Thursday, 6 December 2018

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

March 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.   Ilka Heale has been hunting among the Library Collections.

A selection of material from the University Library. Photograph by Paul Shields.
2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s first novel. Written over two years, Frankenstein, Or, The modern prometheus was published anonymously in 1818. With themes of body snatching, early surgery and robotics the novel is widely considered to be the foundation of the modern science-fiction genre.

Born in 1797, Mary’s life reads like a soap-opera storyline: falling in love with a married man (fyi, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) at 16, eloping with him to Europe, marrying him at 19 (after his first wife commits suicide), widowed at 25 and, refusing to marry again, supporting herself and her son by continuing to write, publish and edit and dies aged 54 of a suspected brain tumour.

Mary Shelley portrait by Penn State.

However it is the story of a doctor who builds a creature from scavenged body parts that is her lasting fame. All the more amazing that she was barely out of her teens when she wrote this terrifying tale. Copies of the novel, and other titles authored by Shelley, are at shelfmark MA 153.7 in the Library.

...‘How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and dilate upon, so hideous an idea?’ Frankenstein, 1831, Preface by the Author.

The idea for the novel came about during the now famous summer at Lake Geneva. In 1816 Mary travelled to Geneva with Percy and was joined by the poet Lord Byron and his physician Dr John Polidori. In the introduction to the 1831 edition, Mary wrote: ‘... it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories ... fell into our hands….”We will each write a ghost story, said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to.’

The University Library has a copy of the novel in the Dyson collection, one of many rare books. The original manuscript of the novel is at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In 1996 it was published in facsimile edition, The Frankenstein notebooks which can be found in the Morrell Library.

Photograph by Erik Sagen. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Often adapted and occasionally parodied (see the spoof film Young Frankenstein directed by Mel Brooks), the lasting interest in the novel continues.

The play Frankenstein, adapted from the novel by playwright Nick Dear, was performed in 2011 at the National Theatre. This groundbreaking production saw the two lead actors alternating the roles of Frankenstein and the monster each night. This short video has the playwright in conversation with the director Danny Boyle.

There have also been many reworkings of the novel. Amongst them are Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and the 1935 horror classic Bride of Frankenstein. We also have a children’s book, Frankenstein’s Aunt, in the Peggy Januriek collection!

Even the circumstances that inspired Mary to write the novel have influenced others and were dramatised in the documentary Frankenstein and the vampyre which is available on Box of Broadcasts, a TV and radio on demand service. [Access is restricted to University of York account holders].

After her husband died Mary continued to write, publishing several novels along with a large volume of miscellaneous prose: short stories, biographies, and travel writings. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness and she died at home in 1851.

Written two years after Frankenstein in 1820, Maurice, or the Fisher’s Cot is also worth a read. Mary had tried to have this children’s story published by her father’s publishing company but he refused, saying that the story was too short for publication. So this unpublished story, written for her goddaughter, was lost until November 1997 when a manuscript copy was discovered in a box of papers in Italy but that’s a whole other story …..

Further information

There are many adaptations and dramatisations of the novel, along with essays and criticism. Search the Library catalogue for details.

To arrange to view an item in the Rare Books Collection, please contact the Borthwick Institute.

There are many events celebrating the novel during this anniversary year. The Shelley Frankenstein Festival website has more information.

The novel has also spawned several essays and articles from scientists (see this interesting article).

Ivor Gurney: War Poet, musician and composer

UK Disability History month runs from 22nd November to 22nd December and the theme for 2018 is disability and music. In the centenary year of the Armistice, Alice Bennett considers the life and work of Ivor Gurney - war poet, musician and composer - and his lifelong battle with mental illness.

At the centenary of the Armistice, there has been renewed focus on the arts produced during the First World War. When thinking of arts from the war, many of us would name Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Fewer would name Ivor Gurney, a poet and composer, despite his inclusion in the memorial naming 16 poets of the Great War at Westminster Abbey’s famed poet’s corner.

Photograph of Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters
The Cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral. Photograph by Michael D Beckwith. 
Although commemorated there for his poetry, Gurney was primarily a musician and composer. He served as chorister and organ scholar at Gloucester Cathedral, before winning a composition scholarship to the Royal College of Music. His first major composition was the set of Five Elizabethan Songs, produced over 1913-1914, prior to his enlistment in 1915. He turned to poetry as an artistic outlet for expression as trench life made composition increasingly difficult.

