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How does Citizen Science Change us? Write up from the UCL Open Science Conference 2022

Kirsty26 May 2022

Guest post by Israel Amoah-Norman (IGP Research Intern)

The UCL Open Science Conference took place last month. Thanks to Covid, most of the sessions were online. However, on 6th April, the UCL Office for Open Science and Scholarship invited the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) to host a hybrid discussion themed ‘How Does Citizen Science Change Us?’. The IGP bases its activities around citizen-led research. For example, it launched its first study in September 2021: where citizen scientists trained by the IGP in qualitative data collection explored the effects of regeneration on household prosperity. The session on 6th April invited members of the research team to discuss how the experience had impacted them. It also invited academic researchers outside of the IGP to present their research and discuss how citizen science (CS) had impacted them and the local communities where their studies had taken place.

A quick side note: open science is focused on inclusive approaches to producing and evaluating research i.e., it opens research beyond the realms of academia to the wider community.

Now, back to the event. The conference was split into three parts:

Dr Rita Campos began proceedings with a thought-provoking opening statement about the benefits of CS. She stated that CS provides an innovative and methodological framework for projects – a move from a top-down approach to a bottom-up approach, and helps to create opportunities for scientists and researchers to learn together.

Following her opening remarks, citizen scientists and academic researchers discussed their research projects. In total, we had the pleasure of listening to 7 presentations. It was clear that from a societal angle, CS allows the examination of issues that really matter in local communities. It also builds stronger connections between members of communities who might not have otherwise spoken to each other. In terms of the individual impacts of CS, one of the presenters who was researching air quality in a community in Liverpool realised that a data-only approach would not help mobilise communities to make a difference. A former citizen scientist trained by the IGP who is now a local council candidate expressed how CS had built her confidence in public speaking.The final part of the conference invited Pye Nyunt (left) (Former Head of Insight & Innovation at the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham) and Dominic Murphy (right) (Principal Participation Officer from the London Borough of Camden) to discuss how CS work had impacted them and policy processes in their boroughs.

Dominic discussed his involvement in the Good Life Euston program and explained how the initiative made him realise that there is a route in understanding the issues of planning and regeneration based upon the experiences of Camden citizens. He also made a comedic analogy to citizens being like the councils’ nervous system (I enjoyed that). CS work also gave him the desire to replace public consultants with citizen scientists to survey local people about their experiences in Camden.

Pye explained that CS had taught him the importance of qualitative research. Realising that in his council, a qualitative data team was non-existent, he hired service designers to fix this.  He also noted that CS initiatives such as the Community Food Club created in his borough not only help local people but indirectly relieves the financial burden on the council.

The final segment opened the floor to members of the audience – other citizen scientists and researchers asked important questions about CS. Methods for assuring that CS is inclusive, whether CS training should be standardised, and the benefits and potential drawbacks of CS were topics of discussion.

Apart from the technical difficulties of the hybrid event, it went incredibly well. I had never heard of citizen science until January of this year. I always thought of scientific research as an area which could not be accessed by local people. This event made me realise how important it is for citizens to be included in research.

Catch up on the session in full below, or on UCL MediaCentral.

Using games to engage with Open Access (and beyond!)

Kirsty18 May 2022

Guest post by Petra Zahnhausen-Stuber, Open Access Team, UCL Library (LCCOS)

In recent years, ‘Gamification’, the use of game elements in non-gaming settings to improve user experience, has been embraced by Research Support Services at Higher Education Institutes. Research Support Games cover various topics including research data management, copyright and/or open access and address an audience ranging from early career researchers and academics to support staff.

For the organisers of the Research Support Games Days (RSGD), games can be an effective tool to communicate with scholars about often complex concepts. In its third instalment since 2019, this event promotes the use of game-based learning among Research Support Services by presenting games, online tools and platforms that could be beneficial for training purposes. Here it was also highlighted, that most of these games were designed to be played in person. However, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was a catalyst for developing more virtual games as a way of continuing the engagement with researchers when face-to-face training was not possible. Despite any the challenges of creating digital games, their advantage of reaching a wider audience outside the physical environment of research institutions becomes apparent in the following examples of Open Access themed online games.

The Publishing Trap (UK Copyright Literacy), this game about scholarly communication focuses on helping researchers understand the effect of different publishing models, copyright and finances on the dissemination of their research. First launched as a board game in 2017, in response to the pandemic a digital version was created in 2020. In both versions participants form up to 4 teams representing four scholars in different career scenarios and make decisions about how to best publish their research. Retaining most of the original features, the online version uses interactive PowerPoint slides and can be played via any virtual classroom software with a break-out room functionality, so that the element of team discussions from the board game is being replicated.

