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Open Access Week: Finding and using Open Access resources

Kirsty23 October 2020

With all of the focus this week having been on the why and the how of making research Open Access, in our last post this Open Access Week we want to turn the tables and help you with finding open access content and deciding whether you can trust it. In other words:

What use is it for others to make things Open if you can’t get the benefits of using them?! What use is being able to find them if you don’t know whether they’re trustworthy?

The following tools and techniques will help you find verified Open Access content and check that it’s of good quality. Spoiler alert: scroll down to find the one simple tool that surpasses all others!

Finding Reliable Open Access Content

There are a number of helpful registries that collate and verify Open Access content:

  • Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists over 30,000 Academic peer-reviewed books from 404 publishers. All publishers in DOAB are screened for their peer review procedures and licensing policies.
  • The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a registry of over 12,000 journals that fulfil a stringent list of conditions for open access, transparency, preservation and reuse. Being listed in the Directory is a positive sign that the journal is of good quality, as they have made recognised commitments to longevity and maintenance of their content.
  • COnnecting REpositories (CORE) lists content from university, research institute and public institution repositories from all over the world. To find out more about how UCL supports Open Access and what goes into our repository, have a look at Tuesday’s blog post! Repositories can also get an additional level of accreditation with CoreTrustSeal.
  • The Registry of Research Data Repositories, better known as Re3data, is a great place to go to find out what data repositories are available. These repositories cover a wide range of subject areas and specialisms, and you should easily be able to identify a suitable repository to find what you need.

Open Access content is also listed on a number sites that pull from these sources. For example, books from our own UCL Press can be found on UCL Explore but also on databases like JStor.

But there is a simpler way!

Back in March we wrote a post about a tool called Open Access Button. It’s worth another mention in Open Access Week. It’s a browser extension that can look for openly available versions of exactly which articles and books you want, in all of the sources above! It will even send requests for an Open version of something if one isn’t available.

Assessing Open Access Publications

What if you haven’t been using the sources we’ve mentioned? We all know that there is a lot of bad information out there on the internet. Fake news has taught us to always check and verify information before using it, and academic information is no different. A common concern for researchers preparing to share their data or publications is whether the journals and platforms are trustworthy. We’ve discussed that in posts earlier in the week. It is the same when using content – the first question you need to ask is: can I trust this?

There are checklists available which can help you determine if a source of information is reliable. These work equally well on any sort of information, Open Access or otherwise. UCL Library Services recommends a couple of checklists and have a lot of guidance on finding and assessing information on LibGuides. One technique that is popular is called the CRAAP test:

  • C: Currency: When was the source published? Is it appropriate in the context to use older material, or is it important that it is current?
  • R: Relevance: Is the information relevant to your studies or research? And is it at the right academic level?
  • A: Authority: Who is the author and/or publisher? Are they a trustworthy source?
  • A: Accuracy: Where does the information come from? Is there evidence? Can it be verified?
  • P: Purpose: Why was the information produced? Is the purpose clear and are there any biases?

CRAAP test – Information on the CRAAP test from the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico, who developed the tool.

Assessing Open Access Data

The best way to analyse Open Access data, aside from the above technique which also applies, is to look at both the reference in any papers that cite it, and the associated documents provided. Look for a ReadMe file or examine the Data Management Plan if one is provided: you’re looking for a good description of how the data was generated and processed. These files should have all of the information you need to know if you wanted to reproduce the data yourself.

And finally…

With that, we’ve come full circle – from making your research Open, to finding and using others’ Open research. From UCL’s new Office for Open Science and Scholarship, officially launched in Open Access Week 2020, happy Open Access Weekend!

Open Access and your Research in a COVID-19 World

Kirsty6 May 2020

On 20 March, days after lockdown began, JISC and partners issued a statement calling for Publishers to help in the global effort to combat COVID-19 and support institutions and students to continue their education by making resources available where possible. Since that day, numerous publishers have made temporary changes to their policies, and have begun to make more content freely available online. The Library has been maintaining a list of these newly open resources on the website, along with other help and advice for finding and using resources remotely. There are also lists of resources available from the British Library as well as a brilliant collated list of data and computational resources from the National Institute of Health.

The Copyright Licensing Agency has also made some temporary adjustments to the licence that allows books to be scanned and shared. Please contact the Teaching & Learning Services team for more information.

