In this session, we will discuss the challenges faced by research communities in the Global South as they seek access to online resources via over-stretched networks and primarily via mobile devices. We consider the user experience for Research4Life users and the potential for new systems of authentication and access management to level the playing field for low- and middle-income countries. We discuss CASA (Campus Activated Subscriber Access) and Single Sign-On federated identity management as solutions for these research communities, where the supply of campus internet is far exceeded by the demands on networks, greatly limiting the ability of researchers to access content. Kamran Naim from Annual Reviews will share their experience of CASA implementation in delivering more efficient access and improving usage, while Andrea Powell from Research4Life will discuss recent improvements to access control and on-going challenges in serving the needs of this growing user community.

Speaker abstracts:

Andrea Powell, Outreach Director and Publisher Coordinator, Research4Life
Research4Life aims to reduce the knowledge gap between the industrialised North and the Global South by providing free or low-cost access to research literature in 120 low and middle income countries. However, the online infrastructure and skills gaps in those countries create special challenges when trying to ensure an effective user experience while also ensuring the security of publisher content. This presentation explains how Research4Life has recently upgraded its access control and authentication platform to deliver the same level of service to researchers in the Global South as would be expected by their peers in the North.


Miss. Sara Grimme
Director of Strategic Accounts, Digital Science
Prior to joining Digital Science late last year, Sara was Publishing & Product director at Elsevier, and launched Elsevier’s open access mega journal, Heliyon. Before joining Elsevier Sara worked for Nature Publishing Group, launching and running the open access journal Scientific Reports. When not thinking about all things publishing and open access, Sara can be found with a giant stack of books and a glass or two of wine, while pondering her next travel adventure.


Mr. Kamran Naim
Director of Partnerships & Initiatives, Annual Reviews
Kamran Naim is Director of Partnerships and Initiatives for the non-profit publisher Annual Reviews in Palo Alto, California. His interests span the breadth of scholarly publishing- from issues relating to access (particularly examining new models for open access), accessibility and usability of research information. He has worked extensively in the developing world- working to implement technical solutions to support capacity building through broader access and visibility of research. At Annual Reviews he works to advance the organization’s mission to support and advance research communities through a range of innovative programs that seek to maximize the positive impact of science on humanity. Kamran holds a PhD from Stanford University on Cooperative Models to support open access publishing.

Andrea Powell
Outreach Director and Publisher Coordinator, Research4Life
Andrea Powell acts as STM’s Director of Outreach and Publisher Coordinator for the Research4Life initiative, a public-private partnership which offers free or very low cost access to scholarly books, journals and other resources for researchers and clinicians in the developing world. Some 200 publishers make their content available through Research4Life, and the other partners in the initiative are a number of UN agencies (WHO, FAO, UNEP, WIPO and ILO), Cornell and Yale Universities. Andrea was previously Chief Information Officer at CABI, where she worked for over 26 years, heading up the publishing and IT operations. While at CABI she sat on the STM Board for 6 years in the designated seat for not-for-profit publishers, and was STM Treasurer for 5 of those years. She previously served as Chair of the ALPSP Association. Andrea is also an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, and is a graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, with a Masters degree in French and Russian

Ms. Cathy Holland
Director, Global Publisher Business Development
Cathy Holland works for Digital Science as a Business Development Manager in the publishing space. She works with publishers to help them implement innovative technologies which give them a greater view into the research landscape. Cathy is a member of SSP and participates in their mentorship program. Prior to working for Digital Science she worked at AAAS/Science in many roles within their site license division, the most recent as an Institutional Sales Manager. She holds a BS in Biology from Marymount University.

View Transcript
[00:00:16.22] SARA GRIMME: All right. Thanks, everyone for coming along to this session. I’m Sara, Sara Grimme. I work at Digital Science. And I must confess I don’t know a great deal about this topic myself. So I’m very much looking forward to being here and learning a little bit more.
[00:00:31.79] I think we could all say that access for low and middle income countries is absolutely critical. I think it’s something that hopefully we’ve all done a little bit of thinking about in our careers, no matter what role we play. And it’s certainly not an easy fix.
[00:00:45.65] So while we sometimes think that technology can fix a lot of things, sometimes it creates more problems. And one of the things I’m hoping we get a little bit more of from this session is whilst technology can do a lot, it doesn’t solve everything. And perhaps we might also need to ask some questions about infrastructure and access, particularly in areas where there’s very high level of mobile access. So in this session, we’re going to look at challenges faced by researchers in low and middle income countries and how we can use new systems and tools in the hopes of really leveling the playing field for them.