A group of people doing a jigsaw puzzle on the floor

Open Access Escape Room in action at the 2022 EARMA conference

Similarly, in 2020, the role-playing Open Access Mystery game developed by Katrine Sundsbo uses downloadable slides. It was also designed for online platforms (i.e. Zoom) to allow for immediate verbal interaction between players who are tasked with finding the culprit responsible for a global lockdown of all research. The Open Access Escape Room, also by the same author, was originally created in 2018 as a physical game and digitally adapted in 2020 under the name The Puzzling Hunt for Open Access. Both versions follow the narrative of all research being locked away by a villain and are aimed at academic staff to gain an understanding of the concepts of Open Access. The players have to find clues and solve various Open Access themed puzzles in order to unlock research. Despite not replicating the original escape room format, where participants interact with each other in teams, the online game offers more flexibility as the mixed media-based puzzles can be completed by a single player at their own pace. Like most Research Support Games, all materials are published under a CC BY licence resulting in both versions having been played and adapted further in and outside the UK.

The single-player Open Axis: The Open Access Video Game (UCLA) was always designed for a remote learning environment intending to reach a worldwide audience of graduates and undergraduates. Created in 2020, this “choose your own adventure” can be played in a web browser, is predominantly text based but features classic 8-bit video games. The player chooses between several characters portraying scholars of various backgrounds. Following a non-linear narrative, the player’s decision impact the course of the in-game stories around themes of open access, scholarly publishing and research practices.

Choosing another approach of getting scholars interested in Open Access, the team at Robert Gordon University developed five online puzzles in 2021, including memory, crosswords and a scavenger hunt. Since puzzles can be played quicker than games, it makes them suitable for bite-sized learning during icebreakers or coffee breaks.
These games form by no means an exhaustive list and it is worth delving into the manifold resources of the Research Support Games Day Proceedings (below), where the benefits and challenges involved in taking games online are further explored.

For more information on Research Support Games Days and Gamification:

Adaptions of the “Open Access Escape Room”:

Call for Contributions: How does citizen science change us?

Kirsty25 February 2022

Exploring the impacts on ‘citizens’, ‘researchers’, ‘policymakers’, and social action at the UCL Open Science Conference

6 April – Cruciform Building LT2, UCL Campus and Online

Citizen Science is the involvement of non-professionals in the creation of knowledge. It can be a powerful tool for amplifying researchers’ capacity to collect large amounts of data by involving thousands of people in research activities, for engaging non-professionals in research on major societal issues such as climate change, and for empowering communities to generate knowledge about their environments.

Whilst Citizen Science is a promising step forward for open science, it is not fully understood how Citizen Science has an impact on the policies and practices which shape the world we live in.

This event will focus on exploring the question of ‘impact’ from different perspectives. Recent research about the impact of citizen science projects tends to focus on how public ‘participation’ in scientific research enhances knowledge outcomes for projects, or enhances the scientific literacy of participating citizen scientists. The benefits to participating individuals and communities are often assumed, and very little literature examines the personal dilemmas and challenges that individuals negotiate, or how citizen science projects change the behaviour of policymakers.

We aim to explore these gaps by inviting different perspectives on the question “How does citizen science change us?” Discussions will examine how participation in citizen science projects impacts on the different individuals involved – the citizen scientists, academic researchers, community members, policymakers – and ask how impacts on individuals can translate into wider political, societal and organisational transformations.

The event is divided into an exhibition, a presentation session and a discussion session. These bring together citizen scientists, academic and applied researchers, policymakers and voluntary sector organisations/networks interested in the impacts of citizen science. Each are represented as speakers, moderators and attendees. Please see below for session breakdowns.

We invite UCL Citizen Science projects to participate in the exhibition and the presentations, and to put out a call through networks and partners to invite contributions from other projects. We welcome project representatives from inside and outside academia to participate.

Exhibition

We invite submissions for an online exhibition of photographs and visualisations which illustrate the impact of Citizen Science. Each submission should be accompanied by a short (250 word) text explaining the project and its impact, and any relevant links to project websites or other resources.

Impacts can be related to impacts on the individual (including Citizen Scientists, policy-makers, researchers etc.), the institution, and wider society.

These will be compiled into an online exhibition and resource bank about Citizen Science projects and their impacts. The exhibition website will include a comments box, so that virtual attendees can respond to the exhibition and to projects with their own visualisations and accompanying text, thereby building on the resource bank.

