BY DEBORAH FITCHETT

So far at academic institutions, promoting Open Access has been seen primarily as a library concern, and reporting for the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) primarily as being in the realm of the research office. But by working together there are a number of ways that Open Access and PBRF reporting can benefit each other.

Benefits of Open Access to the PBRF

1.   The obvious benefit for the institution is the well-known citation advantage for papers available by either gold Open Access (“born” Open Access) or green Open Access (a version of the canonical toll-access paper is deposited in an OA repository). To the extent that PBRF scores depend on institutions being able to demonstrate the impact of their research, this citation advantage is worth money. Likewise, Open Access publications can raise the profile of early career researchers especially, opening up opportunities for national and international collaboration — another factor that can demonstrate peer esteem for the researcher as PBRF portfolios are assessed.

2.   A benefit to the PBRF process comes when considering the arduous tasks of output verification (within the institution) and auditing (at the national level). Verification is a painfully manual process of searching for each output to obtain evidence of its existence — an official pdf from the publisher’s website is preferred — and confirm citation details. A well-established history of indexing makes citations for most journal articles fairly trivial to locate. But for disciplines where books and chapters are more common, or for researchers whose portfolios rely on conference papers, even tracking down the citation details can be an involved process — or impossible, several years after a conference has removed them from its website. If these outputs were available Open Access, they would be far more quickly found, and untold hours of valuable staff time saved.

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Benefits of the PBRF to Open Access

3.   With this vast investment of staff hours in mind, many institutions attempt to merge the processes of verifying outputs for the PBRF and filling the institutional repository (IR). This might be done by manually forwarding metadata with located pdf fulltext to IR staff, or by an integrated system gathering and sharing metadata and fulltext in common. Provided author permission can be obtained, publisher policies are amenable, and/or an institutional mandate applies, this can be very successful at increasing the amount of literature available Open Access.

There are limitations. Metadata requirements differ for the different purposes. Worse, PBRF verification typically requires the published version of a paper, which copyright generally precludes the institutional repository from reproducing; whereas the institutional repository will often need an author’s version, which is useless for verification purposes. One blunt solution can be to encourage researchers to submit all versions of their paper, and let support staff sort out which ones are needed where.

4.   Knowing all the benefits that Open Access provides for PBRF reporting and the resulting funding can make it easier to advocate for researcher and management support of Open Access initiatives. These might include advising researchers of high-impact Open Access journals in their fields that they could be publishing in; supporting the costs of Article Processing Charnges (APC) where other funding is unavailable; or even implementing an Open Access mandate across the institution.

Collaboration between the library and research office — and, if implementing a new system, IT services — isn’t trivial. Like a three-legged stool, all need to be equal partners, communicating and appreciating the quite different languages, cultures and priorities of each team. But then it opens up scope for future collaboration when we come to look at other mutually beneficial issues like research data and funding grants.

Deborah Fitchett is Senior Advisor Digital Access in Lincoln University’s Library, Teaching and Learning; has an abiding interest in Open Access; and blogs sporadically on her website.

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