Open in order to…democratise knowledge: from Glasnost to the commodification of information

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

Kofi Annan, 22 June 1997.1

Freedom of information is a condition of a free society. Access to information is prerequisite for education and learning, development and progress but many people find access to be impeded because of commercialisation in the supply chain. This inequality is particularly pertinent in low-income countries, where information can transform practices in every field of human endeavour, including health, agriculture and environmental management, and underpin sustainable development1.


Open access (OA) to scholarly information removes the affordability and access barriers and allows a broader audience to benefit from the knowledge in research papers, including those outside academia, such as business owners, educators and third sector organisations. The serials crisis, in which journal prices have risen rapidly and the need to reform scholarly communications have given impetus to the OA movement. There was, however, a different agenda in Central and Eastern European countries after 1989.

In the last in our series of posts for International Open Access Week we focus on the importance of information in a free society. This account of the role of libraries during the democratic and economic transition in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) will draw examples from library assistance programs and initiatives to distribute academic journals to illustrate the importance of free and unrestricted access to information to support democratisation and other reforms. The signing of the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002 followed a decade of work by the OSI to instigate a sustainable model to supply depleted libraries with valuable journal content. OA would have been ideal to support scholars who are not privileged with journal subscriptions.

In a keynote speech, Russell Bowden of the Library Association outlined the need for information to sustain and assist in the development of emerging democracies. In the communist regimes of CEE, the Communist Party nomenklatura understood the importance of information and, specifically, the need for effective information control to retain their power. Newspapers were censored. Book production was centralised and publishing decisions were closely controlled, which is why illegal samizdat literature was distributed by dissidents2.

Behind the iron curtain, vast networks of libraries functioned primarily as propaganda agencies. Librarianship involved political duties and collection development was constrained by strict ideological adherence3. Book collections were usually closed with access to certain parts being strictly controlled2.

These measures were utilised, primarily, to restrict access to information and were discontinued after the collapse of communism that began with the revolutions of 19892.

The fall of communism and a tremendous thirst for knowledge

Soon after the communist regimes were removed, concerned librarians arrived in the former Eastern bloc to assess the state of libraries and librarianship after years of deprivation. Accounts of the impoverishment they encountered abound in the professional literature during the early 1990s. Ulla Højsgaard represented the Danish National Library Authority in a Danish-Swedish team that assessed Bucharest’s libraries in March 1990. Højsgaard reminds us:

It is necessary to try to understand how much the libraries have suffered, how much harm has been done through the total isolation from the international library community, the financial starvation, and the constant political control4.

The Scandinavian librarians concluded that the scarcity of photocopiers, lack of automation and methods of interlibrary cooperation resembled Western Europe in the early 1950s. Gheorghe Buluta, Bucharest Municipal Library Director, concurred, describing the situation as a ‘slip in time’, that resulted from segregation5.

Tanja Lorkovic, curator of Slavic and East European collections at Yale University Library, toured CEE in May 1990 to investigate the impact of the political and economic upheaval on library systems. She saw ‘evidence of economic devastation reflected directly in the status of the libraries… [which were] near the bottom of the list of priorities for reform’6 The use of library resources was hindered by: deteriorating facilities; staff shortages; preservation problems; a lack of photocopiers; and, on occasions, exorbitant fees7 Furthermore, access to collections was frustrated by closed stacks in most libraries8.

A hunger for books was prevalent in the fragile new democracies of CEE. However, the ideological constraints on collection development were replaced by limitations resulting from a scarcity of funding and lacunae remained plentiful in the book and journal holdings of major libraries9. In Romania, ‘a tremendous thirst for knowledge of Western culture’ was observed10 and the ‘hunger for Western business information [was] almost physical’11.

Economic reforms prompted an increase in demand for business information8, but libraries in CEE had little or no experience of providing information services to democratic participants or the business community12. It was soon recognised that as gate-keepers of and gateways to information libraries had an important role to play in the post-communist transition13 But, library systems required an overhaul to meet the emerging information needs14.

Wealthy benefactors

From 1990, libraries had to justify their existence and compete for scarce funding15 Philanthropic foundations, including the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and A. W. Mellon Foundation, funded projects which brought major changes to libraries in CEE15 16 Simultaneously, European Union and United States Information Agency initiatives sought to raise awareness of the ‘importance of information in advancing democracy’17 18, improve the outdated information infrastructures, and instigate new practices in the neglected service sector17

The changes to library administration, budgeting, education, technology, and collection policies emulated Western practices14. Library reforms prioritised access to information. The availability of technology, expertise and funding produced an efficient exchange of information in the libraries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia which were quickly integrated with Europe17 19. Indeed, connecting the library networks of CEE to a global information network was a key element of the integration with the world community, based on freedom and democracy20.

