Open access compliance: supporting Springer Nature authors

Meeting the open access (OA) requirements of research funders and institutions can prove a real challenge for authors. As the increase in records in the registry of OA repository mandates and policies (ROARMAP) demonstrates, the number of organisations with OA requirements is increasing every year, meaning more and more researchers are subject to such policies. OA policies can also vary widely in their requirements, leaving authors unsure or unaware of the steps required to achieve compliance. In a 2016 survey of Springer Nature authors who had published via the gold open access route, we found that 40% of authors were unable to identify any of their main research funder’s open access policy requirements, and only 15% correctly identified all requirements.

At Springer Nature, we’ve been exploring ways to help our authors comply with the OA requirements of their research funders and institutions, through raising awareness, adapting our policies, and carrying out checks to identify potential compliance issues.

Awareness of OA requirements of main research funder among Springer Nature OA authors

OA comp
Source: Survey of Springer Nature authors who had published open access, conducted in 2016 (n =1,111). Respondents were asked to select their main research funder’s OA requirements from a range of options, and responses were then matched to actual funder requirements to determine accuracy of authors’ understanding. Incorrect identification includes all authors who incorrectly identified their funder’s green and gold OA requirements, or incorrectly identified one of these, and selected ‘I don’t know’ for the other. Partial identification includes all authors who correctly or partially identified their funder’s green and/or gold OA requirements.

Raising awareness and reducing opportunities for non-compliance

Given the lack of awareness among many authors, we realised that providing information about funder and institutional OA requirements is a key step in improving compliance. For those authors looking for information and advice, we offer a free open access funding and policy support service, providing online guidance and support by email to authors across our Nature Research, Palgrave Macmillan, BioMed Central and Springer portfolios.

We’ve also been putting measures in place to minimise opportunities for non-compliance and to raise awareness, particularly in the area of open access licensing. A growing number of funders require authors to use the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence when publishing via the gold OA route, or where they’ve funded an APC. Like these funders, Springer Nature supports the CC BY licence as a means of enabling maximum rights for sharing and re-use of research publications, and this is reflected in our policies. BioMed Central and Springer Open journals already use CC BY as their sole licence, and we’re now moving many of our other open access titles to this policy to maximise CC BY uptake and ensure compliance with funder licensing requirements. Our two largest OA journals, Nature Communications and Scientific Reports moved to using CC BY-only as of January 2017, and other titles will be following suit shortly. Where journals continue to offer a range of licence options we’re alerting authors to the need to consider funder licensing requirements, with links to licence guidance being added to licensing forms and to journal submission systems and websites.

Springer Nature also deposits all articles published via the gold OA route into the PubMed Central (PMC) repository, provided that the journal is in subject scope and has been accepted for indexing in PMC. By doing so we’re helping our authors to meet the deposition requirements of many funders worldwide. We also participate in the Jisc Publications Router, sending UK-authored OA articles and metadata to be deposited in the repositories of participating institutions, to help support compliance with HEFCE’s OA requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). At the moment we’re sending UK authored content from our BioMed Central and Springer Open journals, and in future this will be available to all OA articles with UK authors.

Identifying and correcting OA compliance issues

In the small number of cases where articles fail to achieve compliance on publication, our new post-publication checks are designed to identify non-compliant licence choices and catch any failures in PMC deposition, making sure that articles can be made compliant as quickly as possible.

As a starting point for our checks, we went through the records of our OA publications from the past two years, identifying cases where the authors’ choice of OA licence would not allow them to meet the requirements of their research funder’s OA policy. We’ve been working with these authors to re-publish their papers under a CC BY licence, allowing them to fully meet their licence requirements of their funders. We’ve also taken measures to verify that all OA articles in indexed journals are available in PMC in their final published format, and are re-depositing articles where issues are identified. We will be working to carry out these post-publication checks on regular basis to so that we can be sure all our authors can achieve  compliance with every OA policy in all possible cases, even after publication.

The success of our efforts to date is reflected in the Wellcome Trust’s recent analysis of OA compliance among 2015/16 recipients of Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) APC funding. Average compliance was at 91% across all publishers, and Springer Nature reached 96% compliance (97% when cases of misreporting where no APC was paid to Springer Nature are removed). We’re proud of the progress made from previous years, though we recognise that there’s still room for improvement.

As one of the first signatories of the Wellcome Trust’s publisher requirements, which come into effect this April, Springer Nature is committed to improving levels of OA compliance, and not only for those authors supported by the Wellcome Trust. By taking these steps we hope to reduce the burden of OA policy compliance for authors, and to assist funders and institutions in ensuring that the research they have supported is made openly accessible in the manner that they intended.

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