#OpenAccessWeek2020: Thank you – we’re in the Top 10!

Earlier this year saw the publication of the CWTS Leiden Rankings. This ranking provides indicators of citation impact, collaboration, gender diversity… and open access publishing. And we thought we’d take a moment during open access week to highlight Durham University’s achievement in the latter.

Durham University is ranked 6th in the UK and 7th in the world, on the measure of % of outputs which are open access (a metric which accounts, to some extent, for the relative differences in size of institutions).

This reflects well on the University’s commitment of “sharing the findings of its world-class research as widely as possible to enhance its use and impact within the academic and research community and more widely within society”, and is marker of the efforts of our academic staff and students across the university in ensuring their research output is available open access (ed. and the work of the open access team in the University Library, and the Senior Research Administrators in academic departments – thank you!).

Show me the data!

The Rankings use data from CWTS Leiden’s in house version of Web of Science, covering publications from the Sciences, Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities Citation Index, linked to the UnpayWall database. You can read more about the methodology they used on their blog.

Whilst it is worth noting this methodology is likely to overlook many long-form publications (monographs, books and book chapters – see our blog post on these later this week) and some key journals in the arts & humanities, using the unpaywall database provides a view as to how our publications are being made open access – whether via repository, in fully open access journals, in hybrid journals or via other routes. See our Open Research Guide for a quick overview of these different options.

Durham 2019 to 2020

The Leiden Rankings first published a metric covering open access publication in 2019. In 2019, Durham was ranked 2nd in the UK, and 4th globally by the same metric. But in 2020, the rankings have been expanded to include over 100 additional institutions – including 13 new additions in the UK alone. In fact, the data used for the 2020 rankings (covering publications 2015-2018) showed that the proportion of publications which are open access increased from 83.1% to 88.8%, alongside an overall increase in the total number of publications (up by 314 over the period) and an increase in the number which were open access (up by 688).

Key Facts 2020: % of ouputs open access

– Durham is 6th of 58 UK institutions in the rankings

– Durham is 7th of 1,176 institutions worldwide in the rankings

– 88.8% of Durham’s outputs identified in the rankings are open access (an increase from 83.1% in 2019)

Gold and Green

Yesterday on the blog we highlighted some of the articles we have made open access via the gold route – the article being free to access directly from the journal itself – through either the payment of an article publishing charge (APC) or through some of the publisher deals we are part of (e.g. with Springer, Sage, Wiley).

But a huge proportion of open access to our published research is provided through the green route: where a version of the article is available from an open access repository – in most cases via our institutional repository Durham Research Online (87.9% of Durham’s publication output included in the Leiden data was available via this route).

Sarah will be exploring in a post later this week how to approach open access articles, in particular those available from repositories, in support of teaching and learning… including help with working out what you can (and can’t) do with an open access manuscript, and tools available to you to find and access these quickly (offering an update to a post we posted during last year’s open access week!).

Okay… but what does this mean?

Rankings of Universities are always a point of discussion – what value to they hold, what behaviours do they encourage (and discourage) – see our comment below on the deficiencies of university ranking systems

But this metric in the Leiden Rankings is helpful as an indicator of how Durham is meeting the aspiration to share the findings of its research as widely as possible – despite many of the challenges in doing so for authors in how the scholarly publication sector operates and how research impact and quality is assessed globally.

What it shows is that a significant proportion of our research outputs can be discovered and shared freely, with fewer restrictions, to those within academia and without who may not otherwise have access. We’ll also hear from one of our academic colleagues in a post later this week on how useful this has been to raising the visibility and profile of their research to user groups, and the responses they have received as a result.

Social media and sharing your open access research

With many published articles remaining locked behind paywall barriers (which may not always be apparent to Durham staff and students, who benefit from the £millions we pay each year in subscriptions to many of the journals we want access to), helping to signpost potential readers to a copy of your article which they can easily access and read is a no-brainer. If it is published open access, or a version is available from a repository, you have a sharable link at your fingertips which anyone can then follow to read your paper. Remember, sharing a doi to a non-open access article will often mean those following it just hit a title, abstract and a request to pay up to £40 for the privilege of reading the research.

We’ve provided some tips for sharing research on our Research Support Guide, but we would always recommend where possible including an #openaccess link alongside any paywalled DOI in a post; the DOI will help track usage through altmetric tools (which we hope to post more on in the near future) and will take those who do have access straight to the paper. The #openaccess link will give them an option to read it if they don’t have access – or give them enough information to assess whether paying to access the version of record is worthwhile. It can be tricky to fit that in to a tweet, but here is an example below:

Looking ahead

Whilst we extend our thanks again to colleagues across the University for continuing to support open access and ensuring we are able to make as much Durham Research as easy to access as possible, we know one of the big drivers has been policy driven – whether that is the University’s own open access policy, or the funder policies (REF, UKRI, Wellcome Trust) it is aligned with. We also know there are huge changes on the horizon, with Plan S bringing in new policy requirements from several funders from January 2021, the outcome of the UKRI Open Access Review due in Spring 2021 and then a subsequent review of REF Open Access Policy after that.

In part it says something that with the increased risk of policy review fatigue, we continue to strive to meet the principles of open access in opening up access to the knowledge we produce.

Note: University Rankings

There is always a discussion to be had over how robust rankings are in terms of their methodology, their validity, their significance and the behaviours this drives. The recently published initial findings of the INORMS Research Evaluation Working Group highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of several key university ranking measures – and whilst the Leiden Rankings compared favourably there remains work to be done to improve the validity and worth of such measures.

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