Category Archives: Library research support

A day in the life: Yvette

Hello and welcome to my contribution to our Day in the Life blogpost series.

A typical day for me in the Research Support Team is very likely to involve Open Research Online (ORO), The Open University’s research repository that to date, holds over 48,000 items! Whether it’s importing and editing records, updating and verifying the Open Access status of a publication, or resolving a query for a member of our research community, ORO work keeps me busy!

Many of the team’s queries come through to our Research Support team mailbox, so this needs to be monitored throughout the day. Queries are varied and can be anything from a copyright issue to arranging ORO access for an academic, so no two days are the same!

I also act as representative for the team with the University’s postgraduate researcher (PGR) Liaison group and Professional Doctorate committee, enabling a direct link between our team, the wider OU Library and our researchers. Preparing for these meetings can sometimes be a reactive process, making sure that a particular Library event, update, or wider scholarly issue is picked up on as it happens and relayed quickly.

In addition, I’m a member of the Library’s Web Quality Improvement and Library Search groups. This offers a way for our team to represent the needs of our PGRs and academics, and to raise key issues. I am currently working on improving some webpages to better promote our team’s training sessions ready for the new intake of PGRs in the Autumn. Planning for the new season of training sessions is underway in the team and I am preparing my copyright and your thesis session, as well as a potential new session to cover copyright issues relating to conference and workshop presentations so watch this space! I really welcome the varied nature of my role here and enjoy supporting our fantastic OU researchers 😊

Aside from Research Support related work, I enjoy contributing to a mental health and wellbeing group where we discuss improvements and new ideas for our wellbeing services for staff. The group helps to maintain webpages that signpost staff to useful resources and we have a Wellbeing Buddy system where you can be randomly paired with another person to have regular informal chats. This has been so beneficial to many staff members during the pandemic, helping us to feel less disconnected.

Before I go, I should introduce my work companion, Daisy.

© Y Howley

Here she is on the beach. Her favourite place, somewhere I keep promising we’ll go back to soon. In the meantime, she will make sure we both have plenty of snacks during the day and provide me with soothing snoring sounds in the background. Who needs a white noise generator to help you work when you can have a snoring dog?

Research Support Win!

Hi I’m Maxine. I’ve been a member of the Research Support Team since 2017 and part of my role has been to support and liaise with our PGR student community. In 2019 we trialled getting the submissions made to the annual Graduate School Poster Competition uploaded to ORO, with a winning collection of posters added to ORDO.

This was a great success, with students feeding back that having their posters in these public repositories has allowed them to share their research more readily with colleagues, friends, and family. Winning entries uploaded to ORDO also receive a DOI (a permanent, citable web link), allowing students to get better recognition for these outputs.

The winning collections of posters on ORDO from 2019 and 2020 have been viewed over 1400 times, which is not only great for the students in terms of exposure, but great for the OU too, as it helps to highlight the amazing work our PGR community is engaged with and the breadth of research being undertaken. Topics have varied from developing robots with common sense to researching 50 million-year-old fish teeth to determine ocean currents.

Although the results were great and we felt it was important to continue sharing these posters more widely, the amount of additional work this generated was too high to justify. Not only did we need to contact students to seek permission to upload their entries to an open access repository, and ask them to choose from a number of available licenses to share their work under, we also had to check students hadn’t included any third party copyright materials in their work. This inevitably generated a lot of chasing emails and a high volume of copyright and licensing queries. Even within our team, the nuances of copyright law and the different Creative Commons licenses can be tricky to navigate!

This year I’ve managed to work with the Graduate School to streamline the process. We are now asking students at the point of submission whether they’re happy to add their poster to the repository, as well as offering advice on copyright within the entry guidance, and we have restricted the license options to minimise the volume of queries generated. This means it should be far quicker to upload the content so that we can continue to showcase the excellent work of our PGR community!

