Open Access for REF2020 and Research Data Management: What do researchers need to know?

Martin Donnelly, Digital Curation Centre, University of Edinburgh reports about FOSTER co-funded event where he presented:

On 22nd October I was happy to travel south to the beautiful campus of Royal Holloway University of London to contribute to a FOSTER sponsored event. The event, titled “Open Access for REF2020 and Research Data Management: What do researchers need to know?” was geared quite explicitly towards a scholarly audience (as opposed to research support service providers), so I pitched my contribution with a stronger advocacy emphasis than usual! The event attracted a broad range of scholars, and not just from Royal Holloway: there were representatives from a variety of institutions, including the Bodleian Library at Oxford, University College London, the University of London Institute in Paris, the Institute of Education, and the Universities of Coventry and Loughborough, as well as publishers and service providers such as Mendeley and F1000.

Royal Holloway’s Associate Vice-Principal for Research, Professor Kathy Rastle, introduced the event, underlining the significance of OA at RHUL and the institution's support of it. The RHUL research strategy is clear in its treatment of OA and its relationship to RHUL's institutional goals, and Kathy drew attention to some of the university’s recent success stories.

In the first of the formal presentations, Steven Hill, Head of Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), talked about Open Access to research publications. Policy for the next Research Excellence Framework exercise (referred to informally as REF2020) is now in the process of being discussed, but not as yet settled. Steven expressed HEFCE’s desire to work with Jisc and other infrastructure providers to make systems more smoothly linked, and thereby to minimise, for example, the need for information to be entered multiple times in different systems. Steven ended with a brief description of the Monographs and OA Project, chaired by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, which will be of particular interest of humanities scholars due to the continuing high status of the monograph in those subject disciplines.

As you might expect, given his position and the nature of the Open Access requirements, Steven received a lot of questions from the audience, ranging from potentially receiving credit for making publications available for data mining, timeframes for compliance (and the use of SHERPA Fact to determine journal compliance/compatibility with HEFCE policy), and scope for exemptions… which obviously HEFCE don’t want to encourage! The last question, and the most interesting from my point of view, concerned HEFCE’s preference for institutional repositories over subject repositories. The rationale behind this is that publishers and journals go out of business more frequently than institutions, so they’re seen as a safer bet. But they do accept that subject repositories in areas such as the biosciences are already a big part of the culture (as indeed they are when it comes to data), and they don't wish to get in the way of that. It may be that providing links via multiple catalogues or even depositing copies in multiple repositories could be a way to go.

My presentation addressed definitions of research data, and stressed that what’s considered ‘data’ will vary considerably from discipline to discipline. I spoke about the various activities which combine to make up research data management, the drivers behind the rise of data as a ‘hot’ topic, and I went into detail about the benefits (and requirements) around data management plans. My talk concluded with some useful pointers towards good data management practice, and I gave a précis of the goals of the FOSTER project

My questions from the audience covered such diverse issues as the management of non-digital data (from an earth sciences scholar), and the need (or not) to archive secondary sources such as newspaper clippings, photocopies etc from a researcher in film studies.

After a short coffee break (during which I had a very interesting conversation with a scholar from the interdisciplinary field of history of medicine) we had two presentations from RHUL staff. Research Information Manager (Open Access), Nancy Pontika, talked researchers through the institutional web pages relating to Open Access, with a particular focus on REF2020 policy. Nancy clarified a few issues re. self-archiving, the relationship with the Pure current research information system (or CRIS), pre-prints vs. post-prints specifics, rights management, and so on. Nancy noted that Sherpa’s RoMEO service can be used to help researchers identify policy-compliant journals in which to publish their work.

In the final presentation of the afternoon, Dace Rozenberga – introduced as the university’s “Pure guru” (although I’m not sure that’s her official job title!) gave an overview of Research Data Management Services at Royal Holloway, beginning with an introduction to the institutional data management policy. Dace and her colleagues have carried out a data survey, asking research-active staff about the nature of the data they collect, and where and how it is held and backed up. The survey found that lots of researchers (c. 60%) still hold data only in one place, with no backup or other management. This is obviously a concern, and in order to address it the institution is starting to encourage researchers to create DMPs, via a customised institutional template in the DCC’s DMPonline tool. Their ultimate goals is to offer support in a joined-up way, with multiple internal service providers keying into a single support service.

My thanks go to Kathy, Nancy and Dace at Royal Holloway for inviting me to contribute to this very enjoyable event. Slides for all talks will be available via the institutional repository, and links will be given on the event homepage ( soon.