Like fellow poets Owen and Sassoon, Gurney’s war service was marked by mental illness. Unlike them, his problems with mental health were not purely precipitated by the war. Gurney had suffered a breakdown in 1913 and despite the global chaos his war years were amongst those of his greater mental stability. It has been suggested that the camaraderie of war service and the shared suffering of so many during this time helped to give Gurney a sense of stability and support, which helped his mental health. He spent time in military hospitals following a bullet wound in the spring of 1917 and after suffering a gas attack in September 1917 but remained in the army. He was eventually discharged from the army on medical grounds in October 1918, on the basis of his mental instability following a suicide attempt in June earlier that year.

Following the war, Gurney’s mental health deteriorated further, causing him to abandon his studies at the Royal College of Music which he had resumed after the war. Erratic behaviour and further suicidal episodes eventually led to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in September 1922 and with it to his entry to Barnwood House Asylum in Gloucester. Gurney’s state continued to decline, seeing him transferred to the City of London Mental Hospital, near Dartford in Kent only a few months later.

Despite his situation, works of Gurney’s did reach a wider audience during his time in hospital. Two song cycles, based on the works of A E Housman, Ludlow and Teme and The Western Playland, were included as part of the Carnegie Collection of British Music in 1923 and 1926, whilst small selections of poetry were also published. Gurney remained in the City of London Mental Hospital until his death. He died from tuberculosis on 26 December 1937 and was buried a few days later on 31 December in St Matthew's churchyard at Twigworth, Gloucestershire.

Gurney’s declining mental health inevitably affected his work. The music manuscripts produced during his time in hospital were cluttered and hard to decipher and only reached a wider audience through the patience and perseverance of his friend Marion Scott. Scott, a musicologist, had saved Gurney’s manuscripts and having preserved them, found editors willing to undertake the difficult task of creating a workable edition, notably Gerald Finzi, who did much to create and promote editions of Gurney’s compositions. This championing of his talent has ensured that his works not only survived but are still known today.

Portrait of Ivor Gurney as a young man in uniform, unknown photographer.
Ivor Gurney in uniform. Copyright The British Library. 
Gurney is often primarily considered through the lens of the First World War - recognition of the frank but moving accounts he gives of life in the trenches and a reputation cemented by his inclusion in the group of war poets commemorated at Westminster Abbey. But although the legacy of his way poetry is strong, it does not take into account his musical works or the influences and themes of his work. Gurney drew great inspiration from the natural world, writing evocatively but without sentimentality about the Gloucestershire landscapes which he loved. This rural inspiration worked across both his writing and musical composition, his choice of Housman for the libretto of his song cycles and the strong influence of Ralph Vaughan Williams on his work. Gurney looked to the Elizabethans for both literary and musical inspirations, writing in praise of Ben Jonson and resetting old English songs to his own compositions. This pre-industrial aesthetic was in part inspired by his love of the Gloucestershire countryside but was shared by composers like Vaughan Williams. It is difficult to separate his poetry and his music. Gurney set surprisingly few of his own poems to music but many more by Housman - notably in his song cycles - and also by other contemporary poets. Poetics do seem to have influenced Gurney’s musical life - few instrumental compositions survive, in contrast to a far greater number of songs, many of which were poems Gurney had set to music.

Posthumous diagnosis is always problematic when discussing historical figures, particularly so in mental health due to major changes in classification, diagnosis and understanding. Trying to definitively identify particular illnesses and conditions of individuals from history is tempting, it gives a feeling of more concrete connection, of better understanding of how they were. This is often the case in the study of notable historic individuals, with historians and biographers attempting to pinpoint any medical conditions.

Although some illnesses described in historical accounts and sources appear to be recognisable conditions, in many instances the information provided is too scant and vague to offer the basis of anything other than speculation. Even when the affliction appears to be identifiable, such diagnosis relies wholly upon the details provided and assumes that the symptoms recorded are both accurate and comprehensive. Similarly, any analysis of the incidence of named diseases assumes accuracy in not only the contemporary diagnosis but also classification. Ultimately, most posthumous diagnoses are theories. Some are coherent and have evidentiary support, whilst others are essentially speculation. It is extremely rare, if possible, to be able to prove the correct identification of condition suffered by an individual.

Soldiers in the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme
Aftermath of the Battle of the Somme. Copyright Imperial War Museum. 
This is the case with Gurney, whose experiences were recorded in a time when mental illness was still little understood, his situation exacerbated by the trauma of World War I. It was during the war that there began to be a recognition of the post traumatic stress experienced by combatants, then termed shell shock. Shell shock was first described in print by Dr Charles Myers of the British Psychological Society in 1915. The term was used during World War 1 to describe a very wide range of symptoms, for which there was no obvious physical cause. Most of these would now be understood as forms of post traumatic stress disorder, some perhaps as nervous breakdowns. There was discomfort and embarrassment about mental health generally, as well as shell shock more specifically, which was often seen as an inability to cope with warfare and even as cowardice. To the right is an image showing a shell-shocked soldier being led away, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme. This photograph is from the collections of the Imperial War Museum. Gurney’s fist volume of verse was entitled Severn and Somme, published in 1917, the year after the battle.