In addition, there are now tools that allow you to search the web for trustworthy Open Access versions of content from inside your web browser. Just searching Google can bring up not only illegal copies of material, but also inadvertently support predatory and fake journals. The recommended tool is called Open Access Button. More information about Open Access Button is available here

Open Access choices

Just because publishers are making things open for the time being, doesn’t mean they will stay that way. Be careful about the choices you make for your research – in the long term, will the publisher of your chosen journal stop access to your paper? When you are choosing the journal to submit your research to, take a look at the guidance provided by the Open Access team, and also check Sherpa/Romeo to find out whether you are allowed to share your work on RPS, or even on a pre-print service to get it out there even faster!

Don’t forget that you can use the Research Publications Service (RPS) as well as the Research Data Repository (RDR) to take advantage of Open Access to share all of your research outputs to get them out to the rest of the research community.

Open Access Button

Kirsty26 March 2020

One of the most frustrating aspects of doing research is when you come up against an article you can’t get at without paying. Even with the wide range of databases and journals that the library subscribes to, coverage is not complete. JISC, SPARC, Open Society Foundations, the Centre for Open Science and many others have worked together to create a solution to this problem called the Open Access Button.

What does it do?

The Open Access Button tool tells you if there are free (and legally available) copies of articles available as you go along – without you having to search them out. The tool, once installed, searches an extensive collection of existing repositories and aggregators in the background of your browser and indicates when it finds an Open Access version of something using a discrete icon on your screen.

They also provide another option – a button that you can install on your browser to run a quick search for Open Access versions of something.

Why do I need it?

The Open Access Button team support the Open Access movement and believe that outputs of publicly funded and supported research should be openly and freely available for use by the public and by other researchers.

There has been a lot of work in the last few years to increase the amounts of Open Access content available online. The number of works which are available open access is growing every day, but many are still only available to those that can pay subscriptions.  Not only does this mean that only rich institutions can have access to the results of research, but also, public resources that could be used to develop research are spent just to read the work that has already been undertaken.

The role of the Open Access Button is to make it easier to access works already freely available by allowing a single point of search for the numerous repositories out there, assuring what you find is legal and from a reliable source. At the same time, it is identifying restricted works and working with researchers to release their full potential for the public good by allowing you to request copies of works that are not yet Open Access.

How does it work?

When you find an article, the Open Access Button tool uses the information on the page (the bibliographic metadata) to search its approved sources for an open Access copy of the work. Sources include most of the major global aggregated repositories. Such as:

  • OA DOI which provides the data behind Unpaywall, an app that leads straight to legitimate author uploaded versions of the publisher’s articles like the OA Button.
  • SHARE, a US service developed by the Association of Research Libraries in partnership with the Center for Open Science
  • CORE which offers “seamless access to millions of open access research papers, enrich the collected data for text-mining and provide unique services to the research community.”
  • OpenAIRE, a European resource that offers an OA search engine and a campaign platform driving Open Access development and policy.
  • Dissemin, a French resource with a slightly different approach: “ Dissemin searches for copies of your papers in a large collection of open repositories and tells you which ones cannot be accessed”
  • Europe PMC which specialises in life sciences research
  • BASE a Germany based aggregator.

In addition, if you ask the Open Access Button to search for an article that is not available openly, a request is sent to the author asking them to share. The service is able to support the authors in sharing the article quickly and legally.

Is it legal?

The Open Access Button will only show you legal, freely available copies.  Your assurance of this comes from the sources they use and the supporters of the initiative.  These include:

How can I get it?

Check your Browser

Open Access Button works with Chrome, FireFox and Safari.  It is less successful with Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge.

Ways to use the Open Access Button

  1. Use the Search Engine: On the homepage, enter any part of a bibliographic citation and the search engine will seek out an open access copy – if one exists.
  2. Use the Button: Add the Open Access Button extension for unpaywall to your browser.  Whenever you land on a journal abstract page for a work or find a reference in Google scholar the icon on the right-hand-side of your screen will tell you if the work is available and why.  If the work was self-archived on an institutional, funder or subject repository, then the icon will be green, if it is open access on the publisher pages, the icon will be Gold-coloured. If it doesn’t automatically identify the status, you can click the button to do a search manually.