Thursday, 24 October 2019

Open for whom?

The theme of this year's International Open Access Week is 'Open for whom?'. Thom Blake writes about models for achieving open access and how we can ensure equity.

by, CC BY 
The economies of scholarly publishing may not be something that most people spend a lot of time thinking about, but whether you need access to resources for your own research, are publishing research yourself, or benefit from the results of research - so, everyone - the effectiveness of scholarly communication systems is important to you. The ever-increasing role of digital technologies in the communication of research has led to many changes and innovations and one of them is an increased emphasis on open access to research outputs; ensuring that they are available to anyone across the globe with an internet connection without financial barriers and with minimal technical and legal barriers. But it’s a shift that needs reflection; how can we be sure that the new models of research communication that emerge don’t replicate the inequalities of previous models, or bring about inequalities of their own? Ensuring equity in Open Access has, in one form or another, been the theme of International Open Access Week for the past two years, but how researchers, libraries, publishers and research funders will work together to shape this ecosystem in a way that is both equitable and sustainable remains to be seen.

The rise of the APC

For many - in the UK at least - open access publishing has become almost synonymous with an article/book processing charge (APC/BPC) model. This is a ‘pay-to-publish’ model where authors, their research funders, or their institutions pay a fee to the publisher in return for their work being published as open access. The 2012 ‘Finch report’ - Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications - set UK national policy firmly in the direction of publication charges as the route for increasing access to publicly funded research.

For the advantages that the APC/BPC model brings, there are drawbacks. There is a risk that an inequality in who can access research outputs is replaced by an inequality in who can afford to publish their work and where. At the University of York we receive funding from a number of research funders to cover the cost of publishing the research they fund - the York Open Access Fund  - but universities, in general, are not in a position to pay publication fees for all of the research done under their auspices. While some researchers are able to reimburse publication costs from research grants, this certainly isn’t the case for everyone. Most open access publishers offer some form of fee assistance or publication charge waiver for those that cannot afford to pay, especially from lower-income countries, but this does feel more like a sticking plaster than a long-term solution.

Hybrid publications initially seemed like a potential solution. In the hybrid model, those that can afford to pay for open access can do so, but those that can’t afford it don’t have to. But with higher publications charges, fear that libraries are being charged twice for the same content ('double-dipping'), a lack of discoverability, and concerns over the long-term effects on the scholarly publishing environment (Rettberg, 2018, The worst of both worlds: Hybrid Open Access) hybrid is out of favour. In Plan S - the new open access policy framework from Science Europe to which UK Research and Innovation is a signatory - hybrid publication are not seen as a viable route to open access. The Wellcome Trust has announced that from 2021 they will no longer support open access in hybrid publications, and other research funders are sure to follow suit. 


Open or Closed by Alan Levine, 

What Plan S does support is the ‘transitional agreement’. Under these agreements, support for hybrid publishing can continue as long as an arrangement is in place that provides a route for a journal to ‘flip’ to an open access model within an agreed timescale and for libraries to transition from paying subscriptions to funding open access publication. The most common transitional model emerging is ‘read-and-publish’, in which a single institutional subscription allows members of that institution to access subscription content in a publication, and allows authors affiliated to the institution to publish their own work as open access for no additional cost. On our website we maintain a list of open access memberships available to York researchers.

At a local level, read-and-publish style agreements provide a useful solution to the equity problem; any member of the University can take advantage of the ‘free’ open access publishing irrespective of career stage or research funding. At a global level, however, these agreements may prove more problematic. If the ambitions of Plan S are successful in ‘flipping’ prestigious publications to an open access model, where does this leave those researchers not affiliated to a subscribing institution? What about authors from less research-intensive universities? What about researchers from lower-income countries who may find themselves locked out of the publishing structure? One of the key societal benefits often claimed for Open Access is a levelling of the playing field for researchers in low-income countries (Tennant et al., 2019, The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review) but the potential is there for the opposite effect. 


Another way for researchers to meet the requirements of Plan S is through deposit of their accepted manuscripts to a repository, something that researchers already do to meet the open access requirements for the Research Excellence Framework (REF). All researchers at the University of York can deposit the outputs of their research to our institutional repository, White Rose Research Online. The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) lists over 4,000 repositories and many, such as the EU’s Zenodo, do not require an institutional affiliation to deposit.

But for published outputs deposit to a repository requires the agreement of the publisher. Plan S sets a standard of immediate open access under a Creative Commons CC-BY licence and while Royal Society may have adjusted it’s policy to meet this requirement it's uncertain how many other publishers will follow suit. If, in the face of Plan S, publisher’s choose to flip to a pay-to-publish model, the potential of repositories to provide equitable open access might be diminished.