Gurney’s mental health problems during the war were attributed to shell shock, an interpretation of his illness perpetuated by Marion Scott in her championing of his poetry and musical compositions. Shell shock is still referred to in discussion of Gurney’s mental health, but whilst the trauma of the war undeniably affected him, others have suggested genetic predisposition. Diagnoses of Gurney’s state through his own lifetime. He was diagnosed with neurasthenia following his breakdown in 1913, treated for shell shock during the war, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his own lifetime and more recently has been suggested as having had bipolar disorder. The emphasis on shell shock, during his own lifetime and to an extent afterwards, may have been partly an effort to protect Gurney’s personal and professional reputation. Perhaps it is easier to consider Gurney alongside fellow war poets suffering from shell shock, primarily damaged by the trauma of war, rather than dealing with chronic underlying conditions. In artistic terms, the place of a war poet is perhaps a more respected and celebrated reputation than that of a “mad” poet, as demonstrated by the discomfort around the interpretation and acceptance of poets like Christopher Smart.

In some sense, the Gurney’s diagnosis is immaterial - his lived experience and the art he produced are of greater interest than assigning a medical label. Gurney was a composer and poet inspired by the Gloucestershire countryside, with a deep interest in Elizabethan music and literature. He was a poet who captured life in the trenches for the ordinary soldiers of the First World War and with a gift for setting poetry - whether his own or that of other authors - to music. Gurney spent much of his life confined to hospitals but mixed in the literary and musical circles, remaining a lifelong friend of figures including Edmund Blunden, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and Marion Scott. Just as his poetry defies easy categorisation, as Gurney shifts between pastoral poet, war poet, local poet and mad poet - so too does his life and legacy. He was never well known during his lifetime, but nor was he unknown. He has perhaps not had the artistic recognition deserved, but was never fully forgotten and his works are still known today. Gurney was a composer and musician who turned to poetry for convenience in time of war, but never abandoned the art form, who experienced greatly prolific periods of creativity but spells where he was unable to work. At its heart, Gurney’s work, both musical and literary, provides intense lyrical expression of personal experience.

To hear some of Gurney's compositions, check out our Ivor Gurney spotify playlist to accompany this blog post.

Find Ivor Gurney and his works in the University of York library collections:

Biography and criticism:

Michael Hurd, The ordeal of Ivor Gurney, MA 181.9 GUR/H
Daniel Hipp, The poetry of shell shock : wartime trauma and healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon, MA 181 HIP
Pamela Blevins, Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott: song of pain and beauty, LM 0.92 GUR/B
Ivor Gurney, War Letters: a selection, MA 181.9 GUR

Severn & Somme and War's embers MA 181.9 GUR
Poems of Ivor Gurney, 1890-1937 MA 181.9 GUR

Five Elizabethan songs: for low voice and piano, LM 43.1 GUR
Severn meadows, LM 40 BUS
Ludlow and Teme : song-cycle for tenor voice, string quartet and pianoforte, LM 43.1 GUR
The western playland (and of sorrow) : a song-cycle to poems of A.E. Housman, LM 43.13 GUR

Audio CD Songs CD/LM/2550
Audio CD War’s embers CD/LM/2528

Friday, 30 November 2018

Open Data in Practice: success stories and cautionary tales

Open Data in Practice is a series of events that provide researchers and those who work with them an opportunity to share their experiences of data management and open data, including the opportunities it creates and the challenges it presents.

We held the first, of what we hope will be many more, Open Data in Practice event on Thursday 15 November 2018. On the day, staff from different departments shared their data stories including their success with open data, insights into project managing research data and the development of open research initiatives.

Aidan Horner (Psychology): 'Psychology's open science working group'

The event was opened by Aidan Horner, one of our lecturers in the Department of Psychology, who spoke eloquently about what open science is and why we should care about it. Aidan came along to talk about Psychology's Open Science Interest Group, a group that discusses and shares best practice in open science and provides support for those outside of the group who wish to engage in open science. Aidan went on to give a valuable insight into his own open research practice of sharing data, sharing code, using the Open Science Framework to share project information and sharing preprints.