Although exogenous funding made library development easier, Caidi questions whether it also imposed ‘the dominating discourse of development and modernity’, and, consequently, blocked alternative endogenous possibilities for more participatory processes15. This point is echoed by Robinson who states that ‘the motives for Western support… are, not surprisingly, an amalgam of idealism and self-interest’21. In the same vein, Pateman claims that genuine philanthropy was mixed with projects that sought to exploit a new market that rewarded information consultants handsomely22.

Deprivation of scholarly information

The deprivation of foreign scholarly publications in research libraries during the communist era had lasting, detrimental consequences for teaching and research at universities in CEE. Initially, international book and journal donations supplied much needed new texts but they also delivered masses of unwanted material. Acquisition grants helped a select group of research libraries update their book holdings and take five-year subscriptions to scientific journals. Informal networks of local and international academics were established quickly to ensure that partner libraries were receiving appropriate material23.

Professor William Hunt established the St Lawrence Solidarity Project to improve the holdings of research libraries in Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic and underpin the intellectual integration of CEE. He reported that ‘energetic and competent scholars in Eastern Europe are simply unaware of the existence of important western works in their field,’ and suggested that providing multiyear journal subscriptions would be the most efficient use of resources23. Single year subscriptions were a concern due to the implicit pressure to fund renewals24.

In 1990, Arien Mack founded the Journal Donation Project (JDP) to develop the research and teaching capacities of higher education institutions throughout CEE. By providing research libraries with subscriptions to high-quality English language titles and backfile collections, the JDP aimed to build journal archives in the countries of CEE that had, for 45 years previous, been unable to acquire these titles. The JDP was reliant upon subscription donations from publishers until 1995. From 1996, however, a reduced-cost subscription program was introduced with discounts of up to 50% available on over 5,000 journals25. Quandt suggests that it was a necessary resort because the expansion of the JDP eliminated any potential to provide all partner libraries with free access to requested titles. Through partnerships with major publishers, the JDP continues to offer libraries valuable assistance to acquire stellar journal titles.

A report by the Civic Education Project in 1994 assessed the effectiveness of Western assistance projects in fulfilling information needs in CEE. A general trend for prioritising quantity over quality and, consequentially, supplying libraries with material of limited utility was criticised and the difficulties encountered when librarians, who were often unfamiliar with market realities, were required to make selection decisions were also highlighted24.

Open societies in a digital age

The Open Society Foundations (previously the Open Society Institute) is a philanthropic network founded by George Soros to support the transition to democracy in the countries of post-communist CEE. Last week, on 17 October 2017, Soros transferred around $18 billion (£13.7bn) to the OSF, which became the third largest foundation in the world, with only the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust being better resourced.

Soros recognised the importance of information in a free society and funded library reforms, journal donation programs and electronic information initiatives to facilitate access to published research. In 1992, the International Science Foundation (ISF) was launched in the former Soviet Union (fSU) to help scientists and encourage new approaches to funding and managing research. The ISF’s Library Assistance Program was established in 1993 to supply major libraries with academic journals. Over 100 titles were distributed to almost 400 libraries in 199426

In 1995, the Library Assistance Program was extended into CEE and provided libraries with complete 1994 and 1995 volume sets. From 1996, the ISF continued as the Science Journals Donation Program, which supplied hard copy journals costing approximately $2 million per year. A planned switch to e-journal supply was hindered by limited internet access that was a consequence of the dilapidated communication infrastructure in some regions26. But the potential to increase access to information in the digital age did not go unnoticed.

EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) began as an Open Society Institute (OSI) initiative in 1999. Its mission is the enablement of ‘access to knowledge through libraries in developing and transition countries to support sustainable development.’ EIFL negotiated an e-journal license with EBSCO for full-text access to 3,500 journals in five databases; 1.4 million articles were downloaded in 200023.

For almost a decade, the Soros Foundations funded journal acquisitions and library reform projects to facilitate access to scholarly information and reinvigorate research institutions in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Digital information rapidly increased in importance during the same period but exploitative business practices had curtailed any possibility of an egalitarian turn in academic publishing. Establish EIFL and merging the Library Network Program and Internet Program with its Center for Publishing Development to form a new Information Program put the OSI in a strong position to utilise digital information. Open access to online information was an immediate focus for the Information Program27.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) was the outcome of a meeting convened by the Open Society Institute in Budapest on 1 and 2 December 2001. The meeting facilitated lively discussions between sixteen participants but often featured divergent analysis and critique of the dysfunctionalities of an outdated model of scholarly communications. It ended without an agreement and a position paper was crafted through online collaboration; convergence was reified in the document, bearing sixteen signatures, that appeared on 14 February 2002. The opening paragraph portrays a scholarly community in which knowledge is disseminated freely as a public good, thus removing the inequalities that exist when an expensive subscription is required to access commodified information28. This is not an unachievable idyll; it is the definition of open access:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.

Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002.28

In 2002, shortly after the BOAI was agreed, the OSI Information Program committed at least $3million to promote OA during a three-year transition. By April 2005, it had provided grants to a total value of $1,766,632 for OA projects and realised that the transition to OA will take far longer than three years28.

It is fifteen years since the BOAI first defined OA and outline the dual strategies of self-archiving and OA journals for implementing an OA model of scholarly communications. These strategies are also known as green and gold OA.

Open access had achieved a 22% share of papers published by 2014; immediate OA accounted for 17% and embargo periods delayed OA to the other 29.

The damage to the library networks and research infrastructures in CEE that resulted from the information control of utilised by authoritarian rulers during the communism period are, in many instances, still being repaired. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries initiative modernised the public library network in Romania between 2010 and 2016 by providing IT and internet connectivity. Similar initiatives to improve public libraries have been completed in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland.

As libraries around the world are have internet connectivity and facilitate access to information. Access can, nevertheless, be impeded by financial barriers when information is commodified. Open access can provide readers with free access to the knowledge contained in research outputs. Depositing research outputs in an institutional repository can facilitate open access to current information that might otherwise be unaffordable and thus unavailable to fulfil information requirement of projects that support sustainable development.


1 Annan, K. (1997) ‘If information and knowledge are central to democracy, they are conditions for development, says Secretary-General’. United Nations Meetings Coverage & Press Releases. Press Release SG/SM/6268, 22 June 1997. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

2 Bowden, R. (1995) ‘Emerging democracies and freedom of information: keynote address’. In Emerging democracies and freedom of information. Proceedings of a conference of the International Group of the Library Association (IGLA), Oxford, September 1994, edited by Barbara Turfan, 3-9. London: Library Association Publishing.

3 Smith, I. A. (1995) ‘Developments in library information services and access to information in the Baltic States since renewal of independence’. In Emerging democracies and freedom of information. Proceedings of a conference of the International Group of the Library Association (IGLA), Oxford, September 1994, edited by Barbara Turfan, 55-65. London: Library Association Publishing.

4 Højsgaard, U. (1990) Assistance to Romanian libraries: Results from a Danish-Swedish visit to Bucharest: Dan Shafran representing the Royal Library Stockholm, Ulla Højsgaard representing the Danish National Library Authority, March 11-18, 1990, and suggestions for action. Copenhagen: IDE, Danish Institute for International Exchange of Publications, Danish National Library Authority.

5 Mowat, I. (1990) ‘Romanian library development: Past, present and future’, Library Review, 39 (4), 41-45.

6 Lorkovic, T. (1990) ‘News special: service, collections in disarray: Revolution not over for Eastern European libraries’, American Libraries, 21 (8), 712-713. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

7 Barr, T. (1993) ‘Three approaches to a brave new world: SEES’s special program’, College and Research Libraries News, 54 (9, October), 517-518.

8 Smith, E. (1995) ‘Facing the challenge of democratization’, College and Research Libraries News, 56 (5), 324-325.

9 Sigal, L. V. (1990) ‘The editorial notebook; Starved, for books’, New York Times, 21 May, 20. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

10 Heald, T. (1990) ‘Books for Rumania’, The Spectator, 2 June, 264 (8447), 26. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

11 Mudrock, T. (1992) ‘Business librarian reaches out to Romania’, Library Directions: A Newsletter of the University of Washington Libraries, 2 (3). Available at: (accessed 25 October 2017).

12 Mowat, I. (1993) ‘Eastern European libraries: the worst and best of times’. In The Bowker annual: Library and book trade almanac, 38th edn, edited by Catherine Barr, 106-112. New Providence, NJ: R. R. Bowker.

13 CORDIS (1999) Library cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

14 Raymond, B. and Adams, K. (1993) ‘Former Eastern Bloc librarianship in transition: Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia’, Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, 18 (3), 36-50.

15 Caidi, N. (2003) ‘Cooperation in context: library developments in Central and Eastern Europe’, Libri, 53, 103-117. doi:10.1515/LIBR.2003.103.

16 Caidi, N. (2006) ‘Building “civilisational competence”: a new role for libraries?’ Journal of Documentation, 62 (2), 194-212. doi:10.1108/00220410610653299.

17 Caidi, N. (2004) ‘National information infrastructures in Central and Eastern Europe: Perspectives from the library community’, Information Society, 20 (1), 25-38. doi:10.1080/01972240490269979.

18 Hausrath, D. C. (1990) ‘United States Information Agency Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: The Eastern European challenge’. In The Bowker annual: Library and book trade almanac, 35th edn., edited by Filomena Simora, 118-128. New York: R. R. Bowker.