Presentations

We invite presenters to speak about the impacts of a Citizen Science project on any or all of the following: the individual (including Citizen Scientists, policy-makers, researchers etc.), the institution, wider society. Presenters are asked to describe:

  1. What the project was
  2. What the impact was
  3. How the impact was achieved/happened

Each presentation will last for 7 minutes. The session will end with a 25-minute Q&A with attendees. Slides with photographs or simple images are welcome!

To apply

To contribute to the exhibition, please email your photograph/visual in jpeg format, and your accompanying text as a Word document.

To present, please email with your name, role in the project, a 250-word statement about your project and the impact you will discuss.

Please email hannah.sender@ucl.ac.uk with your submissions by 14 March.

Art History theses and copyright

Kirsty9 December 2021

Guest post by Thomas Stacey, Open Access Team, UCL Library (LCCOS)

At UCL, students studying for doctoral and research master’s degrees are required to submit an electronic copy of their thesis to the Library for inclusion in UCL Discovery, our open-access repository of UCL research outputs, in order for their degree to be awarded.  The Open Access Team encourages theses to be made openly available, either immediately after award or following the completion of an embargo period. We do, however, recognise that there are a number of reasons why access may need to be restricted, such as future publication, confidentiality, the inclusion of sensitive and/or personal information, and – in the discipline of Art History in particular – the presence of third-party copyrighted images.

I have been thinking about art history theses and whether they could be made open access more easily – and crucially with all the images included where needed.

The University of Cambridge’s ‘Unlocking Research’ blog post written in 2019 by Dr Lorraine de la Verpillière provides a comprehensive background on the issues facing academics within the arts: many are forced to pay to access third-party copyrighted works for private study, and then to pay again later on publish the final research output. Within this blog post, one academic commented “The more successful I become the poorer I get” as the furthering of their career through obtaining copyright for images has cost them over $20,000. Even out-of-copyright artworks are affected, as galleries and museums that own the originals can create their own copyrighted reproductions and restrict others’ ability to do the same.  Bridgeman Images, for example, now owns the rights to all images of artworks in Italian national museums – which can pose a huge financial challenge for many art historians.

A further obstacle for Art History students is that the principle of fair dealing within the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which can be used to justify the inclusion of extracts of texts and figures (as part of a wider, previously-published work) in theses, cannot be applied to the reproduction of full artworks, which constitute entire copyrighted works in themselves.

An art history thesis without images understandably compromises the integrity of the work. Unless PhD students use images with Creative Commons licences or which are in the public domain due to being out-of-copyright entirely, they will either have to obtain permissions or redact the images within their thesis accordingly. When processing thesis submissions for UCL PhD students, the Open Access Team will often be required to redact images as part of routine checks prior to any thesis file being made publicly available in UCL Discovery.

It seems there is not a straightforward solution to enable art history theses to be made open access with all images included in the work. Dr De la Verpillière suggests that there could be more support from universities for art history students and academics regarding third-party copyright. Art institutions really need to do more in this respect. Some art institutions have started to make their image collections open access (a selection is given below) so hopefully more will do likewise soon. Even if art institutions provided discounted permissions fees for PhD students needing to use images for example – that is a compromise of sorts to help new academics.

To avoid delays in making theses available in UCL Discovery post-award, or redactions being made to images of artwork that are critical to the overall integrity of the thesis, the Open Access Team also recommends that relevant licence and/or permissions information is included within the thesis file, as part of the Library’s guide to copyright for research students.

Here are some art institutions with open-access image collections:

Open Access Archaeology: From Paperback, to Open in Practice, to Public Benefit

Kirsty26 October 2021

For Open Access Week 2021, Archaeology South-East is pleased to announce the Open Access release of eight books from their Spoilheap Publication back catalogue!

Alt text: A pile of books fills the frame, showing partial front covers. They include titles such as “The Horse Butchery Site”, “How Houses Evolved”, and “Alien Cities”. Their front covers have a uniform style and depict different archaeological finds, sites and buildings.Introduction

Archaeology South-East (ASE) is a professional archaeological unit operating within the Centre of Applied Archaeology at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology. ASE is an accredited Registered Organisation of the Chartered Institute of Archaeology (CIfA) and our staff work across the historic environment and heritage sector providing a range of specialist research services to a diverse client base.

The bulk of our commercial work comprises planning-led, developer-funded projects, in which we are commissioned to carry out archaeological investigations ahead of building work on projects like housing developments and infrastructure. Current planning policy requires any development that could impact archaeological remains to either adapt its design to avoid potential archaeology, or fund ‘preservation by record’ – i.e. a full archaeological investigation (and therefore destruction) of any remains that will be impacted by development.

