Monthly Archives: February 2016

Sci-Hub: the debate continues

Sci-Hub is a hot topic.

Billed as “the first website in the world to provide mass & public access to research papers”, it works by harvesting academic journal articles that usually have to be paid for and making them freely available. However, these articles are subject to copyright and the legality of the operation is under contention.

Many of Sci-Hub’s users are vocal fans:


However, Elsevier believes the site is unlawful and filed a lawsuit against it. Sci-Hub’s founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, has defended her creation. In a letter of response to Elsevier’s legal action, she states that articles are overpriced and current subscription systems mean many researchers cannot access vital papers, especially in developing countries. She has also argued that Elsevier’s own business practices are illegal.

Ernesto Priego believes the issues around Sci-Hub are complex. He feels the service is indicative of people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo and the lack of progress made by what might be called the ‘traditional’ Open Access movement but feels Sci-Hub is unlikely to offer a long-term solution to problems with the academic publishing system and does not change its underlying culture.

However, Elbakyan disagrees with his assertions strongly. She states  that Sci-Hub is in fact a genuine, long-term solution to the problem of accessing journal articles and the only solution available to many people. Björn Brembs follows up supportively, reinforcing the view that Sci-Hub is necessary and highly effective.

Corinne Ruff describes how many academic librarians feel trapped between supporting Open Access and patronising publishers. This same article uncovers concerns amongst some that Sci-Hub operates a phishing scam in order to get the usernames and passwords it needs to access journal databases but Elbakyan has denied this.

Many are still torn regarding whether they can support Sci-Hub and, in spite of her public statements, some discussion regarding Elbakyan’s motives continues.

What is certain is that Sci-Hub is one of the most significant developments in scholarly publishing of late and will continue to trigger debate. How do you feel about it?

Association for Research Ethics (AfRE) event on challenging ethics

The Association for Research Ethics (AfRE) are running an event entitled “Challenging Ethics – Deception, Ethnography and Self Experimentation – what would YOU say? “.

It will take place on 2nd March 2016 at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).

Please note that The Open University is an AfRE member so OU staff can attend at the discounted members’ rate.

You can find out more and book via the event website.

Get involved with Soapbox Science 2016

Soapbox Science run public events that promote women scientists and their work.

They aim to:

Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, learn from, heckle, question, probe, interact with and be inspired by some of our leading scientists. No middle man, no powerpoint slide, no amphitheater – just remarkable women in science who are there to amaze you with their latest discoveries, and to answer the science questions you have been burning to ask.

A call for speakers has been issued for the 2016 events and you can apply to become a speaker via this application form. However, you’ll have to be quick as the deadline for applications is 26th February 2016!

There is a Soapbox Science event in Milton Keynes on 9th July 2016 (and many others across the country!) so do take a look.

Increasing Citations: Creation, Curation and Community

We recently ran a session on increasing citations with members of the Open Space Research Centre in Social Sciences.  We covered a lot of material in a 2 hour workshop and are very grateful to the participants for their questions and positive comments.  The session covered:

  • Getting your research output found – including tips on Search Engine Optimisation
  • Getting your research read – surveying tips on making your research more readable
  • Tips on where to publish – including Open Access Publishing
  • Curating your research using author profile systems e.g. ResearchGate &
  • Sharing your research using social media
  • Bibliometrics and altmetrics – what they are, how to use them and what their pros and cons are

Slides are available here: Increasing citations Presentation

A lists of resources: Increasing citations Reading List

Thanks to all who attended and if you are interested in us running the session for your Department or Research Group let us know.

Reference Management tools: a reminder

This is a reminder that the OU is decommissioning RefWorks and its dependent MyReferences service due to the growth in freely available reference management tools. These alternative tools can give you continuing access to your references if you leave the OU.

MyReferences and RefWorks will be not be available after 31st March 2016. If you wish to retain any references stored in these systems then you should move them to an alternative tool as soon as possible.