Fleur Hughes (Social Policy and Social Work): 'Data Management in the Welfare Conditionality Research Project'

Fleur Hughes, project manager for the Welfare Conditionality research project, gave those who attended an appreciation of what is it like to manage and also prepare data for archiving for a large and complex project. This collaborative project involving researchers and PhD students from six universities, required planning to achieve its goal to share and archive the valuable longitudinal research data it generated. Fleur spoke about the sensitivities of the data collected and the decision to archive the data with the Timescapes Archive, a specialist resource of qualitative longitudinal research data “which serves as a safe place for primary researchers to store large volumes of data for ongoing use”.

Cylcia Bolibaugh (Education): 'Reproducibility, open data, & GDPR'

Cylcia Bolibaugh of the Centre for Research in Language Learning and Use in the Department of Education was next to take the floor. Cylcia spoke briefly about Education Researchers for Open Science, an open science working group within the department, and then went on to talk about her concerns and the difficulties encountered in defining personal data, with anonymisation and sharing.

Kevin Cowtan (Chemistry): 'Open data and the scientific gift culture'

Last but by no means least, Kevin Cowan gave what one attendee described as a “really inspirational” talk on the significant benefits he has gained from openly sharing his research data. Kevin is an interdisciplinary data scientist working in the fields of X-ray crystallography and climate science. If Kevin’s slides whet your appetite why not read his blog post on the value of open data for scientific research.


In addition to questions about data management (e.g. recording datasets in PURE, restricting access to data), a number of questions were asked about preprints, for example: when can you or can’t you post a preprint; how are DOIs for preprints reconciled with DOIs then assigned to published versions; what are the benefits?

For more information see:

Want to join in future conversations?

You can attend future Open Data in Practice events and benefit from your colleagues’ experiences, or come and present your own experiences. We welcome talks and input from early career researchers as well as from more experienced academics or research support staff; research students are welcome to attend. Speaker slots are available for our next Open Data in Practice event so please get in touch. Your talk should not be longer than 20 minutes.

If you have any questions about Open Data in Practice, contact the Library’s Research Support Team. See our web pages for guidance on: Research Data Management and Open Access.

Friday, 23 November 2018

J.B. Morrell in an Exciting Adventure with Time (and Robots & Ducks) in Space!

