Transcript: Open Access Is “Changing Behavior”

Listen to Podcast Download Transcript PDF

Interview with Robert Kiley, The Wellcome Trust

For podcast release Monday, September 23, 2013 (Recorded May 15, 2013)

KENNEALLY: I want to bring on to the line Robert Kiley, who is the head of digital services for the Wellcome Library at the Wellcome Trust. He’s talking to us today from his office in the UK. Robert, welcome to the program.

KILEY: Thanks very much, Chris. It’s great to be invited to join your panel this afternoon. I’m looking forward to interesting discussion.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed, and we’re very happy to have you address our audience, as we say, of several hundred from around the world. We have some contact information there for Robert. He is a tweeter as well, @RobertKiley. The Wellcome Trust has their own account, and you can reach him there at that address, rkiley@wellcome.ec.uk. Robert, you want to tell us, I’m sure, about the Wellcome Trust policy that I kind of previewed earlier. Essentially, it’s there in bullet form. Tell us more.

KILEY: OK. Well, really, for quite some time now, since back in 2005 – so we’re old hands at this – the Wellcome Trust developed a policy which was beautifully simple, and I think is still simple, inasmuch as if a researcher comes to the Wellcome Trust looking for funding and they’re successful, we make a simple requirement that any research which arises from our research funding has to be made open access, ideally as soon as possible, and in any event, within six months of publication.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. You mentioned just how far back this goes. You specified 2005, a date that Copyright Clearance Center has been involved in these kinds of activities, as well. What you’ve been seeing over time is a growing compliance with all this, and of course, that’s something that you’ve been urging on people voluntarily and now are requiring it. So this chart here shows the growth of these kinds of papers and that growth of compliance since 2007.

KILEY: Yeah, that’s correct. If you really focus on the orange line, the top line, that just shows – month on month, we do a snapshot of research which is attributed to the Trust in a given month, say June 2012 or whatever, and how many articles, so typically about 500 articles each month, and then how many of those articles are freely available from PubMed Central and Europe PubMed Central.

Though that trend is going in the right direction, and it looks reasonably healthy, I remember showing it about a year ago to our director here, Sir Mark Walport. And he said, well, it looks OK, but why isn’t it 100%? Really, the work we’ve been doing over the last six to nine months is an attempt to get that compliance up to near 100%, rather than the 60%, 70% where it currently languishes.

KENNEALLY: Right. There has been a great deal of improvement, but still, there is more room for improvement there. To that point, the Wellcome Trust has been strengthening its policy, to put it mildly, but in fact, you are now in a position to want to sanction those who do not comply.

KILEY: (inaudible). It’s always been a mandate, but we haven’t really been particularly clear on the consequences of not complying. So what we’ve done now is just spell out these three hopefully reasonably clear sanctions of what happens if you don’t comply. Initially, the first sanction really affects institutions, inasmuch as when the researcher submits their end of grant report, typically, that used to in itself just trigger the final payment of the grant.

What we now do is the researcher says, thanks for the money, this is what I’ve done, and these are the outputs. If any of those outputs, the research articles, are not in our repository, then we withhold the final payment, the final 10% of the grant, until those papers have been put into our repository. That, I think, will affect the institution more than the researcher, because the researcher has typically finished their research.

The other two are really designed specifically at the researcher. The second one is when a researcher comes back to us to say, I’ve done some great work, but I want to do even more great work. As part of that review process, we will look to say whether the articles which they’ve already published under that grant are open access. If they’re not, say that they would need to be made open access before that grant is activated.

Just generally speaking, there is a process whereby if an applicant submitted a proposal, and they’re previously Wellcome Trust-funded, if their papers, again, weren’t open access, then we wouldn’t specifically include those papers when we sent the application out to peer review.

Really, what we’re trying to do here is really change behavior to say that open access isn’t an option, isn’t something you can tack onto the end. It’s a key part of accepting Wellcome Trust funding. We genuinely believe that it’s not only good for the researcher, inasmuch as they can find other pieces of research and so forth, we think it’s good for science and society. We passionately believe in open access, and if we need to use a few sticks here to encourage our researchers to comply, then that’s what we’re doing.

