Author Archives: Chris

About Chris

Chris looks after Open Research Online (ORO) on a day to day basis. He has worked in this role since 2011 and can advise on using ORO to maximise dissemination of research outputs and Open Access publishing generally.

World Digital Preservation Day 2023 – Open University Legacy Research Papers

To coincide with World Digital Preservation Day on 2nd November 2023, the Open University Library announce a new collection of over 450 Legacy Research Papers on ORO. In partnership with the University Archive and academic colleagues at the University, ORO now holds papers published by: 

Libraries and Archives are the Memory of their Institution

Maintaining the publication record of research groups remind us of what the University has done and how we got to where we are now. These papers have been collected from various sources: 

  • The Open University Archive 
  • The Open University Library 
  • Offices at Walton Hall 
  • Websites 
  • Shared network drives 

These collections were disparate and scattered lacking consistent metadata and a digital platform to help find their reader. We organised the collections, created metadata and issued persistent identifiers (Digital Object Identifiers) for each paper. They can know be browsed alongside each other on ORO and searched for on the web as they have been indexed by internet search engines. 

The ORO service is ready to add further legacy research collections.  Moreover, the architecture has been built to enable active research groups to disseminate their self-published research outputs – let’s make the most of our research and our repositories! 


The Collections 

Development Policy and Practice (DPP) 

The DPP working paper series comprise nearly fifty working papers and joint working papers from the DPP research group. Emeritus Professor David Wield supported this work with donations and advice, he writes about the group: 

Development Policy and Practice at the Open University was a very early initiative to integrate high level academic research in International Development with strong emphasis on policy and Practice impact. It attracted a large proportion of world class academics with similar interests in building a local and global critical response to the prevailing neo-liberal wave of destructive financial policies. It was the first group to analyse north and south relations together, including research on local development in the ‘north’ and major research on east and central Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

On investigation this collection had already been part digitised by the AgEcon – a subject repository for Agricultural and Applied Economics. We worked in partnership with AgEcon to complete their collection of DPP papers and create a complete collection in ORO. We harvested reports from AgEcon, missing papers were digitised by our digitisation partner, the British Library, which we shared with AgEcon. Both ORO and AgEcon now have complete collections of these working papers. 

DPP Front Cover

Browse the Collection: Development Policy and Practice 

Design Education Research Programme 

The University Archive and Library held a small collection of 13 Design Education Research Notes published by the Design Education Research Programme. This was within our small digitisation budget, and they were sent for digitisation to the British Library. Emeritus Professor Nigel Harris supported this work and contextualised the work of this group: 

This programme of research was based in the Design Discipline, Faculty of Technology, 1978 – 1988, funded by the Faculty and the University. It aimed to articulate and establish fundamental aspects of education in design so as to underpin the growth of design as a subject in general education and to support the concept of design as a discipline of study for the Open University’s students. This led into further research into design epistemology, the nature of design ability, design thinking and designerly ways of knowing. 

DERN Front Cover

Browse the Collection: Design Education Research Programme 

Design Innovation Group Reports 

The Design Innovation Group (DIG), which was founded in 1979, conducts research on the role of product design and technical innovation in the competitiveness of industry, both in the UK and overseas.

Frontmatter of DIG Report 5: The Commercial Impacts of Green Product Development 

Some reports from the Design Innovation Group (DIG) were already in ORO. They had been added some years ago by members of the group. We found other DIG reports in the University archive, online copies were retrieved via the Internet Archive and some found on researcher’s hard drives. Emeritus Professor Robin Roy supported our efforts, and work continues to complete the collection of DIG Reports in ORO. 

Browse the Collection: Design Innovation Group 

Alternative Technology Group 

Late in 1976, the Faculty of Technology at the Open University took the imaginative step of funding two full-time research workers, to work in the area of Alternative Technology and to begin a research group (the Alternative Technology Group), which would act as a focus for the research interests of a number of the teaching staff. This was the first attempt in Britain to mount a formal research effort in this field. 