19 Lass, A. and Quandt, R. E. (2000) Library automation in transitional societies: lessons from Eastern Europe. New York: Oxford University Press.

20 Stoyanova, N. (1995) ‘Conference reports: Development of information and library networks in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as a part of the global exchange of information 5-9 May 1995, Sofia, Bulgaria’, Electronic Library, 13 (4), 407-409.

21 Robinson, W. H. (1992) ‘Library has role to play in developing democracies’, Library of Congress Information Bulletin, 51 (January 27), 35-38.

22 Pateman, J. (1995) ‘Libraries under communism and capitalism’, Focus on International and Comparative Librarianship, 26 (1), 3-16.

23 Quandt, R. E. (2002) The changing landscape in Eastern Europe: a personal perspective on philanthropic and technology transfer (Europe in Transition Series). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

24 Civic Education Project (1994) Assessing the effectiveness of book and journal donations to Eastern Europe. New Haven: Civic Education Project. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

25 New School for Social Research (2013) Journal Donation Program. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

26 Hagemann, M. (2017) The Role of the Soros Foundation in disseminating scientific information in the former Soviet Union. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

27 Soros Foundations Network (2002) Soros Foundations Network 2001 Annual Report. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2017).

28 Budapest Open Access Initiative (2005) Grants: Open Access Projects supported by the OSI Information Program as of April 2005. Available at: (accessed 25 October 2017). 29 Butler, D. (2016) ‘Dutch lead European push to flip journals to open access’, Nature, 529 (7584), 13.

Open in order to…discover buried connections: Text and Data Mining

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002)

Text and data mining (TDM) is defined by the UK Intellectual Property Office as “the use of automated analytical techniques to analyse text and data for patterns, trends and other useful information”.  In our penultimate post of International Open Access week we consider how TDM will benefit from full open access and look at some of the initiatives, services and tools in this exciting area.

TDM and Copyright

One of the main impediments to TDM cited in a 2012 report, Value and benefits of text mining, was copyright restrictions. In June 2014, the U.K. Government introduced reforms to enable “researchers to make copies of any copyright material for the purpose of computational analysis…if they have “lawful access” to the work” (section 29A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA)). However, well over 3 years later, TDM is still far from straightforward, in large part due to restrictions associated with subscription content.

Needles in haystacks

Imagine that there is a cure for cancer already out there in the scientific literature. All you need to do to win that Nobel Prize is read and synthesise tens of thousands of research papers and datasets, to find the needles of insight in the scientific haystacks.

Even the most assiduous academic, or the most well funded team of researchers, can’t hope to excavate the mountains of information at their fingertips, and that continue to accrete at an exponential rate. But a machine can, specifically a universal Turing machine, the digital computer.

Except it can’t because, still in 2017, over a quarter of a century since the invention of the web, vast swathes of the scientific literature are out of bounds, locked behind paywalls and controlled by corporations like Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis

The UK copyright exception explicitly states that “researchers will still have to buy subscriptions to access material” and while Elsevier have developed an API to enable those with a subscription to access full text content as XML for the purpose of TDM, and will even consider requests for access from non-subscribers on a “case by case basis”, access is still very much on their terms, as demonstrated by this post by Chris Hartgerink from November 2015 – Elsevier stopped me doing my research.

It’s a far cry from the Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2002.

One initiative that is working to leverage the broad corpus of open access content is the CORE aggregation service from the Open University.

CORE – aggregating the world’s open access research papers

CORE harvests open access content that meets the BOAI definition and works with a range of stakeholders to exploit a vast corpus of nearly 80 million open access articles. Metadata and enriched full text content is made available for both human discovery with a Google style search box and via an API.

Two examples of the potential for TDM are their recommender service for repositories and ‘semantometrics’ – the first of these, the CORE Recommender, can be seen in action right now on just about any WRRO record whereas semantometrics is more experimental.

CORE Recommender

Recommendation systems are de rigueur for web based services, typically based on user bahaviour tracked by cookies. Think Amazon.

The plugin from CORE, however, uses an algorithm to discover ‘semantic relatedness’ between articles by representing text documents as ‘vectors’.

While the mathematics is one thing*, the crucial point is that similar documents offered to you for this paper about using text-mining analyse patients’ experiences of colorectal cancer care really are similar based on a semantic analysis of millions of articles.

* for more information see the ‘vector space model


N.B. Admittedly the first result is the same paper from another repository which should probably be filtered out. At least semantic analysis works!


Semantometrics is not easily summarised and interested readers are referred to the full report. Essentially what it says is that computer analysis of an article’s semantic content and comparison with the broader research corpus can provide insight into the quality of research practices -whereas traditional bibliometrics, or indeed alternative or ‘altmetrics’, are quantitative and provide only a proxy for quality.