KENNEALLY: Fair enough. The kind of compliance that you’re speaking about involves a very certain kind of Creative Commons license, the CC BY license. Perhaps for those in the audience who aren’t familiar with that, you can tell us exactly what that’s about.

KILEY: The Creative Commons attribution license is one of the liberal licenses you can attach to a piece of research or attach to anything. What this enables anyone to do is basically you reuse that work in any way they deem appropriate, subject to proper attribution.

What we’re simply saying is that when we pay an article processing fee, and whether that’s to a publisher like PLOS, where everything’s open access, or to a hybrid publisher like Wiley or Elsevier, that when we make that payment, we really expect that to cover all costs, including any downstream revenue a publisher may like to earn from that. Really, the key thing is that that paper can then be used by anyone and everyone.

Some very obvious examples may be that someone wants to take an article and translate it. That should be possible. Under CC BY, that is permissible. Perhaps someone wants to take an article and repost it on another website. Let’s assume we had funded some research into, I don’t know, say vaccination. Vaccination is a big topic in the UK again at the moment.

It might be more appropriate, or it might be as appropriate, for that article not only to be in PubMed Central and so forth where the research community goes, but perhaps on a service like Mumsnet, where mums who just had babies will learn about the importance of vaccination. Again, if an article isn’t licensed with CC BY, if it has a license such as like a non-commercial clause to it, it makes that reposting of content very difficult.

Basically, we believe that the real benefits of open access will only really be enjoyed when the whole community can access this content without any fear of restriction, without any fear of a takedown notice from a publisher or threats or anything like that. Just say, you use it. Really, for the researcher, the main currency – certainly in the life sciences, the main currency they’re interested in is attribution. The CC BY license guarantees attribution.

KENNEALLY: Robert, for a clarification point, the relationship here of funder, author, and publisher is obviously very important. Who has the responsibility for posting the CC BY license, then?

KILEY: To be clear again, this requirement only applies if an article processing fee has been charged. In that case, because the researcher has an agreement with publisher X to deposit that article in PubMed Central – that’s part of the agreement when an APC is levered – we expect the publisher to attach that CC BY license directly to that article.

I should say that we have been working with the publishing community for well over six months on this requirement, and it’s fair to say that certainly all the large publishers, and most of the major ones Wellcome Trust and the Research Councils-funded authors use, now have policy which allows their papers to be published under a CC BY license.

KENNEALLY: Indeed. Again, all of these are requirements that the Wellcome Trust has made a part of its policies for a number of years, but is really mandating compliance as of today and since last month.

KILEY: Just to be clear, the CC BY requirement, that is new from April. Before that, we were less specific. We wanted licenses which allowed reuse, but we didn’t specify what license it should be. We now explicitly say it must be CC BY.

KENNEALLY: Thank you for that clarification. We are speaking with Robert Kiley, the head of digital services at the Wellcome Library at the Wellcome Trust. My name is Chris Kenneally for Copyright Clearance Center. At this point, we want to turn to you, the members of our audience today, the audience joining us from the UK, from the US, and around the world. We’ve got some questions for you that we’d like to get your responses to. You’ll be able to see the poll question appear on your screen, and you’ll get to vote in these questions.

Let’s start with our first question, which is are funders right to insist – it’s an appropriate one for our last slide – are funders right to insist on a CC BY license when they are subsidizing APC funds? The three options there are yes, no, and not sure. We would ask you to vote as quickly as you can. We’ll try to keep this moving along here. We want to get a sense of the temperature of the room.

I believe, Robert, you can see the results coming in there. The question again is are funders such as the Wellcome Trust, Robert Kiley’s organization, right to insist on a CC BY license? We’ve got about 15 seconds left for you to share your views with us, and we’ll display the poll result in just a moment. And here we go. Get your votes in now.

Can we display those poll results for our audience? Can they see that on the screen? I believe they can. The poll shows a pretty evenly divided group from those who have responded to us there. Is that a sense you have, Robert? I wouldn’t want to call it indifference, but a sort of equanimous view of this whole thing? People are not up in arms and neither are they wildly excited about this.

