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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris29 January 2020

The Sorbonne Declaration on Data Rights

27 January 2020 saw a number of global university networks assemble in Paris under the chairmanship of LERU (League of European Research Universities). The international Research Data Rights Summit was dedicated to a discussion of Open Data and national/regional legislative frameworks to support research data management, research data being the building blocks on which publications (such as journal articles) can be based. The meeting was called under the aegis of the Sorbonne University, the University of Amsterdam and UCL (University College London).

The Sorbonne Declaration is signed

Following intensive discussion, 8 global university networks signed the Sorbonne Declaration on research data management and research data rights. These networks are: the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Coordination of French Research-Intensive Universities (CURIF), the German U15, the Group of Eight (Go8) Australia, the League of European Research Universities (LERU), RU11 Japan, the Russell Group (UK), and the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. This Data Summit was unprecedented in its scale, with networks representing more than 160 of the main research-intensive universities in the world actively involved.

Research data is the new currency in the age of Open Science/Scholarship. This is an essential issue for the quality and transparency of research. It is also a crucial economic issue: funded largely by public money, research data represents tens of billions of euros worldwide. The objective is therefore to make these data accessible in order to accelerate scientific discoveries and economic development. For example, in Europe, according to a recent report produced by the European Commission, sharing and better managing research data would save 10.2 billion euros per year in Europe, with an additional potential of 16 billion euros of added value by the innovation generated. With the current global concern over the coronavirus, the sharing of research data can only help lead us faster to finding effective treatments. The Sorbonne Declaration is therefore set against the background of the growing importance of research data as a key scholarly output which can benefit society and address the global challenges which face humankind.

Zamansky Tower, Sorbonne University

The Sorbonne Declaration acknowledges a number of principles which underpin research activity in the age of Open Science/Scholarship, such as: research data should be openly shared and re-used as much as possible and it is the academic community which can identify the complex conditions for such re-use.

The university networks commit to a number of actions, such as: research data should be FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable); and changing reward schema to acknowledge FAIRness and Openness.

The Declaration calls on the global research community to build the necessary environment to encourage data sharing and makes a number of requests of funding agencies, such as to consider the full costs of research data management as eligible costs for funding; and of national jurisdictions, to ensure proper legislative frameworks to support openness and sharing, avoiding ‘lock in’ to commercial services.

Open Science/Scholarship is a force for good in the world, leading to better research methodologies and the global sharing of research publications. With the possibility to share research data, Open Science/Scholarship offers the potential to provide new routes for discovery and the creation of knowledge and understanding. This is what the Sorbonne Declaration aims to do – to create a scholarly landscape from which the whole of society can benefit.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris13 June 2019

Visit of Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

On Thursday 13 June 2019, the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, visited UCL with members of his cabinet.

The purpose of the Commissioner’s presence was to re-visit those European universities to which he feels especial affinity. He leaves his position in the autumn of 2019 once the new European Commission takes office.

As Pro-Vice-Provost with a responsibility for co-ordinating Open Science across UCL, I was asked to address him in the Provost’s Office to outline the success that UCL has had in introducing Open Science practice across the institution. I also highlighted the challenges in Europe in moving to embrace Open Science principles. This is the text which I used in my talk, sitting next to the Commissioner as I spoke.


  1. UCL Press is the UK’s first fully OA University Press. We have published 106 monographs with over 2 million downloads – when conventional sales over the bookshop counter might result in 200 sales per title. Our most downloaded book is from Professor Danny Miller in Anthropology in UCL, How the World Changed Social Media, which has been downloaded over 300,000 times. This shows the transformative effect of OA monograph publishing.
  2. We have also launched a megajournal platform – with the first subject section being the Environment. This has Open Peer review and the submission is made available immediately as Green OA in a Pre-Print repository prior to peer review and final publication.
  3. We have just launched our Open UCL Research Data repository for academics to archive their research data for sharing and re-use.
  4. UCL Discovery is the institutional OA repository. We monitor OA compliance from the Faculties on a monthly basis and have compliance rates as high as 90%. UCL Discovery has just passed the 20 million download mark.
  5. From 2000-2016, Digital Science has shown that UCL is consistently the university in the Russell Group in the UK most engaged with OA.
  6. We have also launched a pilot Open Educational Resources repository to collect educational materials for sharing and re-use.
  7. We have a pan-UCL Open Science governance platform, which monitors the introduction of Open Science principles and practices across the institution; and we lead work in Open Science in LERU (League of European Research Universities).
  8. UCL is one of the first universities anywhere in Europe to include Open Access to publications, research data and software, as a core principle in our academic promotions framework. This policy was signed off and published in 2018.