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of Doctor Who, we asked Teaching & Learning Advisor and self-confessed 'Doctor Who bore' Stephanie Jesper to write something that would highlight the Who-related content within our collections. Here's what she came up with:
Five hours, 16 minutes and 20 seconds (or thereabouts) into the afternoon of Saturday 23rd November 1963, sightings were reported across the country of…
“ upward shooting probe, similar in a schematic way to conventional representations of space craft taking off. But this upward probe immediately broke up and tilted over to merge with forward rushing ‘clouds’...” (Tulloch & Alvarado, 1983; p.21).
What was this mysterious probe, observed on that November evening 55 years ago? And what, if anything, did it have to do with the disappearance, that same night, of a teenage girl and two teachers from their East London school? Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright's testimony following their sudden London 1965 reappearance (without pupil Susan Foreman) only served to further fuel speculation that the observed probe and the disappearances were the result of an alien abduction. But surely such claims are nonsense?
According to Barbara and Ian's testimony, they had been concerned about the welfare of schoolgirl Susan Foreman, and had followed her home only to discover that home was an old police-box in the I.M. Foreman scrapyard at 76 Totter's Lane, Shoreditch. This police-box, they claimed, was actually a spaceship (they called it the TARDIS) capable of travel through time, and both Susan and her grandfather, who they referred to as the Doctor (Doctor who??), were aliens: wanderers in the fourth dimension. Terrified of being discovered, this Doctor character abducted the teachers. But he was unable to steer his spacecraft reliably, and Ian and Barbara were only able to return to London 1965 by stealing another time-ship -- which they then destroyed.
Inevitably, this testimony has met with a good deal of suspicion. But those mysterious sights on that Saturday evening have leant credence to their story, and there is a growing contingent who claim that this was indeed a genuine alien abduction. They point to a number of other cases of suspected alien activity throughout the 1970s or 1980s, most of which they believe to have been fended off by an organisation called UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). UNIT have been keen to dismiss these alien activity theories, claiming their role is purely humanitarian. In an attempt to assuage further speculation regarding the 1963 incident, they have released the following footage, pieced together from recordings made at the time:
It is UNIT's position that the events of 23rd November 1963 were not an alien abduction at all, but instead nothing more than a BBC Drama production: a television series preposterously entitled 'Doctor Who'. Yet nobody I've spoken to has heard of this show. What evidence can we find to support their ridiculous claim?
I started with a YorSearch search for this 'Doctor Who' moniker. There are 10 books on the shelves that claim to be about this supposed television programme. Most of them are in the section 'LP' on the second floor of the main Library. Here they are, between Desperate Housewives and EastEnders:
Shelved books, from LP 4.572 DAL/A to LP 4.572 GUI/I
There's also a load of articles available online... almost 500 of them. Are these texts an elaborate UNIT hoax designed to put us off the scent? In search of answers, I did some reading.
It's the claim of these books and articles that on 23rd November 1963 BBC Television aired the first episode of this 'Doctor Who' thing. But the details they give regarding this broadcast are fanciful to the limits of credibility: the programme was produced by a 28-year-old woman, which would make her the youngest producer at the BBC, and the only female producer, at that time; as this Music thesis in White Rose eTheses Online explains, the haunting theme music was realised by a 26-year-old woman and her pet oscillators: Wobbulator and Jason; its director was both British-Indian and gay... These are levels of representation uncommon now, let alone in the early 1960s! The whole thing seems too fantastical to believe.
If this series was actually broadcast, there must be some record of it in BBC Genome. I looked. There is. There was also stuff turning up in the newspaper archives we have access to. The evidence was mounting. And yet I kept asking around and nobody I talked to had any recollection of ever seeing such a programme. Something didn't seem right. I needed to witness this supposed show with my own eyes. I turned to Box of Broadcasts, and this is what I found: not just one episode of 'Doctor Who', but almost 200!
Working my way through the playlist I'd created, it started to seem like UNIT were right: this was nothing but a television series, albeit an amazing one! Barbara and Ian weren't missing teachers in real life, but well-written characters undergoing genuine development as they traveled to the future, the past, and sideways through time with their irascible alien captor and his granddaughter. Even this Doctor himself changed across the course of the series, on occasion dramatically so. He had been recast multiple times, sometimes replaced with a younger actor, and (I discovered as I skipped to the end of the playlist) now he was even being played by a woman! Yes, this could only be a television programme.
As well as all these episodes on Box of Broadcasts, three series on DVD, and a few clips and episodes on BFI Screen Online, there were scripts at MA 192.9 DAV including one volume which included email and text conversations about the production of the series. With all this evidence mounting up, how could anyone doubt the claim that Doctor Who was a television series that had been going for 55 years (albeit with a big gap between 1989 and 2005 punctured only by a TV movie and a couple of charity comedy skits)?
It wasn't until I was reading Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text that the scales fell from my eyes. Here's the section in question:
“What Elam calls the semiotic ‘thickness’ (multiple codes) of a performed text varies according to the ‘redundancy’ (high predictability) of ‘auxiliary’ performance codes.” (Tulloch & Alvarado, 1983; p.249).
Now some might see this to be a statement about how the codes and conventions of other genres are used in Doctor Who to add new layers of meaning: how the Doctor and his/her companions travel not only to periods in time but to different genres... different television programmes. A historical adventure is an adventure in a costume drama, not merely in the past; the TARDIS travels not from time to time but from channel to channel; it's not an adventure in time and space but an adventure in your television.
And yet I recognised this sentence. I recognised it from an episode of the Doctor Who serial "Dragonfire":
“Tell me -- what are your views on the assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes?” (Briggs, I., 1987; p.65).
Yes... This 'series' was even having adventures within its own critical media. It brought to mind the 1968 serial "The Mind Robber", in which the TARDIS crew find themselves in a world of literature devised by the creator of a boys' own adventure character called Captain Jack Harkaway... A name surprisingly close to another Doctor Who character: Captain Jack Harkness. It seemed to me that the boundaries between reality and fiction were melting. I no-longer felt I knew what was real anymore and what was make-believe.
As I lay on one of the Fairhurst settees, confused and befuddled, with a freshly made mug of tea by my side, I was approached by a mysterious character with a Scottish accent who addressed herself to me as 'Miss Why' (unquestionably a pseudonym). She offered me the choice of two jelly-babies — one red and one blue — and whispered: "All I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more. You take the blue jelly-baby – the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe that this 'Doctor Who' thing is just a telly show. You take the red jelly-baby – you come to Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