Human castle, by Nancy Leon, CC BY

Or collaboration?

Of course, not all open access publishing works on a pay-to-publish model; far from it. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) provides a directory of high-quality, peer-reviewed open access journals and over 70% of those listed are free not only for readers to access content, but also for authors to publish.

In some cases these journals are fully subsidised by a scholarly society of research institution, although this is often only on a temporary basis while a new journal established itself. New university-based and scholar-led presses, like White Rose University Press which The University of York run in collaboration with Leeds and Sheffield, often do charge APCs or BPCs but at a rate much lower than commercial publishers.

Other publications are made open access without ‘pay-to-publish’ through cooperative models. SciELO makes over 1,700 journals open access through a collaboration across 16 countries, primarily in Latin america. SCOAP3 relies on a partnership of over three thousand libraries, funding agencies and research centers to provide open access to journals in the field of high-energy physics. The preprint server arXiv, based at Cornell University, demonstrates the role that community can play in sustaining open access enterprises, relying not only on the support of an active community of researchers but also on financial support from a community of member institutions, of which the University of York is one. This community funding model can translate to peer-reviewed publications. The Open Library of Humanities, for example, provide open access with no publication charges through voluntary subscriptions from supporting institutions; again including the University of York.

Open access monograph publishing may be where some of these community-oriented approaches are most fruitful. Knowledge Unlatched offers a scheme for the library community to collectively fund open access for academic books. Just this week, MIT Press announced plans to experiment with a subscription-like model to make monographs open access.

So we’ve cracked it then?

Ummm… not quite. Some of the models emerging for the provision of open access give us a glimpse of the potential for full, equitable and sustainable open access publishing, but there is plenty of scope for further innovation.

One of the commitments in Science Europe’s Plan S is for research funders to provide support for the development of open access infrastructure. While it’s only natural for funders to be concerned primarily with the research that they themselves support, considering how infrastructure can be open to all will be an essential part of ensuring the kind of sustainable open access to which Plan S aspires.

Thom Blake is a Research Support Librarian at University of York.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Making research data open: what’s on offer?

This week is Open Access Week, a global event to promote the goals of Open Access and the benefits of open sharing, so what better time than to share how we can help you to make your research data open. Lindsey Myers writes about the benefits of open data and the support available to York researchers.

Open access is a broad international academic movement that seeks free and unrestricted online access to the results of scholarly research, such as publications and data. When we apply the principles of openness to research data, we talk about open data.
“Open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose” The Open Definition
Open data offers many benefits. For scholarship it can increase the integrity, quality and productivity of research, making the optimal reuse of research data possible. For the researcher, she can benefit in terms of academic reputation and reward, opportunities for collaboration with data users, and the generation of impact. It has been shown that research articles, and the data itself, receive more citations when the underlying data is open (Piwowar & Vision, 2013, 'Data reuse and the open data citation advantage'; SPARC Europe, 2017, 'The open data citation advantage: a briefing paper'). So there are selfish reasons for making data open that all researchers can take advantage of.

How we help researchers to make research data open 

One of the ways we can help is by providing a home for research data. After a research project ends, valuable research data needs to be deposited with a suitable data repository so that it can be stored for the long-term and made available to others as appropriate. To this end we provide the Research Data York service. Researchers can deposit their research data with Research Data York and we will look after it for a minimum of 10 years. We asked researchers to provide a description of their deposited datasets so that others can understand and interpret the data, enabling its reuse. We use the York Research Database to make datasets discoverable and to provide access, publishing a description of the dataset along with a download link here. A CC BY licence is applied to open data, which informs those who want to reuse the data that they can as long as they give appropriate credit to the data creator (the researcher). A DOI (digital object identifier) is minted for deposited datasets so that researchers can cite their research data within their published papers, making the reader aware of the availability of the data and aiding data discovery. In these ways we are supporting our research staff and students to make their data open and to make them FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable).

We are also making it easier for researchers to deposit their research data with Research Data York. In the near future researchers will be able to upload the datasets they wish to deposit with the service in Pure, a system used to record York’s research activities, outputs and datasets. Researchers who have datasets that are too large to upload to Pure need not worry, we will provide temporary read-write access to a ‘drop-off’ folder to enable the easy transfer of large datasets to the service.