[00:01:17.66] We have three speakers today. So up first will be Andrea Powell from Research4Life. Andrea is going to talk about improvements to access, control, and challenges in serving the needs of this community. Then we’ll have Kamran Naim from Annual Reviews to talk about their own experience of their [INAUDIBLE] implementation. And then we’ll jump back to Andrea briefly, so don’t be alarmed if you see a switch of speakers. And then lastly, we’ll have Cathy Holland, who’s now at Digital Science, but was at AAAS. And we’ll talk about the experience both of digital science and AAAS in dealing with these problems.
[00:01:51.38] So thank you. And we’ll go straight to Andrea.
[00:01:57.77] ANDREA POWELL: All right. Thanks very much, Sara. And I have to say, I’ve been so encouraged at how many times this issue of improving inclusivity for researchers in the global south has been mentioned over the course of this conference. So I think we’re really making tremendous progress in bringing it to our collective consciousness.
[00:02:15.07] So I’m sure many of you are familiar with Research4Life, but just to very quickly– the program is an initiative. It’s a coalition of the willing, if you like. It’s a collaborative joint venture that aims to reduce the knowledge gap between the industrialized north and the global south by providing either free or extremely low cost access to a vast array of research publications published from a very wide range of publishers across the world. And if you look at the numbers on the screen, this is about 100,000 individual digital resources that are now available through the Research4Life platform, which is really is a very, very huge collection of content. Complexity is there that not all the content is available to all the countries all the time. So we have a complicated set of business rules that we have to deploy in the background.
[00:03:04.24] As of today, we have over 9,000 registered institutions in our 120 eligible countries. And it’s important to remember that Research4Life has been around a long time. It’s been around– it predates open access, or really it predates a lot of the current discussions about openness and transparency. So it is what it is. It is moving along in line with the way the industry is moving, but it faces some particular challenges along the way.
[00:03:35.24] So this map just demonstrates, illustrates, which countries are eligible. And the ones colored blue are the group A countries, where access is free. And the other, the yellow-colored ones are the group B countries, where institutions pay an annual subscription fee of $1,500 to access that whole collection of content. And that’s the only income that is available to the Research4Life team to spend on technology and outreach and capacity development. So it’s a pretty modest budget that we’re dealing with. And we rely tremendously on volunteer input.
[00:04:07.67] This is the breakdown of the institutions registered. And I think this is important, because it demonstrates that we’re not just serving researchers in the Academy. We are reaching well beyond educational academic institutions into for example, agricultural extension centers, health care services, teaching hospitals, and also the in-country offices of NGOs, where access to the research to support their objectives in line with the SCGs is so critical. So we’re serving a very, very wide range of users in organizations and institutions that aren’t necessarily connected to major infrastructure backbones.
[00:04:42.22] And the access challenges that we face at Research4Life are many. We have to get the balance right between safeguarding the valuable content that’s been generously provided by the partner publishers– and we have to retain their trust and be confident that we’re instilling a sense of respect and respect for ownership and copyright for that content, which is made available from behind a subscription paywall. But at the same time, we are relying on usernames and passwords for access. So that’s a pretty difficult balance to strike.
[00:05:17.71] How do we make the registration and authentication process simple in organizations, institutions where actually their internal capacity to deal with these matters is really quite limited? And we know within– you know, you will know as publishers serving institutions around the world that sometimes it does require quite a bit of insight and understanding of technology and registration processes and the way IP addresses work and so on and so forth to really make access simple and seamless– even greater challenge where those capabilities are in limited supply.
[00:05:55.66] Most of the organizations that we’re serving don’t have fixed IP addresses. And so that option has not historically been widely available to us. So we’ve had to deal with how we handle the translation of a username and password authentication process into a proxy IP address that can then be recognized by the publisher as being a legitimate Research4Life access accreditation. So that’s another challenge for us.
[00:06:27.73] And how do we adapt to the changing complexity of digital publishing itself? Because we’re no longer looking at just flat pages in PDFs that people want to download. Websites are more dynamic. There’s more interaction going on online, real time content moving around all the time. And that again poses a challenge when you’re dealing with a rather creaky and unreliable infrastructure.
[00:06:51.80] And it’s just been alluded to in the global south, what we do see, of course, is a much, much greater percentage of access being made through mobile devices. The built infrastructure isn’t there, and why would you rebuild it, frankly, when you can go straight to mobile? So we’re seeing users who want to be able to use their devices when they’re off campus, when they’re at home, when they’re out and about. And again, that’s another challenge for us.
