New developments in open access (OA) continue to come thick and fast; it’s a mark of the commitment that institutions, researchers, funders and many publishers have to making OA work.
The latest work by publisher-led initiative Crossref has real potential to meet a fundamental need that many institutions say is urgent – for a reliable, straightforward way to monitor and report to funders about the publication of research.
A helping hand for publishers
Crossref’s well-established, global system is designed to make research outputs easier to identify and track. It assigns digital object identifiers (DOIs) to scholarly content so that it is easier to find, providing persistent links that avoid 'link rot'.
It is increasingly being used to gather additional information about the content, such as licensing. As funders define increasingly detailed mandates around publication related to the research that they finance, Crossref has become a clear contender to help institutions ensure that they comply and can demonstrate that they have done so.
These are not simple tasks, because funder specifications - about licences, embargo periods, and notifications of acceptance for publication - differ significantly. The waters are muddied further by geographical and national legislation differences and by academic disciplines and institutions themselves.
These complexities affect everyone involved in the process but funders have a particular need to track outputs from hundreds (maybe thousands) of publishers while publishers themselves need a standardised, reliable way to help institutions with their compliance processes.
Building best practice
With all that in mind, Crossref plans to extend its metadata schemas and application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable funders, universities and publishers to use Crossref to track research more effectively. It has proposed new guidance for publishers which includes:
- Best practice for publishers using Crossref to support research funder key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Rules on using Crossref DOIs for preprints – for example by institutional repositories
And, perhaps most notably of all:
- A recommendation that publishers should assign DOIs to journal articles at the earliest possible opportunity, supported by clear information describing how they can register a DOI even before the content is available online
Crossref consulted with stakeholders about this at the start of this year and published the overwhelmingly positive feedback on its blog on 1 March. This recommendation will – if publishers adopt it in sufficient numbers – support development of simplified workflows and enhance institutional efforts with regard to the REF OA policy and also to the publications router – our own initiative to help institutions to capture articles within their open repositories.
What we've been doing
For our part, we’ve been talking to Crossref throughout the revision process and with UK sector bodies including the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA), Research Libraries UK (RLUK), the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) and the United Kingdom Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR) to get their feedback and ensure that it is fed into the mix.
We’ve also worked at international level with the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), OpenAIRE, SPARC Europe, the National Library of Finland, the German Research Foundation (DRG) and the University of Regensburg to make sure that the new guidelines serve the interests of all stakeholders - not just those in the UK - as closely as possible.
Overall, the stakeholders that we contacted expressed their support for Crossref to implement the proposed new workflow.
We urge academic publishers to take a look at the Crossref website and the revised guidance information and to consider implementing the proposed guidelines as a priority for their customers. We’re particularly keen that publishers should include the institutional affiliation of the authors of an article in the metadata that they make available when they register an early DOI so that HEIs can identify the articles written by their researchers; something that is becoming essential for them.
Many publishers already have workflows that populate resources such as PubMed with author affiliation details at, or soon after, acceptance.
Extending this to Crossref would create a powerful tool that institutions and other interested stakeholders could use to track outputs right across the academic spectrum. This is something that institutions really want and we believe it should prove to be a scalable and efficient system for publishers to implement.