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05 February 2019

Collaboration key for advancing open research: repository progress for Jisc and the British Library


Jisc and the British Library share an interest in the persistence and open access of the UK research record, and work together towards this aim. As the UK national library, the British Library is an integral part of the UK research infrastructure, a legal deposit library and a research organisation in its own right.  Jisc is the digital agency for UK further and higher education and research, providing research infrastructure from the Janet network and cybersecurity to open science and research analytics.  Where those missions coincide, both institutions are sharing experiences and intensifying collaborative dialogue to ensure that the new digital developments deliver the best results for the UK research community, our members, partners and users.

Repositories are now accepted as a core function of research organisations, to curate and share digital research outputs of all kinds and support open research. The BL and Jisc are working, so far as is practical, to align our development plans to maximise opportunities to cooperate in the areas of research repositories and preservation.  We will, for example, work together on preservation workflows, on the interfaces between repository and preservation systems and metadata profiles, such as those for theses.

Looking further ahead, we will continue regular meetings between our experts in these areas, to identify further prospects for cooperation, possibly in cloud storage or in stronger operational relationships between our services.

We share a common belief in advancing open research, including ensuring that research remains available for scrutiny and reuse into the future, which underpins our collaboration. At the same time, we are aware that there is a lot to do to enable UK research organisations to meet this challenge. We hope that a focused collaborative effort between Jisc and the British Library will contribute to reaching this goal.

Neil Jacobs, Head of open science and research lifecycle, Jisc

Torsten Reimer, Head of Research Services, British Library


Image: 'Collaboration' (c) Opensource via Flickr, CC BY-SA


14 January 2019

‘Rub the shin of the person on your left. With your face.’

As well as being the archival home of P G Wodehouse and Michael Palin, the British Library also plays occasional host to live comedy. Featuring the likes of This Is Going to Hurt author Adam Kay, Sofie Hagen on her debut book Happy Fat, lead Taskmaster assistant Alex Horne, and many more, the Chortle Comedy Book Festival took over the Library’s Knowledge Centre on 13 January.

In my role as a fan of both comedy and books, and a writer, editor and Tweeter of things for the British Library, I went along.

Alex Horne. Photo by George Torode.
Alex Horne. Photo by George Torode

Task #1

Sneak into some of the excellent sessions taking place at the Chortle Comedy Book Festival. Write about 10 things you learn during the day. You have 800 words. Your time starts now.

1. You wouldn’t want to be behind Alex Horne in the morning Reader queue. A massive cotton fried egg. A driving theory test card game. Toilet roll holders daubed in Marmite. Those who arrive early to the Taskmaster session have the opportunity to watch Alex Horne unpack a suitcase full of enough random task props and ‘money has bought’ prizes (I’ll let you guess which are which) to confuse the most experienced bag searcher.

2. More children watch Taskmaster than Dave probably expected and a lot of them are in the British Library audience. And on stage doing tasks. ‘Do cheer on your favourite child’ instructs Alex as they rush to put up tents in which to change into adult-size onesies.

The hour is punctuated by enthusiastically-entered audience tasks (‘Eat the best picture out of your slice of bread. You have 200 seconds.’) The public’s appetite for ridiculous things to do (there have apparently been two Taskmaster weddings; no Taskmaster funerals thus far) and their desire for Alex Horne to be the one to set them was what led him to write the Taskmaster book, as the Twitter requests and emails from schools became increasingly hard to keep up with.

3. The British Library’s status as a legal deposit library features in task #154. If you think applying for a Reader Pass in order to complete a task shows dedication, spare a thought for the comedians on the show, who do seven or eight tasks a day for six days, for each series. OK, so the six days are often spread over a six month period. But everything is a genuinely unscripted surprise. 

Robin Ince. Photo by George Torode
Robin Ince. Photo by George Torode

4. Robin Ince often forgets to mention his book on his book tour. I’m a Joke And So Are You asks what we can learn about human beings through looking at a particular branch of them: comedians. Both inspired and provoked by some media responses to the death of Robin Williams and the comedian stereotypes they drew on, the book targets common clichés about comics and asks whether they really are just clichés, and what they can tell us about people more generally.

