APC Payment Management: In Practice and Good Practice

Wednesday November 18th 2015
Brunel Boardroom, Engine Shed, Temple Meads, Bristol


10.00 Coffee and registration
10:15 Welcome, housekeeping and outline of the day Kara Jones (University of Bath)
10:20 Introduction Frank Manista (Jisc) and Kara Jones (University of Bath)
10.30 University APC payment perspectives Isobel Stark (University of Southampton)
11:00 University APC payment perspectives Kathryn Smith (University of Bristol)
11.30 Summary and review Kara Jones (University of Bath)
12:00 Jisc Monitor Frank Manista (Jisc )
12:30 Offsetting and APC reporting Anna Vernon (Jisc Collections)
13:00 Lunch
14:00 APC payments: a publisher perspective Mark Purvis (IOP)
14:30 APC payments: a publisher perspective Raegel De Guzman (BMJ)
15:00 Final summary and review Kara Jones (University of Bath)
15:30 Close with thanks

Summary report on the workshop supplementing the presentations.


Open Access Good Practice Project: GW4 Offset Implementation Review

This review of current offsetting deals focusses on the practical issues of implementing the available deals and briefly compares the deals with the Jisc Principles for Offset Agreements.

Open Access Good Practice Project: GW4 Offset Implementation Review

This document has been updated in November 2015 to reflect an error in the data collection.
The review is an output of our Jisc Good Practice Pathfinder project, any feedback, comments or issues please tell us!

Finlay Jones
University of Exeter

Managing APC payments using Access and Excel: a comparison

Managing APC payments for Wellcome Trust and particularly RCUK requires the collection of a lot of data for each payment. Finding a way to record all the necessary information in an efficient way is a significant challenge.

The most common method for collecting this data is an Excel spreadsheet, with a few institutions opting for an Access database. Two of the GW4 Pathfinder institutions, Bristol and Exeter, have just transferred their data between these two systems in opposite directions. The following details their reasons and experiences.

Excel to Access
At Bristol we have been grappling with a large and unwieldy spreadsheet of APC data. This happened gradually as new demands were made on the data for reporting internally and externally, and over time, more and more columns were added to the spreadsheet. By the time the number of columns had gone round to the beginning of the alphabet again, it seemed like time to change the system.

Although unwieldy, the spreadsheet was functioning adequately but was dependent on a number of formula and data validation methods to automate the data entry as much as possible. This was not too much of a problem until the expanding team meant that the fragility of the system was revealed. The formulas were easy to override by simply accidentally typing in the wrong cell and not all members of the team had the Excel knowledge to fix problems that occurred. The spreadsheet had simply become too complex and was leading to mistakes that were time consuming to fix. Add to that the inefficiency of simply scrolling through the many columns and the problems caused by the fact that only one member of the team could use the spreadsheet at the same time, and it meant that the spreadsheet was becoming extremely problematic.

The solution was an Access database. This was not a quick fix, it involved considerable preparatory work to clean up the Excel data, plan the structure of the tables and determine the relationships between them. We decided to put in the time in this preparatory phase in order to maximise the benefits of transferring to Access.

We have now transferred from Access to Excel, but we are still learning. We have not yet determined how to do all of the tasks that we could previously do in Excel. Monitoring the spending, particularly the totals for individual prepayment accounts, has still not been completely resolved. Despite this, we are already seeing the benefits in the data entry. The ability to use queries and forms means that it is easier to concentrate on the required part of the workflow, and data entry is quicker and more accurate.

We are really pleased we made the change; getting data in is already significantly improved, and we’re confident that this will be true for getting data out soon.

Access to Excel
The change from Access to Excel was largely prompted by staff turnover. Both members of the OA team who had been involved with setting up the Access database, as well as two other Access experienced members of staff within the library, left the University.

Inputting data into Access was extremely easy. All the required fields were displayed on one form, which was completely visible on one screen. This meant all data for each request was immediately visible on one screen, and made searching for data easy. However, a lot of the data generation for reporting was not entirely straightforward and we also felt that we did not use Access as expansively as we could have.

We used Access as it had been left for several months, before a change in our OA payment practice prompted the change to Excel: We needed to edit the data input form on Access but no one within the library had the expertise to do so.

