastic action.

All the best,

Ross

I’ll let you know as and when I get a response to this email.

Perhaps you know of a journal in your field that you’d also like to see offer RCUK-compliant publishing options? Check with the FACT tool, and let that editorial board know – they may be able to do something about it http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/fact/index.php