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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Publications 2018, 6(3), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/publications6030031
Peer-Review Record

The UK Scholarly Communication Licence: Attempting to Cut through the Gordian Knot of the Complexities of Funder Mandates, Publisher Embargoes and Researcher Caution in Achieving Open Access

Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Reviewer 4: Anonymous
Editor: Tony Ross-Hellauer
Received: 8 June 2018 / Revised: 3 July 2018 / Accepted: 4 July 2018 / Published: 13 July 2018

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

This is an interesting and well-written piece outlining some of the motivations, expected challenges and perceived benefits" of the UK-SCL from mainly a Library perspective.  I would make a couple of major challenges to the authors, and a few minor ones.

1) The paper claims to cover the view of some of the 'key stakeholders' of the UK-SCL.  However, in reality the majority of those interviewed were Library staff, with two commentators from national agencies.  As the authors make the point that academic and publisher engagement are critical to the UK-SCL's success, it was disappointing that no academics or publishers were interviewed as part of this research.  Unless it is possible to redress this, I would suggest that the paper is more explicit about the fact that it represents exclusively the views of Library staff and 'friends' of the UK-SCL (perhaps a change of title?).  It could then be stated as a recommendation for further research that the views of a wider selection of stakeholders are considered.  I'm guessing the authors have evidence that the UK-SCL is mainly being rolled out by Libraries rather than Research Offices?  If so, it might be good to provide that.  Membership of the UK-SCL discussion list might be one indicator.

2) Related to this, I think the authors touch on a crucial point at line 585 about the relationship of universities and publishers with academic staff which would benefit from further elaboration.  To my mind, the relationship between universities and their academics is sometimes weaker than that between publishers and academics.  However, this will be critical to address if the UK-SCL is to succeed.   See https://copyrightliteracy.org/2017/11/24/the-university-its-open-access-policy-the-academics-and-their-freedom/ 

3) The other major challenge I would make about this paper is that it is a bit unclear what its purpose is.  Many of the interview comments reinforce the summary of the literature at the outset.  Although the article promises to address "how the policy has been shaped in the light of these intended benefits and anticipated challenges" and a discussion of the UK-SCL's likely future, I don't think it really delivers on these promises.  A bit more on the various stages of development of the licence and its changes in response to consultation and challenge would be very interesting. For example, in recent months the UK-SCL has adapted to stakeholder demands and offered CC-BY-NC-ND licences to those that request them, but this is not mentioned in the paper (perhaps it was submitted before the changes were made?).  I think the article's purpose would be more apparent it the authors were able to make any predictions based on their research as to what the next steps might be, when the UK-SCL might be adopted, and what pieces need to be in place before the policy is actually adopted by both the early adopter and follower institutions?

4) On a more minor note, I think there needs to be a better description of the UK-SCL at the outset (line 98) and of the Harvard model which is introduced here without further clarification.  I don't think that describing the UK-SCL as a "non-exclusive licence held by the university which is binding on publishers" is sufficient to explain to the uninitiated what the function of the policy is?


5) At line 606 the heading reads "How is the policy being implemented?" I'm not sure this is the right wording.  No-one has adopted the UK-SCL yet - a point made at line 767.  Perhaps "How is the policy being adopted?" might be more accurate?


6) Lines 253-255. The Gadd  & Troll Covey study shows that the VOLUME of 'when' restrictions (including embargoes) has increased 1000% in 12 years, not that the embargoes have become 1000% more restrictive.


7) Line 301. I think the point of the 6/12 month allowable embargo period is to align with the UKRI OA policy, not deliberately to reduce the minimum embargo periods for REF?  Perhaps I'm mis-reading this.


8) Some typos:


Line 99 Remove 'is' 

Line 174 Remove 'are able'

Line 196 - insert "to" between it & subscribers

Line 445 . Remove comma

Line 545 - remove 'in general' - it appears twice.


Author Response

We are grateful for the comments of the reviewer and have outlined our responses to them below, including specifying changes made.