Archaeological investigations underway on the Isle of Grain-Shorne gas transmission pipeline, alongside preparation for the pipeline construction.

This process includes excavation of course, but also cleaning and conservation of finds, analysis of artefacts and environmental remains, archaeological illustration and photography, and interpretation of all this data. Our investigations form a research archive preserving all records and finds for future users, and can result in many different outputs including reports, blog posts, museum displays, and publications.

Open Access publication in archaeology is becoming more and more common. Unpublished archaeological site reports, data and some archaeology journals and monographs are available via the Archaeology Data Service, a digital repository for heritage data. Various publishers, including UCL Press, are making new archaeology books available in both digital Open Access and hard copy print options.

So how could we at ASE further increase our contribution to Open Access Archaeology?

From Paperback…

Since 2013, ASE has self-published major sites and research in a series of books under the SpoilHeap Publications imprint. These books were only available in hard copy paperback, but early this year a small team from ASE, with support from UCL colleagues, started working to make our back catalogue Open Access – and plan an Open Access future for our SpoilHeap books.

…to Open in Practice…

The practicalities of making our books Open Access was slightly more complex than sticking a pdf version on our website! Thankfully we could draw on the expertise of our UCL colleagues who have been embedded in the process for a lot longer than us.

Lara Speicher, Head of Publishing at UCL Press, gave us an idea of the work we needed to do before we could hit the ‘upload’ button. On her recommendations our team picked through each of our books, hyperlinking tables of contents, figures and tables with their corresponding location in-text. We had to get our heads around new ISBN numbers, Creative Commons licenses, and seek new permissions for images from the copyright holders.

We’ve also been working closely with Open Access Publications Manager Dominic Allington-Smith, who has been teaching us how to use UCL Discovery, UCL’s open access repository, where our books will be hosted. He’s also guided us through minting DOIs, and we’re really grateful for his help.

The result of this collaboration is that we now have EIGHT of our books published as open access and freely available in downloadable PDF format. They detail archaeological finds from a range of periods and sites including a Roman villa, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, a medieval hospital, and much more, from across the south-east of England. You can view the full list at the end of this post.

More books will be released in the open access format in the next couple of months, and we’re delighted to say that in the future our SpoilHeap books will be released as hardcopies and digital Open Access at the same time. We’ll be using UCL Discovery to host the Open Access versions, which will also allow us to upload supplementary outputs like extended, in-depth specialist reports, 3D models and much more. We’ll also be using the UCL Research Data Repository to make our data readily available too.

…to Public Benefit

As well as making it easier for our fellow archaeologists to view and engage with our research and data, part of our remit for going Open Access is public benefit.

One of the core purposes of archaeological work, and arguably one of the easiest ways in which archaeology can provide public benefit, is through knowledge gain (CIfA 2021). Sharing the archaeological results from a site and making that accessible to the communities where our projects are located can enhance local community strength and identity (ibid.).

ASE geoarchaeologist Dr Matt Pope giving a public talk on archaeological investigations (2018).

We hope that by making our high-quality research outputs more accessible, alongside our program of digital outreach making our research more appealing to wider audiences, will allow as many people as possible to benefit from our research.

View our full list of publications on our website, where you can find links to purchase hard copies as well as download Open Access versions where available. The titles currently available are:

Keep up to date with our Open Access journey, along with news of archaeological discoveries and more, by following Archaeology South-East on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. We also have a YouTube channel and a podcast series!

References

CIfA 2021 Professional Practice Paper: Delivering public benefit. https://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/Delivering_public_benefit.pdf

The benefits and barriers to code sharing as an Early Career Researcher

Kirsty14 September 2021

Guest post by Louise Mc Grath-Lone, Research Fellow (UCL Institute of Health Informatics), Rachel Pearson, Research Assistant (UCL Institute of Child Health) and Ania Zylbersztejn, Research Fellow (UCL Institute of Child Health)

In July 2021, we held a session on code sharing as part of the UCL Festival of Code and were thrilled to have almost 90 attendees from 9 out of UCL’s 11 faculties – highlighting that researchers from across a wide range of disciplines are interested in sharing their code.

The aims of the session were to highlight the benefits of code sharing, to explore some of the barriers to code sharing that Early Carly Researchers may experience, and to offer some practical advice about establishing, maintaining and contributing to a code repository.

In this blog, we summarise the benefits and barriers to code sharing we discussed in the session taking into account the views that participants shared.

