The launch of the CHEPS working paper series

Author: Paul Benneworth

Logo cheps4At our annual Away Day last year, we as a CHEPS team decided to prioritise increasing our visibility to the outside world in 2015. Such good commitments are easy to make away from the hubbub of academic daily life. The art of making good on these resolutions lies in finding sustainable ways to make these aspirations a routine part of your business practice.

A research centre like CHEPS faces continual pressures of time to satisfy clients, deliver excellent teaching and disseminate research findings. Any kind of public facing activity has to be both reasonably low maintenance as well as add value to existing activities.

One of the two activities agreed was to launch this blog, and a great deal of thanks are due to the hard work of the blog Editors Katharina and Nadine in achieving this. The Blog provides a good chance for the CHEPS family to draw attention to their other activities, and to give the outside world a peek into the wider intellectual debates that we are having.

The other element we agreed was to create a Working Paper series as a means of showcasing research activities that we for lack of time may not be able to get quickly into the public domain. Like the blog, the idea is to open the black box of CHEPS and involve a much wider set of our intellectual colleagues as we reflect on the main issues affecting contemporary HE.

But the big problem any working paper series faces is one with which anyone who’s organised a conference will be familiar. Potential contributors are always a bit reluctant to submit material for publication that might later end up in a (more highly-valued) journal article because of the risk of copyright issues and the spectre of self-plagiarism.

So what has made the idea in reality possible for us has been the recent trend of the rise of Open Access publication. In deciding how to allow publishers to continue to profit from publishing, there’s been a very useful clarification of what academics scholars can publish from their research prior to an edited version of that material appearing in a subscription journal.

The whole open access debate was kicked off by a growing concern that research findings were lingered unread behind paywalls inaccessible to a much wider public. Open Access has been about balancing the need for research to be made public with the need for journals to have viable business models to pay for their typesetting, proof-reading, indexing and referencing work.

There are two kinds of open access, Gold, where the researcher pays a fee for the paper to be free to all, and Green, where the academic may self-publish various versions of their manuscript. Under Green OA the definitive version of research appears behind a journal paywall, and academics can post the final text with an embargo of a year or two to their own website or an institutional repository.

Here in Twente, the UT’s University Library has invested very heavily in creating a world-class institutional repository, UT Publications to host – post-embargo – the huge volume of peer reviewed journal articles written by UT researchers. But the debate has also clarified where a journal publisher add value to author text, in for example managing peer review, helping authors improve text, producing an elegant, readable final article, preventing unauthorised copying and disseminating it.

The upshot of this discussion has been to clarify the point that authors are able to retain ownership of the words in the first version of any manuscript that they submit to a journal i.e. where there is no claim of publishers’ added value. Almost all reputable publishers now regard any pre-submission version of a paper in a repository as something they choose not to stake a claim to.

As a bonus, when the publisher finally releases the article, referencing services, and particularly Google Scholar, link various versions into a single unit, so authors are able to see the overall influence of their material both before and after publication.

So with no downside for authors in seeing their material ‘tied’ by appearing in a working series, and with publishers supportive of repositories that follow the rules, there’s enough of a win-win for it the series to make sense. Thanks to Tom de Schryver, our authors, and the UT Librarians, we have addressed the technical and content issues, and can finally launch a Working Paper series.

Journals do add a huge amount of value in terms of the feedback and improvements that editors and reviewers provide, the language work they do, stopping rogue academics publishing our words under their own names, correcting the references and linking them in wider bibliographic webs; a Working Paper series run as a side-line can never hope to emulate those, and so we recognise that the research will later appear in much improved form.

But at the same time, it provides the outside world with a chance to see what we at CHEPS are thinking – in our conference presentations, in our internal seminars, and in our project working documents. We hope that it proves as stimulating for you as the underlying work has proved for us!

About Paul Benneworth

Paul Benneworth is a Senior Research Associate at the CHEPS. Paul’s research interests relate to the relationships between university and society, particularly focusing on regional engagement, social innovation and policy-making. Paul is an occasional contributor to the LSE Impact blog, and tweets as @heravalue.

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