Crossref initiatives will support reporting to funders

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Now that most major research funders require researchers to make their outputs available in open access (OA), new developments in the field are coming faster than ever.

And the implementation of HEFCE’s new OA policy has given further momentum to the OA movement in the UK, because it requires that final, peer-reviewed journal articles must be deposited in an institutional or subject repository and made available to read and download free of charge if they are to be eligible for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Stakeholders are committed to making OA work and the latest moves from publisher-led initiative Crossref have real potential to help institutions with one of their most pressing OA challenges – effective monitoring and reporting to funders about the publication of research.

Crossref’s system is well established and has been adopted by many publishers globally to make research outputs easier to identify and track. It assigns Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to scholarly content so that it is easier to find and provides persistent links that avoid “link rot”.

It can be used to do much more. Crossref’s system is increasingly enabling researchers and institutions to gather additional information about the content, such as licensing. As funder mandates about the publication of research become more detailed, Crossref has become a clear contender to help institutions ensure that they comply and that they can demonstrate the fact.

These are not simple tasks, because funder specifications – about licences, embargo periods, and notifications of acceptance for publication – differ significantly. Geographical and national legislation differences add a further layer of complexity and academic disciplines and institutions themselves also have their own requirements. And while these complications affect everyone involved in the process, funders have a particular need to track outputs from hundreds or even thousands of publishers. Publishers themselves need a standardised, reliable way to help institutions with their compliance processes.

It’s in this context that Crossref has announced plans to extend its metadata schemas and application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable funders, universities and publishers to use Crossref to track research more effectively. It has proposed new guidance for publishers, including:

  • Best practice for publishers using Crossref to support research funder key performance indicators (KPIs);

  • Rules on using Crossref DOIs for preprints – for example by institutional repositories; and

  • A recommendation that publishers should assign DOIs to journal articles at the earliest possible opportunity, supported by clear information describing how they can register a DOI even before the content is available online.

This last recommendation is very significant, and it’s one that we’re urging publishers to adopt as soon as possible. When Crossref consulted on it at the start of the year the feedback was very positive because it will – if publishers implement it in sufficient numbers – support development of simplified workflows and enhance institutional efforts with regard both to HEFCE’s REF OA policy and also to the Publications Router. This is Jisc’s own initiative to help institutions to capture their researchers’ journal articles within their own systems.

The revised guidance reflects the views of a large number of UK sector bodies and some from further afield. We’ve been talking to Crossref about the changes for many months and also with the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA), Research Libraries UK (RLUK), the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) and the United Kingdom Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR) to ensure that their feedback could be taken into account. We’ve also talked to the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), OpenAIRE, SPARC Europe, the National Library of Finland, the German Research Foundation (DRG) and the University of Regensburg to get an international perspective and make sure that the interests of all stakeholders are represented. Overall, the stakeholders that we contacted expressed their support for Crossref to implement the proposed new workflow.

So we are asking academic publishers to take a look at the Crossref website and the revised guidance information and to consider implementing the proposed guidelines as a priority for their customers. We’re particularly keen that publishers should include the institutional affiliation of the authors of an article in the metadata that they make available when they register an early DOI so that HEIs can identify the articles written by their researchers; this is becoming essential for them.

Many publishers already have workflows that populate resources such as PubMed with author affiliation details at, or soon after, acceptance. Extending this to Crossref would create a powerful tool that institutions and other interested stakeholders could use to track outputs right across the academic spectrum. This is something that institutions really want and we believe it should prove to be a scalable and efficient system for publishers to implement.