Frontmatter of ATG Report 5: Self-sufficiency and the future of work 

ATG Front Cover

The eleven papers in this series were digitised from paper copies held in the University archive and include prescient work on recycling, renewable energy sources and green cars.  (Moreover, they have exquisite covers!) 

Browse the Collection: Alternative Technology Group 

Co-operatives Research Unit 

The Co-operatives Research Unit (CRU) has three main aims: 

  • to encourage and develop thinking and research on issues of importance to the social economy sector; 
  • to support the development of co-operatives and other organisations trading for social or ethical purposes; 
  • to work with practitioners, policy makers and researchers at European, national and local levels to develop comparative analyses of issues for improving policy, development and management. 

from the Co-operatives Research Unit webpages 

Initially, I intended only to digitise a small number of CRU case studies held in the University Archive. However, when I contacted Emeritus Professor Roger Spear of the CRU, he advised that a number of these publications had already been digitised and were available on network drives. Roger provided access for me, I harvested them, performed Optical Character Recognition on the PDFs to make them searchable and added them to ORO.  

This fascinating range of papers range includes a case study of the Milton Keynes radical bookshop Oakleaf as well as numerous studies of co-operatives from across the UK. 

Browse the Collection: Co-operatives Research Unit 

Open Discussion Papers in Economics 

The Open Discussion Papers in Economics were a different scenario. They already sit on a website and (to my knowledge) will remain there.  The purpose in harvesting these files was to be proactive in the preservation of content on a live website – of not waiting for the worst to happen 

Having gained consent from Head of Economics, Professor Susan Newman, to do this work, we found a few gaps in the collection. We tracked print copies down in the University Archive and digitised them. So, we were able to complete the collection as well as providing it with a second home. 

Browse the Collection: Open Discussion Papers in Economics 

Department of Computing Technical Reports 

Most challenging of all the collections in terms of scale and complexity were the Technical Reports published by the Department of Computing. In 2022 the University archived received a call to archive these papers as the website was being deprecated by local IT services. The University Archive harvested the PDF files, and we began the process of adding them to ORO. Dr. Amel Bennaceur, Director of Research for the School of Computing and Communications, writes: 

The website hosted technical reports to share research findings before publications, appendices or longer versions of published work, or students reports. While ORO offers a much superior way to host and archive technical reports, the website contained legacy reports that were referenced in published papers. By helping us add those reports to ORO, the OU librarians allowed us to retain those reports in line with today’s best practice.

An established series (with an ISSN) the reports ran from 1997 to 2017 and number more than 250 papers. Some of these papers were early working versions of published papers that were also in ORO – so I have done my best to not duplicate these records! These papers also included student dissertations from M801 Master of Science Degree in Software Development, which have been catalogued accordingly. Moreover, some numbers in the series appear to have been replaced at some point during the lifetime of series – so what we currently have in ORO is a snapshot of the series at point of its closure. 

Browse the Collection: Department of Computing Technical Reports 

ORO Annual Infographics 2022/23

ORO OU Infographic

We have created infographics from ORO usage data. We have infographics for each faculty and IET, with some commentary on Downloads, Deposits and % Open Access for both the year 2022/23 and trend data going back to 2011/12.  PDFs and data are available at the end of this post.

PDFs for each faculty / Institute:

Library Services ORO Update 202223_OU

Library Services ORO Update 202223_STEM

Library Services ORO Update 202223_FASS

Library Services ORO Update 202223_WELS

Library Services ORO Update 202223_FBL

Library Services ORO Update 202223_IET

Full data is also available from a spreadsheet: Infographics Data 2023-09

Please get in touch if this data is useful to, or if you have any questions about them:

Open Research Online (ORO) – Annual Report 2021/22

Our ORO Annual Report allows us to reflect on the continued use of this important research infrastructure both inside and outside the University.


Downloads. Over 2 million Open Access publications on ORO are downloaded every year from ORO.  Downloads come from across the globe increasing the dissemination of OU research.  Downloads increase annually as more open access publications are added to ORO.

