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Hello! I’m Ruby, a Master of Library and Information Studies student at the UBC iSchool. This blog post is one of a series of blog posts I’ve written documenting my work as a cIRcle Research Assistant.
One project I’ve worked on throughout my time at cIRcle is a COVID-19 Research Recruitment Project. The aim of this project is to provide permanent open access to UBC-authored COVID-19 research that might otherwise remain inaccessible to the public. This project began in July 2020 and involves identifying pertinent materials, investigating publisher permissions for self-archiving, contacting authors to obtain the correct versions, and creating the item records in cIRcle. Each of these four stages of the project requires a range of scholarly communication and repository-specific tools and skills that I learned and refined throughout my time at cIRcle.
- Identify relevant articles and/or authors
I began working on this project in October 2022 focusing on finding sociology-related research surrounding COVID-19. From the beginning of the initiative in 2020, my project partner Patricia L. Foster, Library Assistant at Woodward Library, has recruited COVID-19 research in health sciences. Broadening the scope of this project to include sociology research creates a more comprehensive picture of all the ways COVID-19 has affected our lives and communities.
To find sociology-related research by UBC authors, I create a search string in a sociology database and set up search alerts so that I am notified when new relevant material is available. Creating a search string involves using an established criteria to combine specific keywords and terms with the appropriate truncation symbols and Boolean operators to retrieve focused and relevant results. These database search results often lead me to discover UBC authors who have done much research in this area.
- Checking permissions
Once I find research articles related to COVID-19 by UBC authors, I then check the publisher permissions of these articles to find out which version(s) can be deposited into cIRcle. To do this, I first search SHERPA/RoMEO for the journal within which an article is published. SHERPA/RoMEO is an online resource that aggregates and presents publisher and journal open access policies (SHERPA/RoMEO, n.d.). I use it to determine whether a journal permits depositing in an institutional repository and, if yes, under what conditions. The key elements to note are which version of the article is allowed to be deposited and whether an embargo period is required. Once I find all this information in SHERPA/RoMEO, I then double check these findings on the journal’s publisher website.
Some journal policies permit the author’s accepted manuscript (also referred to as a postprint) version of an article to be deposited into an institutional repository. Depositing author’s accepted manuscripts into repositories is often referred to as self-archiving.
Locating and understanding publisher and journal policies takes practice. There are numerous terms, caveats, and conditions to consider.
- Request the appropriate version of the article
After determining which version of a journal article can be deposited into cIRcle, I contact the UBC author of the article to request the appropriate version and ask them to fill out a cIRcle License if the publication is not already licensed under Creative Commons terms.
A suggested best practice is for authors to keep their accepted manuscripts (postprints) in a designated folder and/or to send them to cIRcle immediately for deposit. This practice makes the process of self-archiving much easier and helps to make research more open and accessible.
- Deposit the article into cIRcle
When I receive the appropriate publisher-allowed version of the article, I then deposit it into cIRcle through DSpace and enter the appropriate metadata. To date, there are around 2000 items in cIRcle related to COVID-19 and around 150 of these are in cIRcle because of this project (cIRcle, 2021).
Reflection and Future Considerations
I appreciate that each of the steps described above requires a different approach; it keeps the work interesting and exciting. Creating a search string and finding articles related to COVID-19 allows me to apply and practice my traditional librarianship training by using Boolean search tactics and getting creative with the search string to produce the results I need. Checking publisher permissions involves curiosity and patience as deciphering the wording on publisher websites can be confusing and full of jargon. Reaching out to UBC authors requires me to effectively communicate by synthesizing and explaining the complexity of publisher permissions in a clear and concise email. And lastly, depositing the articles into cIRcle requires determining and filling in the appropriate metadata and navigating the backend of DSpace.
The permissions checking process, in particular, led me to reflect on the complexity of publisher permissions and policies and the barriers and workload this creates for library staff as well as the inaccessibility it creates for the public. The permissions checking process is time consuming and involves many steps. Given that most of the articles I find have numerous authors from various universities, I wondered about the possibilities of a less-localized, broader, perhaps national, repository that could provide guidance in the form of policy and standardization. These ideas were sparked by the presentations and discussions that occurred within The State of Institutional Repositories in Canada webinar hosted by the Council of Atlantic Academic Libraries (CAAL). Rather than each institution associated with the paper independently depositing the article into only their own repository, I imagined the possibilities of a shared repository with interoperable metadata that other institutional repositories could utilize content from. This collaboration could be helpful for repository employees but also helpful to the public by making more research more publically available. When considering research about COVID-19, collaborating to make repository workflows simpler could result in important health research becoming more accessible and therefore make a positive difference in health outcomes.
Find out more about projects like the COVID-19 Research Recruitment initiative in the annual cIRcle Impact and Activity Report.
If you’re interested in depositing your work into cIRcle, visit the cIRcle Submissions page for more information.
CAAL-CBPA Scholarly Communications Committee [CAUL Manager]. (2023, February 9). The State of Institutional Repositories in Canada [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXHTZ2lGU-k
cIRcle COVID19 Research Recruitment. (n.d.). In UBC Wiki. https://wiki.ubc.ca/CIRcle_COVID19_Research_Recruitment
cIRcle, University of British Columbia. (2021). Impact and Activity Report, 2020-2021: cIRcle, UBC’s Research Repository. http://hdl.handle.net/2429/79877
SHERPA/RoMEO. (n.d.). About SHERPA/RoMEO. https://v2.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/about.html