Might an evolved metric based on this technology provide a viable and scalable alternative to peer review?

As part of the EU funded OpenMinTeD project the CORE team led workshop at the Open Repositories conference (OR2016) in Dublin last year covering the technical requirements that can enable the text mining of repositories – see the OpenMinTeD blog  for discussion of the workshop including presentation slides.

The UK Scholarly Communication Licence (UK-SCL)

There’s an irony in that established scholarly business models provide publishers with vast quantities of data they can mine to inform and develop yet more products and services to sell back to the academy. Full open access to the literature and underlying data with appropriate Creative Commons licensing will enable us to develop more effective tools and services of our own without being beholden to the commercial gatekeepers.

The UK Scholarly Communication Licence is an open access policy mechanism which ensures researchers can retain re-use rights in their own work and is a response to both the ongoing transition to open access and concerns around growing requirements for researchers to assign copyright to a publisher at the point of acceptance. It provides a standard set of licence terms (CC-BY-NC) which permits text and data mining, and re-use of all or parts of the work by the academic in ways other than as part of the original publication.

For more information about UK-SCL see the website –

Other tools for TDM

There are an increasing number of tools available for TDM, many free to use:

  • VOSviewer developed at the University of Leiden is a powerful tool to analyse text and data. It utilises natural language processing techniques to create term co-occurrence networks based on textual data and features advanced layout and clustering techniques. It can also be used to visualise different types of bibliographic network for example. See YouTube for an excellent video tutorial.
  • Voyant Tools is an open-source, web-based application for performing text analysis. It supports scholarly reading and interpretation of texts or corpus, particularly by scholars in the digital humanities, but also by students and the general public. It can be used to analyze online texts or ones uploaded by users [Wikipedia]
  • Medline Ranker is dedicated to scientists interested to rank the biomedical literature according to a selected topic. The query page allows to search for any biomedical topic. The web server is fast enough to process thousands of scientific abstracts from the PubMed database in few seconds [David Rothman]

An actual cure for cancer buried in the literature may well be hyperbole yet the principle stands, that a computer has the capacity to identify connections and patterns at a volume and speed that a human reader cannot hope to match and that full open access is crucial to get the most from this technology and from the scientific literature.

Open in order to…contribute to the global digital commons: University collections and Wikimedia

In today’s post for International Open Access Week we explore the value of Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons for exposing University collections to a wider audience, whether research articles, data or Special Collections

Thanks to Richard Nevell at Wikimedia UK for his input to this post.

Beyond compliance

So much of the discussion around open access is focussed on compliance that it’s easy to lose sight of the more noble ambitions of OA, to democratise knowledge by ensuring that primary research is freely available to all. To inform the global public no less!

Like an individual vote in a referendum, uploading a green version of your article or dataset to an institutional repository might not seem to make much difference, yet its scientific rigour, academic objectivity or sociological insight incontrovertibly contributes to the digital global commons.

Knowledge networks

Making your work available online is only the first step in helping the right audience to find it, an “audience” that might no longer even be (only) human, and it is increasingly important to ensure that both you and your work are networked online, using persistent digital identifiers for example.

According to data from Crossref, Wikipedia was the sixth referrer of DOI clicks in 2015/2016 and, as of 18th October 2017, 1004 DOIs associated with the University of Leeds (978 articles / 26 books / 4 chapters) are cited across 1197 individual Wikipedia pages (thanks to Terry Bucknell of Digital Science for kindly supplying this data).

In a previous post we discussed adding repository links to cited sources in Wikipedia, in addition to the DOI (N.B. I have since been informed that I should use the archiveurl | archivedate protocol, though there seems to be some disagreement about how best to add repository links discussed here on WikiProject Open).

In any case, the University of Leeds has very nearly 1000 publications cited across 1157 pages* yet a search reveals a mere 96 links to records in WRRO – interestingly there are also 155 links to PhD theses in WREO. As both repositories are shared services across the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, the numbers specifically for Leeds outputs will be lower still.

* I’ve discounted books as these aren’t necessarily directly associated with Leeds i.e. can be a reference to a chapter within a book to which a Leeds author has contributed a different chapter.

Despite these relatively low numbers, referrals from Wikipedia are significant for both WRRO and WREO, being the 17th and 19th top referrers respectively:


Given the immense potential value of OA links to Wikipedia and the inevitable frustration of paywalled DOIs it seems clear that we should encourage contributors to include legitimate links to OA versions where possible (without replacing the DOI or other link to the version of record). However, given the scale of the issue might there be an opportunity to leverage the Jisc supported CORE aggregation service, for example, which will potentially provide OA links to documents from the global repository network?

