Guest Post: Dial M for Mandate

This guest post is authored by Tracy Kent, Digital Assets Librarian, University of Birmingham. As announced last week, during October 2011 the RSP sponsored ten UK repository staff  ‘buddy visits’ as part of our Open Access Week initiative. Further information available from here. Tracy visited the repository team at the University of Bath.

Theme – Mandates and Policies

Dial M for Mandate

Implementing the perfect Mandate is like trying to carry out the perfect murder. You simply need the means, the motive and the opportunity to kill off Dr Nocites or Miss Obscurity. A mandate, clearly worded, understood by all and fitting easily into the daily workflow would ensure that  Dr Nocites was no longer around. Instead he or she would gain a new identity as Dr Highimpact or Miss Wellread. So, with a visit supported by RSP, I went on an investigatory visit to the University of Bath where a mandate was implemented during 2011. Intensive questioning with straight answers being sought would, it was hoped, provide some clues as to how the perfect Mandate would be implemented.

The Means to implement a Mandate
The University of Bath is a research active institute with high ranking departments . Like Birmingham,  researchers at Bath publish c4000, quality, peer reviewed articles, per year but felt  that their work was not being discovered, read or cited as it could. With a repository  in place (see Opus) and some full text content already available, there was a means to open the door to showcasing more full text from Bath.  After discussions within research committees and the identification of a Champion in the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research it was deemed appropriate to implement a mandate which would encourage Bath researchers to make use of the repository and get their work more visible and discoverable to the outside world. The buy in by Senior Management helped to emphasise the contribution researchers make to the University’s Mission.

With some mandates already in existence (see ROARMAP) Library staff at Bath, working very much in partnership with the Research Office, came up with a carefully crafted mandate. The mandate has an impressively clear title which leaves you in no doubt about what it is:

“University of Bath Open Access Publications full text deposit mandate” (see http://www.bath.ac.uk/library/services/eprints/deposit-mandate.pdf)

The mandate is wider than some I have seen in that it includes “papers from published conference proceedings (subject to copyright provisions)”.  Perhaps this is clue to the success of the mandate by targeting specific formats which are well utilized by researchers within an institution which has a large science and engineering discipline. Including this type of material has, anecdotally, increased the visibility of work from the repository, benefitting both the University and individual researchers.

It is worth mentioning though that, when questioned, Staff confessed to not over-strictly enforcing the policy, feeling that the softly softly approach was more likely to keep academics on side and showing impact would have a greater effect along with decreasing library budgets providing opportunities for putting content into repositories.  There is also a concern not to breach any publishers’ rules on systematic harvesting of text.

Katie, Tracy, and Kara

The Motive for implementing a Mandate

There is a clear motive for the implementation of mandates by Bath with reported increases in visibility, citation rates, usage and impact of research outputs. With the REF (Research Excellence Framework) waiting in the wings there is much talk on the grapevine about outputs and impact. What better way to raise your profile than make available, where appropriate, the full text of your articles to kill off Dr NoCites and replace him (or her) with Dr Highimpact.

Kara Jones, Repository Manager at Bath, was quite clear about part of the motive for its initial success. A date was identified for the introduction of the Mandate in June 2011. From this date the mandate was to be in force. Therefore researchers knew their content was required from this date going forward. This prompted many to give older items but the repository was to be populated with recent items that the researchers were working on. This helped researchers to work with the Library with their most current research. Some researchers took the opportunity to provide older works and, indeed, following the implementation of the request a copy button (see opportunity) requests for older works was also a motive. This was developed with weekly use of Web of Science alerts. These identify current articles by Bath authors. This evidence of research outputs ensures that the bibliographic details are correct (ensuring accurate citations), are transferred to the repository and the authors approached for the full text, where appropriate. The SHERPA/RoMEO database is the well used informant as it outlines publisher policies and which versions of documents can be uploaded to the repository. This ensures the Mandate is targeting current research being undertaken by researchers and helping them move toto ensure current content is populated in the repository.

