Newcastle University and Elsevier

The contract between academic publisher Elsevier and UK Universities is due for renewal in December 2021.

Newcastle University subscribes to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect at a cost of £1.1 million for the current subscription deal which enables University members to access Elsevier journals online.

The UK Universities sector – on behalf of its researchers and students – entered negotiations with Elsevier with two core objectives: to reduce costs to levels UK universities can sustain, and to provide full and immediate open access to UK research.

Open access to research allows for greater impact, expanding access worldwide and the potential for collaborative work to benefit the national and international research community.

Elsevier is now the only major publisher that does not have a transformative open access agreement in place. Subscription costs to Elsevier’s journals are high and continuing to increase but do not include an open access agreement. Transformative agreements are also supported by cOAlition S research funders and, from April 2022, UKRI’s new policy is similarly supportive.

Therefore, a key practical aim of the negotiations is to secure a transformative agreement with Elsevier, which will support the core objective of immediate open access publishing.

UK Universities began negotiations in March 2021. Representatives from the sector will sit on the official negotiation team and Jisc facilitates the overall negotiations.

Jisc has produced the following video which highlights the key issues involved and has also produced some background information about the negotiations.

The Library will provide more detailed information about the aims of the negotiations and news of any progress over the coming months via this blog and on the Research Services website.

John Williams

Photo credit: King’s Walk June 2013 by John Donoghue.

Research Culture Workshop: Towards Open Research

As part of Newcastle University’s Research Strategy, we are evolving our research culture in collaboration with the whole research community. We invite the research community across career stages, job families, and disciplines, to join this first Skills Academy Research Culture workshop: Towards Open Research.

The workshop will invite participants to consider open research practices and reflect on how they and the university can move towards a culture of more open research. In this workshop, we will consider open research principles and practices that increase transparency and rigour and accelerate the reach of our research.

Open research describes approaches to increase openness throughout the research cycle, including collaborative working, sharing and making research methodology, software, code, data, documentation and publications freely available online under terms that enable their reuse. Open research thereby increases the transparency, rigour and reproducibility of the research process and so can promote inclusivity, accelerate impact and improve public trust.  However, understanding and adopting open research practices can be challenging. This workshop therefore will explore strategies for culture change here at Newcastle University.

Workshop Details

Date: Thursday 30th September, 10.00 – 12.00.
Venue: Online.
Facilitators: Chris Emmerson and Steve Boneham.

Programme

  1. Introduction to open research
  2. Researcher perspectives on open research:
    1. Melissa Bateson – Professor of Ethology – Biosciences
    2. Greg Mutch – NU Academic Track Fellow – Engineering
    3. David Johnson – PhD Researcher – History, Classics and Archaeology
  3. Comfort break
  4. Breakout groups

    To discuss how the university can move towards a culture of open research by considering core aspects of the Center for Open Science strategy for culture change

    1. Systems and tools – what systems and research tools are needed to facilitate open sharing and documentation
    2. Support and training – what research support and training researchers require to undertake open research activities 
    3. Recognition and rewards – how open research behaviours can be encouraged, recognised and rewarded
    4. Policy – the role policy changes and interventions that require change to occur in open research practices at Newcastle

4. Reflections and next steps

*** This event is now fully booked. However please complete the booking form to go on the waiting list for this event and we will contact you should additional places become available ***

New UKRI Open Access Policy published

UK Research and Innovation logo

After its long awaited review UKRI announced its new open access policy on the 6th August. The policy will apply to publications acknowledging UKRI funding and aims to make UKRI-funded research freely available to the public. It aligns with Plan S and the Wellcome Trust open access policy, and there is a strong indication that the policy will align with the open access requirements for the next REF (due to be published in November 2021). UKRI have pledged continued and increased funding to support the implementation of the new policy.

The policy will apply to:

  • Peer-review research articles submitted for publication on or after 1 April 2022
  • Monographs, book chapters and edited collections published on or after 1 January 2024.