5. Actors don’t like it when you tell them that you perform your internal monologue in their voice. And it turns out Robin Ince is pretty good at impressions. Alexei Sayle, Kenneth Williams, Brian Cox, 1970s Actor With an Open-Necked Shirt, his own compulsive thoughts (although I suppose we have to take his word for it on the last one).

Deborah Frances-White and Jessica Fostekew. Photo by George Torode
Deborah Frances-White and Jessica Fostekew. Photo by George Torode

6. We should all be really cross at ploughs but you’ll need to read Deborah Frances-White’s The Guilty Feminist to understand exactly why.

7. Comedians sometimes risk severe abdominal discomfort to avoid visiting the toilet after gigs in case they overhear audience members discussing how bad they thought they were. But Deborah Frances-White believes her brilliantly successful podcast is built on responding to criticism. If people love the podcast but think it’s got something wrong, she wants to know, and it may well inform the theme of a future episode. As much as we all try to be as empathetic and inclusive as possible, sometimes, unless it is your lived experience, you don’t get it, and you need someone who does to tell you.

8. ‘I’m a feminist and’ may be what you really mean; ‘I’m a feminist, but’ sounds funnier, and the first responsibility of The Guilty Feminist podcast is to be funny. The laughter that accompanies so many of the episodes, which are often recorded with a live audience, also helps foster a sense of community. Hearing other women respond to things in the same way you do, having your experiences endorsed by others, shows us we are not alone.

John Robins and Elis James. Photo by George Torode
John Robins and Elis James. Photo by George Torode

9. John Robins and Elis James have mastered the literary challenge of representing two voices in print: use different fonts.

Their session on The Holy Vible has the feel of both the book and their Radio X show and podcast – like you’re having a good time with your extremely funny friends. The Q&A has a similar…vibe, if you will…like the audience are catching up with their mates after the Christmas break: did John enjoy the Bohemian Rhapsody film? We’ve just seen Alex Horne - would you go on Taskmaster as a pair?

10. John Robins is after my job. Anyone who speaks with such intensity on the different uses of inverted commas in British and American English and the unique misery of a missed typo is clearly angling for some time with the British Library style guide and a bit of proofreading.

Obviously this event has happened now, but you can find out what else we have coming up at

Ellen Morgan, Content Officer at the British Library

18 December 2018

Open Access Discovery Workshop at the British Library


The solid foundation of the open access movement is the importance of public access to research, but it is clear that discovery of this open research remains one of the barriers to fulfilling this goal. There are many organisations making progress in this space and it is not always easy keeping up to date with the projects that are currently underway, or even knowing about what is in the pipeline. In order to improve opportunities for collaboration and alignment, the British Library and Arcadia Fund brought together key organisations in this space to discuss what we want to prioritise as a group and what challenges are being faced.

On Friday 21 September 2018, the following organisations met at the British Library:

  • Arcadia Fund
  • BASE: Bielefeld Academic Search Engine
  • British Library
  • COAR: Confederation of Open Access Repositories
  • CORE
  • Crossref
  • DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals
  • EMBL-EBI: Europe PMC
  • Impactstory
  • Internet Archive
  • Jisc
  • Open Access Button
  • ORCID (unable to attend on the day but involved in preparations and post workshop collaboration)
  • University College Cork (attendee also the Chair of the Infrastructure Working Group of the Irish National Open Research Forum)

Three major themes arose from the day’s discussions: identifiers and metadata, user experience and sustainability. Poor licence metadata is an ongoing problem for organisations such as Crossref and DOAJ, who find that many publishers do not understand what is required in the licence field. However, while everyone in the room would like to see this situation improve, many of the discovery tools have found alternative ways to check document access. That being said, improved licence metadata would allow for an enhancement of Crossref services, such as an Open Access (OA) flag on records.