Two jelly babies: a red one an a blue one. The blue one is covering its eyes...
Now I know one should never take sweeties from strangers, but on this occasion the temptation of a juicy red jelly-baby was simply too much. I thanked the mysterious woman and bit the head off the red jelly-baby with relish. 'Miss Why' then stuck the blue one in her own gob and grinned wildly, before taking my hand and leading me to a door I'd never noticed before.
What I saw beyond that door you would scarcely believe. The room that lay behind it was huuuuge! I had no idea the Fairhurst was so extensive. I couldn't make sense of whereabouts in the building we must've been. But then we weren't in the building. We were in a dimensionally transcendent space-time vehicle!
My jaw dropped with the realisation. At the centre of the room, what looked like a perspex column with a colander inside rose up and down, accompanied by a wheezing groaning sound. We were in flight.
"Where are we going?", I asked.
'Miss Why', clearly another incarnation of the Doctor under a far from opaque pseudonym, explained it all: she was a renegade Time Lord who'd escaped her home planet of Gallifrey (in the constellation of Kasterborous) with a device they called The Matrix: a massive computer system that acts as the repository of the combined knowledge of her people — kind of like White Rose Research Online. But this Matrix was capable of recording all the events taking place within and around any TARDIS ship, which meant that every adventure of every Time Lord (the Doctor included) was retained therein. The DVDs on our shelves in the John Barry Audiovisual collection; the episodes on Box of Broadcasts — these weren't television; these were Matrix recordings which UNIT had somehow managed to get hold of and edit into regular 25 minute episodes as a ridiculously convoluted way of covering up alien activity: alien artifacts actually being used to distract us from the aliens... it was the perfect deception!
"So why has no-one ever heard of this 'Doctor Who' programme?", I asked.
"Because I've altered time, silly!", the strange Scottish woman replied, hooking the bamboo handle of a large umbrella around one of the ship's controls and letting it carry her weight that she might arc, gracefully, towards me.
I gulped. There was something about the way she was acting now that seemed a little more sinister than I'd expected of the Doctor. I began to wish I'd not skipped to the end of that BoB playlist, but watched everything on it lest it would've given me some sort of clue.
"I've taken that pesky Doctor out of things entirely," she smirked, head lolling to one side. "The time streams just take a little while to correct themselves. Especially in York. Nothing ever changes very quickly in York."
"That's why there was still physical evidence here in the Library?"
"Who's a little clever-clogs?", she chuckled, prodding me in the forehead.
I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. There had been a series called 'Doctor Who' but it was actually snippets of real-life events recorded to an alien repository. These had been intercepted by UNIT and broadcast as fiction in order to discredit claims of alien activity on Earth (including the exploits of the Doctor). And now this intervention (or certain parts of it) had been unpicked by the woman standing in front of me... just a few inches in front of me. And now I knew everything that had gone on. Well, not everything, but a fair bit... A dangerous proportion! If huge swathes of television broadcasting could be unwritten, then surely so could I!
And yet it had not entirely been unwritten. It was still here. In York. Protected by those ancient walls. And now I also began to feel it in my head: I could feel memories I'd forgot I'd had, lurking at the back of my mind... sleeping. I knew I had to wake them up: to bring them back in front of my eyes. I had... to remember... 'Doctor Who'... Not just the episodes I'd seen on Box of Broadcasts. Not just the stuff I'd read in the books. No. I had seen it all. I had seen Doctor Who! I remembered! Human-sized moth creatures, Yetis on the underground, great big maggots, standing stones that could drink blood, massive pink snakes, walking plants, cat people, some bloke who always liked to dress for the occasion (not sure what that was about), flatulent bodysnatchers, tig-playing statues, lizard people, a kid under a blanket... My mind raced with these recollections!
I looked at the woman stood in front of me: Missy. It was Missy — The Master — the Doctor's greatest enemy-slash-friend. I spoke as boldly as I could: "You can take the girl out of York, but you can't take York out of the girl!" I must confess, I didn't know where I was going with this, but I felt strangely confident that whatever ancient forces had protected York from the timeline interference were now also protecting me.
Missy scowled at me, and was just about to say something really scathing when she faded out of existence. York was refusing to be rewritten, and my presence in that time machine was causing some sort of interference. I felt peculiar and stretched my arm out to the control console to steady myself. As I made contact with the panel, a huge jolt of energy surged through me, and the console sparked with a brilliant green flash.
What happened after that, I don't know. My body had decided that this would be a convenient point in the plot for it to fall unconscious...
I was awoken by the strangest sensation at my ear: a sort of gentle hissing and light nibbling. I opened my eyes, tentatively, but all I could see was the blue of the sky. Blinking, I peered at whatever was prodding at my ear. It was a tiny duck.
"SUB-JECT IS A-LIVE!" came a tin voice from my left. I snapped my head around to see a small robot rocking from side to side. I sat up, somewhat bewildered, and took in my surroundings. Me, the robot, and the duck were all on the Fairhurst lawn. In the distance, one of the local rabbits was chewing at a dock leaf.
The author, unconscious on the Fairhurst lawn, a tiny duck at her ear, and a small robot watching over her
The duck leapt onto my lap, shook out her wings, and clapped her bill a few times in various directions in quick succession. "Hi," I said, for want of any better response. "Good afternoon!" the duck replied, in a quacky sort of way.
Then a curious gent with a pleasant open face appeared in my peripheral vision. There was something familiar about that face. "Doctor...?" I asked, quietly.
He chuckled. "J.B. Morrell, at your service. As ever I am..."
He proffered a hand towards me. I took it to shake it, but instead he helped me up off the ground. The duck flapped down to the ground and stood with the robot at the man's feet.
"I took the liberty of restoring the time streams as they had been before any 'unfortunate' interventions took place. I hope that wasn't an impertinence on my part?"
"Far from it!" I assured him. I looked about to check that everything was where I thought it should be. It was. "But how...?"
J.B. Morrell pointed towards the building that bears his name. "Good Library, that. There's more knowledge in there than you'd think. It's bigger on the inside than it is on the out."
"You mean with all the online resources as well as the physical stock?" I asked, naïvely.
He chuckled again. "If you like; if you like!" And then he walked away, the duck flapping merrily behind him. The robot turned its head. "Come along, Java!" called J.B. Morrell, and the robot rolled away after him, across the grass.
Absently, I looked over at the Library buildings, and suddenly remembered that somewhere in there my tea was getting cold. I turned back to thank J.B. Morrell and his friends, but, inevitably, they were nowhere to be seen. I dusted myself off, took a deep breath of fresh air, and headed back inside the Library, resolving to check that all the Doctor Who stuff I'd seen in there before was still there now. It's something I urge you to check too. Just in case. You never know when someone might try to tamper with history again...
J.B. Morrell and his companions, ready to head off on another exciting adventure...