Summary of changes

Articles (from 1 April 2022)

  • Must be open access immediately upon publication
  • CC BY licence must apply (with some permitted CC BY-ND exceptions)
  • No embargoes
  • APCs for OA in hybrid journals no longer permitted
  • A data access statement is required (even if there is no data)
  • Biomedical research articles that acknowledge MRC or BBSRC funding are required to be archived in Europe PubMed Central 

Books, book chapters and edited collections (from 1 January 2024)

  • Must be open access within 12 months of publication
  • CC BY licence required
  • Open access can be either published open access or by deposit of the Author’s Accepted Manuscript in an institutional repository
  • Images, illustrations, tables and other supporting content should be included in the open access content however more restrictive licences can apply for third-party content.

The University will be providing training and guidance before April 2022 to support implementation of the policy.

You can read the full policy documents here: https://www.ukri.org/our-work/supporting-healthy-research-and-innovation-culture/open-research/open-access-policies-review/

Guest post: Why I support the ‘Wide in Opening Access’ approach

In this guest post Jan Deckers, senior lecturer in bioethics at Newcastle University, explains his vision of how a ‘Wide in Opening Access’ approach can allow all quality research to be published.

It is probably safe to assume that most authors like their work to be read.

The traditional model of publishing operates by means of the ‘reader pays principle’. In this model, readers must generally pay either to purchase a book or to subscribe to a journal. They might do neither. However, where readers do not pay themselves, others have to do so for them. Frequently, these others are libraries. However, most libraries that lend books and provide access to journals limit access, frequently requiring the reader to be a member of an institution and/or to pay a subscription to the library.

In the age of the internet, access to published work is much greater than what it used to be. Some books are available electronically, and many journals are. In spite of this rapid change, some things stay the same: publishers must still make their money. In order to provide open access to readers, many now demand that authors pay book or article processing charges. This disadvantages authors who seek to publish books and who cannot pay such charges, unless book publishers can rely on third party funds that cover publication costs for authors who cannot pay themselves. Where such funds are not available, other options are available. Authors can still find plenty of publishers who will offer contracts, free of any charge, to those who are able to produce good work. This option exists as many book publishers stand by the traditional model, at least in part because many readers still prefer the experience of reading a tangible book to that of reading a virtual one. Another option is self-publication, where authors can publish books at relatively low cost, essentially by taking on the publishing cost themselves. In sum, whilst open access book publication presents an ethical dilemma where it supports the ‘writer pays principle’, its benefits for readers and the availability of reasonable alternatives for authors who are excluded from publishing in the open access mode makes open access book publication, in my view, a relatively sound moral option.  

Open access journal publication presents a different challenge. Some journals find themselves in a position where, rather than to adopt the ‘writer pays principle’, they are able to get the money from elsewhere, for example from governments and other institutions that are willing and able to pay. This is the ideal scenario and – in the current world – the exception rather than the norm. This is why open access journal publication raises a massive moral challenge: what does one do, for example, when the leading journal in one’s academic specialty decides to become an open access journal that charges authors, where neither the author nor the institution that they may belong to can pay? To address this challenge, the journal may be able to offer free publication to some authors, effectively by elevating the processing fee for authors who are able to pay so that it can cover the cost for authors who are unable to pay. Some journals do this already by offering either a discount or a fee waiver to some authors. The problem is that such discounts may not be sufficient and that the criteria for discounts and waivers frequently are too indiscriminate. For example, offering waivers indiscriminately to authors who are based in particular countries both fails to recognise that those authors might be relatively rich and that authors who live in relatively rich countries might be relatively poor.

The only way that I can see out of this is to ‘de-individualise’ the article processing charge completely. Journals would then be able to publish any article that survives the scrutiny of the peer-review process, regardless of the author’s willingness or ability to pay. Such de-individualisation would also address another concern that I have with the open access journal publishing movement: how can we prevent publishers from publishing work that falls below the academic standard? One might argue that peer review should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, but the problem is that the publisher is incentivised strongly to turn a blind eye to peer review reports, which – in the worst case – might be biased themselves by the knowledge that the author is willing to pay. 