When we first made the change we spent some time ensuring the fields were correct for both our data input and reporting needs, and working on pivot tables for reporting. This has now made it simpler to get quick snapshots of where we are with our spending. It also gave us a good opportunity to liaise with our colleagues from Research Accounting, who were using Excel to gather data for the Wellcome Trust reports. Now we have a unified spreadsheet which both departments use, which has reduced duplication in the University, as there is no need for us to pass information back and forth.

The fact the RCUK recommended JISC APC data template that has come from the JISC Monitor project is an Excel spreadsheet also means we can now integrate the institutional specific data gathering with the data for the RCUK report. The nature of formulas and tables within this template means that the additional fields we needed to add to the spreadsheet had to be added to the end otherwise they corrupt the formulas present on the template and the auto-complete fields are not filled in. While this causes the order of some of the data fields to be slightly illogical, it does not create huge problems. All the extra fields we need to fill in are together, but simply at the end of the spreadsheet instead of at the beginning. The size of the spreadsheet also introduces some risk of error as you scroll across the numerous columns.

It is hard to answer whether or not it would have been preferable to stay on Access, if staff expertise were different. Data input is easier in Access, but we believe that Excel is overall easier to use and more accessible for new staff. It also helps us be more efficient and work more closely with our colleagues, as well as tying in directly with RCUK’s recommended data collection template.

Kathryn Smith University of Bristol
Finlay Jones University of Exeter

Key Fields for APC Internal Institutional Reporting

Following publication of the Open Access Reporting Checklist, identifying the data required for RCUK and HEFCE OA/APC reporting, we wondered if it might also be useful to investigate the data used in institutional internal APC reporting across the four GW4 collaborators to determine if any data fields are common and what, if any, overlap there might be with the data fields required for external RCUK and HEFCE reports.

The investigation revealed that internal reports provide summaries or overviews of APC activity focusing on one of two main areas; expenditure of the RCUK grant and the extent of APC practice within the institution. These measures appear to be the main criteria GW4 institutions use to evaluate APC activity but no institution reports on both. At least one summary report is produced by each institution but multiple summary reports are also produced for different internal bodies. Only one institution provides detailed data on individual APC articles to other departments or services. Recipients of the summary reports were OA steering groups, research committees, research management and scholarly communications groups. One institution provides an annual report to the Vice Chancellors group.

Data collection has been simplified, in some instances, by re-using the data template from the Jisc RCUK report for internal reports or by using the same data fields, or a subset, for multiple reports.

Analysis of the data elements within the reports revealed no data element was used by all four GW4 institutions in internal reports. Report objectives appear to be the determining factor influencing data content; institutions who focus their reports on similar areas may use the same data element. Common data fields with external Jisc and HEFCE reports only occur if the Jisc template has been intentionally selected to simplify report production or if internal institutional and external report objectives are similar. Even within reports with similar objectives the levels of detail required created diverse data requirements.

It is difficult therefore to identify data fields which are key to internal reporting as the selection and use of fields is dependent on the report objectives and detail required by each institution.

It would be interesting to hear of other institutions experiences with internal reports; how they decided the focus of their reporting, whether they had clear objectives for their reports and how this influenced the data they collect and monitor. It would also be interesting to know how many different reports are produced by institutions and if reporting was simplified and by what means.

The Ultimate Prepayment Account

The University of Bristol has taken on a number of prepayment accounts to manage RCUK APC payments. We have these in part to take advantage of discounts but also to reduce administrative costs.

Some of our accounts do save administrative time for a combination of the author, the Library and the Finance department (a couple even save time for all three), but sometimes signing up for a prepayment can lead to a level of work far above that of paying individual invoices.

No two publisher prepayment systems operate in the same way, which causes inefficiencies for libraries and authors in itself, but it does allow us to view many different features and see what works for us and what doesn’t.

Here is our wish list for the ultimate prepayment account.