What is code sharing and what are the benefits?

Code sharing covers a range of activities, including sharing code privately (e.g., with your colleagues as part of internal code review) or publicly (e.g., as part of a journal article submission).

For Early Career Researchers in academia, there are many benefits to sharing code including:

Reducing duplication of effort: For activities such as data cleaning and preparation, code sharing is an important method of reducing duplication of effort among the research community.

Capturing the work you put into data management: The processes of managing large datasets are time-consuming, but this effort is often not apparent in traditional research outputs (such as journal articles). Sharing code is one way of demonstrating the work that goes into data management activities.

Improving the transparency and reproducibility of your work: Code sharing allows others to understand, validate and extend what you did in your research.

Enabling the continuity of your work: Many researchers spend the early years of their career on fixed-term contracts. Code sharing is a way to enable the continuity of your work after you’ve moved on by allowing others to build on it. This increases the chances of it reaching the publication stage and your efforts and inputs being recognised in the form of a journal article.

Building your reputation and networks: Code sharing is a way to build your reputation and grow your networks which can lead to opportunities for collaboration.

Providing opportunities for teaching and learning: By sharing code and by looking at code that others have shared, Early Career Researchers have opportunities to both teach and learn.

Demonstrating a commitment to Open Science principles: Code sharing is increasingly valued by research funders (e.g. the Wellcome Trust) and is a tangible way to show your commitment to Open Science principles which are part of UCL’s Academic Framework and important for career progression.

Despite the clear benefits to code sharing, at the start of our session just 1 in 4 participants (26%) said that they often or always share code. However, by the end of the session, almost all participants (90%) said that they definitely or probably will share their code in the future.

What are the barriers to code sharing as an Early Career Researcher and how we can overcome them?

We asked participants what has put them off sharing their code in the past. The most common responses were:

The time and effort required: Ideally, you would write perfectly formatted and commented code on the first go – however, in reality, it often does not work out like this. As you update code and encounter bugs, code can often become messy and considerable time/effort needed to get it to point it can be understood by someone outside the research project. We discussed the importance shifting your perception of ‘shareable’ code. Sharing any code, even if messy, is far more helpful than sharing nothing at all.

Lack of confidence and concerns about criticism: Many researchers who write code as part of their work have very little (or no!) formal training. This means that sharing code can be daunting. For example, researchers may be worried about others finding errors in their code; however, sharing code can help to catch bugs in code early on and can bolster your confidence and reassure you that your code is correct. In the session, we also discussed how getting involved with online coding communities that emphasize inclusivity and support (e.g., R Ladies, Tidy Tuesday or one of the UCL Coding Clubs) can help grow confidence and provide a kinder environment in which to share code publicly.

Not knowing how to share or who to share with: A lack of formal training means that many researchers are unsure about where or how to share code, including not knowing which license to use to enable appropriate reuse of code. We discussed the need for more training opportunities, encouraged setting up your own code review groups (like a journal club, but for sharing and discussing code).

Worry that code will be reused without permission: Some participants were worried about plagiarism and their hard work being re-used without their knowledge or permission. However, hosting your code in a repository like GitHub allows you to choose suitable licence for re-use of your code to prevent undesired use while still supporting open science! You can also see how many people have accessed your code.

How can Early Career Researchers get started with code sharing?

Preparing code to share can take time and, as they work to secure their future within academia, many Early Career Researchers may already feel overloaded and pulled in different directions (e.g., teaching, institutional citizenship, engagement work, producing publications, attending conferences, research management, etc.). However, code sharing is hugely beneficial for a career in academia and so we would encourage all Early Career Researchers to try to find the time to share code by viewing it as an opportunity to invest in your future self. For example, you could:

  • Adopt a coding style guide to help produce clear and uniform code with good comments from the outset. This will reduce effort end when you come to share code (and help your future self when you look at your code many years later and have inevitably forgotten what it all does!
  • Join a UCL Coding Clubs or online community to learn tips from others about coding and sharing code.
  • Learn to use a code repository like GitHub. As part of our session, we delivered an introductory tutorial on how to use GitHub with links to other useful resources (available here).

How can UCL support Early Career Researchers to share code?

We ended the session by asking the participants how UCL could better support them to share their code. Some of the ideas suggested by Early Career Researchers were:

More training on writing and sharing code: For example, one suggestion was that UCL could create a Moodle training course for code sharing. Training about best practice in coding (across several languages) to help Early Career Researchers to write code right the first time would also be helpful.