[00:07:20.58] So think we should be moving now to the slide that is from Kamran’s presentation, I think. Here we go. I’m just setting the scene a bit to explain what some of the challenges are that we’re dealing with. And I’m going to hand Kamran over, because his organization has been trying to address some of those challenges.
[00:07:47.02] KAMRAN NAIM: OK, so I’m going to tell you a story. And I tend to be long-winded, so I’m going to time myself. I also tend to take awkwardly long pauses, so if I do someone stare at me.
[00:08:04.67] So this my very first job in academic publishing. And prior to working at Annual Reviews, I was working for a number of years on this issue of access and accessibility of research information for researchers in the global south. I worked in a couple of programs. One was in North Africa and another in– and the longest one was in East Africa, working with universities in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
[00:08:38.63] Now, as Andrea mentioned, there are some challenges in these countries. And I’ll talk about three different issues. So the first being availability of content. Now Research4Life is– Andrea gave you some of the numbers– is a massive collection of journals and books and other digital scholarly content. So the availability issue, you could say, is pretty well addressed. There were some studies done that compared the availability of collections at European universities to what’s available through Research4Life. And actually the numbers were really favorable, so like 80% of the top journals and 30 disciplines were available to these research communities.
[00:09:26.09] Access was a particular issue. Now Research4Life has worked for many years on username and password authentication, and Andrea has mentioned that and can speak a little bit more about it and why they’ve had to do it that way. But typically what happens is that institutions had one username and password that was provided for a whole institution. And that username and password also had to be somewhat controlled and protected so that it wasn’t abused.
[00:10:02.13] Now think of an institution like the University of Nairobi– which has 10,000 students– how do you effectively and securely deliver a password to an amazing collection of journals and really make that content available to researchers in that community? So that’s a challenge.
[00:10:24.00] The third challenge is that of accessibility and people’s ability to get onto university networks and to be able to access content. As Andrea mentioned, internet infrastructure in the global south has in the past not been great. It has been rapidly improving. But most students now have their own– like these USB devices that they plug into their laptops. And they get internet through mobile rather than having to rely on university networks.
[00:10:57.57] So about six years ago, I worked on a project which is funded by USAID. And we had the brilliant idea of creating a platform which integrated all of the content that was available to researchers in specific countries. And so it indexed all of the journals that were available through Research4Life and through other programs like [INAUDIBLE] and all open access journals. And we created this product called Libhub that we implemented on university networks across institutions in those four countries in East Africa.
[00:11:36.64] If someone found an article that was available through Research4Life, what they would do is they would click on their full text request if that was something that they wanted. And we had programmed the username and password for Research4Life into the back end. So the user never really needed to know what the username and password was. We kept the username password protected. It sent the request to Research4Life, and it delivered the PDF to the user.
[00:12:05.80] Now, that was all well and good. The system worked great. But actually, it didn’t. And we fell into this major pitfall that a lot of well-meaning nonprofit workers fall into, which is that we hadn’t really done the kind of comprehensive contextual research to understand how do users in these communities behave, and how do they want to access content? And really, the answer was just like everyone everywhere else, they were using Google Scholar. They were using Google and Google Scholar.
[00:12:46.42] And so the next thing to think about then for us was, all right, well, how do we– instead of creating a separate library and saying, come to us, how do we take the content to where the users were? So I’m going to talk a little bit very quickly about what we did at Annual Reviews.
[00:13:09.67] So as soon as I got a job at Annual Reviews, I was like, OK, I’m going to try and fix this problem and see what we can do. So from the publisher perspective, we’re very concerned that people get to our version of record. And there’s so many alternative paths to content now, like Sci-Hub being one of them. We know that it’s being used by everyone even in the majority of usage in [INAUDIBLE] countries. And then there are other tools, like on Paywall, that are taking people to versions of content but that aren’t necessarily our version, which is what we want people to get to.
[00:13:49.12] So we decided to treat institutions that were part of Research4Life as we would treat a subscriber. And that was really kind of taking this principle of designing for dignity. And that meant for us giving a researcher in the global south the same experience that we would want for our ourselves as researchers or any of our customers anywhere around the world.
[00:14:19.63] So we registered IPs. We set them up for subscriber links in Google Scholar, so when someone does a search– we piloted this in nine countries– someone does a search. They find an article from Annual Reviews. They see the link that takes you directly to Annual Reviews’ website. They get directly to the full text. That’s the quickest, straightest path. And that I think is the experience that any of us in this room would want.