KILEY: Unfortunately, I can’t actually see the results. So just give me what the split might be like.

KENNEALLY: I’m sorry. What we have here is a fairly evenly divided, actually almost exactly divided room of those who are answering yes, no, and not sure to that question about the right to insist on a CC BY license.

KILEY: Yes, well, I mean, I suppose that’s not that surprising. I think our view is that we believe that there is real public good to be gained by making sure this content can be used, and therefore we feel that ultimately trumps anything else. But it’s interesting to see the other views, yes.

KENNEALLY: Indeed. Well, let’s ask one more question about the CC BY license. This is regarding a choice between authors and funders. If a funder requires CC BY, but an author wants to use another Creative Commons license. There are a variety of them, and Robert alluded briefly to one or two, I believe – the CC BY NC, non-commercial, and so forth – whose rights should prevail?

It’s a question about whose rights should prevail. Should it be the funder or the author? Let us know what you think. You have a few moments to get your input for this poll. And indeed, the question again – if a funder requires CC BY but an author wants to use another type of Creative Commons license, whose rights should prevail, the funder or the author? Just a few seconds left for you to give us your input on that, please.

We do have the final results here. And again, we may be having an issue with displaying those results for people, but I can tell you that it’s about two to one. Robert Kiley and everybody attending. It’s about two to one voting in favor of the author, whose rights should prevail. What do you think about that result, Robert? Any comment on that?

KILEY: (laughter) Well, I suppose I don’t know who’s in the audience.

KENNEALLY: That’s right. There may well be a lot of authors who voted here.

KILEY: Yeah. What I would say is, I suppose, two things. One, there are already, certainly in the fields we work in, in the STEM subjects, there are a massive number of articles already published under CC BY, which seems to suggest to me that many authors are reasonably comfortable with that.

Secondly, in terms of whether the funder should trump an author, it really comes down to what we think the public good are. If we’re providing funding to you as an author, fine, obviously you have certain rights and so forth. But ultimately, I think we believe that the public good argument would trump an individual’s requirement. I’d be interested to know why an author wouldn’t want their work to be made under this license, really.

KENNEALLY: Well, a question for another time, then, perhaps. But let’s move on, because one of the points that I know you want to stress is just the way that there’s been a great deal of momentum behind this, particularly recently. You referred to a kind of academic spring that has come to the scholarly publishing world.

KILEY: Yes. As I say, we’ve been doing open access for about seven or eight years or so. But it’s really in the last sort of 12, 15 months that I believe open access has become really mainstream. Particularly in the UK, we now have government policy requiring open access, which I think is a huge development.

In fact, only yesterday – it’s quite astonishing, really – David Willetts, who’s the Minister for Universities and Science in the UK, he was speaking in the committee in the Houses of Parliament, where we have a minister of the state arguing passionately for gold versus green and understanding concepts like the CC BY license and so forth.

It’s almost astonishing that someone in government really understands the nuances of this debate on one level, but secondly, it’s really pleasing to hear that the government really recognize the value of trying to get the research, which they fund through our taxpayers, through our taxes, to make that open access. I think we’ve seen a real sea change in the last 12, 15 months.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. What’s astonishing to me from the perspective of the United States here is just how central this is to the public debate in the UK. There you’ve got The Guardian, front page along with Yoko Ono is a headline about open access. Really in the UK, this is very much front page news.

KILEY: Absolutely, yeah.

KENNEALLY: Indeed. Now, one thing we do want to show people is a trend toward all – just to sort of substantiate the point that you’re making that we are seeing a sea change in scholarly publishing. PLOS ONE, which is the Public Library of Science, that’s now the biggest journal on the planet, and it is a pure play open access publication.

KILEY: Yes, and the growth figure from PLOS ONE is nothing short of staggering, as you can see on the slide. Almost 25,000 articles published in 2012, and I believe the projection for 2013 is even for a greater number. On the assumption that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery for open access – virtually every publisher on the planet is rushing to try and develop an equivalent journal to PLOS ONE.