Journals that are unable to raise enough funds to publish all articles in the open access mode may provide an option for authors who can pay to publish in the open access mode and for other authors to publish in the traditional mode. Many journals now operate in this mode, and are therefore known as hybrid journals. I do not consider this option to be ideal as it sets up a two tier system, where authors who publish in the former mode are likely to enjoy a wider readership. However, it may be preferable to the traditional mode of publication as this model is not free from problems either, providing access only to readers who can pay themselves or benefit from institutions, such as libraries, that pay for them.

The world in which authors, editors, and peer reviewers must navigate is complex. In spite of this complexity, I call upon all to resist any involvement with journals that do not provide authors with the chance to publish good quality work. Whilst I hope that open access journal publishing will become the norm for all articles, I recognise that journals may not be able to publish all articles in the open access mode due to financial constraints. As long as these constraints are there, however, I believe that journals should continue to provide the option of restricted access publication according to the ‘reader pays principle’.

This is why I only publish with and do editorial or peer-reviewing work for journals that adopt what one might call a ‘Wide in Opening Access’ (WOA) approach. It consists in peer-reviewed journals being prepared to publish all articles that survive scientific scrutiny through an appropriate peer-review process, regardless of the author’s ability or willingness to pay. It guarantees that authors who produce good journal articles and who cannot or will not pay are still able to publish. In this sense, it is ‘wide’. It is wide ‘in opening access’ as it fully supports open access publication becoming the norm. Whilst it adopts the view that articles from those who cannot or will not pay should ideally also be published in the open access mode, it recognises that this may not always be possible.

With this blog post I call upon all authors to support the WOA approach in the world of journal publishing. You can do so, for example, by stating your support for it on your website. Without such support, writers who do not have the means either to pay themselves or to mobilise others to pay for them will be left behind in the transition towards greater open access journal publication. Without support for the WOA approach, those without the means to pay to publish will be disadvantaged more than they are already in a world in which the ‘writer pays principle’ is gaining significant traction. To debate the WOA approach as well as other issues in publishing ethics, I created a ‘publishing ethics’ mailing list hosted by Jiscmail.  You can (un)subscribe to this list here

Image credit: Arek Socha from Pixabay

Open Publishing Week

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

Our transformative agreements allow researchers to publish their articles as open access for free in thousands of journals from publishers including Wiley, Springer, T&F, OUP, CUP, BMJ and the Royal Society.

To help familiarise authors with the publishing workflows of these new agreements we are running an online ‘open publishing week’ where publishers will present details of how the agreements work in practice, explaining what authors should expect at each stage of the publication process.

The scheduled events are:

  • Royal Society (19/07/21, 11.00-12.00)
  • CUP (19/07/21, 14.00-15.00)
  • T&F (20/07/21, 10.00-11.00)
  • Springer (20/07/21, 14.00-15.00)
  • OUP (21/07/21, 11.00-11.00)
  • Wiley (21/07/21, 14.00-15.00)
  • BMJ (22/07/21, 11.00-12.00)

The broader aim of these agreements is to transform all subscription journals to full and immediate open access. You can read more about that in our post ‘Transformative agreements – an easier route to open access‘ or talk to us about them at open publishing week.

2020 in review: ePrints

Following on from our annual review of data.ncl this post highlights some key statistics from our ePrints repository where researchers share their publications.

Headline stats for 2020

5086 new publication records added (total of 124,957)

2989 new full text publications made available (total 26,582)

289,864 views

33,031 downloads

Our three most viewed publications were:

  1. Agroecosystem management and nutritional quality of plant foods: The case of organic fruits and vegetables
  2. Associations between childhood maltreatment and inflammatory markers
  3. Cars, EVs and battery recycling forecasts and economic models

Author profile pages were also some of our most popular pages, so we’d encourage researchers to keep their publication list is up-to-date.

Adding publications to ePrints makes them eligible for REF, but also means they are more visible and can have more impact. We optimise ePrints for research discovery and syndicate content to aggregation services such as CORE and unpaywall. That helps people find free versions of research that would otherwise be inaccessible to them as well as making text and data mining more feasible.

Our aim for 2021 is to increase the proportion of research outputs we make open access in ePrints. That will be helped by our new transformative agreements with publishers that make open access free for our authors and by funder policies like that of the Wellcome Trust and Plan S that increasingly mandate this.