The winners for this year’s Poster Competition are due to be announced at a celebratory event on 23 June 2021, led by the new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Enterprise and Scholarship, Professor Kevin Shakesheff. So, look out for the 2021 entries landing on ORDO and ORO soon!

Research Support Win!

Hello and happy Friday! I’m Megan, a Research Support Officer who joined the team in April 2020. I’m also a PhD student researching in the area of Education. I thought I’d share a #ResearchSupportWin with you all today.

We get queries from researchers around literature searching from time to time and these can vary significantly depending on what field the student is searching in. There are other factors that can also affect a literature search such as, how experienced students are with searching. As a research student myself I know how difficult it can be to find relevant papers to support a literature review.

A student contacted me to ask for help in finding more relevant results from their literature search. They were finding their searches were bringing back hundreds of irrelevant results. I set up a meeting with the student so that they could demonstrate their searching strategy which would help me to identify the problem. It became clear that the topic was an under researched area and therefore, there were few relevant papers available from the outset. However, it was clear the keywords they were using were not specific enough to the research question. Broad search terms often bring up lots of irrelevant papers which can be an overwhelming position to be in.

The student was also only using Google Scholar to conduct their searches. Google Scholar is a great tool but if you are finding your searches are bringing back too many results that aren’t helpful to your research then I always suggest checking out the collection of databases on the Library website. I ended up showing the student some different more subject specific databases that the OU Library subscribe to. I also shared some tips and tricks to get the most out of using them including, citation searching and how to use the subject terms within databases. This guidance enabled the student to find some great papers that they were able to use in their literature review. So, a definite WIN!

Please get in touch with the Research Support Team if you have any queries about databases or literature searching.

Research Data Management service review 2020-21

I’ve been looking back at the statistics for the RDM service so far this academic year (since September 2020).

Despite running the service remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, we have seen a growth in users of our data repository ORDO, as well as increased demand for data management plan reviews. We’ve also had great attendance for our series of webinars.

We’re now starting to look at service developments for the coming year, and we are confident that the numbers in a year’s time will look even better!




A day in the life: Nicola

This is the latest in our Day in the Life series of blogposts.

Hello, my name is Nicola. My role is Senior Library Manager for Research Support. I joined the OU in 2003 as a Subject Information Specialist supporting Science and Health and Social Welfare. For the past 10 years I have been responsible for the Library’s research support team. The team provides specialist services e.g. open access publishing and research data management to OU academics, researchers and postgraduate research students. Research support has been a growing area of the Library Service over the past few years and I am very fortunate to work with a fantastic team who work hard to develop their knowledge and expertise and use this to develop our services.

No two days are ever the same but most days I have a catch up with at least one of the team. We have all being working from home for over a year so weekly online catch ups enable us to share what we are doing and plan our work. We also have a weekly Friday team catch up and as Megan mentioned in her blog post a monthly teams games session. I usually act as quiz master as I got fed up with coming last.

As well as the internal services that I am responsible for, I also try to be externally active. Since February 2018 I have been chair of the UK Council of Open Research and Repositories (UKCORR), which is the professional body for repositories and those working in open research. In the latest Committee meeting we discussed gathering members feedback from the latest Research Excellence (REF) submission so we can capture some of the lessons learnt and surveying members to find out their future plans for the repositories to identify areas where UKCORR can offer support. I am also on the Jisc OpenDOAR Steering group and in the last meeting we were discussing a metadata proposal.

Most of my days are a mixture of keeping an overview of our services and answering a range of enquiries that come both through the team mailbox and to me individually. These include how to publish open access, working with one of faculties to set up an undergraduate journal for their project module, assessing new journal deals, supporting the OU’s scholarship activity. My role involves working with a wide range of people which I enjoy and I get a real sense of satisfaction when I have managed to help someone or have learnt something new.

As I am working from home my 2 cats have become my work colleagues, but they do tend to sleep most of the day.

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.