Friday, 26 October 2018

Open Access - what, monographs too?

Concluding our series of Open Access Week posts, Kate Petherbridge muses on the increasing importance of open access monographs and some of the different publishing models emerging... 

We are used to the idea that many funders and universities want academics to publish articles Open Access (OA). However, dismay met the push to make monographs available OA as well. In 2016, HEFCE (as it then was) flagged the expected expansion of OA requirements to monographs in the third Research Excellence Framework (REF). When this was discussed during the University Press Redux in February 2018 there was great debate about whether this is realistic - or even desirable. So what are the concerns and are they valid? What would be the benefits of OA monographs?

What is Open Access?

The International Open Access Week website describes OA as “the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need”. In order to achieve the second aspect, content needs to be licenced to enable reuse. Commonly, this means that content is published under Creative Commons Licences, which allow authors to retain the rights to their work and to set the conditions around which others can copy, distribute, and reuse that work.

Why is it important? 

OA is important for a number of reasons. The obvious ones include meeting REF requirements and funding conditions. OA content tends to be viewed more than content that needs to be paid for, and this often results in higher citation rates. The increased visibility helps build your academic reputation. OA brings research to new audiences, inside and outside academia, and this is likely to increase public engagement. Increasing the public’s perception of the relevance of HE is important in the current climate, and demonstrating this has been difficult when the research done is closed and inaccessibly to so many. It also brings the maximum value from research by allowing it to be reused as a building block in ongoing conversations and research.

When is Open Access not really Open Access? 

To start with, let's look at OA models for article publishing. These are now widely accepted (though it’s worth remembering the concerns when this discussed began). The Green OA model seems most common. Academics deposit a pre-publication version of their accepted article manuscript in either an institutional or subject repository. They then publish their article, often in a traditional journal. After an embargo period, set by the publisher but (hopefully!) in line with the funder’s criteria, the repository version can be accessed for free. So while the published article may still sit within a subscription journal, a free version is available to everyone once the embargo period ends.

All good, right? Well, yes and no. The repository version is not the same as the published article (usually considered the “version of record”). Academics can find this frustrating.  The arguably more accessible repository version (embargo period aside) sometimes lacks key formatting, may not look as professional, and will lack citation-relevant structure (page numbers etc.). Having multiple versions can also mean it’s harder to measure impact and combine metrics etc. Repository versions can also fall under publisher copyright, preventing them being shared and reused freely. This doesn’t really embrace the full spirit of OA (even if it does tick all the boxes from a funder perspective).

Hybrid journals publish some articles free-to-access while others remain behind subscription paywalls. Again, while this offers free access to the OA articles, the copyright remains with the publisher so limiting sharing and reuse. Many funders are now considering if hybrid journals really do meet their OA criteria.

Gold OA, where an article is published in a full OA journal, with no issues around different versions, paywalls or embargo periods, and where the content is published under a licence that allows sharing and reuse, delivers both the free access and reuse aspects of OA.

