Opening data about open access

Stuart Lawson, research analyst with Jisc Collections, outlines the next steps in making APC data open and re-usable.

Two months ago I posted about collecting and sharing APC data. The aim was to create a single standard spreadsheet template which all UK higher education institutions could use to record and report their APC expenditure. Since then Jisc Collections has worked with institutions, research funders, and others to finalise which data fields the spreadsheet uses and how Jisc can help institutions make best use of it.

The final version was announced at a Jisc Monitor meeting on Friday last week. The template is now available to download from the Jisc Collections website:

We are working with CRIS vendors to make it easy to export data held in a CRIS into the format of the spreadsheet. This functionality isn’t available just yet, but hopefully it will make it much easier for institutions which use a CRIS to participate and release their data. Institutions which don’t use a CRIS may find it easiest to use this spreadsheet as their main data collection method, especially as it automatically generates a compliance report for the Charity Open Access Fund. We hope that RCUK will endorse this spreadsheet for their compliance reporting as well, to add to the data generated by the RCUK compliance reports released so far.

Transparency of APC payments will help greatly in establishing exactly what the total cost of universities’ expenditure on scholarly communications is. Jisc Collections will help institutions to use the spreadsheet in two main ways. The first is to answer any questions about it, explain how to use it and, if necessary, incorporate recommendations made by institutions as they start to use it.

The second is to aggregate the data that institutions openly release using the template. At first this will be done manually, by helping institutions to upload datasets to Figshare and collecting all the data together. Jisc Monitor, in partnership with Cottage Labs, is exploring whether this could be done better by creating a new service to collect and display the data. This would be a simple database where institutions could upload their data as CSV files and then people could search the whole dataset. Using an interface like this would allow people to learn much more from the data by analysing expenditure from all participating institutions in a user-friendly way.

The data fields defined in the spreadsheet will also inform the CASRAI-UK working group, “Research Contribution and Open Access Reporting”, which aims to reach agreement on vocabularies and metadata for reporting on OA more widely.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at

By Neil Jacobs

JISC Programme Director, Digital Infrastructure (Information Environment)

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