If you are a researcher at the University of Southampton, you may get an email from a REF administrator asking you to upload a paper to Pure as you have been highlighted on the compliance report. Some of you may wonder what this is, this post is to shed some light into what the report is and why we do it. 

REF2021 requires an accepted manuscript of a paper to be uploaded to an institutional repository within 3 months of acceptance for it to be compliant with its open access policy. The reports not only allow us to ensure a paper is eligible for selection, but if it isn’t, it shows how much time we have available to make eligible. This means we can catch papers before it’s too late! Since we began the reports, compliance has gone up more than 15%. On nearly 18,000 articles, that adds up to a lot! 

Checking the report gives us the opportunity to take a sense check on how we stand with funder polices and REF policy. It also allows us to see what is being published, something we often don’t know unless we see a record in Pure. 

With UKRI funded papers we must check licences and if the accepted manuscript becomes open access by a certain embargo period, depending on which subject council funded the work.  The reports form part of the annual return we provide to UKRI in relation to the open access block grant we administer. Initially, this was a separate exercise carried out once a year; now we have combined and streamlined all our checking. 

Cartoon of a person carrying a parcel labelled data, with a sign reading "Data repository, submissions welcome"


Roche DG, Lanfear R, Binning SA, Haff TM, Schwanz LE, et al. (2014) / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Another aspect of the report is checking for data statements. UKRI require that papers carry a statement about where the underlying data can be found, the university must report on this as well. Now as with the other checks, it’s all done at the same time and in one place, meaning when we need this information, we can quickly access it. Checking journal articles to find the statements is another thing. How life would be better with standardisation on how data statements are displayed!  

We use these reports to keep a running total on how many papers are open access via our institutional repository (‘green’ open access) and how many are open access in the journal (‘gold’). As you may know, we use Pure to deposit research outputs. Pure can’t tell us if an article is green open access or gold open access, just that it is open, embargoed or closed. With the data we’ve checked in the reports, we can see if a paper is open access or not and which type of access it is. If you are not sure about the different types of open access you can find a brief description using the power of biscuits here https://generic.wordpress.soton.ac.uk/researchmatters/2019/10/21/open-access-week-2019-a-very-short-introduction-to-open-access-using-biscuits/

Cartoon representation of an Excel spreadsheet. From Robsonbillponte666 / CC BY-SA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Excel-icon.png

What is the report and where does it come from? Firstly, it’s an Excel spreadsheet (well several). Every two to three weeks, depending on the length of the month, I retrieve data about papers by University of Southampton authors that have been indexed into Web of Science and Scopus since the last report date. Once I’ve carried out some data cleansing; looking for duplicates and book chapters etc I’m typically left with a list of 200-300 papers to check through. 

This checking involves finding; 

  • What School is the author from 
  • the accepted date,  
  • the date it was made available online,  
  • if the paper is gold open access,  
  • what license it is available under, 
  • if there is a Pure record,  
  • if we have an accepted manuscript,  
  • if it is funded by a UKRI research council  
    and if so, does it have a data statement.  

Typically, this takes about 3 days depending on how fast pdfs open and how easy it is to find funding information and data statements. Seriously, data statements, it’s sometimes sheer joy when there is a link for data availability! It’s the small things.  

Once it’s checked and analysed, the report is sent to the faculty REF administrators who check their schools or faculties missing papers. They either contact the author to source an accepted manuscript/prompt an upload or decide the paper shouldn’t be included because the author has left the university. They return this to me and I make any adjustments. Two reports cover a month and are combined and reported to the wider research group. The reports are a rolling process and involves numerous staff around the university; without their contact with the academics we couldn’t have improved compliance and numerous papers would not be accessible to many readers or eligible for REF2021. 

If you have any questions about open access, please contact eprints@soton.ac.uk  

Open Access Week 2020 official banner: Open with purpose. Taking action to build structural equity and inclusion
Open Access Week 2020: Checking for compliance

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