[00:14:49.75] So here are some results. Now the numbers– I’m sure the set up in this room, you might not be able to see– but prior to– in 2015, prior to starting this initiative, in– let’s pick Malawi, which is the third one over– through Research4Life, we had 15 downloads from Annual Reviews journals. And we have all of our content in Research4Life, and have had pretty much from the outset. After we started downloading IPs– I’m sorry, registering IPs– we had, in 2016, 234 downloads, by 2017, 1649, by 2018, 2,675.
[00:15:32.76] Now this is– we didn’t contact any of the institutions and let them know we had done this. We had just done this on the back end. So this was completely organic. This is users in these countries going to Google Scholar, doing their searches, finding our content, and getting to the full text. Now– oop. That was [INAUDIBLE]. I’ll wrap it real quick.
[00:15:57.85] But just to say that considering how small Annual Reviews is, our article output is only about 1,000 articles a year. If other publishers and some of the larger publishers were to take a similar approach, just think about what those numbers could potentially look like. And so I encourage other publishers to pick up on what Andrea is going to talk about soon, which is engage in Research4Life. Engage in it more closely. If you’ve been a participant in Research4Life for many years, have a look at the usage. Think about what you can do. Think about the kind of experience you want to deliver to those communities.
[00:16:34.01] And I think the final point that I also want to make is that we need to think about not only systems and programs that deliver access to content developed in the global north and make it available to researchers in the global south, but to think about the participation of researchers from those communities in the global scholarly conversation. And that needs to be a really important part, I think, of where Research4Life does and what everybody in this room does. Thank you.
[00:17:16.99] ANDREA POWELL: OK, great. Thanks for that, Kamran. And the reason why we’re kind of integrating our presentations is that access to the content that’s made available– what we want is, as you said, the same experience that anybody has, that wherever they start their journey, they end up when they need to be. And so what we are implementing at Research4Life, and what Annual Reviews has implemented through the [INAUDIBLE] system, they’re not mutually exclusive. No, it’s important that whether the user starts in Google or whether they start at the Research4Life search interface, they end up when they need to be.
[00:17:48.18] So one of the value adds, if you like, of Research4Life for the publishers that participate is that we do all the heavy lifting to make that access possible. So publishers join. They make their content available. They have to do some back office administration– loading in IP addresses and so on.
[00:18:04.38] But essentially, Research4Life takes the burden away and makes a lot of this happen. But we do it with the constraints that I mentioned earlier of not much money and not much resource to make things happen. But one thing that we have done– and this particular project was very generously funded by Springer Nature, who gave us a grant to improve the authentication and access control system that sits behind Research4Life. So we’ve started– we really have made some strides. There’s more to do, but we have improved the user experience quite considerably in the last little while.
[00:18:39.73] So what we’ve done with the grant is implemented a system called TotalAccessControl from an organization called PortSys. And we appointed them, went through a tendering process. We chose them to help manage this complicated trade-off that we have between trying to improve the access and make it a nice simple, seamless experience for the user, but also addressing the security challenges that we have in the environment that I described earlier.
[00:19:06.88] So TotalAccessControl gives us the single sign-on functionality and the federated authentication that’s now becoming quite common in the industry. And it helps us to address the weaknesses of the old username and password approach. And what it allows us to do is offer the user a single sign-on opportunity, so they don’t have to keep on registering each time they log into one of the Research4Life programs. There’s five separate programs, all under the Research4Life banner.
[00:19:40.66] And what they would have to have done previously was authenticate themselves each time they went into one and clear the cache from the last time that they were there. And it a real clunky process that our trainers had to kind of spend hours teaching the work around for the users, which is really not an ideal scenario when you’re trying to encourage the sort of usage that Kamran was describing.
[00:20:03.96] And as I say, this is a common method. You would not expect users in the global north to go through these kind of processes when they’re accessing content. So why should we expect users in other underprivileged parts of the world to have to go through this process? One really important project that we’re working on now as well is to work with the IP registry to address this challenge of not having the fixed IP addresses registered in our systems. And I think Annual Reviews put a lot of effort into getting hold of those IP addresses. We’ve got over 9,000 registered institutions. If we really wanted to do this at scale, we needed to work with the IP registry, who were also gathering this information for their own database. And now what they have done for us is pre-authenticated and pre-registered IP addresses for all our 120 user countries so that gradually, as we implement that, users coming in will be IP recognized. And they will not have that challenge, and they will be able to get seamless access to full text content.