Simple, accessible guidance about code sharing: This might include checklists or 1-to-1 advice sessions, in particular, to help Early Career Researchers to select the right licenses.

Embed code sharing as best practice at all levels: Encouraging and supporting senior researchers to share code so that it becomes embedded as good practice at all levels would provide a good example for and encourage more junior members of staff. It would also help to ensure that the time and training required to prepare code for sharing is built into grant applications.

Knowledge sharing opportunities: More events and opportunities to discuss how research groups share code to share best practice across faculties throughout UCL.

 

We would like to thank everyone who attended our session – “Code sharing for Early Career Researchers: the good the bad and the ugly!” – at the UCL Festival of Code for their time and contributions to the lively discussions. All the materials from the session are available here, including an introductory tutorial to getting started with code sharing using GitHub. We would also like to thank the organisers of the UCL Festival of Code for their help and support.

Data journals and data reports – don’t miss out on this useful publishing format!

Kirsty17 August 2021

Guest post by James Houghton – Research Data Support Officer

Why not publish a data report article?

For a researcher who produces large amounts of data or works heavily with software and code for analysis, getting proper credit for their efforts can be a problem. Traditionally, an academic article is written in a format where a hypothesis is tested, results produced and analysed, and ends with a conclusion. This format increasingly is a poor fit for the work of many and data journals are one solution to this issue. The goal of this kind of journal is to publish a type of article usually referred to as a data report which focusses on announcing and describing the output of research projects which are resources, raw data, databases or similar and can be of use to the research community in general.

Publishing with a data journal offers several benefits. First, a data report article is more formal than a publication of data files in a repository and is a peer reviewed publication which then contributes to a researcher’s publication record which is important for CVs and advancement for many. Second, they allow a more detailed explanation of a dataset and any analysis or code related to it than is usually otherwise possible. Third, the appearance of an article in a recognised journal can help to drive visibility of a dataset for other researchers. In practice it my often be the case that a repository will be used to host material which is discussed at length in a paper.

For the research community more generally, data reports are a great way to discover and understand valuable contributions which they can re-use and build on. The data report guarantees there has been some level of peer-review applied to the data and, therefore, increases the confidence in the quality.

Data journals have flourished in recent years. Many publishers have introduced titles which specialise in data announcements and many other journals have begun to allow data articles as one of their accepted formats. Publishers will have their own specific guidelines for exactly what to include (or not include), but data articles will often have the following features:

  • Detailed description of the methodology of how the data was produced and processed, allowing for far more detail than generally appears in a “traditional” publication.
  • Documentation on structure and format of the data and details of how to retrieve it.
  • Comments on how the data could potentially be re-used.
  • Very limited or no results and conclusions.

The scope of a data journal varies greatly

  • Some journals publish a wide range of data reports that cover many research areas, such as Scientific Data published by Springer Nature.
  • Others are more subject specific such as Big Earth Data published by Taylor and Francis focussing on ecology and climate science, or Journal of Open Psychology Data published by the Open Access Ubiquity Press and specialising in psychology and anthropology data.

Of course, you must always check individual journal’s instruction for authors before preparing an article for submission.

Repositories and data journals should be seen as symbiotic, rather than needing to choose one or the other. An openly shared data set can be made available, and a data journal can be used as a way of announcing the existence of the resource to the community along with a detailed commentary which might not be easily supported by the repository itself. In fact, depending on the journal, hosting the data with a recognised external repository may even be a requirement for the publication process.

We won’t attempt to provide a comprehensive list of all journals that support this publication type here. There are many discipline specific and several more generalist options – but we would encourage you to investigate the options available in your subject area and tell us what you find!

Copyright and Text & Data mining – what do I need to know?

Kirsty6 July 2021

Text and Data Mining (TDM) is a broad term used to cover any advanced techniques for computer-based analysis of large quantities of data of all kinds (numbers, text, images etc). It is a crucial tool in many areas of research, including notably Artificial Intelligence (AI). TDM can be used to reveal significant new facts, relationships and insights from the detailed analysis of vast amounts of data in ways which were not previously possible. An example would be mining medical research literature to investigate the underlying causes of health issues and the efficacy of treatments.

The importance of having copyright exceptions in place to facilitate TDM arises from the fact that the swathes of material which need to be mined are often protected by copyright. That would be true for example of “literary works” of all kinds and of images in many cases. It is frequently the case that researchers will have lawful access to the material but will be prevented from applying TDM techniques because copying the material onto the required computer platform risks legal action for infringement on the part of the copyright owners. “Copying” is of course one of the acts restricted by copyright law and in general the greater the amount and variety of material, the greater the copyright risk.