For guidance on choosing a reference management tool and moving your references out of RefWorks or MyReferences, please see the Bibliographic Management page on the Library website or contact the Library Helpdesk.

Survey on how researchers choose and use databases to manage their research data

The University of Oxford is running a survey looking at how researchers choose and use databases to manage their research data on behalf of JISC.

The survey is open to all researchers who use databases to manage their data. It is anonymous and shouldn’t take more than five minutes to complete.

The survey will inform JISC decisions regarding the provision of a national database service developed from the ‘Online Research Database Service’ (ORDS) created by staff at the University of Oxford.

“Open Science: application and benefits” workshop

From 2-4pm on Wednesday 16th March, there will be a workshop entitled “Open Science: application and benefits” held in the Library Research Meeting Room, which is on the 2nd Floor of the Open University Library building.

This session is open to all researchers, research managers and administrators at The Open University but will be particularly beneficial for research students and early career researchers.

The presenters will be Nancy Pontika, Project Officer, Knowledge Media Institute and Wendy Mears, Research Data Librarian:

Don’t be fooled by the term Open Science; the concepts, benefits and methods of Open Science apply to all research disciplines. This workshop will show you how the application of Open Science concepts and methodologies to your own work can help build a strong research profile and boost your career. Sound research data management (RDM) is key to the practice of Open Science; you will be introduced to the principles and methods of RDM in the second hour of the session.

By the end of the workshop early career researchers will understand the concepts and key components of Open Science, and will be able to apply Open Science practices, including sound research data management, in their own research projects.

Refreshments and cake will be available during the session.

To book a place please email with your name, which Faculty you are in and a brief sentence about your research area.

Review of Open Access in the UK

Adam Tickell’s independent review of Open Access in the UK, Open Access to Research Publications, has been published.  As has the response from the Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson. 

Two predictions are made in the documents. Adam Tickell states that “By April 2017, almost all journal articles published by UK university academics will be available under Open Access routes.” This is a clear reference to the expected results of the HEFCE Open Access policy being implemented across HEIs as we speak.  This policy is based on the Green Route to Open Access where a pre-publication version of an article is deposited in a subject or institutional repository.

Secondly, Jo Johnson writes “I am confident that by 2020, the UK will be publishing almost all of our scientific output through Open Access“.  He goes on to state a preference for Gold Open Access “The advantages of immediate ‘gold’ access are well-recognised, and I want the UK to continue its preference for gold routes where this is realistic and affordable” whilst noting the “validity of  green routes“.

It seems to me that whilst Gold Open Access may be the preferred route to Open Access  in the UK most of the actual progress is being made via the Green route – in particularly the hard yards being put in across UK HEIs implementing the HEFCE OA policy.

Experimenting with the British Library’s digital content and data for your research

On Monday 29th February 2016, 12.00-15.00, British Library Labs and Digital Humanities at The Open University are running a workshop aimed at researchers that will:

  • Showcase of some of the British Library’s digital content and data
  • Look at the challenges faced when working with digital content and data of this nature
  • Examine some of the projects that researchers, artists, and entrepreneurs have created based on the British Library’s digital content and data
  • Have an ‘Ideas Lab’ where groups of attendees will be encouraged to explore, experiment and think of ideas of what they might do with the British Library’s digital content and data. Each group will pitch their ideas to the Labs and Open University panel who will give feedback on how they might be implemented – and there’s even the chance to win a goody bag!

This event will take place in the Library Presentation Room at The Open University Library, Milton Keynes. Full details can be found on the Digital Humanities at The Open University blog. Please register for this event through its Eventbrite page by 22nd February 2016.

Help The National Archives develop services for academics and researchers

The National Archives are running a survey aimed at academics and researchers.

They want to learn more about the needs of academics and researchers, ways in which they might work more closely with the academic and scholarly communities, and to help inform the development of their services.

The survey takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete and is open until 12th February 2016.

See the survey homepage for more details.