Challenges and how UCL can help  

  1. Academic concerns with Plan S, not with Open Access, threaten to de-rail the advances made across Europe in Open Science practice. We would like to support Plan S by working with the Commission and others to make Alternative Publishing Platforms, on the model of UCL Press, a reality across Europe.
  2. Those who manage the European Open Science Cloud have not engaged with universities, indeed they ignore my calls for collaboration. UCL would like to work with the EOSC to determine rules of engagement for universities. We have considerable experience, running the DART-Europe portal for OA research theses, which aggregates metadata for 619 universities and provides access to over 800,000 full-text research theses in 28 countries.
  3. The Commission’s Open Science Policy Platform work on Next Generation Metrics is badly stalled and needs a kick for it to produce a set of Recommendations which can be embraced by the global academy. UCL could help as we are out to informal consultation on an institutional Bibliometrics policy, grounded in Open Science principles.
  4. UCL is attempting, with LERU and other partners, to build a pan-European community for Open Science; the Commission could help by providing opportunities for seed funding to encourage growth in community engagement. Open Science, after all, is about people not just principles and practice.

I gave the Commissioner a gift bag from UCL Press containing, amongst other things, a copy of Danny Miller’s How the World Changed Social Media, the most downloaded book from UCL Press. The Commissioner has asked me to follow up with him and his team on a number of the issues I raised. I will certainly be doing that.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Director’s View: LERU Doctoral Summer School

Paul Ayris20 July 2016

LERU Doctoral Summer School

On 15 July, I gave a keynote address to the LERU Doctoral Summer School in Leiden, The Netherlands; every year LERU organises a high profile Summer School for PhD students from LERU institutions.

Doctoral School 2016This year, the theme of the meeting was Data Curation – addressing how early career researchers should tackle the need to collect, store, describe, use/re-use and archive the research data they are collecting. My task was to set the concept of data curation in the more general context of Open Science – or Open Research, as it is better described, since it covers all academic disciplnes from Art to Zoology.

I explained to the students, amongst whom were 2 UCL PhD students, that the two main building blocks of Open Science were (1) Open Access to publications and (2) proper management of research data.

I started my talk with a review of Open Access developments in Europe. Here UCL is one of the leading universities and we are proud to LER Doctoral School2note that it is UCL Library Services which leads on Open Access for the University. I was able to point out that Europe has got itself into a bit of a lather about Open Access policies – there are 461 of them, more than in the rest of the world put together. I explained how the current model of publishing goes against the Open agenda – authors assign their copyright to publishers, universities offer (free) peer review and Editorial Board services. Universities pay academics to do research, which is then handed over to publishers for free and we have to buy it back through subscriptions and purchases – a publishing system which is not intuitive. The students got very engaged on this subject and we had a great session with frank exchanges of views.

After publications, I talked about the role of research data in the Open agenda, and demonstrated how the projected European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) could help create a level playing field for all European researchers to re-use resources and services which were meant for sharing. There are clear academic advantages in working like this, since sharing will speed the discovery of new cures/solutions to global societal challenges such as ill health, poverty, drought, global warming. There is also an economic advantage to sharing, since this enables new tools, services, and drugs to come to market sooner, creating new jobs and industries in the process.

The Summer School ended with an hour’s feedback session from the students, where they commented on what worked for them, and what did not. It is clear that they want to continue to be involved in Open Science discussions now they have returned to their Universities. A follow-up seminar is already being planned where the speakers and students from Leiden can look in more detail at some of the questions raised in the Summer School this year.