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of openly licensed media files – images, video and audio – for use in education and, like Wikipedia itself, anyone can upload or edit material. It also makes is very easy to embed media files across Wikimedia projects.

Haua Fteah cave

According to Wikipedia, Haua Fteah is a large karstic cave located in the Cyrenaica in northeastern Libya. The page includes a section on stratigraphy and layout of the cave which cites a 2014 article archived in WRRO – the affiliation is York rather than Leeds but the global digital commons is obviously bigger than any one institution or repository! The article is published OA on the publisher’s own site so there is no need to add the WRRO link, the DOI provides full access to everyone. As the article is CC-BY, we can use an image of the cave from the paper to illustrate Wikipedia, and the easiest way to do that is from Wikimedia Commons – also embedded here.

Research data – more than just spreadsheets

Using its DOI a dataset can of course be cited in Wikipedia in exactly the same way as a journal article or it might provide a unique source of additional material as in the case of Hugh Davies.

To quote Wikipedia once again, Hugh Seymour Davies (23 April 1943 – 1 January 2005) was a musicologist, composer, and inventor of experimental musical instruments. He has also been the subject of extensive research by Leeds academic Dr James Mooney.

On Saturday 17 October, 2015 a concert of music composed by, or in response to the work of, Hugh Davies, was staged at the Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, including a pre-concert talk by Dr Mooney which has been preserved as a dataset in the Research Data Leeds repository ( and which is included on Wikipedia as an external link.

In truth research data often is spreadsheets or other forms of numeric or textual data, however, as in the case of this one off concert footage, it can also comprise all sorts of rich media material that can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and embedded in Wikipedia with a suitable citation. Baxter, for example, is an industrial robot also used in robotics courses at Universities including Leeds.

Play media

Natural Language Acquisition and Grounding for Embodied Robotic Systems is a conference paper presented at the Thirty-First AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence in San Francisco. The associated dataset ( includes videos of Baxter manipulating different objects which can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under the terms of CC-BY, with a full citation, and used to illustrate the Wikipedia page using a single line of embed code.

Special Collections

Leeds University Library is the only library to have as many as 5 Designated collections. Designation status is a mark of distinction awarded by Arts Council England to outstanding collections of national and international importance held by non-national institutions. One of these is the Cookery Collection, currently on display in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery and the first to have its very own Wikipedia article created as part of a Wikimedia internship run by Special Collections in 2016-2017.

The future

At Leeds University Library, our exploration of the potential of Wikimedia projects is at an early stage. Nevertheless we recognise their immense potential to share information with the world.

In the future we would like to organise an Edit-a-athon, related to another designated collection perhaps, or around a particular discipline where there is established expertise at the University of Leeds.

Open in order to…create a diverse publishing ecology: publishing with White Rose University Press

In our second post for International Open Access week, Kate Petherbridge talks about White Rose University Press.


White Rose University Press (WRUP) is an open access publisher and we are supported jointly by the libraries of the universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. These libraries work collaboratively on a range of projects of which WRUP is one of the newest. The press was established in 2016 and a major driver in its creation was to support the Open Access agenda and offer an alternative to the more traditional commercial publishing model.

Why Open Access?

Our primary purpose is to make high quality scholarship freely available to anyone with an internet connection so research can be accessed by as wide an audience as possible. Increasing the potential audience increases the potential impact of the scholarship.

There is more to Open Access than simply making content available free at the point of use, however. Another key feature of Open Access content is that it can be shared and built on. All WRUP content is published under Creative Commons Licences, which allow authors to retain copyright and so ownership of their research output. However, these licences let others copy, share, and reuse content under the terms of the particular licence applied. In this way, Open Access really does open up scholarship, bringing opportunities to take existing research further and into new directions.

It is also important to us to make sure we only commission publications of high academic quality. The WRUP Editorial Board is made up of experienced academics from across the universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, and all the proposals they consider undergo a rigorous peer review process. The view that Open Access content is of lower quality simply because it is free to access online is hopefully behind us. In working to share academic output as widely as possible, it is important we ensure this output is of high quality and so can be used with confidence by academics and others e.g. practitioners and policy makers.

The “Gold” model

There has been much discussion about different Open Access models, usually summarised as:

Green:- an author can deposit an approved version of a manuscript submitted elsewhere for commercial publication in an institutional or subject repository. The commercially published version is available to access from the publisher, usually for a fee. The deposited manuscript is usually embargoed for a period dictated by the publisher, and then made freely available once this embargo expires.

Gold:- an author can publish their work through an Open Access publisher. This makes the formally published content freely available from the point of publication, with no embargo. To cover the publication costs, Gold Open Access publishers usually charge Article or Book Processing Charges (APCs/BPCs).