All of the major publishers now have got some sort of open access journal trying to publish high volumes, not trying to assess whether it’s a sexy article, whether it’s a (inaudible) article, whether or not just simply the research, the conclusions it’s reached are based upon the evidence presented.

KENNEALLY: And I think the point you’ve made, and you referred to the hybrid OA publications – I guess what we ought to point out to everybody in the audience is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to OA.

KILEY: Absolutely, yes. There’s a whole raft of different models out there for pure open access journals. This slide really here just shows from a really low base in the year 2000, where it was estimated about 800 articles were published under a gold model, through to the end of 2011, where in 2011 itself, 136,000 articles were published under a gold open access, author pays model.

I think the point here really is that not only are there more opportunities for researchers to publish open access, but more importantly, researchers are actually taking those opportunities. Now they’re publishing, I think, in pure open access journals or in hybrid journals.

KENNEALLY: And throughout all this, progress has been made in open access. We’re seeing challenges in compliance. You pointed out those. The need, as at least identified in the recent Research Information Network report, for the role of intermediaries to ease the friction in all of this. Tell us about that.

KILEY: Yeah, well, I think we’ve known for a long time that, and there was a big EU-funded study called the SOAP study which really looks at a researcher’s attitudes to open access. The headlines from that study was generally speaking, researchers are in favor of open access, but they have two problems. One is they might not have funding. But even if they do have funding, as you said, there’s some friction in the bureaucracy of how you actually pay that article processing charge.

I think, for me, this is clear evidence of how mature the market is now becoming, because you have players like CCC, but also you have competitors like Open Access Key, you have EBSCO, other players coming into the market who are trying to plug this gap to make the actual payment of an article processing charge as painless and as transparent as possible.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, we’ll hear more about that in just a moment, but to conclude your portion of this presentation, Robert Kiley – and we’ll have opportunities for questions from the audience. We ask you to use the chat box in the lower right corner of your screen to let us know what’s on your mind and what kind of questions you have for Robert Kiley. But Robert, sort of wrap things up for us. What’s the direction you expect things to go in the next 12 months or so?

KILEY: Well, I’ll just start off by – I haven’t said too much about the actual cost of open access publishing. Just suffice to say that the Wellcome Trust really since 2005 has always believed and continues to believe that dissemination costs are research costs. Just as we provide funding for centrifuges, for mice, or whatever it is, we believe that you need to provide funding for the dissemination of that.

The analysis we’ve done shows that even in fairly worst-case scenarios, if everything Wellcome Trust-funded was made open access, and we use average APC charges we currently see, it would represent around 1.5% of our research spend. Though that is a real amount of money, and it means we can’t spend 1.5% of research on finding the cure for malaria or whatever, we believe that ensuring that everything is open access is a cost worth paying.

I think we’re clearly seeing that the momentum for open access, I would argue, is unstoppable. I think the UK is leading this, but it’s pleasing to see the developments in the US. I see the National Academies were doing something yesterday. In Europe, we’re seeing similar moves. So I think the move to open access is pretty unstoppable.

In the UK, there is a lot of debate at the moment about whether or not we’re going to end up paying twice as we pay for open access publishing. (break in tape) All I would say is the way that we see it – yes, that though UK may be a first mover in this, gold is not just a UK phenomenon.

If you look at, for example, the research which is published in journals like PLOS, you will see that funders in the US, funders in Germany, and funders in China pay more than funders in the UK. So I think it’s a worldwide phenomenon. I think one of the things we’re really keen to ensure is that article processing charge models remain fair and transparent. One thing I would hate to see is a lurch from big deal subscriptions to big deal APCs, where no one really know what it costs and we start bringing inefficiencies into the system.

In summary, I think open access is unstoppable. I believe we’re going to see much more of a move to the author pays model, and I think as part of that, we need to ensure that article processing charges are easy to administer, but the cost remains fair and very transparent.

KENNEALLY: Thank you for really a comprehensive look at this movement towards open access as seen from the funder’s perspective. We’ve been hearing just now from Robert Kiley, who is the head of digital services for Wellcome Library at the Wellcome Trust.