Deposits. 3,000 publications are are added to ORO annually – these include legacy publications from new staff so this number isn’t a surrogate for current publication rates. Deposit of new publications to ORO is assisted by automated ingest of data from publisher alerts and the Jisc Router aggregation service.

Deposit numbers fluctuate within REF cycles, the total number of active researchers at the OU and (significantly) bulk ingest of legacy content (e.g. digitised theses).

Open Access. Over half the publications added to ORO are made immediately Open Access and this percentage increases as publisher embargoes on accepted versions in the repository expire.  We’ve seen Open Access steadily grow over the last 10 years and it is now mainstream practice.

We increasingly see more Gold Open access items being added to ORO as the OU agrees more transitional deals with publishers which allow OU affiliated corresponding authors to publish Open Access at no direct cost to the author.

As well as research publications via  traditional routes ORO is a great home for:

  • PhD & EdD theses
  • PGR Posters from the annual poster competition
  • Exemplar student projects
  • Reports (those published by the OU can be minted with a Digital Object Identifier in ORO)

Breakdown by STEM, WELS, FASS, FBL & IET can be seen below. The data is also available in an accessible spreadsheet: ORO Infographics Data 2022-09.

The year ahead.

Some highlights for the upcoming year.

ORCID integration. This year the ORO service will be updating the ORCID integration to support addition of items from the ORCID hub to ORO.

EDI work.  I’m exploring ways in which both the system and service can be more inclusive.  How can the repository be anti-racist.

Data quality.  We want to improve the user experience and the discoverabilty of the service. To do this we will benchmark and do systematic quality checking of content and weblinks.

New (and not so new) research collections.  Working in partnership with faculty and the University archive i’m wanting to host collections of unpublished research papers (e.g. Departmental Working papers).


Creating a mailbox alert for new items in ORO

If you wish to be kept up to date on new items being added to ORO you can do so by pushing an RSS alert into your Outlook Mailbox. (If you don’t use Outlook you can use services like Blogtrottr to transform RSS alerts into email alerts.)

  1. Identify the set of items you want to be alerted on. You can choose to be alerted on all new items by department or a subset of items by faculty, or any way you can conduct an advanced search in ORO.
  2. Go to ORO Advanced Search and enter your search terms. In this example I have selected Item Type : Thesis AND Computing and Communications
  3. Image of ORO Advanced search page with thesis and Computing and Communications selected.Select “Search”. From the ORO results page go to the Subscribe to these results page. Right click on the RSS 2.0 icon and select “Copy Link Address”.
    Image of ORO Subscribe to these results pane.
  4. Now go to your Inbox in Outlook and navigate to the RSS Subscriptions subfolder.
  5. Image of RSS subscriptions subfolder in MS Outlook.Right Click on “RSS Subscriptions” and select “Add a new RSS feed”. The New RSS Feed dialog box will pop up and you can paste the url you copied from ORO. Click “Add”.
  6. This should return any relevant results and update in real time for new items added to ORO.

Image of populated ORO results in email folder in Outlook.

PDF Version of instructions: Creating a Mailbox Alert for new Items in ORO [PDF]

Open Research Online (ORO) Update 2020-21

Deposits in 2020-21

There were 3,103 deposits to ORO in the 2020-21 academic year.  Importantly, that’s not the same as published research outputs of OU research staff and students in the academic year, which would be around 1,200.  The reason the number is greater is because ORO includes:

  • PhD theses
  • Student projects
  • Publications deposited in 2020-21 but published earlier (or later!)
  • Items published by current OU staff who were not affiliated to the OU at point of publication

The deposit rates across faculties both reflect the different sizes of the faculties and different practices in scholarly communications across the faculties.  Simply put, AHSS disciplines have fewer, longer form single authored research outputs, whilst in STEM disciplines there will tend to be more short form multi-authored papers.