New publishing deal with Taylor & Francis!

We are pleased to announce that the OU Library has recently invested in a new Read and Publish deal with Taylor & Francis which allows OU corresponding authors to publish open access in Taylor & Francis hybrid (Open Select) journals at no cost to themselves. This replaces the previous 75% discount OU authors received when publishing open access with T&F.

To be eligible:

  • The corresponding author must be a current member of research staff or a current research student affiliated to the OU (this excludes visiting researchers);
  • You must be publishing an original research article (other paper types are excluded, such as Editorials, Announcements and Book Reviews);
  • You must be publishing in an Open Select (hybrid) Taylor & Francis or Routledge journal title (all Open Select titles are included);
  • Your article must have been accepted on or after 1st January 2021 (eligible papers published behind a paywall from this date but prior to the signing of this agreement will be eligible for retrospective conversion to open access, which we have already begun processing).

Authors don’t need to do anything to benefit from this deal. All accepted research meeting these requirements will automatically be considered for open access publication under this agreement.

Please be aware that there is a cap on the number of publications that are covered by this deal, so it is operated on a first come, first served basis. Should this cap be reached before the end of the year, the open access publishing element of this agreement will be paused until the beginning of the following year (1st January 2022).

Further details of the agreement can be found on the Research Support Team’s webpages, along with all the Read and Publish deals the Library has invested in with other publishers.

Research Support Win!

Hi there! I’m Yvette, a Research Support Officer for the OU Library since April 2020 and former Licensing and Acquisitions Assistant for the Library’s Intellectual Property team. For this first blogpost in our #ResearchSupportWin series, I would like to share two recent team wins in support of our OU postgraduate researchers and academics!


Image by Dennis Skley, FlickrCreative Commons licence BY ND 2.0



Copyright is the subject of the first win. Issues with copyright and publishing affect both our postgraduate researchers and academics. Whether they are publishing a thesis or adding a publication to our Open Research Online (ORO) repository, publishing supporting data for a thesis or paper on Open Research Data Online (ORDO), or publishing a journal article, copyright is intrinsic to all publishing processes and can be tricky to handle!

Image by Timothy Vollmer, FlickrCreative Commons licence BY 2.0

A recent enquiry presented an issue concerning the choice of Creative Commons licence and the inclusion of some artworks within an article. The article had already been approved for Open Access (OA) publication and their funder/publisher permitted a choice of Creative Commons licences to choose from. This isn’t always the case as many funders mandate the use of a particular licence, usually CC BY, so it is important to check your funder’s terms and conditions.

In this instance, the artworks in question (comic strips) had been created in collaboration with artists and members of the authoring group and therefore the copyright rested with them and not a third-party rightsholder. This was great news for the researcher! Being the rightsholder avoided any third-party permission request processes. However, this was also the main cause for concern as they did not wish for their images to be used and potentially altered by others in the future.

They had three licence options to choose from: CC BY, CC BY-NC, or CC BY-NC-ND. The researcher was provided with details about these licence types and what their component parts meant for their publication, and offered advice to get them to think about how they would want their work to be used in the future. For example, would a commercial use of their paper be beneficial to them? If so, CC BY would be the best option. How would they feel about others adapting their work? I shared a handy flowchart from the Creative Commons website to help with their decision making and they eventually decided that the more restrictive licence, CC BY-NC-ND, would safeguard the artwork from adaptation in the future.

It’s important to have a good awareness of Creative Commons and what this means for your publications. Open Access publishing is great for getting maximum exposure for your work but it’s worthwhile making sure you understand the implications of the licence choices you make. Guidance can be found on our Research Support website which covers the topic of Open Access publishing and copyright. It’s a good place to start to find out more!