WRUP is a Gold Open Access publisher. We are also a not-for-profit organisation, so our APCs and BPCs simply cover the cost of production. The authors and editors we are currently working with have sourced funding from their academic institutions, from academic societies, from public bodies and through research grants. While Gold Open Access is sometimes referred to as an “author pays” model, in reality this is rarely the case.

WRUP publications

WRUP currently has three live journals, with another recently commissioned. Currently live are the Journal of the European Second Language Association (JESLA), the Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies (JACHS), and the Undergraduate Journal of Politics and International Relations (UJPIR). Joining them soon will be the British and Irish Orthoptic Journal. All our journals have their own independent editorial structures and processes to ensure academic rigour. It is exciting for WRUP to work across this range of disciplines.

We also publish Open Access monographs, with the first wave of these set for publication in early 2018. Again, the subject areas covered are diverse. They include an important two-volume work on the significant Mesolithic site at Star Carr in Yorkshire, an English translation of the war diaries of a young academic trapped in Paris during the German Occupation, and a bilingual edition of selected poetry and prose of Tristan Corbière- some of which will appear in English for the first time. Further monographs are expected to follow later in the year.

From acorns…

White Rose University Press is still in its infancy, and is one of a new wave of University and Academic-led presses founded to challenge the traditional publishing model. Jisc’s recent report Changing publishing ecologies: A landscape study of new university presses and academic-led publishing discusses this. While not all these new presses are fully Open Access, many are or publish Open Access titles. This shows growing engagement with different publishing models, and that there is need for a variety of approaches. As for White Rose University Press, we have made rapid progressing the short time we’ve been operating and expect this to continue, adding our increasing contribution to the Open Access content available globally. We are very keen to receive proposals for academic publications and we are always happy to answer any questions on Open Access publishing.

White Rose University Press

Open in order to…increase your research impact: a bibliometric analysis of White Rose Research Online

It’s International Open Access Week!

In the first in our series of daily blog posts to celebrate open access (OA) Repository Assistant Simon Cobb gives an overview of repository statistics.

White Rose Research Online

The most visible manifestation of open access at the University of Leeds, White Rose Research Online (WRRO) is a shared repository for research outputs that aims to make available a full-text version of each work deposited by staff across the White Rose Consortium (Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York).

University of Leeds  WRRO deposits and downloads 2012-2017

University of Leeds research outputs have been downloaded more than 3 million times since 2012. White Rose Research Online statistics are available at:

Some 22,000 items have been deposited in WRRO by Leeds authors and over 15,000 are already open access, thus free to read without a subscription. Full-text of a further 2,600 papers will be available upon expiry of an embargo period stipulated by the publisher.

One of the benefits of open access is the potential to disseminate research much more widely than is possible when papers are behind a paywall. University of Leeds research in WRRO is visible to a global audience and has been accessed from 227 identifiable territories. Whilst six countries (UK, USA, France, Germany, China and India) account for a significant proportion (58%) of the 3.4 million downloads, there were also 78,500 downloads from Africa, where the lack of access to subscription journal packages is still a major issue for researchers.

Map showing the location of downloads for University of Leeds research outputs in WRRO

In the fifteen years since it was first defined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, OA has experienced strong growth. A good indicative example is the number of indexed sources and documents in Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE), which have increased from 1,666 and 24.5 million on 31 May 2010 to 5,542 and 111.4 million respectively on 31 May 2017. Likewise, the number of titles in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) increased from 300 to 10,229 between 2003 and 2017. Nature reported that immediate (gold) OA represented a 17% share of the journal articles published worldwide in 2014 (see Growth is likely to continue to be driven by research funder and institution policies that mandate OA.

Nevertheless, academic publishing is dominated by an oligopoly of publishers, with the five most prolific accounting for over 50% of papers published in 2013. It is a lucrative business (Elsevier’s parent company, RELX, reported a £1.15 billion profit in the first half of 2017) and publishers are unwilling to embrace practices that threaten their revenue.

Preliminary analysis of WRRO has indicated that half of the articles published by University of Leeds authors appeared in journals owned by four publishers; Elsevier (dominant in STEM), Springer Nature, Wiley and Taylor & Francis (particularly strong in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences). A larger group of 25 publishers are responsible for 80% of the articles published. In this group, we find four OA publishers: Public Library of Science (PLOS), Copernicus Publications, MDPI and Frontiers (BioMed Central would feature but is counted with its parent company Springer Nature); PLOS has published the most articles and achieved a 2% share of the total.