[00:21:07.31] So now this is to show you what the user experience is actually like. And I’m waiting for the gasps of horror to see what experience we’re actually giving the users. It’s really exciting, isn’t it? It’s really multimedia– fantastic. But it’s simple, and it works.
[00:21:27.41] So a user coming in has a very simple secure log-in, and they only now need to do this once. Previously, this was something they had to go through on a horrible old authentication screen. So we’ve improved that. Once they’ve authenticated themselves and logged in, then they can choose which of the five portals they want to go into of the five Research4Life programs.
[00:21:48.28] And then, even worse as a user experience, this is the search interface that they end up with. It’s, say, it’s pretty 20th century. We have a project at the moment that’s working on upgrading this user interface to make it look and feel much more like the sort of interface that we would expect to see. But hey, you know, it does do the job that it needs to do.
[00:22:13.84] What happens then is when the user goes into the search, they do their search, and they get their search results. One of our technology partners, ProQuest, has created a country-specific summon index using their discovery tool, so that again the user is seeing the content that’s available to them in their country. And I mentioned earlier that not all the content is available to everybody all the time because of the exclusions that publishers set.
[00:22:37.93] So this is really critical. What we don’t want is to train people in how to use Research4Life, and then they log in, and they find that actually that content that they used on their training course isn’t available to them because of a publisher exclusion. So this makes it a much more– again, it reduces that user friction.
[00:22:56.68] And you can read this later when the slides go up. But this is testimony from our trainer, Lenny, who is funded by the Elsevier Foundation through their Librarians Without Borders program. And he does an awful lot of our face-to-face training workshops. And I said to him, you know, how has your life changed? How is this improve the situation for you? And he said, you know, it’s just– it’s a miracle. Even though it’s still pretty last century, actually, from the user’s perspective– from his perspective as a trainer– it’s changed his world. And users can actually access the full text without thinking that they have to pay for that content because the sign-on system has failed. Somewhere along the lines, a link has got broken.
[00:23:40.51] So it’s not perfect. It’s not finished. Our challenge continues. There are still some issues that we need to fix. We will do those as and when we have the resource. Anybody who’s got a blank check they’d like to give me today, I’d be very happy to accept it from you. But we’re working through a lot of these projects now with the team. As I mentioned earlier, users are increasingly wanting to use mobile devices. So we want to add the mobile passport functionality that the PortSys system will allow so that users can authenticate their device and then use that device off campus to access the same content.
[00:24:19.34] And we want to improve the level of usage reporting as well. You can imagine under the old system– and actually under the current system we have, where we have IP addresses that are assigned at the country level– it’s actually pretty impossible for our participating publishers to really understand who is using their content in those countries. So you can do that country-by-country analysis, but if you really want to drill in to that data and understand who’s out there, who’s using and who’s not using your content, that’s pretty difficult. And we want to provide a better service back to the publishers as well.
[00:24:50.12] So once we get individual institutional IP ranges added into our back-end system, then we’ll be able to do much better usage reporting. And I think this is a really critical point and one of our key take homes when we were discussing this panel earlier. And Kamran’s already mentioned it. These are your customers. These are people who need access to your content. They need it as much as any anybody else needs it. And one of our challenges is to make sure that we’re not always playing catch-up. We want to make sure that the global south is considered in all of the discussions we’re having around our industry about improving the experience, making our whole ecosystem more inclusive.
[00:25:31.70] So as initiatives like the Coalition for Seamless Access– the new label, the new name for the RA21 Initiative– as these get underway, making the transition to open access, let’s make sure open access works for the global south. And we don’t suddenly find that, whoops, we’ve flipped to open access, and we’ve left the global south behind, because we’ve simply moved a barrier from one place to another. So this is the general message. We need to make sure that we’re always thinking about the needs of this particular user community.
[00:26:01.51] And we do collectively need to do more capacity-building, both with the librarians in our registered institutions and the end users. But this is an area that I think publishers can work together to pool their resources and to pool their efforts to ensure that those who are using our content have better capabilities so that when they’re wanting to contribute their research into the system, they understand how they need to go about that. And they’re better equipped to deal with the research publishing process.
[00:26:38.10] And that’s where I’m going to finish and hand over, I think, to the next speaker. But thank you. And if you are a supporter of Research4Life, thank you very much. Please continue support. And if you want to talk to me about how you can be more engaged, more involved, then I’d be very happy to talk to you. Thank you.