It is worth remembering that when the Government created an exception for Text and Data Mining in 2014, it meant that the UK was ahead of the game. Other countries did not generally have an exception in their legislation at that time. Since then, other jurisdictions have caught up and, in some cases overtaken the UK. Cutting edge research is a highly competitive area and researchers working in a country which benefits from a generous TDM exception will have a distinct advantage.

The existing exception is still significant from the Open Science perspective in enabling research projects where computer analysis of large quantities of copyright-protected material is required, particularly in the context of AI.

Let’s take a closer look at the UK TDM exception and what it allows us to do, before comparing it briefly with the more recent EU exceptions. The UK exception is to be found in Section 29A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

What does the exception allow us to do?

Copying copyright-protected works in order to carry out “text and data analysis” (“computational analysis” in the wording of the exception). The need to copy arises because researchers must have have the material to be analysed on a specific platform, to carry out the analysis. The need for the exception then arises because without it, the researcher would require permission from the owner of copyright in each item. Without permission (or an exception), the researchers would be infringing copyright by copying a vast swathe of protected material. That in turn would often make the research impractical to carry out.

Who may do this?

Absolutely anyone, the exception says “a person.” This is wonderfully broad and one of the more favourable aspects of the UK exception. For example you don’t need to be working for/ studying at a particular type of institution to benefit from the exception.

Are there conditions?

You must have lawful access to the material. A prime example would be the text of academic journals. We have lawful access to large numbers of e-journals because UCL Library subscribes to them. The exception would allow a UCL researcher to download large amounts of content from e-journals to carry out detailed analysis using specialised tools. It is important to note that the exception cannot be overridden by contract terms. It follows that a term in an e-journal contract seeking to prevent TDM would have no force, in circumstances where the exception applies. This makes the exception a much more useful tool than it would otherwise be.

As you might expect the copies made for TDM purposes may not be used for other purposes, shared etc under the exception.

Significantly, the analysis must be “…for the sole purpose of research for a non commercial purpose.” This is a major restriction, which would rule out many situations where TDM might be used, for example research by a pharmaceutical company developing new drugs which will be marketed commercially. A major issue with the exception is that it can be unclear at what point “non-commercial” shades into “commercial.” A project which starts out as academic research may take on commercial significance down the line and a piece of research with no commercial aspects may be funded by commercial sponsors. It is an important constraint in the legislation which can also be difficult to be sure about in real life situations. It can stand in the way of joint projects by HEIs and commercial organisations.

Still, in situations where we can claim there is no commercial aspect to the research, the exception is potentially very useful. In addition to material which is already digital it can cover projects where digitisation of copyright- protected print material is required to be analysed. It can be very useful in situations where the copyright status of the source material is unclear, since provided the exception applies, there is no need to investigate further the complexities of copyright in the material.

The new EU TDM exception or rather exceptions

The EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (DSM Directive) offers two new exceptions, which EM member states are obliged to transpose. They can be found in Articles 3 and 4 of the Directive.

There are important differences of approach to the UK in the answer to the question:  who may carry out the TDM? Article 3 provides an exception which benefits two defined categories of organisations: “Research organisations” and “Cultural heritage organisations.” Included within those groups are for example universities, museums, publicly funded libraries. Commercial organisations are excluded. It seems that independent researchers, not associated with an organisation would also be excluded, even though their research might be “non-commercial.” In common with the UK legislation, this exception cannot be overridden by contract terms and is therefore a powerful tool. The Directive addresses the question of public-private research collaborations in the recitals to the directive, e.g. recital 11. They are not excluded from benefitting from the Article 3 exception.

Article 4 offers a separate TDM exception which is available to anyone (including commercial organisations) but which is limited in a specific way: If the rights owners explicitly reserve the rights to carry out TDM within their works, then it cannot be mined under the exception. In other words, the EU DSM Directive goes one step further than the UK by offering an exception which can be used to mine lawfully accessible works by commercial organisations (or by anyone else), but it does not apply if the rights owner has explicitly ruled out TDM.  By contrast, commercial organisations would not be able to use the UK exception, unless they can claim the specific research is for a non-commercial purpose.

Guest post by Chris Holland, UCL Copyright Support Officer. For more information or advice contact: copyright@ucl.ac.uk

Brexit and beyond webinar in conjunction with Copyright4Knowledge

Kirsty4 May 2021

On the back of our successful #EbookSOS webinar we are doing it again – join us for another collaboration with Copyright4Knowledge, this time on the subject of the post-Brexit copyright world.

