Revisiting the “Versions Toolkit” for open access concerns

The Versions Toolkit Cover“Versions Toolkit” PDF here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/versions/VERSIONS_Toolkit_v1_final.pdf

The 2008 Versions Toolkit from the LSE / JISC project is a handy piece of work that deserves re-promoting in light of the HEFCE REF Open Access policy (amongst others) which puts new emphasis on the “Accepted Version” of a paper. At 20 pages, the toolkit may seem weighty for its overriding message of “be organized and keep all your versions” but there are some excellent points inside that address concerns we have been hearing from researchers at our recent Open Access briefings:

 

The Problem of Losing Citations
Some staff have concerns about losing citations to their work if it exists in multiple versions in multiple places, for example an “accepted version” in institutional repositories (Cronfa, in our case) and the published version. The Versions Toolkit (p.9) points out that:
  • In their survey, over 70% academics stated that they would “cite the published version only, even though I have read the earlier version”.
  • An institutional repository will contain a link and full details of the published version, making it easy to cite the final version.
  • You can include a request “Please do not cite” in any earlier versions made available or indicate your preferred citation on the front page (p.11)
The Problem of Co-Authors
Some researchers have also mentioned the potential difficulties of having access to the “Accepted Version” if they are not the lead or corresponding author for an article. Others pointed out this will mean a need for improved communications and sharing, right from the start of co-authoring. The Versions Toolkit also puts this more strongly:
“When working with co-authors, protect your rights by requesting a copy of the final Accepted Version from the lead or corresponding author, so that you have access to your own work (p.10).”
The Problem of the Accepted Version Looking a Bit Scrappy
The Versions Toolkit (p.10) points out that if someone is looking to read your work, finding a free open version is their primary concern:
“For such readers it will be a huge benefit to be able to have access to the content of the paper at all, even if it is not the fully polished published version”
Notes could also be added to the beginning of the document to indicate any major variations or changes that occurred subsequently.

What about smaller publishers?
The Sherpa Romeo website is the “go-to” resource for information on what publishers allow you to do with your work. However, it does not include all publishers. The Toolkit notes:
“When negotiating with your publisher, if they do not have a policy on open access, point them to the ROMEO website. It will help you to explain what you are asking for and should encourage smaller publishers to develop a policy” (p.13)
What are the options when signing away your copyright?
Most publishers get authors to sign a Standard Copyright Transfer Agreement, thereby transferring copyright to the Publisher. The Toolkit points out there are ways of mitigating this, either by negotiating an author addendum reserving certain rights or an alternative “licence to publish” (p.12). There is guidance and sample wordings for these that authors can use.

Why bother with Open Access?
There are many, many arguments for Open Access but the Toolkit (p.10) puts it nicely in a nutshell:
“You have a community of readers made up of those researchers in your field who happen to have access to your book or a subscription to the journal. The decision for you at this stage is whether to make your work available to a wider readership”
As librarians, we frequently deal with requests from students and staff to access material for which the university does not hold a subscription. Increasingly, I advise them to check Google/Google Scholar for an archived version to see if there is a free version available. This is also supported by the recent report by Ithaka which studies how researchers research and the barriers to access that need to be minimized to “streamline access to scholarly resources”.

The Toolkit also has much useful advice on managing versions of documents and what to keep, working out what you can do with different versions, the pros and cons of methods of dissemination. Worth a read to familiarize yourself with the issues and opportunities!
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1 Comment

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One response to “Revisiting the “Versions Toolkit” for open access concerns

  1. Pingback: #swanoaweek Day 5: OA and the Law | swanoaweek

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