Open Science is a really important agenda for research, and it is equally important that research-led libraries such as UCL’s have a cogent offering to make.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services


The Director’s View: EU copyright reform

Paul Ayris20 October 2015

EU Copyright reform: Breakfast meeting in the European Parliament

On Monday 19 October, I was honoured to be the keynote speaker at a meeting organised by LERU, the League of RedaEuropean Research Universities, on the projected EU copyright reform. The Breakfast meeting was hosted by MEP Julia Reda (pictured),who was the rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Report on the projected reform of EU copyright legislation. 60 people attended the session (standing room only) on a Monday morning before 09.00 to hear a session on European copyright – clearly something is going on.

In my keynote presentation, I set the proposed European copyright reform against the backdrop of the emerging agenda of Open Science (=Open Research), with Open Access to publications, Open Data, new forms of research evaluation, and Citizen Science. I explained that the technique of Text and Data Mining (TDM) comprised a new set of tools for researchers, which changed the way they undertook research. TDM allows researchers to search huge amounts of digital material (publications, research data) and to find linkages, and therefore meaning, between them. This has the power to revolutionise research and to speed up discoveries to some of the great challenges which face Society. However, to enable these new technologies, there need to be changes in European copyright frameworks – namely an Exception to allow TDM in the forthcoming review of European copyright frameworks.

What European universities want is a mandatory, pan-European, Exception for TDM in at least the fields of education and research, which is mandatory, and which cannot be overridden by contracts. The right to read is the right to mine and, ideally, everyone should be able to undertake TDM activity on material to which they have lawful access.

The LERU Press Release, issued after the meeting is The Right to Read is the Right to Mine. My presentation to the MEPs and their Assistants is entitled What Universities want from EU copyright reform. 

The timetable for reform is now set for an announcement by the Commission in December 2015, followed by a series of legislative proposals in 2016. Exciting times for those of us who have lobbied for over 2 years for this copyright reform.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services and UCL Copyright Officer



The Director’s View: LERU and Open Access

Paul Ayris13 October 2015

European Open Access developments

On 12 October, I attended a Workshop in Brussels run by DG CONNECT and Lobbyingpresented on the UCL Press Open Access (OA) model. 120 people attended the session, which lasted from 09.00-18.00. Attenders were impressed by the range of material the Press is publishing: research monographs, textbooks and journals. Especially interesting were the usage figures I was able to present, which show that since the launch of the Press in May the 3 books in print have been downloaded 5172 times from UCL Discovery, with 2970 downloads of the Enhanced versions – all Open Access! During the course of the day, a number of universities approached me and asked how they too could start library-based University Press publishing using UCL Press as a model.

At the end of the day, I was a member of a Panel which looked at current developments in OA publishing. Here I presented a Statement from LERU, the League of European Research Universities on current issues in Open Access.

Yesterday, LERU issued a Statement indicating that it wished to work with Commissioner Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research Science and Innovation, and the incoming (January 2016) Dutch Presidency of the EU to make Open Access one of the principal issues of the Dutch Presidency.

The LERU Statement outlines a number of issues in Green and Gold Open Access, which LERU feels need to be tackled immediately. For the UK, ‘double dipping’ (the payment of subscriptions AND APCs [Article Processing Charges] for the same content) is a major issue – hence the title of the Statement Christmas is Over.

In this area, LERU wants to see offsetting deals between purchasing consortia, libraries and publishers to offset APC payments against subscriptions. In other words, LERU is advocating a model whereby subscriptions and APC payments are combined into one payment, as low as possible. This transition would represent an important step in the transition of the academy to full Open Access.

LERU is inviting all universities in Europe to sign the Statement. Over 100 people signed in the first 24 hours! LERU will then present the Statement and the List of Signatories to the Dutch Presidency of the EU and work with relevant Commission officials to convene a Summit in 2016 where the issues can be addressed and solutions identified by all stakeholders.


Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services