Of course, not all research data can be made open. The release of some research data will be limited or even prohibited by legal, ethical or commercial constraints. We therefore encourage researchers to take the approach “as open as possible as closed as necessary” with their data. Decisions made by a researcher early on will affect how she can use, archive and share data later and that is why it’s so important to plan for data management and sharing from the start of project. DMPonline is a handy free tool for researchers who are funded, as it helps them to create, review and share data management plans that meet funder requirements. Alternatively, use York’s simplified data management plan template (and the prompt sheet) to start planning your data management and sharing.

What can you do to make your research data open?

The most important thing you should do is to plan ahead, plan your data management and plan for archiving and sharing of your research data. Create a data management plan, address all ethical and legal issues, and consider what is appropriate given the nature of your data and any restrictions you may need to impose. To be of most benefit open data should be made FAIR. To make your data FAIR, deposit it in an appropriate data repository under an open licence, in reusable formats, with appropriate documentation to make it intelligible to others, and cite the data in your publications.

Lindsey Myers is a Research Support Librarian at University of York.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Our histories should be accessible to all: the significance of highlighting Black British History / a blog post by Olivia Wyatt

Have you noticed the street sign ‘Harewood Way’ during your journey to the University Library? It is one example of the university’s many connections to Harewood House: one of the ten Treasure Houses of England. Among these connections, you also have the 7th Earl of Harewood, George Lascelles: chancellor of the university from 1962 to 1967. But the connection I will focus on is how the Borthwick Archive holds thousands of articles relating to the Lascelles’s 327-year involvement in Caribbean plantations. From slave inventories to loan agreements, this archive maps the lucrative slave-owning, slave-exporting, and slave-exploiting business that heavily contributed to the wealth of the Lascelles. Such wealth which enabled Edwin Lascelles to replace his comparatively meagre lodgings of Gawthorpe Hall with this extravagant building.

Harewood House (taken from

I grew up in Leeds and often visited the House and its extensive grounds. It was during a recent visit that a friend alerted me to the displays’s brief mention of slavery. Despite the Lascelles’s long slave-owning history, the single-side of A4 laminated paper focused on how William Wilberforce visited the house. I contacted Harewood House Trust and proposed a project that updated their displays with information and material from the Borthwick. The Head of Special Collections agreed that this was an important part of the House’s history which deserves a more prominent mention. And thus the project was born.
Harewood House’s display information on slavery (photo taken by author)
I am currently exploring the archives to discover what could be used in the new displays at Harewood House. We are also interested in unearthing information that can fit into their current displays- in order to show how the history of the family was entwined with that of their slaves in Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, Tobago and Grenada. As part of this project, I have also advised Mayfly Television and Uplands Television on their Channel 4 and Channel 5 documentaries on slavery and the Lascelles.
Cover letter mentioning the foiled Tobago conspiracy (taken by author at the Borthwick Archive - photographs can be used non-commercially)
Extract from a slave schedule of the Belle plantation (1777) (taken by author at the Borthwick Archive - photographs can be used non-commercially)
A lot of the material relating to the Lascelles’s plantations was destroyed during the Blitz. Consequently, I am using the limited evidence of individual slaves, alongside new research into slavery, to represent the experiences on the Lascelles’s plantations. The Lascelles relied on letters to be informed about the latest news by their agents in London and the Caribbean. These constitute a large proportion of the archive and usually provide helpful summaries of the activities of the plantations. Slaves are rarely, if not ever, mentioned by name, but there are interesting references to them. I am using new research to contextualise these brief mentions in order to reconstruct the lives of the slaves. The archive also features some slave inventories. These were typically created to revalue the slaves and livestock when the Lascelles were considering selling a plantation. They provide information about the origin, occupation, value, age and condition of the slaves; but more importantly, they provide us with names.

It is my hope that through adding these voices to Harewood House, these slaves can be remembered within the walls they tirelessly laboured to build and lavish. They will not be lost within an archive, but will become associated with a key British landmark- a step towards viewing slavery not simply as a system which functioned overseas, but as a significant part of British History. Including the stories of Anthony, Goamy and Eliza within one of our most important stately homes, and within Britain’s Black History Month, is testament to this.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Wellbeing in the digital world

As well as it being Libraries Week 2019 (with its theme of libraries in a digital world), today is also World Mental Health Day. To mark this, Susan Halfpenny takes a look at the topic of Digital Wellbeing and shares some of her approaches to switching off...