Image Open books by Latemplanza available under
CC-BY-SA 4.0 at Wikimedia Commons

So... back to monographs

That was relevant. Really! Having a clear understanding of how OA monographs models could work in practice will save time if we hope to include monographs in the third REF.

A Green OA monograph model sees the book sold for a period before becoming free to access online. While being sold it would presumably be “rights reserved” but could flip to a more liberal licence once it becomes OA. This is almost equivalent to the article embargo period. Some publishers already use this model, or something very similar. It doesn’t replicate the version/formatting issues we see with Green OA article publishing, but does create other questions.

Is it fair to the book’s audience that one day they have to pay for something that becomes free the next? Publishers would need to declare the “becomes free” date to prevent backlash. This could change customer behaviour, with readers waiting till the book was free to access it. In the current context of ever-increasing pressure on library budgets, it’s hard to justify buying access to research that will become free for everyone after 12 months. This could then delay the impact of the research by a year, which would frustrate authors and funders keen to see research embraced by the academic community.

There is also question of sustainability. Green OA for articles doesn’t require funding of publishing charges. The publisher covers the costs out of profit made from journal subscriptions, as normal, while the author simply deposits e.g. a PDF of the pre-published manuscript in a repository. For monographs publication costs will apply. These are unlikely to be covered by e.g. a single year of sales. If OA publishing becomes widespread, how will publishers fund these monographs unless passing costs on to funders/institutions? If that happened, wouldn’t this be the Gold model with a delay?

Gold OA monographs

Gold OA for monographs would see instant free access to the full published version with maximum potential impact through widest possible dissemination from initial release. A recent White Rose University Press (WRUP) publication, Star Carr, reached nearly 1000 downloads in its first week of release and has now reached well over 4000 downloads after 6 months. Published under liberal licences, so the author retains ownership of their work and to enable sharing and reuse, this would seem to be the obvious solution. So what is the problem? 

Who pays?

It’s a thorny issue. Gold OA is often called “author pays”- though in reality funding should come from funding bodies, institutions, societies rather from the author themselves. It might be more accurate to call it a “funding required” model. This is likely to be true of any sustainable OA monograph model if we are honest so it’s probably best to explore how to handle it. In Plan S, Science Europe’s cOAlition S addresses fees and funding (who should pay, potential capping). Institutions need to consider the reason for the research they support. Surely, releasing the knowledge gained can only help in engaging with the public, with outreach, with student recruitment etc. as we showcase what we do in HE and why this is so important. Shouldn’t that be part of a business model and so worth investment?

How can we ensure quality?

There is a suspicion, hopefully dwindling, that OA content is of a lesser quality. This may come from misunderstanding “author pays”- they pay and OA publishers will publish anything. This is not the case, and it should be noted that “vanity publishing” is neither new nor linked exclusively to OA. As with any publisher, academics should consider the publisher’s quality control process. How are works commissioned? Is there rigorous Peer Review? What will the quality of the published output be? Publishers, OA or not, should be able to answer such questions. WRUP, for example, details its Editorial Board, commissioning and peer review process on it’s website, and authors can explore for themselves (freely!) the quality of the digital publications.

What about third party content?

It’s assumed to be difficult to use third party content in OA publishing. (Which is ironic, as if everyone published content OA, there would be no barriers). This doesn’t have to be a problem. Most right holders don’t have policies in place for use of their content in OA publications, though a growing number do, and WRUP has found that most are very reasonable when the OA model is explained. Third party content can be licenced separately from the main volume e.g. in an image caption- very much as you might see in a traditional publication. Often the issue for a rights holder can be around the free to access digital version of their content. This is little different in terms of risk to putting the image on their website, if the same rights statement is applied. Working through this can put the rights holder’s concerns to rest. Authors can also search content licenced for reuse (a growing amount is), especially where something is illustrative only rather than a specific image being required.

Isn’t OA complicated? Who can help?

Like anything new, OA can seem complicated. There are lots of people around that can help. Most institutions have the equivalent of York’s Research Support Team: email them at Open Access is just one of the many areas they can advise on. York, Leeds and Sheffield Universities also support a “friendly” OA University Press in WRUP (email to offer help and answer any general questions about OA publishing, or to discuss potential proposals for journals or monographs.

Support is out there and the appetite for OA is growing, as is the pool of scholarly OA content. Engaging with the drive to include monographs in this would seem the next logical step.

As White Rose Libraries Executive Manager, Kate Petherbridge works across the university libraries of Leeds, Sheffield and York, leading and facilitating their areas of collaboration. These are varied, and include shared repository services, shared collection management work and, most recently, White Rose University Press.