 

Reviewer:

The paper claims to cover the view of some of the 'key stakeholders' of the UK-SCL.  However, in reality the majority of those interviewed were Library staff, with two commentators from national agencies.  As the authors make the point that academic and publisher engagement are critical to the UK-SCL's success, it was disappointing that no academics or publishers were interviewed as part of this research.  Unless it is possible to redress this, I would suggest that the paper is more explicit about the fact that it represents exclusively the views of Library staff and 'friends' of the UK-SCL (perhaps a change of title?).  It could then be stated as a recommendation for further research that the views of a wider selection of stakeholders are considered.  I'm guessing the authors have evidence that the UK-SCL is mainly being rolled out by Libraries rather than Research Offices?  If so, it might be good to provide that.  Membership of the UK-SCL discussion list might be one indicator.  

 

Response:

The participant sample was chosen in order to keep the research scope focussed tightly on the thoughts and perceptions of those directly involved in implementing the licence at the time of research in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the reasons for developing the UK-SCL initiative. We agree that more research needs to take place to cover the views of other stakeholders, but this was not be aim of our particular study and would have considerably widened its remit. We would like to thank the reviewer for highlighting that this could be made more explicit and have addressed this by clarifying this point within the introduction, by amending the line:This study draws on data collected from detailed interviews of 14 key stakeholders connected with the UK-SCL initiative, most of whom were directly involved in inputting into its design and implementation…” We have also highlighted throughout that the initiative has been driven by libraries and have concentrated our sampling on participants drawn mostly from the library profession but in the recommendations in our discussion we suggest that other user groups could usefully be included in future research. The reviewer suggests including the membership list of the UK-SCL mailing this, but as this is a ‘closed’ list, this would not, unfortunately, be possible.

 

Reviewer:

Related to this, I think the authors touch on a crucial point at line 585 about the relationship of universities and publishers with academic staff which would benefit from further elaboration.  To my mind, the relationship between universities and their academics is sometimes weaker than that between publishers and academics.  However, this will be critical to address if the UK-SCL is to succeed.   See https://copyrightliteracy.org/2017/11/24/the-university-its-open-access-policy-the-academics-and-their-freedom/

Response:

We also believe that this is an interesting aspect of the future of the UK-SCL. As far as our data are concerned, this point was brought up in the specific context of communications with academics regarding the UK-SCL and so we have discussed it in relation to this. We have added some more commentary in this section to respond to highlight in the importance of the issue: “Several of the participants highlighted the relationship dynamics between authors, publishers and the institution, noting that the often close relationships between author and their preferred journals would need to be taken into account when communicating information about the UK-SCL. Participants were aware that there could be potential for creating tension between institution and publisher, with the UK-SCL being seen as getting in the middle of a long-established author-publisher relationship. This highlighted the need for clear and consistent communication about the rationale for and likely impacts of the licence.”

 

Reviewer:

The other major challenge I would make about this paper is that it is a bit unclear what its purpose is.  Many of the interview comments reinforce the summary of the literature at the outset.  Although the article promises to address "how the policy has been shaped in the light of these intended benefits and anticipated challenges" and a discussion of the UK-SCL's likely future, I don't think it really delivers on these promises.  A bit more on the various stages of development of the licence and its changes in response to consultation and challenge would be very interesting. For example, in recent months the UK-SCL has adapted to stakeholder demands and offered CC-BY-NC-ND licences to those that request them, but this is not mentioned in the paper (perhaps it was submitted before the changes were made?).  I think the article's purpose would be more apparent it the authors were able to make any predictions based on their research as to what the next steps might be, when the UK-SCL might be adopted, and what pieces need to be in place before the policy is actually adopted by both the early adopter and follower institutions?