Deposits – 10 year trend data

When you look at the trends, the significant story is the peak in 2019 when the library digitised 1,600 PhD level theses and added them to ORO.

Consistent deposit of items across the years has been supported by our adoption of mediated deposit via Jisc Router and publisher alerts – we no longer rely solely on authors to add their papers to ORO.


ORO continues to receive a significant number of downloads of Open Access content.  According to IRStats2 (the native ePrints counter) of downloads ORO received over 2 million downloads of Open Access content last year.  But remember many of these will be downloads from web bots, let’s not confuse a download with a human actually reading a paper!   Another count from IRUS, that provides more rigorous filtering of bots, provides a more conservative estimate of 880,612 downloads over the same period.

Downloads – 10 year trend data

Not surprisingly, trend data shows an increase in downloads (however you choose to filter them) over time.  Inevitably as the repository grows in size, counts of downloads will grow year on year.  These are the impressive results of having a repository indexed by Google and Google Scholar.

Open Access

ORO strives to be a valuable University asset in providing Open Access to the research outputs of OU research staff and students.  Last year 52% of items added to ORO were immediately Open Access, these will either be:

Gold Open Access – where the published version is freely available from the publisher and added to ORO,

Green Open Access – a non-final version (often the accepted version), will be available in a repository like ORO.

When looking at Faculty breakdown it’s apparent how Open Access remains contingent on the dominant modes of scholarly communication within academic disciplines.  Books and book chapters remain harder to make Open Access than journal articles.

Open Access – 10 year trend data

Nevertheless, ORO trend data show a growing increase in Open Access over time.

The dip in the last 2 years is due to publisher embargoes on Green Open access papers added to ORO.  Often, commercial publishers will prescribe embargoes of up to 12 months for STEM and upwards of 24 months for AHSS disciplines.  This embargoed content is not counted here as Open Access as it’s not freely available, however once the embargoes end they will count as Open Access (at least for the purposes of these ORO data!)

This upward Open Access trend in ORO deposits has been bolstered by the Open Access mandate on OU PhD theses and the digitisation of legacy theses.

University and Faculty Infographics

All these data (and more!) are available in PDF renditions.

University 2020-21 Update

FBL 2020-21 Update

FASS 2020-21 Update

STEM 2020-21 Update

WELS 2020-21 Update

IET 2020-21 Update

A day in the life: Chris

The picture below was drawn about 5 years ago at a workshop on User Experience Research & Design at Cranfield University facilitated by Andy Priestner.

The task was to draw your working day and then use the drawing as a reflection aid.  So, 5 years later, when we were asked to write a blog post about our working day, I thought I’d dig it out.

Drawing with red locks, blue flashes and two long black thick curly lines.

A Working Day – 5 years ago

What does it mean?

The red squares represent long involved pieces of work. They might include:

  • Regular reports we generate on Open Access publishing at the OU
  • Quality Assurance work on ORO
  • Updating and monitoring workflows around ORO
  • Discussions with peers from other universities regarding developments to scholarly communications e.g. ORCIDs, Plan-S
  • Work based research e.g. how can ORO be more complete and current?
  • Designing and delivering training around our offer
  • New developments for ORO e.g. digital preservation and expanding the scope of what is included in ORO

The blue flashes are small bits of work like enquiries or requests for information that pop up and need pretty much immediate attention:

  • Enquiries from research staff about ORO and Open Access
  • Support to library staff using ORO
  • Doing stuff my manager tells me to do 😊

The long black lines represent my commute, a 6-mile cycle from Newport Pagnell. The commute topped and tailed my working day – it provided a break between home and office life, a chance to reflect on the working day.

Reflecting on the picture

And that was a useful reflection.  5 years ago, it made me think about:

  1. Ring fencing time for some of those big tasks
  2. The importance of the commute

How has that changed?

Well mid-pandemic it’s quite hard to pin down, some days I’m working from home, others I’m in the office. Working from home and working in the office feel very different, so there have to be two pictures.  Beside that there is some commonality with 5 years ago, but some big differences too.