A girl reads from a magical book

Once upon a time, there was a world before our own: a land where the internet didn’t exist. It was a magical place... of playing outdoors, looking up information in books, visiting the library! An age when you didn’t know everybody’s bad opinions on every topic; where meeting people actually involved going to a physical place! That fabled land is a fading memory. Now it’s hard to go a day without using digital technologies. In this new and confusing world, we can barely tell fact from fairytale. Trolls no-longer simply hide under bridges, while big bad wolves keep their big big eyes on us, recording our every action. Has something got lost in this digital forest? Have we traded the prospect of a happy ending for a handful of magic beans?

Sometimes in our modern society it can feel like we are more present in the digital spaces than we are in the physical world. All the interconnectedness of technology with our everyday activities has made a lot of processes easier but it can also result in us feeling ‘always on’. This inability to switch off can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. It is therefore important that we develop the skills that will enable us to use applications effectively, critically evaluate the information we consume, and manage our online/offline balance.

Digital Wellbeing

Digital wellbeing is “the capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital setting” (Jisc, 2015). For us to effectively manage our digital wellbeing we require the skills to manage digital overload and distraction, protect our personal data, and engage responsibly online. We need to act with concern for the human and natural environment when using digital technologies. To improve digital wellbeing we need to balance developing ICT skills with critical evaluation and interpersonal skills. To enable us to make informed and critical decisions about the impact of digital technologies on our wellbeing we need to reflect and consider if these technologies have an impact on our emotions, relationships, and sense of self. We will all have different ideas about how much time we spend online is right for us and which tools help or hinder our wellbeing. There is no right or wrong. What we need to do when considering our digital wellbeing is identify what works for us as individuals. Once we have this figured out we can look to how our actions can impact others and ensure we are behaving in a socially responsible way.

Switch off or burn out

Managing your online/offline balance is not always an easy task and sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by email, messages, notifications and alerts. These digital distractions can seep into all areas of our lives, making us feel pressured to respond; drawing our attention away from activities we are undertaking in the real world. In the following video, from our Digital Wellbeing course, I explore some of the ways I have struggled with digital distractions which caused stress and anxiety — making me feel I was ‘always on’.

Here are some useful features, tools and tips that I identified when I was trying to address my work-life balance and ‘switch off’:

  1. Turn off your alerts: getting alerts at all times of the day can be stressful and distracting. You can use the Do not disturb function on your Apple or Android device to switch off alerts from all apps. If you want to manage this on an app-by-app basis then you can do this in the settings. We provide guidance on how to turn off alerts for different operating systems on our digital wellbeing page.
  2. Make a quick note: when you have an idea or remember something you need to do, note it down somewhere to look at later. You could use a non-tech method like a post-it or notepad or a tech solution like Google Keep. The Keep mobile app has voice recognition, so you can speak the idea into your phone and it’ll take a written note that can be picked up later.
  3. Send less email: research has found that, on average, people spend a third of their time at work — and half the time they're working at home — reading and responding to emails. All this time dedicated to emails can result in increased workload and stress. Take a look at our effective email guidance for hints and tips for email management.
  4. No phones rule: identify time when you won’t look at your phone. You might find it useful to have no phones in the bedroom so you can go to sleep and wake up without the distraction of technology, or no phones at dinnertime to encourage interactions with your family or housemates.
  5. 15 minute rule: when you get home, for the first 15 minutes do something that will take your mind off work and make you happy! If straight after the working day doesn’t work for you, pick a different time that does. This is a technique picked up from readings of positive psychology and mindfulness. The Action for Happiness website provides useful tips and activities that you could consider using for your 15 minutes.

As previously mentioned, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to digital wellbeing. One person’s positive can be another person's negative. It’s all about taking the time to reflect and think about what works for your wellbeing.

If you're interested in finding out more about the topic of digital wellbeing, we're running a free three-week-long online course which starts on 21st October. We'll be exploring the concepts of health, relationships and society in the digital age, and we'd love to see you there!

Monday, 7 October 2019

Digital Creativity: telling new and old stories with technology

It's Libraries Week 2019, and this year's theme is libraries in a digital world. Over the course of the week we'll be doing a few things to celebrate this, including a Digital Creativity Showcase on Wednesday afternoon, and an open lecture on Digital Wellbeing on Wednesday evening. First, to get us in the mood, Siobhan Dunlop explores what it means to be digitally creative...

Participants use augmented reality in the 2018 Digital Creativity exhibition

Historical words for beer drinking in the Yorkshire Historical Dictionary... Virtual reality experiences that show some of the less loved parts of the University of York campus in new lights... The sound of a beating heart. Getting hands on with old records, chapbooks, newspapers, and maps. Art made from code... Completely random things made from code. The ideas of Brian Eno... Cleaning data... The 12 days of Christmas turned into an augmented reality orchestra...

