Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, March 06, 2009

An OA mandate for the U of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh has adopted an OA mandate.  Here's an excerpt from the Open Access Publications Policy (January 27 - February 4, 2009), the proposal which the university's Electronic Senate approved on February 18, 2009:

This paper describes a Publications Policy which requires researchers to deposit their research outputs in the Publications Repository, and where appropriate in the Open Access Edinburgh Research Archive in order to maximise the visibility of the University’s research. The paper contains a section on the case for Open Access and Questions and Answers which researchers may have....

This policy will be implemented [i.e. become mandatory] from January 2010, and in the meantime, researchers are encouraged to deposit outputs....

The Publications Repository (PR) is a closed repository for use only within the University of Edinburgh and is an internal University tool for research output management? while Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA) is a public open access repository, making content available through global searching mechanisms such as Google.

This policy requires each researcher to provide the peer reviewed final accepted version of a research output to deposit. The policy encourages the deposit of an electronic copy of nonpeer reviewed research, particularly where this may be used for national assessments. Researchers (or their proxies, eg research administrators) will deposit these research outputs in the PR? and at the same time provide information about whether the research output can be made publicly available in ERA. It will then be automatically passed into ERA, where this is allowable, with no further input from the researcher or their agent....

There are several strong reasons for pursuing the requirement for the deposits of such research outputs at the moment:

1.  The impact of research is maximized because there is growing evidence that research deposited in Open Access repositories is more heavily used and cited

2. The deposit of outputs in ERA will support compliance with Research Council and other funding agency requirements that research outputs are available openly.

3. This will ensure that each research output has consistent metadata and ensures longevity which, for example, a researcher’s own website does not.

4. Items which are already in Edinburgh Research Archive are well used. The average number of times each item was downloaded during 2008 was 228, with the top countries downloading Edinburgh research being: United States, United Kingdom, Australia, China, Iran and India.

5. Researchers, research groups or Schools can use the PR to provide automatically generated output for their own websites, or for their curriculum vitae.

6. Future possible metrics based research assessment will require us to ensure that Edinburgh’s research be cited as much as possible, and this means that it must be as visible as possible....

9. This will become a competitive tool for Edinburgh’s research by enhancing its reputation and branding as a good place to carry out research....

11. The world of scholarly communication is changing—adopting this policy in Edinburgh will help us move forward within this changing environment. Other universities require their researchers to deposit research outputs. Harvard University, Stirling University—the first in the UK to do so, and very recently the University of Glasgow, have adopted institutional requirements for such deposit.

12. Such a deposit requirement is in line with other UoE policies on knowledge exchange, public accountability and serving the public good....

Since this initiative requires changed patterns of work from researchers, there will be many questions some of which are addressed in this section....

  • What happens if I don’t want to make the research output public? There will always be a
    variety of circumstances where it is not possible to deposit, for example where a
    researcher does not wish to go public with their research immediately, because they
    wish to publish further, or where commercial reasons exist or where there are copyright
    issues (considered below). In these cases the research output should be deposited but
    only the metadata will be exposed in the PR the item will not be passed into ERA until
    permission is given.
  • What happens if the publisher does not agree? You should try to avoid assigning the copyright to the publisher or granting them an exclusive license. Rather, you should aim to grant a nonexclusive
    licence which leaves you with the ability to deposit the work in the University Repositories and possibly make it available in other digital forms.
  • How should I communicate this with the publisher? There will be advice and guidance on how to achieve this and template forms to show how you can amend publishers’ copyright forms.
  • What about research outputs which are not journal articles? The PR and ERA can accept most research output types including books, book chapters, conference proceedings, performances, video, audio etc. In some cases – for example books not available electronically – the PR/ERA will hold only metadata, with the possibility of links to catalogues so that users can find locations....
  • What about my research data? Data supporting research outputs is also required by RCs to be made available? and this can be included where requested. IS is establishing a working group to consider research data issues....
  • I would like to publish in an author-pays Open Access journal. Does this mean that I also have to deposit?  Yes, please deposit the research output in the normal manner....

The comments offering objections or suggestions to the draft policy are apparently accessible only to UE faculty.


  • I applaud the mandatory language, the wide scope (going well beyond journal articles), and at least one form of the dual deposit-release strategy (requiring early deposit but permitting delayed OA).  Kudos to Sheila E. Cannell, Director of Library Services, who drafted the proposal, and kudos to all in the Electronic Senate who voted for it.
  • We know that the Electronic Senate adopted the proposal.  But I can't tell whether that makes it final or merely kicks the ball to another stage in the process.  If anyone knows, please drop me a line.
  • The policy could be clearer on one important point:  whether it creates a loophole for dissenting publishers.  There are several signs that it does:  for example, it moves deposits from the closed repository to the open one only "where this is allowable".  With that clause, the university policy seems to defer to publisher policies.  The policy discourages faculty from granting exclusive rights to publishers, and will provide an author addendum to help faculty retain key rights.  But apparently it won't require use of the addendum or require rights retention, even with an author opt-out.  On the other hand, it seems that the policy always requires deposit even if it doesn't always require OA.  If true, that would be important, but it still needs clarification.  Bottom line:  When Edinburgh faculty face a publisher unwilling to provide OA on the university's terms, the university discourages them from transferring exclusive rights and giving up the possibility of OA, but it doesn't require them to try the author addendum or to seek a waiver.