Guest Post: Rethinking What Data Is

This is our first guest post on the Opening Research blog. We are keen to hear from colleagues across the research landscape so please do get in touch if you’d like to write a post. But the honor of debut guest blogger goes to David Johnson, PGR in History, Classics and Archaeology.


The trainings on open publishing and data storage fundamentally changed my perspective on what constitutes data.

Coming to start my PhD from a background in history and the humanities, I really didn’t give the idea of data much thought.  I knew I was expected to present evidence about my topic in order to defend my research and my ideas, but in my mind there was a fundamental difference between the kind of evidence I was going to work with and ‘data’.  Data was something big and formal, a collection of numbers and formulae that people other than me collated and manipulated using advanced software.  Evidence was the warm and fuzzy bits of people’s lives that I would be collecting in order to try and say something meaningful about them, not something to ‘crunch’, graph, or manipulate.  This was a critical misconception that I am pleased to say I have come to terms with now.

What I had to do was get away from the very numerical interpretation of the term ‘data’, and start to think in broader terms about the definition of the word.  When I was asked about a data plan for my initial degree proposal, I said I didn’t have one.  I simply didn’t think I was going to need one.  In fact, I had already developed a basic data plan without realising what it was called.  My initial degree proposal included going through a large volume of domestic literature and gathering as many examples of emotional language as I could find to create a lexicon of emotions words in use during the nineteenth century.  In retrospect, it’s obvious that effort was fundamentally based in data analysis, but my notion of what ‘data’ was prevented me from seeing that at the time. 

What changed my mind was some training I went to as part of my PhD programme, which demonstrates how important it is to engage with that training with an open mind.  The trainings on open publishing and data storage fundamentally changed my perspective on what constitutes data.  Together these two training events prompted me to reconsider the way I approached the material I was collecting for my project.  My efforts to compile a vocabulary of emotions words from published material during the nineteenth century was not just a list of word, but was a data set that should be preserved and made available.  Likewise, the ever-growing pile of diary entries demonstrating the lived emotional experiences of people in the nineteenth century constitutes a data set.  Neither of these are in numerical form, yet they both can be qualitatively and quantitatively evaluated like other forms of data.

I suspect I am not alone in carrying this misconception as far into my academic work as I have.  I think what is required for many students is a rethinking of what constitutes data.  Certainly in the hard sciences, and perhaps in the social sciences there is an expectation of working with traditional forms of data such as population numbers, or statistical variations from a given norm, but in the humanities we may not be as prepared to think in those terms.  Yet whether analysing an author’s novels, assessing parish records, or collecting large amounts of diary writings as I am, the pile of text still constitutes a form of data, a body of material that can be subjected to a range of data analysis tools.  If I had been able to make this mind shift earlier in my degree, I might have been better able to manage the evidence I collected, and also make a plan to preserve that data for the long term.  That said, it’s still better late than never, and I am happy say I have made considerable progress since I rethought my notions of what data was.  I have put my lexicon data set out on the Newcastle Data Repository, so feel free to take a look at https://doi.org/10.25405/data.ncl.11830383.v1.

Image credit: JD Handcock Photos: http://photos.jdhancock.com/photo/2012-09-28-001422-big-data.html

Wellcome Trust policy briefings

We will be running a series of online briefings between November and January 2021 to help researchers understand the requirements of the new Wellcome Trust open access policy.

This new policy is significantly different in that from January 1, 2021 all research articles supported by Wellcome must be either:

  1. Published in a fully open access journal or platform, OR
  2. Published in a subscription journal, with the author making the accepted manuscript freely available in Europe PubMed Central from publication, OR
  3. Published in a subscription journal, but made open access through a transformative agreement held by the university

Authors will also be required to apply a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence all their accepted manuscripts and inform the publisher of this when submitting articles to journals. This is intended to allow authors to retain rights to comply with the policy in otherwise non-compliant journals.

To find out more about the new policy and how we can support you with it, register for one of our online briefings.