What do these have in common? They’re all things that have come into our digital creativity work, from two week-long events for students to inspiration for new training sessions and standalone showcases.

What is 'digital creativity'?

As we’ve defined it, ‘digital creativity’ is about using digital tools and technologies to explore creative ideas and to find new ways to display ideas, research, and work. In practice, this means trying out innovative tools and different creative approaches not only with digital media, but with data, historical materials, and anything else we can think of!

As an area, research has been done around ‘digital creativity’ as it relates to various aspects of creativity and digital technology. There’s a journal of the same name that proclaims to be ‘at the intersection of the creative arts, design, and digital technologies’ (Aims and scope, Digital Creativity), and the Digital Creativity Labs is a centre for research in games and interactive media. If you search online for ‘digital creativity’, one result is a page on that claims the term is ‘outdated’ because ‘all media now digital’.

Maybe most media is now digital in some way, either in its creation or how we interact with and consume it, but ‘digital creativity’ in practice can be a way of focusing on being creative in new and different ways, utilising the power of technology to open up new ways of thinking and new juxtapositions. In turn, this can bring ideas, stories, and research to new audiences, as we found when running our Digital Creativity Week.

What is Digital Creativity Week?

In Information Services at the University of York, we’ve run our Digital Creativity Week twice now. During the week, a group of students work with IT professionals, librarians, and archivists to explore material related to a theme, learn how to use a range of digital tools in workshops, and work together to create final exhibition pieces that relate to both the theme and the digital tools used during the week. Armed not only with laptops and tablets but also notebooks and pens, it is a chance to be creative outside the usual confines of an academic discipline or project.

In 2018, the focus was on the Yorkshire Historical Dictionary data: the students explored the words in the dictionary, learnt about cleaning up the data, and worked with image editing, audio editing, and coding visualisations with Processing to bring certain words and ideas to life. Their final creation was a presentation in the 3Sixty space at York, which projects onto four screens to create an immersive experience. It was combined with augmented reality trigger images that added word definitions and other media to the show. Each student took their own inspiration from different parts of the dictionary to create a section of the presentation, ranging from words linking to war, the home, and the alehouse to a look at immigration to the area. Their final piece can be viewed in a widescreen version below:

In 2019, the week ran again, with more students and a wider theme: Yorkshire. The students visited York Minster Library and the Borthwick Institute for Archives to get hands on with material relating to the region and consider their relation to it. Workshops on audio, images, and coding were interspersed with creative prompts and the chance to try out VR and see live music coding.

Inspiration from the York Minster Library collections

This time, the exhibition broke free of a single space and took over the Harry Fairhurst building in the library, where the students created exhibition rooms for attendees to visit and experience their visions of Yorkshire and its past and present. The event contained reflections on the fragility of history and missing data, a look right at the heart of Yorkshire, and pieces considering the continuity of York despite all the change that has taken place. A selection of the final exhibition pieces can be viewed on our Digital Creativity site.

How can we all be digitally creative?

Digital creativity isn’t something confined either to week-long events, or to people who work with technology. It is about experimenting with new tools and ideas, combining material in unexpected ways, and finding the digital technologies that can help you be creative or express your creativity. To conclude this post, here are some suggestions for being digitally creative:

  1. Try out new free tools. Our site of digital creativity tools might give you inspiration and it has a Random Digital Creativity Generator if you’d like some help starting off (refresh that page for a new set of suggestions).
  2. Explore historical material. Part of digital creativity is about working with material and research in new ways, so why not explore the collections discussed on this blog and the Borthwick Institute for Archives blog.
  3. Use a notebook. Doesn’t sound very digital, but you shouldn’t doubt the notebook. During Digital Creativity Week each student has a notebook to fill with their ideas, thoughts, doodles, and notes. These can be photographed and digitally manipulated or be used to spark off ideas for soundscapes, videos, and more.
  4. Fail better. Remove any expectations of what you must create and instead aim for something that is completely new to you, even if it’s not what you intended to make. Try out glitch tools to embrace the bizarre or give yourself arbitrary constraints on your piece to see which direction that sends you in.
  5. Have fun. You don’t have to set out to create something beautiful or learn a new skill. You never know what you might do with a spare 5 minutes!

If you're interested in finding out more, or getting a little more inspiration, feel free to drop in on our Digital Creativity Showcase in LFA/144 (Fairhurst first floor), from 14:30-16:00 on Wednesday 9th October.