[00:27:00.77] CATHY HOLLAND: Let’s see. Let’s see how short I am here. So for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Cathy Holland. I am a business development director at Digital Science. And you know, previously, I was at AAAS in science, where I did a lot of work with Research4Life.
[00:27:22.15] And then just recently, Digital Science has signed up with Research4Life for one of our tools. And so when Sara and I got to talking about this panel, it seemed like a good fit that I could join and talk about some of the more practical aspects of setup and things to look out for and considerations within your workflow.
[00:27:45.11] And you know, I think for purposes of this, I also came in late to the panel. I decided not to do slides, because it’s later in the day. And I want to keep it kind of brief so we can get to maybe some questions at the end. Sara and I also put together a really nice list of engaging questions and things that we can all think about in the room for future of technology and access in the global south, so just to start off there.
[00:28:11.67] And one of the first things I thought about, especially with this being ALPSP, is why do publishers care? I mean, a lot of publishers– you are worried about your bottom line, other operations, paying customers. However, this is a group of a lot of association and society publishers where you are very, very mission-driven. And that’s important. And you have niche subject areas you cover, like nephrology, for example. And there are going to be nephrologists worldwide that are going to need access to your content.
[00:28:45.45] And so as mission-driven organizations, this is why the global south is important to you. This is why your level of engagement should be at the same place as others, because that is part of your whole entire community. And I thought it was very telling during the initial keynote from Stephen Curry, where he talked about– you know, research is international. So if there are issues within research, it’s a global scale. It’s not segmented. Research is not only happening in North America and Europe, even though you get a lot of usage and downloads and information coming out of there.
[00:29:23.28] So moving on from that, the first thing I want to talk about is my experience at AAAS in science. One of my many hats I wore there was to set up all the access and mess with the IPs each year for the countries as they moved from one band to the other. And that part was easy enough.
[00:29:42.60] I also got the grand opportunity to attend the meetings which happened yearly. And because D.C. is a very international city, it routed there every couple of years. And so I had the chance to attend a number of those meetings where I got a lot of really good information. And so you could actually see and get stories from where you were fulfilling the mission that you set out to as a publisher.
[00:30:10.51] And what was really interesting is– so you go through. You set up all of these IPs and everything like that, and you’re like, OK, great. This solves the problem. You’re like, they’ve got access. They’re good.
[00:30:23.68] What I did notice– and I think Andrea and I talked a little bit about this– there is an opportunity for– I don’t want to saw improvement. I think that’s not a great term– but for further engagement, because one thing I noticed is you still have institutions, researchers, people from other countries coming directly to you as maybe the publisher saying, oh, hey, I’m from the University of Kenya. Can we get access?
[00:30:50.86] And you’re thinking to yourself, you’re like, OK, there’s this whole program out there. Why don’t you know? Should I send them to the website? Should I write– you know. There’s like a whole workflow to think about what do you do when these people come to you, because they will. And I actually had this conversation with my colleague at Digital Science. I was like, you know, I know we’re still in kind of the setup phase. But I was like, we might want to plan for a few of these scenarios, because they do happen.
[00:31:15.09] And so what would be really great to see is you think about this– rather than– I mean that usually what I used to do– and this was a couple of years ago now– was you send them to the website. You say, OK, you’re from Institution X in Kenya or wherever. Fill out this form, and you should be good.
[00:31:33.98] But you don’t really have an idea what happens afterwards. Do they get access? Do they have trouble? You have no idea. And so I think that’s something that we really have to think about. And I think about it a lot more now, especially being part of a technology company, because that’s what we do. We think about how people get access. What does the technology bring to the table? So really, that’s one thing I would encourage, because I’m suspecting most publishers in this room are doing some level of work with Research4Life.
[00:32:05.85] Actually that would be kind of curious. Who is working with them currently? OK. So these are just, kind of like I said, practical things to think about.
[00:32:14.58] The other thing, as I kind of now look at what we’re doing at digital science– I had the great opportunity to talk with my operations colleague the other day and really think about what we were doing. And so we are working with Research4Life for one of the digital science technologies in Dimensions. And so researchers in these areas are going to get access to Dimensions Plus, which I think you’re working through some getting the IP set up, all sorted. So that’s going to take a little bit of time.
[00:32:44.51] But what I found really exciting– and I would really love to see more of– is the training and engagement they’re going to do after the fact. So we have quite a few former researchers that are at Digital Science or any of the portfolio companies. And one of them is actually going to host a few webinars for really any researcher within the global south that wants to attend to learn how to use the platform and what they can gain from it.