  • Thu Nov 19, 10.00 – 11.00
  • Mon Nov 23, 14.00 – 15.00
  • Wed Dec 2, 14.00 – 15.00
  • Thu Dec 10, 10.00 – 11.00
  • Mon Jan 11, 10.00 – 11.00

COAF ends this week, but not all break ups have to be painful

The Charity Open Access Fund (COAF), a block grant provided through a partnership of health research charities to enable publications to be immediately open access, ends on 30 September 2020. All COAF partners remain committed to open access and will continue to fund associated costs, but how they do so will vary.

COAF was established in 2014 and since then has awarded block grants annually to 36 institutions. As one of those institutions, we have allocated £1.5 million of COAF grant funds to make over 600 papers open access and help increase their visibility, reuse and impact. So, from our perspective it is a shame to see COAF end, but we understand why it must as the funders start to adapt their previously shared policy to Plan S at different rates.

However, this does not mean that researchers funded by the former-COAF partners can no longer make their papers open access. The Wellcome Trust, CRUK and BHF will be providing separate block grants to the university to support their researchers. Blood Cancer UK and Parkinson’s UK will now allow open access to be costed into their grants or applied for directly from the funder. Versus Arthritis researchers can also request funds for open access directly from the charity.

We’ve updated the funders’ information on the open access website to reflect this and are adapting our processes to support researchers funded by the different charities. If you have publications you plan to submit or that have already been accepted and want to discuss how this might affect your paper, please do contact the open access team.

As you may have picked up from reading this, many funder are changing their policies to implement Plan S. For the Wellcome Trust, that will be from Jan 01 2021 and for CRUK from Jan 01 2022, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Transformative agreements – an easier route to open access

Complex road layout

Our ‘Read and Publish’ agreements with publishers allow researchers to both read subscription journals and to make articles they publish in those journals open access at no cost. We have already signed agreements with publishers including Wiley, Springer, IOP and the RSC, meaning you can publish open access for free in thousands of journals. Further agreements with other publishers are currently being negotiated and evaluated.

Read and Publish (R&P) agreements make open access easier, quicker and cheaper. However, the broader aim of these nationally-negotiated agreements is to transform all subscription journals to full and immediate open access.

This is intended to restart a transition to open access that stalled with ‘hybrid journals‘ (subscription journals that offer open access for individual papers.) While these have allowed more research to be made open, the separate revenue streams journals continued to receive for both subscriptions and open access wasn’t sustainable.

To address this these new ‘transformative agreements’ require publishers to make an explicit commitment to transition to open access. They must demonstrate an annual increase in the proportion of content published as open access and convert to full open access once an agreed proportion is reached. For example, the R&P deal with Wiley will lead to 85% of UK-authored articles in Wiley journals being open access by the end of this year, reaching 100% by 2022.

These agreements will also make a wider range of research open access, regardless of the discipline or research funding that may have supported it. Again using the Wiley agreement as an example, since starting in March 2020 we have approved 50 articles by researchers working in a wide range of disciplines. Without this agreement only 15 of these articles could have been made open access using funds from our UKRI or COAF block grants. Our agreement with Sage shows a similar pattern – we’ve approved 25 papers since June 2020 and could otherwise have made just two of these open access. Our longest-standing agreement is with Springer and has allowed us to make more than 300 papers open access since 2015.

At a more practical level these agreements also greatly reduce the amount of administration required from authors and from the open access team. When an eligible paper from one of our authors is accepted the publisher will send us a request to approve open access under the agreement. All we need to do is click ‘approve’. We don’t need to raise purchase orders, wait for invoices to arrive, send them to finance for payment, all of which means your papers are likely to be published open access more quickly.

There is of course a cost to these agreements. The price we pay for these agreements is based on our current subscription spend with a publisher and our average open access spend with them in previous years. Significantly however these agreements set out and constrain future costs to make them more transparent and sustainable.

In considering which publisher agreements to sign up to we have evaluate not just the costs, but the relative benefits. For example, while many agreements offer unlimited open access publishing, some limit the number of eligible papers at either an institutional or national level. Others may restrict the types of articles that are eligible. However, more and more suitable agreements are emerging from national negotiations and we intend to sign up to as many of these as we can to play our part in helping transform academic publishing to full and immediate open access.