Publishers of journal articles in White Rose Research Online (% of University of Leeds total)


Some of the major publishers have adopted OA policies that embrace the principles of unrestricted access to knowledge as a public good and allow researchers to freely share articles with their peers. SAGE, for example, permit the author accepted manuscript (AAM) version, which is an author produced file that is textually representative of the published version, to be made OA on acceptance via the author’s institutional repository. Cambridge University Press also permit the AAM to be deposited on acceptance for publication in many of their titles. Emerald recently amended their OA policy to allow the AAM to be made available immediately on publication. Unrestrictive policies like these give momentum to the OA movement and steer us toward to a sustainable model of academic publishing.

There is, however, a suspicion that the transition to OA could be hijacked as the major subscription publishers target grants earmarked for funding gold OA. Business practices have emerged to access this stable revenue stream, including the marketing of OA options in hybrid journals, converting individual journals to OA and negotiating national level licensing agreements that bundle big deal subscription packages with payments for publishing OA articles in hybrid journals. If we let this happen, the pressure on library budgets will continue and publisher profits will be ensured.

Come back tomorrow

In tomorrow’s post, Kate Petherbridge talks about White Rose University Press (WRUP) one of a new wave of University and Academic-led presses founded to challenge the traditional publishing model.


Planning an Exhibition: Collecting Our Thoughts

Richard High, our Collections Engagement Librarian, writes about planning for our current Cookery Exhibition.

The beginning of September saw the opening of the fourth changing exhibition in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery – Cooks and Their Books: Collecting Cookery Books in Leeds. The new exhibition is based on books and manuscripts dating from the late 15th century to the present day from our Cookery Collection.

We worked with two co-curators on this exhibition, the food historians Peter Brears and Eileen White. Together they have huge experience of writing and talking about recipes, cooks and food preparation both generally and in a Leeds setting.

Beginning around a year ago, we had a series of enjoyable meetings where we mulled over the main themes of the exhibition.  We considered whether to take a simple chronological approach to the books from our Cookery Collection or maybe to follow particular recipes through time. We decided to explore collecting, that is cooks collecting recipes; individuals and their collections of cookery books; the Library’s collections.

As an introduction to the exhibition we decided to show books connected to some of the individuals behind our collections such as Blanche Legat Leigh, John Hodgkin, Alfred Chaston Chapman, and our former library colleague Anne Wilson.

We also realised that the extent of our collections allowed us to explore the broad development of cookery books. We were able to display early printed editions of classical texts; some examples from our many editions of Mrs Beeton and Hannah Glasse; and a copy of the first English cookery book published outside London.

To the delight of our co-curators, Peter and Eileen, we had three copies of the works of the 16th century Papal chef Bartolomeo Scappi to choose from.  Scappi was the private chef of Pope Pius V.  His ‘Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi‘ originally published in 1570 was the first cookbook to include extensive explanatory images.  Judging by the image below servants in the kitchen needed strength in addition to culinary skills.

Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Planning for the exhibition was an enjoyable experience which has given us the chance to widen access to our collections.  Cooks and Their Books: Collecting Cookery Books in Leeds is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to explore the broad range of recipes, social history, illustrations and individuals in our extensive Cookery Collection.

The exhibition is open until 31 January 2018. You can find out about events linked to it at the Treasures of the Brotherton webpage.

Reflecting on Light Night 2017

On Friday 6th October, Leeds glowed with projections, pop-up performances, installations and illuminations of every kind for the city’s annual Light Night event.


There were no less than 12 Light Night events taking place across campus and Leeds University Library Galleries were delighted to participate.

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery welcomed back artist, Alice Clayden, to teach visitors how to finger knit and French knit. Over a hundred people added their textile creations to a specially built frame. Alice was inspired by the Gallery’s portraits of the Leeds-born Mr and Mrs Marshall who united Leeds communities in the 18th century by employing them in flax-spinning mills and providing education.  We wanted to “thread” the different communities of Leeds together! So, we encouraged our Light Night visitors to write what they liked best about the city and trail their knitting to where they lived on a map.

Over in the Treasures of the Brotherton, we played recordings from the University of Leeds Poetry Centre. We used touch-sensitive LED lamps to illuminate archives belonging to famous poets who are or were related to Leeds in some way. Tony Harrison, Geoffrey Hill, Helen Mort and the University’s first Professor of Poetry, Simon Armitage, could be heard reading their own work while each of their manuscripts were illuminated. The combination of a dark room with poems glowing in white proved to be an atmospheric, sensory experience. In fact, one visitor was so inspired by seeing some of Tony Harrison’s archive on display that she is considering applying to study a Masters here at the University!

Light Night wasn’t the only attraction. Visitors to the Treasures of the Brotherton, many of them first-timers, were bowled over by the beauty, depth and breadth of the collections on display. The Travelling Library stopped many people in their tracks. One lady, whose children and grandchildren had attended the University, completely fell in love with our exhibitions.

Everything is packed away now but we’re already looking ahead to 2018!