Publisher and funder mandates and the desire to embrace best practice in open research, reproducibility and research integrity means universities now need to carefully manage, store and share their digital research outputs.
The policies, mandates, legal directives and the amount of good practice guidance relevant to research outputs is increasing and librarians are faced with growing workloads while budgets are squeezed.
With effect from 2021, the open access initiative Plan S requires that “from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant open access journals or platforms or made immediately available through open access repositories without embargo.” Also following the principles of Plan S, major research funder Wellcome, will no longer cover the costs of OA publishing in subscription journals.
And the UK’s 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) now also requires all work submitted to this system for assessing the quality of UK research to sit in a repository.
But not just the REF, Plan S and Wellcome are demanding open access to research. Global initiatives including Open Access 2020, the World Health Organisation and the UK government and are all pushing for a fully open research environment. This is reflected in our forthcoming research strategy which aims to “accelerate the achievement, delivery and monitoring of the journey to open research.”
For most authors, this means using an institutional repository (IR) - an archive for collecting, preserving, and disseminating digital copies of the intellectual output of an institution.
Storing research outputs in an institutional repository ensures that the published work of scholars is available to the academic community in the long term, even after increases in subscription fees or budget cuts within libraries prevent scholars from accessing the content.
However, the majority of research is still not published as open access which means new research is hidden behind paywalls until embargoes are lifted. IRs can help drive the transition toward open research without incurring the high costs publishers charge to make research freely available. They can also give access to scholarly communications systems and tools – components that have become key elements for increasing visibility and measuring impact of open access research.
Research repositories became a cornerstone for publishing open access when funders allowed research to be published via a "green" route to open access. This means that authors also post their work to a website, their research institution, or to an independent central open repository, where anyone can download their work for free.
This vision of increased collaboration through the use of IRs has been adopted by most research and education institutions. For instance, in 2008, the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard University announced that it required the whole faculty to give the university copies of research, along with a non-exclusive license to distribute the work electronically. In the media, Harvard University librarian Robert Darnton proudly spoke of “reshaping the landscape of learning" and “fixing a damaged, overly expensive system of scholarly communication”.
According to a qualitative study from the University of Oxford into academic engagement with open access and their institutional repositories, “many researchers and repository managers struggle with a tedious and difficult administrative task that may require many iterations to complete”.
Recognising the sector’s frustration, Jisc has developed a new research repository. The service has been developed in partnership with the UK research sector and lifts some of the administrative burden of open access publishing carried by librarians.
The Jisc research repository is a multi-content repository that manages all institutional research outputs (research articles, datasets and theses) including metadata-only records and those outputs that don’t have access to subject or funder data repositories.
The new service is the most interoperable system on the market and permits integration with a wide range of Current Research Information Systems, research management systems and digital preservation systems, making it easier to report against funder mandates whilst creating automated workflows that transfer data objects and metadata, which reduces re-keying information between systems. The new service will allow institutions to meet all Plan S mandatory requirements and other funder and publisher mandates for open scholarship and includes an inbuilt ‘FAIR checker’ making sure that research data is ‘findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable’.
With the transition to open research, the management and conduct of research itself is changing radically. Beyond publications, research outputs such as data, software, and detailed methodology or workflow descriptions all need to be captured in order to assess the quality of research.
Interoperable research repositories will become crucial for institutions to centrally oversee the management of all research outputs and to ‘join up’ digital research management platforms to reduce escalation and duplication of effort and report impact beyond the article.