UKSG Managing Open Access: pain points and workflows.

Yesterday I attended UKSG’s event Managing Open Access: pain points and workflows. This was an event for people working with open access on a daily basis to share their experiences and talk about what problems they are encountering and consider solutions. As someone who has previously worked in libraries but is now at a third party (Jisc Collections), it was very interesting to hear what issues are considered important right now, and notice how often Jisc was mentioned as an organisation that is/should be involved in solving them.

The first session set the scene by discussing the complex set of issues facing libraries and publishers in the transition to open access. Martin Wolf from the University of Liverpool described how while originally open access was driven by academics themselves, it is now a top down process being implemented through high level policies and mandates. Martin highlighted a few of the benefits emerging from this process: monitoring of research outputs is now high on the agenda for universities, which it wasn’t before; stronger collaboration between the library, research office, and other institutional departments; collaboration between authors, libraries, and publishers; and top down mandates are making advocacy much easier. One problem with the recent HEFCE mandate is their requirement for deposit at point of acceptance, rather than point of publication, which does not fit in easily with many universities’ existing workflows.

David Ross from Sage Publications was up next to give the publishers’ perspective, reminding us that not all publishers are the same. Sage’s open access team is very small but growing, and the complexity of their work is amplified by working on a global level. One of the main difficulties for them, as with libraries, is switching from working on a journal level to an article level. This is not always compatible with existing workflows and systems and there is a lot of work still to do with standards and identifiers. Sage also publish journals on behalf of over 250 societies who have to be consulted individually about any changes and have their own concerns.

To conclude, David brought up the issue of double dipping, which is the issue of institutions potentially paying twice for the same article: once through a subscription to a journal, and again by paying an APC for it to be made open access. Sage are working with libraries to try and avoid this by offsetting APC costs both globally and locally. This is included in their negotiations with Jisc Collections for the next journal subscription deal.

The second session of the day focused on the role of intermediaries, and projects which have been created to help with librarians’ workflows in managing open access. Ann Lawson from EBSCO talked about the nature of the publishing supply chain which has moved from a relatively linear one in the print paradigm to a complex, shifting network of parties between the author and user. Everyone in the supply chain plays their role in making work usable, discoverable etc. but the exact roles are constantly changing and the introduction of open access to the picture has added another layer of complexity. Print, electronic, subscription, and open access models are currently all coexisting.

Intermediaries are having to adapt to this and find new roles. When it comes to APCs, one way in which they could do this is to take advantage of their central role in the supply chain and help centralise transactions. The high volume of small payments, as opposed to a small number of large subscription payments, is causing a headache for everyone and various solutions are being developed: by EBSCO, Swets, Copyright Clearance Center, and others, including the start-up Open Access Key (OAK) which is working with Jisc on the Jisc APC project.

Conveniently, Jo Lambert from Jisc was up next to talk about Jisc APC and Jisc Monitor. Jisc APC has brought together a range of stakeholders to pilot a model of APC payments and test whether Jisc can play a useful role as an intermediary in the process. Uptake for the project has been low because institutions are only just starting to work out what their workflows are. Workflows and processes for APC payments are still very much in flux and managing this requires tighter integration of different parties’ systems. The value of an intermediary is therefore in linking processes and systems together, especially since few institutions have the resources to develop bespoke systems. Jo said that the role of Jisc in this area should not be to try and take control but to work with existing players, including commercial vendors, to help develop systems that work for everyone. Jisc Monitor is a one year project (which started on Monday) that will collect data on APC payments and output open source prototypes to help meet institutions’ needs.

The final talk of the morning was by Graham Stone from the University of Huddersfield who introduced Open Access Workflows for Academic Librarians (OAWAL). The workflows of librarians working with open access are changing rapidly and new processes are being introduced all the time, so this is a space to share best practices. OAWAL is designed for non-experts who perhaps work in a library but are new to an open access role, so it attempts to outline practical workflows without getting bogged down in jargon and theory. Anyone can leave comments on the wiki regarding practical issues as well. As well as workflows for green and gold open access it includes areas of emerging importance such as Creative Commons licensing, library publishing, and the importance of discovery.


After lunch we listened to case studies from the University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, and IOP Publishing which highlighted some more of the pain points:

  • it is hard to record article level financial information in existing systems;
  • workflows are not straightforward or standardised and systems don’t talk to each other;
  • repository deposit on point of acceptance;
  • lack of funds to pay for APCs for research not funded by RCUK or the Wellcome trust;
  • confusion about different policies, and how to comply when articles have multiple authors and funders;
  • incorrect licensing information is sometimes added by publishers;
  • there have been instances of APCs being paid but the article still not being open access;
  • the process is very time-consuming and therefore costly;
  • transparent pricing is needed to avoided double dipping;
  • big increase in workload involving invoicing and payment collection.

We then divided up into groups to try and work through some of these issues and suggest areas that could be worked on to help resolve some of the problems. A lot of the things on peoples’ ‘wish list’ revolved around standards, which would allow interoperability of systems and easier exchange of information. Clearer policies were also mentioned; research funder policies change too often and they are highly non-standard. One suggestion was to model mandate information on Creative Commons licenses, which come in a small range of clearly defined, modular, machine- and human-readable licenses. So if three different funders mandate self-archiving in a repository and allow a six month embargo, this information would be displayed in an absolutely standard way. This kind of clarity would allow decisions to be automated. Clearer metadata, for example of licensing information, would also allow better information exchange and automation. The high manual workload caused by the lack of standardisation slows down processes and increases costs. Vocabularies for Open Access was mentioned as a project which might go some way to solving these issues. NISO are also working in this area.

Overall the day was very useful for understanding what issues are arising during the transition to open access. There was a strong focus on the article-level nature of this work, whether it is regarding payments or repository deposit, and the fact that neither libraries nor publishers are currently set up to deal with this. The shift to article level has further implications too, ranging from the nature of subscription deals which are currently done on a journal or collection level, to measuring the impact of work. It is hoped that improved standards and metadata quality will go some way towards solving this, and intermediaries and third parties such as Jisc have an important role in helping to join up disparate workflows and systems.