 Image by Bill Smith, FlickrCreative Commons BY 2.0


The second win is about accessibility. The OU actively promotes the importance of accessibility and ensures that, wherever possible, digital content is accessible to all. The Research Support team recently provided guidance for our postgraduate students to help them make their thesis documents accessible (see Creating an accessible ethesis). This is how our first enquiry went…



Image by Jil Wright, FlickrCreative Commons BY 2.0

As the guidance is relatively new, the research student was given help to work through the information and was assisted with the conversion of their original Word document into an accessible PDF. By making them aware of issues that had been flagged by the accessibility checker, they were able to make changes to the format of tables to enable easier screen reader use, create alternative text for the images in their thesis, and to correct contrast issues. These small changes made a positive difference. Their enthusiasm and active involvement in making these changes with our support helped to create a thesis document that is accessible to a greater number of readers on ORO!

Please get in touch with us if you have any queries about copyright, or if you need any guidance about the accessibility of documents:

A day in the life: Isabel

This is the latest in our Day in the Life series of blogposts.

Hi! I’m Isabel, one of the OU’s Research Support Librarians. I began working at the OU in 2013, and throughout that time I have focussed on supporting Research Data Management, seeing the service from its creation through to now having a busy data repository and enquiry service.

In common with a lot of the rest of the world, my working life has changed considerably over the past year and I’ve had the challenge of balancing working from home with nursery and school closures, while sharing my working space with my teacher husband for much of the past year. However, the pandemic has brought its benefits and I feel I now enjoy a much better work-life balance…

8.30am – The “commute”. Working from home means I no longer need to commute to Milton Keynes, but I do have 2 little ones to take to school and nursery, which we do by bike. The morning ride is one of the highlights of my day with my five year old speeding ahead at top speed while I carry the three year old on the back of my bike; it’s very enjoyable especially when the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

9.00: Log on to my laptop. My WFH workstation is in the kitchen at the dining table. Sitting in the kitchen is not brilliant for a serial snacker with no willpower, so I’ve given up buying biscuits, much to my family’s dismay! I spend the first half hour of my day checking my emails and the team inbox. This morning there is a Data Management Plan to review so I block out some time later in the day to read it and get back to the researcher to let them know I’ll be handling it later today.

9.30 Weekly team catch-up. While working from home, we find that there were much fewer informal opportunities to share what we’ve been up to during the working week so every Friday we have a Research Support Team catch-up which gives us an opportunity to find out what our colleagues are up to and share ideas.

10.00 UK Data Service webinar on Ethical and Legal Issues in Research Data.                      I’ve been attending some of the UK Data Service’s excellent webinars recently to ensure that the advice and training we’re delivering to our researchers is up to date with current best practice. This morning’s webinar closely aligned with one of the webinars that we run as part of our Research Support training programme, so it was useful to identify gaps and strengths in our provision.

My workstation in the kitchen

12.00 Work on Research Data Management Policy review. We’re reviewing our Research Data Management Policy with a view to refreshing it towards the end of 2021. In anticipation of this I am carrying out a benchmarking exercise, comparing our policy with those of other UK universities. I spend some time this morning reading through other policies and picking out the key themes.

13.00 Review Data Management Plan. I grab a quick sandwich and then get started on the Data Management Plan which was in the inbox this morning. This plan is for an ESRC bid, it’s in good shape but could do with some more thinking around data security, especially with regards to storing and transferring personal data. I add comments to the DMP and send it back to the researcher. I expect to receive a further draft of the plan in the next few days which I will read again and hopefully be able to approve for submission.

14.20 Back on my bike! Time to collect the five year old from school – due to Covid the school has staggered start and finish times which means the school run is very early!

14.50 Final catch up on inbox and emails. The small person is installed in front of the telly with a snack for the final forty minutes of my work day. During this time I have a final check of my emails and reply to anything which has come in during the day. Today there have been a couple of enquiries – one about retention periods for research data and another about adding a research project to the OU’s Information Asset Register.

15.30 End of my work day. I work part-time and this is when my work day ends; time to start my other job as Mummy!

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.