Drawing with red blocks, green and blue flashes with two thick black curly lines.

In the Office – Pandemic

Drawing with red and blue overlapping blocks, green and blue flashes scattered across the drawing.

Working from Home – Pandemic











The red squares remain, but the substance of them is a bit different – there is less development stuff going on and more operational. I can live with that, but I hope it will change.  The squares also spill out across the day – my working hours are interrupted by parenting – so there remain pieces of work that I need to pick up later in the evening when the house is quiet.  So those red boxes spill outside of ‘usual’ office hours.

The blue flashes have decreased, my colleagues have picked up a lot of those, thank you guys.  That’s helped me finish those big REF red boxes.  But again, those flashes may occur in the office or at home.

But that’s where things further diverge:

Where there is a black line it serves as an (albeit imperfect) frame to the day and an important mental break from the mess of home/life working.

Blue squares appear when I’m working from home – these are underlying domestic things that I find really hard to dispel when I’m at home: washing, cooking, home schooling – all these things I know have to get done at some point during the day and distract my working day.

Blue flashes appear – they are those little domestic incidents involving small people that require immediate attention.😬

Reflecting on the new pictures

  1. The commute is a massive boon to my mental health
  2. The office allows me to focus on the work
  3. Life is just more complicated and messy for many of us

I don’t know how I can act on that final reflection, how can it be less complicated or messy at the moment? I don’t know.  Maybe, as well as being OK not to be OK, it’s also OK to be messy and OK to be unsure.


Minting Digital Object Identifiers at The Open University

Digital Object Identifier logo

Digital Object Identifier logo

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are the de facto standard in identifying research publications and data on the web.  They work by providing a unique identifier to an object (a research paper or dataset) which does not change even if the url that locates that object changes (e.g. if a journal article changes publishers).  DOIs should provide a persistent access point to your paper or data.

DOIs are often minted by academic journals or other academic platforms where research publications and data are published. The Open University already mints DOIs for research data uploaded to its research data repository: Open Research Data Online and now DOIs can be minted from its publications repository: Open Research Online.

Open Research Online (ORO)

DOIs can be issued for any publication where the OU is a publisher (or co-publisher) and a (co-)author is a member of OU staff.  We are not issuing DOIs where The Open University is not primarily (or in part) responsible for the publication (e.g. we are not issuing separate DOIs for an accepted version of a paper where a DOI already exists for the published version on the journal website.)


DOIs have been minted to all OU awarded theses in ORO and will be minted for all newly awarded OU theses.  DOIs exist for theses either with full text or bibliographic information only.  Theses will be minted with DOIs automatically.

Other OU Published materials

Other OU published materials can have DOIs minted on request. We expect research reports published by The Open University to be the other prime use case for DOIs, but we will consider issuing DOIs for any OU published outputs on a case by case basis. Publications can already exist in ORO or be new additions – but they have to be in ORO!

Items already in ORO

To request a DOI for an item already in ORO:

  1. Click Report Issue / Request Change in an ORO record and in the workflow add a note requesting a DOI in the “Notes to Library Staff”, or
  2. Contact the Library Research Support mailbox with details

New items

To request a DOI for new items add a note in the “Notes to Library Staff” at point of deposit to indicate a DOI is required. ORO staff will issue a DOI which will be made public when the record is made live in ORO.

Open Research Data Online (ORDO)

One of the major benefits of storing your research data on ORDO is that you receive a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for every output published, giving you a permanent, citeable link. This ensures you get the recognition for all your research materials, whether they support a publication or not, and means your data can be more readily shared and discovered by others.

DOIs are automatically created for every output published on ORDO (with the exception of permanently embargoed items), and there is the option to create a metadata record and link to datasets deposited or published elsewhere that have not been assigned a DOI.

Not ready to share your data just yet? You can even reserve a DOI, meaning you can add the link to article data access statements ahead of publication. For more information and support on using ORDO, visit the Library Research Support webpages.