A more urgent issue was that of user experience, this encompassed many facets including versioning, repository deposit, and the challenge of reaching those outside of academia. There is increasing competition from commercial solutions which reduce the number of clicks to the full text of an article, and we must keep pace with these improvements. The idea of a design-jam was raised as a possible way for organisations to look at better user experience. As for the challenges of reaching those outside of academia, it was acknowledged that we need to engage in new communication channels. One suggestion was to outreach to school librarians who can incorporate OA discovery into digital literacy education.

Open-access-button-ccImage by Sara Thompson (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Sustainability was the biggest topic of the day. This raised two different angles, the need to reach a maturity to create paid services, and a cultural change in libraries to redirect some of their budgets to supporting open infrastructure. Unpaywall is a great example of a service that has a free offering and a paid for service (which currently integrates with Web of Science and Scopus). BASE also receives money from EBSCO for their data feed into the discovery service.

As not all services have a paid service offering, the issue of funding was a concern for many around the table. Universities, and more specifically university libraries, are seen as the group that should be investing more in open infrastructure. The first place to start is a better connection between the builder of services and the user of services. Unpaywall’s link resolver is used by 2000 libraries, which is far below the market potential.

If libraries are going to have a role in protecting open infrastructures, then they need to engage more with the various open services available. Work is already being done in Canada and Germany to look at redirecting funding from subscriptions to tools that support access to information. SPARC are also trying to motivate members to redirect big deal cancellation funds to open infrastructure. It is also heartening to see more groups join the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS), of which DOAJ is a current beneficiary.

While improved funding will help ensure longer term sustainability of these infrastructures, there is another area of trust that needs to be considered and that is preservation of content. The British Library commented that (open access) publishers do not always meet their legal deposit requirements. There may be a role here for national libraries to better support discovery services, by ensuring that the content remains accessible for future generations.

The emphasis on sustainability shaped the decisions made about the next steps after the workshop. In order to attract more funding for open infrastructure, there is a need to efficiently convey all the important work these organisations are currently undertaking. Therefore, the group collaborated on a document to outline the major projects in the pipeline over the next two years..

For those in universities and funding organisations who already champion open access discovery services, they will have a brief document to point to which outlines the work being done in the space. For organisations who want to play an active role in discovery, they will be able to look for potential areas of collaboration. It also offers an opportunity to receive more feedback from the open research community.

While it is essential to gather support for the projects that are being pursued, we also hope that people will get in touch to offer suggestions to improve this work. It is our intention that we will produce this roadmap annually so that it may become a reliable way for the community to stay up to date with the progress that is being made and the priorities for the future.

The other outcome of the day was a short set of recommendations that participants agreed would help improve the discovery of open access content. As more research is published open access, the urgency of tackling these issues increases, particularly if the scholarly community wants to see more community owned solutions rather than commercially owned.


  • Funders commit to paying APCs only to those publishers that provide accurate article licence information to Crossref.
  • Funders must articulate values of open science, not just open access, and express a clear preference for infrastructure to be open source and have open APIs.
  • This funding should also support open infrastructure interoperability to contribute to long term sustainability rather than showing a preference for the development of new services.
  • Libraries need to engage more with open infrastructures, both through service integration and funding.

Facilitating access to knowledge is the essence of librarianship and at the heart of the mission of the British Library. Perhaps now more than ever, libraries must aim to understand the technologies through which our users discover knowledge and help support an open and transparent approach to discovery that opens up more relevant content. That is why we see great value in collaborating with open access discovery providers.

Through understanding the priorities of the organisations in this area, we are better able to see which services could integrate with our own systems, and the projects that we wish to support through partnership. We hope that the provision of this Open Access Discovery Roadmap 2018 will allow others in the community, particularly universities libraries and public funders, to do the same.

Dimity Flanagan, Scholarly Communications Lead at the British Library.


Any requests for information on the workshop can be sent to For enquiries related to specific projects mentioned in the roadmap, please contact the relevant organisation directly.