Response:

We have reflected on these comments regarding the purpose of the article. Our work was a ‘snapshot’ of the developing initiative at a mature stage of the planning. It was not intended to provided a step-by-step account of the various iterations of the UK-SCL during planning, although we do have to make remarks about how it reached the point it did at the time of our data gathering. In order to avoid any misunderstanding about this, we have adjusted the wording of the objectives stated in the paper, including the objective the reviewer highlighted above, as follows: “The study, firstly explores the drivers which led to its development, including the perceived systemic problems of the UK scholarly communication environment it is designed to help to address. It then highlights what are expected to be the benefits and challenges of implementing the licence. It goes on to discuss major issues arising from plans to implement the licence in institutions. Following presentation of the findings from interviews, a number of comments are made evaluating the key features of the UK-SCL, including presentation of a model which maps out the issues and relationships involved in the initiative. To conclude, issues associated with the UK-SCL’s likely future is then discussed.”

 

Reviewer:

On a more minor note, I think there needs to be a better description of the UK-SCL at the outset (line 98) and of the Harvard model which is introduced here without further clarification.  I don't think that describing the UK-SCL as a "non-exclusive licence held by the university which is binding on publishers" is sufficient to explain to the uninitiated what the function of the policy is?

Response:

We have responded to this comment by including additional explanation of the licence in the relevant paragraph, which now reads as follows: “It is in this context that a growing number of UK HEIs have set in motion development of the UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL). Starting in 2015, led by Imperial College London, the UK-SCL initiative has consisted of the development of an open access licence and model policy, based on an approach originally developed at Harvard University in the USA [16,14]. The Harvard model was launched in 2008 and has now been implemented in over 70 institutions worldwide, and is reported to have met with a good level of acceptance and success [14]. The licence is designed to allow authors and institutions more control over the research publications which they produce. The UK-SCL is an iteration of the Harvard licence adapted for UK law [17] which allows authors to grant the university a non-exclusive licence to make their AAM available without delay through the university’s open access repository under the terms of a Creative Commons licence, CC BY-NC) (see draft model policy in appendix B). Thus, it aims to support the institutional transition to OA by streamlining copyright processes [1]. The initiative is a bold approach designed to allow for a one-step process for OA mandate compliance, through the creation of a non-exclusive licence held by the university and which is binding on publishers [14]. It focuses on re-use rights retention, to allow items to be made available in repositories without delay, as a way of accelerating communication of research results and ensuring compliance with funder requirements [15].” We have also now appended the latest public draft version of the licence for readers to refer to if they would like further insight into the licence. We have adjusted discussion in the literature review accordingly.

 

Reviewer:

At line 606 the heading reads "How is the policy being implemented?" I'm not sure this is the right wording.  No-one has adopted the UK-SCL yet - a point made at line 767.  Perhaps "How is the policy being adopted?" might be more accurate?

Response: We agree and have changed to suggested wording (line 622).

 

Reviewer:

Lines 253-255. The Gadd  & Troll Covey study shows that the VOLUME of 'when' restrictions (including embargoes) has increased 1000% in 12 years, not that the embargoes have become 1000% more restrictive.

Response:

We agree and have adapted wording to reflect this recommendation.

 

 

Reviewer:

Line 301. I think the point of the 6/12 month allowable embargo period is to align with the UKRI OA policy, not deliberately to reduce the minimum embargo periods for REF?  Perhaps I'm mis-reading this.

Response:

We have checked this detail and have confirmed that the UK-SCL embargo periods reduce the REF embargo periods by half and are described “above REF OA minimum eligibility” – we have included this exact wording from the UK-SCL website for clarification.

 

Reviewer:

Some typos:

Line 99 Remove 'is'

Line 174 Remove 'are able'

Line 196 - insert "to" between it & subscribers

Line 445 . Remove comma

Line 545 - remove 'in general' - it appears twice”.

Response:

Corrected


 


Reviewer 2 Report

This article examines the UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL) through a series of semi-structured interviews with people involved in implementing the license. The UK-SCL is one of the most important initiatives to occur in open access policy in recent years, so having this work available at such an early stage in the adoption of the license is very valuable - as the article points out, this is the first empirical investigation of the license.


The literature review is good. I detected no methodological errors in the article. The narrative that the UK-SCL aims to 'cut through the complexity' of the policy environment works well, and is certainly consistent with the interview data as presented.