What will the copyright environment be like post-Brexit? How can we best advocate for more library- and research-friendly copyright legislation? The European Union and the European Court of Justice have long exercised a major influence on UK copyright law and the decisions of UK courts in copyright matters. What will happen post-Brexit, given that EU copyright law no longer applies directly in the UK?

Brexit poses many questions for the Library and Research communities and we will endeavour to explore some of them in our Brexit and beyond webinar on 17th May 2021, from 11.00 to 12.30. You are invited to join our three expert speakers to discuss the copyright environment for HE and Research post Brexit.  What are the challenges post-Brexit and does Brexit also present opportunities?

There will be an opportunity to put your questions to the panel in a final Q and A session.

The webinar is free to attend but if you would like to join us please register via Eventbrite

Draft programme

  • 00-11.10  Welcome and introduction
  • 10-11.30 European digital policy and why it still matters to the UK, Catherine Stihler (CEO Creative Commons)
  • 11.30-11.50 Will the UK fall behind the EU in important areas of digital research and online access to 20th century cultural heritage? Benjamin White (Researcher, Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management, Bournemouth University)
  • 11.50-12.10 Some suggestions for copyright advocacy in the post-Brexit world, Dr Emily Hudson (Reader in Law, King’s College London)
  • 12.10-12.30 Q&A

Embracing citizen science to answer: how can technologies help us age more easily?

Kirsty27 January 2021

Guest post by Alice Hardy, Institute of Healthcare Engineering


At the Institute of Healthcare Engineering, we wanted to create technological solutions that meet real people’s needs – but reaching our target users can sometimes be a bit tricky. We’re taking a ‘citizen science’ approach to engage with the users who need new health technology the most, and bring their ideas to life.

The ageing challenge

As a population we are living longer lives than ever before, with half the babies born in the UK today expected to reach their 100th birthday.

Longer life spans are cause for celebration, but growing older comes with downsides. Too often, people ageing are faced with problems like loneliness, loss of independence and avoidable years of disease.

Tackling these challenges is a strategic priority for the UK Government and funding bodies.

Across all faculties of UCL, researchers are developing technologies to help people live their extra years healthier and happier. However, to make these solutions as effective as possible, we need to engage with our end-users from the start. That’s where out citizen science approach comes in.

Crowdsourcing innovation

At the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, we act as cross-faculty hub for anyone in healthcare engineering or digital health at UCL. Our is to nurture the ideas and partnerships that result in life-changing health technology.

We understand the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration when developing new technologies, and a key part of that is garnering fresh perspectives from groups that can be difficult for us to reach. We want to deconstruct the idea of what is means to be an ‘expert’ and open this up to everyone – we’re all experts in growing older!

That’s why we launched the Age Innovation Hub; an online platform where we ask the public how technology could help them. Their feedback will then go onto shape real-world projects at UCL, with citizen science integrated at every step of the way.

Using this crowdsourcing tool was a way for us to directly reach out to the public and involve them in the research going on at UCL. Not only is their insight important to improve the research, but a more open relationship with the public also helps to combat perceptions that universities can be slow-moving and out of touch with the public’s needs. This crowdsourcing tool also has great potential for use in other campaigns and across UCL.

How it works

To shape the discussion, we created ‘challenge areas’ based on the biggest challenges facing older people:

  • Supporting people with health concerns
  • Creating healthy environments
  • Building social communities
  • Staying independent at home for longer
  • Staying active

In these discussion areas, users are encouraged to post their ideas, share their feedback, and vote for ideas they support. Our team of moderators keep the conversation flowing with encouraging words and probing questions; we want to cultivate an inclusive, welcoming community where anyone in the UK can share their thoughts on healthy ageing, and feels heard.

Opportunities for UCL researchers

In addition to allowing the public to share their thoughts, the Age Innovation Hub is an opportunity for UCL researchers to gain valuable feedback on their current research challenges. The Hub is open for you to get involved, so visit it now and join the conversation.

There are a number of ways for researchers to participate:

  • Submit challenges or questions from your own research areas that you’d like feedback on directly into one of the challenges
  • Write a blog to tell visitors more about existing research going on at UCL in healthy ageing or your experiences with citizen science
  • Engage in discussion on some of the ideas already posted, add your own comments and thoughts
  • Join a panel of experts that will help evaluate the needs and ideas submitted from the public (March/April 2021)

You can join the discussion now at ageinnovationhub.crowdicity.com

To find out more, you can contact the Institute of Healthcare Engineering team via ageinnovation@ucl.ac.uk