One of the few benefits of the circumstances we find ourselves in during 2020 is that I do not need to awkwardly explain what my job is and why it is important at family gatherings. I am going to assume that if you have found this blog post you know what open access (OA) publishing is and have some idea about what the broader ideas around open research might be. My job is essentially to support the open research environment and to maintain or develop associated infrastructure, services and policies at the local level. I also try to inform the national and international progress towards better dissemination of research, improved publishing processes and ultimately open research. All this effort hopefully contributes to sustaining the University of Southampton’s already impressive profile in the open research community, while delivering benefits to our community. As a result, no one day looks the same – it can be challenging, but it is equally rewarding.
I start my day by brewing coffee in a cafetiere the size of my head. This is key. A quick check of my calendar is next and then onto emails. Working alongside publishers and influencers from around the world means I can have emails queued up from the end of the day in the West and the start of the day to the East, not to mention our own early-bird and night-owl academics. Depending on the nature and content of the emails, I either have to address them immediately or I can progress with my planned day.
Before moving onto my list of combined most important and most urgent projects (I use the Eisenhower method) for the day I will check-in with my team. Before the 2020 lockdown, I would walk along the corridor and have a chat with a few team members, but now we have Microsoft Teams meetings using the chat or video calls. These catch-ups are important for many reasons (e.g. wellbeing, line management), but they’re also important because we are constantly negotiating new deals with publishers, funders change their OA policies, and funds are always getting lower, meaning we need to change what we do to continue achieving our most important strategic goals. As a result of these meetings, there could be communications work to do, training to develop, or we have to change what we prioritise in the institutional repository or what we will pay for out of our funds.
As part of my team’s business as usual, we:
- Manage the institutional repository
- Manage the funder block grants for paying article processing charges
- Deliver staff and post-graduate researcher training
- Engage with faculties/schools/research groups
- Liaise with publishers and consortia
- Manage the outputs for the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF)
- Report to high level University committees
- Monitor compliance with Funder mandates
Also, with our expertise in scholarly communications and publishing ethics we have been deeply involved in the development and maintenance of a few University policies. These can involve a tremendous amount of work, developing the text and guidance, consulting with key stakeholders, and queueing the policies up for key University committees to be endorsed and signed off. My line manager, the Associate Director Research Engagement for the Library also chairs the University’s Open Research Group, for which I am the secretary. Our Vice President Research and Enterprise, Associate Deans Research, key senior academic representatives and a post graduate representative comprise the Open Research Group. The group’s role is to support the open research environment and we inform: policy development; consultations from funders and publishers; and spending strategies for funds in support of open access among other things. Presently, the sustainability of various business models used by publishers and consortia negotiators such as JISC to deliver better open access are topics we are discussing extensively at our meetings. The University of Southampton supports a mixed economy of business models for delivering open access, but we invest significantly into repository based open access (green OA) infrastructure and support, so where we are unable to ensure cost neutrality or savings by entering into a deal, we presently advocate using the green route.
As part of my work at a national level, I am a member of the Research Libraries UK (RLUK) Open Access Publishing Processes Group (OAPP) who try to help publishers and JISC understand the best way forward to support open access for UK institutions. For my international work, I regularly try to be as engaged as possible with research projects on open research themes (i.e. attending interviews, completing surveys) and I also sit on some advisory groups for open access infrastructure. For example, I sit in on Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) Council meetings in my capacity as the Chair of the DOAJ Advisory Board. These two groups of independent international advisors from different parts of the scholarly communications sector are part of DOAJ’s new governance structure. So we’re not just helping to inform DOAJ’s general strategy and direction, but we’re also helping to establish and define what their governance of the future might look like. DOAJ only supports fully open access infrastructure (gold & platinum/diamond OA). Which means they will not advocate the payment for open access in journals that also publish content behind the paywall (i.e. hybrid), or green OA. This is slightly at odds with the University’s Open Research Group’s official position which advocates for green OA, but I am of the opinion that the version of record (VoR; final published version of an article) being made openly available for reading and reuse is optimal. However, I also believe it will take a mixed economy of business models which are sustainable to achieve the greatest volume of open access research possible during the transition to full and immediate open access. My only caveat is that those models of achieving open access should not be limiting or obstructive to achieving full open access.
On that note, I think you can probably tell the sort of challenges I face on a day to day basis, including the kinds of mind bending strategic thinking I have to develop and refine. People like me do jobs like this because we enjoy the challenge and we want to see the best for our collective research. We are having the difficult conversations, to make researchers’ lives as easy as possible. Have a good day and be open.
If you have any comments or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org