[00:33:15.36] And that’s just really exciting, because first of all, it’s going to be a researcher talking to other researchers. So they’re going to be speaking the same language. Research4Life– I think the plan is for you to do a little bit of outreach to help encourage attendees for the webinar, which is also really exciting.
[00:33:32.79] Then the webinar will be posted for future access on the research for live site, so people can continue to use that, plus the kind of train the trainer setup that Research4Life has. So there can be ongoing training and engagement, which was really fantastic and exciting to see and hear about. And I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when Digital Science is fully set up with this, because I do think it’s a very important thing. I mean, personally, I think for the entire community, it’s really important. I do think specifically for society publishers, it’s important, because they’re mission-driven.
[00:34:14.30] And I think what I want to do now is then close with one of my favorite Research4Life stories, which I saw at one of these meetings I went to. And then we can get through some of the more exciting questions. So you go to these meetings, and you’re kind of like, OK, what am I going to learn?
[00:34:34.20] And one very telling one– there was a story of a researcher. I think he was doing some kind of immunology work. And he was working really hard and really excited and really feeling like he was getting somewhere. but he didn’t have a lot of access to resources, so he’s kind of fumbling through the dark.
[00:34:53.10] And what he found– I think when Research4Life came, and he realized he could get access to all these tools– was everything that he was working on was actually already validated, proven, and published somewhere else, which is OK, fine. And you would think that that might be a little scary or a little hard, but he was actually really excited by it. He’s like, I was totally on the right track. I was doing the right thing. And he’s like, now, based on this research that I know about, he’s like, I can carry on to do other great things.
[00:35:25.26] And I just thought that really spoke to the heart about what Research4Life does. And so I think if you are part of this program, I would really encourage you to attend some of these meetings if you can. I mean, it’s– think they’re usually only a day. You learn so much. You get an exchange of ideas. You can learn more about access problems, other things you can fix.
[00:35:46.44] You can think about how am I measuring their usage. Are they using it just like Kamran did? Are there better things people could be doing? So things like that, things that I have learned over the years about mobile-ready access. I’m just I’m already thinking to myself, OK, Dimensions, are we a mobile-ready site? Yes, we should be good, things like that. These small things that can actually make a big difference in the long run.
[00:36:14.45] And I think without further ado, I’m going to let us get to our round of questions. And hopefully thinking about some of that was helpful as you carry through with the program.
[00:36:32.14] SARA GRIMME: OK, does anyone have any questions for our panelists? Ed. I think you don’t need the microphone. You can yell.
[00:36:39.95] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] [00:36:47.39] ED: I was thinking is there– have you thought about integration with things like Orcid? Is that even appropriate? Because as part of the piece when I was in China, I would tell everyone to get an Orcid ID, because that way our editors can find you much more easily. Now that’s difficult, because there are 3001 ways in China doing research. And so you need that sort of– but the thing about– the point about infrastructure is that if an African researcher has an Orcid ID, then they have somewhere that is always up to date of their research profile, and that helps them better be integrated into the global research system. And I’m wondering if there is– whether it makes sense to even think about it in terms of integration with Orcid and et cetera.
[00:37:41.87] ANDREA POWELL: So I’ll come at this in from a couple of directions. First of all, I just– just to be clear, Research4Life doesn’t host any of the content that’s available. So if there’s integration with Orcid on the publisher’s site, then obviously that will flow through the system there. I think the other point is how much of– what we are trying to do also is expand the amount of content that’s in Research4Life that’s published from the global south.
[00:38:05.56] So for example, Sioux Cummings earlier was talking about the Africa journals online, et al. That’s one of the sources in Research4Life. So, again, if the author has– if that is integrated with DOIs, then the authors that are publishing in that community of journals would be exposed.
[00:38:23.66] I think the bigger point for me is– the broader question is, at the moment Research4Life’s value proposition to the market is access to content. That’s what it was set up to do. That’s what it still does. But it could do much more. It could go beyond that to provide access to publishing opportunity and access to the network of resources and tools that are needed to be a good researcher in the community, the access to training materials to help authors understand about the Orcid system, how it works, how they should go about registering and getting themselves that imprimatur. So I think there is the potential for that to happen.