There are just a couple of typos that need fixing: a spelling error of 'disturb' on line 416, and an extra comma on line 746.

Author Response

Reviewer:

This article examines the UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL) through a series of semi-structured interviews with people involved in implementing the license. The UK-SCL is one of the most important initiatives to occur in open access policy in recent years, so having this work available at such an early stage in the adoption of the license is very valuable - as the article points out, this is the first empirical investigation of the license. The literature review is good. I detected no methodological errors in the article. The narrative that the UK-SCL aims to 'cut through the complexity' of the policy environment works well, and is certainly consistent with the interview data as presented. There are just a couple of typos that need fixing: a spelling error of 'disturb' on line 416, and an extra comma on line 746.

Response:

We would like to thank the reviewer for their positive comments and are glad they see its value. We have corrected the spelling errors.


Reviewer 3 Report

I found this article offered a clear and comprehensive discussion of the current UK scholarly communications environment, and will be useful to readers who want to understand the complex setting in which the UK-SCL has emerged. The article will be of interest to those UK HE staff who are contemplating implementing the UK-SCL but are holding back until such a time that they feel confident in its viability. If and/or when the UK-SCL is adopted by institutions, this piece of research will be a helpful starting point when reflecting on progress. 

Author Response

Reviewer:

I found this article offered a clear and comprehensive discussion of the current UK scholarly communications environment, and will be useful to readers who want to understand the complex setting in which the UK-SCL has emerged. The article will be of interest to those UK HE staff who are contemplating implementing the UK-SCL but are holding back until such a time that they feel confident in its viability. If and/or when the UK-SCL is adopted by institutions, this piece of research will be a helpful starting point when reflecting on progress. 

Response:

We would like to thank the reviewer for their positive comments and are glad they see its value for multiple audiences.


Reviewer 4 Report

Thank you for the opportunity to read your interesting article on the UK-SCL. The introduction and the literature review provide a very useful summary of key aspects of the current situation regarding scholarly communication, and the role of libraries in this context. 

One of my key concerns regarding the UK-SCL is the impact that it might have on access and ease of use. I am aware that all articles have a limited scope, but this issue does seem important - and is not addressed in this context. In short, students, for example, are increasingly favouring access to academic articles (increasingly open access articles) through Google Scholar - how does the UK-SCL respond to this? 

The research method appears to be carefully thought through, and certainly surfaces a number of interesting quotes and insights, as outlined in the Results section. I do, however, think that 14 key informants is a little limited - especially when it is not possible to identify insights and quotes from individual informants because generic codings are used for groups of informants. It is possible that the quotes are drawn from the comments of only five informants? My other methodological concerns relate to the interview schedule in the Appendix. Eight questions seems very few for long interviews - it would be useful to know whether there were any prompts, in addition to these questions. Secondly, it is difficult to match the questions to the structure of the results.  

This is a complex topic and hence I am particularly impressed by Figure 1 - but note, that again users/readers/researchers do not feature in this diagram. 

The conclusion could offer a more informative summary of the research together with suggestions for practice and further research. 

Author Response

We are grateful for the comments of the reviewer and have outlined our responses to them below, including specifying changes made.

 

Reviewer:

Thank you for the opportunity to read your interesting article on the UK-SCL. The introduction and the literature review provide a very useful summary of key aspects of the current situation regarding scholarly communication, and the role of libraries in this context. One of my key concerns regarding the UK-SCL is the impact that it might have on access and ease of use. I am aware that all articles have a limited scope, but this issue does seem important - and is not addressed in this context. In short, students, for example, are increasingly favouring access to academic articles (increasingly open access articles) through Google Scholar - how does the UK-SCL respond to this?  -

Response:

We believe that we have highlighted that the UK-SCL has been designed to have a positive impact on the access to scholarly articles, by giving institutions and authors have more control over the distribution of their works. Making works available in repositories without embargoes, for example, would make them more likely to found by users searching via Google Scholar and other search engines. We have included these sentences to clarify the purpose of the licence: “The licence is designed to allow authors and institutions more control over the research publications which they produce. The UK-SCL is an iteration of the Harvard licence adapted for UK law [17] which allows authors to grant the university a non-exclusive licence to make their AAM available without delay through the university’s open access repository under the terms of a Creative Commons licence, CC BY-NC) (see draft model policy in appendix B). Thus, it aims to support the institutional transition to OA by streamlining copyright processes [1]. The initiative is a bold approach designed to allow for a one-step process for OA mandate compliance, through the creation of a non-exclusive licence held by the university and which is binding on publishers [14]. It focuses on re-use rights retention, to allow items to be made available in repositories without delay, as a way of accelerating communication of research results and ensuring compliance with funder requirements [15].”  

 

Reviewer:

The research method appears to be carefully thought through, and certainly surfaces a number of interesting quotes and insights, as outlined in the Results section. I do, however, think that 14 key informants is a little limited - especially when it is not possible to identify insights and quotes from individual informants because generic codings are used for groups of informants. It is possible that the quotes are drawn from the comments of only five informants?

Response:

14 is a reasonable number in qualitative research in order to gather a range of views from a specific group and achieve a good level of ‘saturation’. However, we understand the reviewers concerns about not identifying individual participants with anonymised codes. Doing so was our original intention, but on consideration of the data we concluded that, in view of the sensitive nature of the topic and the niche nature of the initiative, there was too high a risk of identification of the participants through possible triangulation of quoatations. We decided therefore to identify them with a description rather than numbers. We appreciate that this is of a compromise to demonstrating that quotes were chosen in a distributed way, however felt that on balance, that ethically we had to protect the identity of our participants. We have however paid particular attention to choosing quotes in a distributed manner and have included a statement in the methods section highlighting the fair distribution of quotations: “During the process all codes assigned in NVivo were ‘data-driven’ (that is derived from concepts and terminology adopted by participants themselves) and analysed for ‘latent’ topics (those implicit in the data) in addition to ‘descriptive’ (explicit) codes [82]. Quotations were then chosen to highlight specific themes and common issues arising from the research. Particular attention has been given to ensure that all these quotations indicate the full coverage of viewpoints by including multiple quotations from each participant”.

 

Reviewer:

My other methodological concerns relate to the interview schedule in the Appendix. Eight questions seems very few for long interviews - it would be useful to know whether there were any prompts, in addition to these questions. Secondly, it is difficult to match the questions to the structure of the results. 

Response:

The data gathering took the form of semi-structured interviews. 6-8 main questions is usually enough for 45-60 minutes of material when interviewing professional participants. In line with good practice, probing questions were used depending initial participant responses to the main questions, in order to draw out details of their views or seek clarification on their first responses. This resulting dataset was then analysed thematically. In line with good practice in qualitative research (e.g. Braun & Clarke), reporting of the evidence was based on the themes that emerged from analysis, rather than structuring it on the interview questions.  

 

Reviewer:

This is a complex topic and hence I am particularly impressed by Figure 1 - but note, that again users/readers/researchers do not feature in this diagram.

Response:

Users are represented in the ‘faculty’ section of the diagram. This has been made clear in the relabelling of the area of Figure 1. Most of the individuals in these areas are ‘users’, both authors and readers of published outputs. This has been stated explicitly in the paragraph explaining the figure. The key point is that the diagram is intended to depict the particular perspective of institutions implementing the UK-SCL, rather than the entire scholarly communication ecosystem, which would be very complex. This has been made clearer in the description in the text. From an institutional point of view, researchers are both producers and consumers of research content and this interaction is shown in the diagram, and now labelled more explicitly. Other users, e.g. students, can also be located in the ‘faculties’ area of the diagram.

 

Reviewer:

The conclusion could offer a more informative summary of the research together with suggestions for practice and further research.

Response:

We have touched on suggestions for future research within the discussion (line 825), and we have now augmented this, adding: “Crucially, when the licence is launched or developments underpinned by similar principles are implemented, their impact will need to be carefully studied”.  


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