Library staff were motivated by the need to produce quality documentation produced by Kara and her assistant, Katie. The documentation focuses on the deposit workflow, including handy flow charts to show researchers how the mandate fits into the general workflow (see Opus Quick Guides). The guides help their authors benefit from using the repository as a tool for managing and promoting their research outputs. There is also an extremely useful, and well written, guide on good practice for improving citations to research outputs which draws attention to the Mandate and the repository. All clear signs that there is a serious motive here.  The motive is underpinned by the guidance on when and why author addendums (at the publishing stage) should be used. Further, they make available links to, and hard copies of, the Versions Toolkit for authors, researchers and repository staff developed by LSE.  This provides, amongst other things, top tips on version control and dissemination of research outputs.

Bath make full use of the eprints functionality within Opus to enhance the mandate by encouraging “in press” as part of the workflow of research outputs. Thus Bath researchers are encouraged to use the repository as part of the publications workflow. This ensures that the mandate of immediate deposit is kept to and the access settings can be dealt with later to maximize the use and impact of their research.

To ensure the full effect of a mandate is realized individual records in Opus have a cover sheet to ensure correct bibliographic citations and recognition of University of Bath outputs. This is supplemented with file names for all theses records starting with Uni_of_Bath_Somerset2011 for greater impact. This has been appreciated by researchers at Bath and ensures users are in no doubt where the work comes from. Clever!

The Opportunity to implement a Mandate

A number of opportunities arose which has brought research outputs to the fore. With the import from their existing research publications database, records were immediately exposed, using OAIPMH standards, to the various search engines around.  Library staff took the opportunity to attach “Request a copy” button against every non-book publications from 2008 . This meant that, should anyone wish to receive the full text a request came, via the Library, to the author for action. When this was introduced at the same time as the Mandate, with the opportunity to raise the profile of researcher outputs, the number of requests  received was quite phenomenal. The team at Bath receive each request direct to the Library and then  forward each request to authors so are able to monitor the requests.  On analyzing the requests Bath did raise doubts about the authenticity of some of the requests. Part of the analysis suggested that users felt “request a copy” was a machine to machine transaction. Bath then changed the name of the request a copy to “contact the author”. Same process but with a different disguise. This has resulted in higher quality requests and opportunities for academic staff to develop relationships with users requesting their materials helping Dr Nocites reinvent himself as Dr HighImpact.

Whilst having the means, motive and taking the opportunities, the perfect implementation was made possible by  strong advocacy from staff in the Library repository Team.  Kara and her team of two dedicated staff, planned to meet, via research boards, all research managers from each Faculty to develop a network of Champions to ensure the continued support for the mandate. The relationships with active researchers has proved invaluable in enabling the deposit workflow to be fine tuned and to match what the researchers require and clearly demonstrated with the revision to the request  a copy button for the mandated research outputs. This was also (perhaps)  helped by the University of Bath being voted the University of the Year by the Sunday Times (September 2011)!

There are many challenges to introducing a perfect mandate which the visit to Bath drew to my attention.  Birmingham certainly have some of the means (repository, local champions, etc),  strong  motive (wanting high impact, increased citations, etc) and an opportunity (use of functionality in eprints). The key appears to be good advocacy – whether developing champion networks, using improved request a copy button or providing detailed documentation. Together with careful wording of the mandate to ensure researchers want to fulfil their obligations and fill up the repository then a perfect mandate could be implemented. Dr Nocites is no more and Dr High impact reigns.

Author: Tracy Kent, Digital Assets Librarian, University of Birmingham


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One Response to Guest Post: Dial M for Mandate

  1. Bravo, Tracy Kent, for your very valuable and timely efforts to promote OA Mandates!

    Here’s some material that might be helpful to you in your efforts:

    The Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA) Mandate: Rationale and Model
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/71-guid.html

    Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/494-guid.html

    Slides for promoting open access mandates and metrics
    http://www.slideshare.net/StevanHarnad/openaccess-9896170

    On Designing Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates for Universities and Research Funders

    Stevan Harnad

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