[00:39:04.70] But we have to first of all bring the whole research community along to understand that it’s more than just the access now. It’s about the whole, broader aspects. And just to finish, one of the things that we’re doing right now is the once every five year program evaluation that we carry out, the major project to make sure that we’re assessing the value of the program and looking at how it works and what improvements could be made. And we’ve added a new component to that this time, which is a landscape analysis, so almost like in business speak, [INAUDIBLE] of a PESTEL analysis of what’s going on in the outside world and in the context in which we’re working. What developments are taking place that we at Research4Life should be thinking, well, actually, there’s a connection there and we should be taking that on board too. So things like that, I’m anticipating will come through that process.
[00:40:03.55] SARA GRIMME: Any other questions? OK. Well, I pre-prepared. This one’s also for you, I think, Andrea. You briefly alluded to open access and how it would not be ideal if open access became the next barrier. What’s the solution to that?
[00:40:24.49] ANDREA POWELL: Well, if only I knew. And so first of all, there’s a lot of open access content in the system already as well, so nearly half of the journals. We have all the DOAJ journals included in the database.
[00:40:36.70] Yeah. I mean, this is a huge challenge. And I pulled together a task force– some of the people in the room a part of that– that we’ve just started to really get our heads together and say, we really need to make sure that open access doesn’t unwittingly exclude researchers from the global south. It has to work for them. And maybe it’s going to work for them in a different way than it’s going to work for others in other parts of the world.
[00:41:01.37] So for example, I think we’ve all concluded that APC’s aren’t going to work in the global south. There’s got to be another funding mechanism that covers the costs, because, of course, there are costs associated with open access. We need to work with funders. We need to, first of all, actually try to understand the scale of the challenge. And actually, I’m delighted that Cathy’s colleagues at Digital Science are going to help me come up with some of the data that reveals what the gap is and how much might it cost the community, or discipline by discipline, how much will it take in pounds, shillings, and pence to actually get that, make that transition.
[00:41:42.56] So I don’t have the answer today, but hopefully soon we’ll have some idea.
[00:41:49.74] KAMRAN NAIM: And I’ll just speak to this real quick. So not to give a plug for any reviews or anything, but that there are emerging models for OA, and Subscribe to Open is one that doesn’t require author fees from anyone. It’s just supported by existing library payments to publishers.
[00:42:13.62] And a big part of that, and a big part of the reason why we developed that program, was we didn’t want to shift the financial burden onto authors at all, and particularly not onto authors in the global south. I think one of the things we have to be really careful about is this issue of, as I mentioned earlier, further marginalizing communities. In the open access world, communities have been marginalized through subscriptions where we’re putting in a whole new barrier on their participation.
[00:42:44.04] And, just very briefly also to speak about waivers, think about the– particularly speaking to this aspect of dignity, I know a lot of people, a lot of publishers like, oh, well, we offer waivers. Think about the indignity of having to ask for a waiver and whether that’s something that you would want to do for yourself.
[00:43:09.38] CATHY HOLLAND: OK, so actually, I do have a point to make for this. And I think as we talk about open access, I think there are actually others we could bring to the table that may have thought about solutions. Last year, I was down at the CLO conference in Brazil, which is an aggregator of content. And it’s always really interesting to see that– other countries and other spaces– the way they do publishing is very different. And everything they do down there– it’s basically funded by the government. And it’s all open.
[00:43:41.23] And so we could probably borrow from some of those ideas to make sure we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot as things evolve and change here. So I think it’s about bringing them into the conversation, which gives us kind of fresh ideas and fresh perspectives, which is also part of that diversity and inclusion aspect of it all.
[00:44:03.27] ANDREA POWELL: OK, I’m just going to ask one more question and then let you go. Kamran, you said that one of the things that was a real guiding point was designing for dignity, which I think is just fabulous. That’s something that I hope everyone here takes away with them. On that point, what is the one piece of advice you would give anyone in here who is a publisher and who is working for Research4Life and thinking about how to open up access to their content?
[00:44:31.61] KAMRAN NAIM: OK, so I think it’s pretty simple. I would say, think about delivering the kind of research experience that you would want to have for yourself and nothing less. And I don’t think that– you know, communities in the global south have been marginalized in so many ways and suffer from a lack of resources. But they have so much to offer. And so I think as publishers, we really should– and we can also think of them as, quote unquote, customers, maybe ones that don’t pay us. But we should offer the same kinds of services and experience in terms of user experience to those communities as we would want for any of our other customers or that we would want for ourselves.
[00:45:26.70] SARA GRIMME: Thank you all very much for attending. And if we could just have some applause for our lovely panelists. Thank you.