1. Process activated at the point of acceptance rather than submission.
2. Easy and intuitive system for authors with clear information about who is eligible to use the account.
3. Information for library staff about what the author will see as they go through the process.
4. Licence choice restricted to CC-BY.
5. Approval process that does not involve an extra step for the author. Codes or vouchers do not work well for us.
6. Ability to view proofs and check acknowledgements as part of the approval process.
7. Easy mechanism for managing RCUK and Wellcome Trust payments separately.
8. Ability to view online reports to monitor spending in real time.
9. Spending reported in GBP (or at least the same currency as the invoice for the original deposit).
10. Named point of contact to help when things go wrong.

Kathryn Smith
University of Bristol

FAQs for publishers

These ‘FAQs for publishers’ are intended to assist publishers in processing APC payments for Gold Open Access on behalf of authors and their institutions. We hope they will provide answers to commonly recurring questions, explain issues and promote understanding between all parties involved in APC payments.

FAQs for publishers

The FAQs are an output of our Jisc Good Practice Pathfinder project, any feedback, comments or issues please tell us! We’ll update the FAQs if appropriate.

Update of the Open Access Reporting Checklist

The recently published checklist has been updated with the data required for version 2 of the RCUK APC spreadsheet as applicable to HEI APC expenditure reporting in January 2016. The changes were identified in an email from Stuart Lawson to the UKCORR discussion group dated 21st May 2015 and reported by Neil Jacobs on the Jisc Scholarly Communications blog .

Open Access Reporting Checklist for Institutions V2

Review of APC Intermediary Services

At the beginning of this pathfinder project I was tasked with examining intermediaries for APC payments, specifically in regards to reducing the administrative burden placed on HEI’s by Open Access, but it quickly became clear there was a problem – the rapidly changing Open Access environment we all deal with everyday had already moved past APC intermediaries.

Off the back of the JISC/OAK Pilot I spoke to CCC, EBSCO, Swets and Turpin Distribution. At first there seemed to be some interest in establishing intermediaries. But after initial positive responses, and some development work, the responses cooled down.

Turpin Distribution had presented at UKSG 2014 and mentioned the possibility of an interface for institutions in 2015. Now this has been delayed until a review in early 2016. EBSCO had plans in place but development has since been shelved. CCC still has potential given the services they supply for publishers, but it seems that any Institutional interface, if it comes at all, will still be a while away.

Instead of focusing on APC Intermediaries to enable administrative savings, these will instead have to come from Good Practice and further “bedding in” of Open Access processes and workflows into the operational life of institutions.

At the same time as the interest in Intermediaries was dwindling, the community had turned towards offsetting deals. When I started working on the project there was already information on offsetting in theory, and IOP had launched their offsetting pilot. We are now well and truly stuck into offsetting in practice, with several other publishers now offering offset deals following the work JISC has done establishing these deals and providing guidance.

The focus on savings has thus shifted. Any savings that we as a community might make now come from lowering, or controlling, the total cost of publication, rather than directly from removing administrative burden as was thought a little over a year ago at the commencement of the project.

My next blog post will examine these offsetting deals, the pros and cons of the different models that have been adopted, and how these deals are being embedded in practice, looking at the main pain points of implementation as well as things we would potentially change.

Finlay Jones
University of Exeter

Open Access Reporting Checklist and Sample APC Payment Workflows for Institutions

This checklist is intended to assist institutions in identifying data required for OA reporting to Jisc for RCUK (APC spreadsheet) and HEFCE for REF OA. We are aware of other work in this area but developed the guide with other work for our Jisc Good Practice Pathfinder project and we believe it may be useful for other institutions. It has confirmed there is very little overlap in data requirements for RCUK and HEFCE OA reporting.

Open Access Reporting Checklist for Institutions

Mapping workflows at our four collaborating institutions identified a generic series of ‘steps’ in each payment scenario used by our institutions. This led to the development of sample workflows for each payment method which we hope will prove a useful aid for institutions developing new, or adapting old, workflows. Institutions may need to adapt the sample workflows to suit their own requirements, systems and processes.

Sample payment workflows

We welcome feedback and comments on the checklist and workflows.

Report on the Jisc Monitor Review Workshop 26th March 2015

Review the Monitor Local and UK Aggregation Prototypes
The Monitor developers discussed the aims of their work, what Monitor is designed to do, the global and local models, and limitations of the current design. Prototypes of the data model, workflow, data fields and screen presentations were shown and feedback requested; was the right data included and what might be missing? The developers were keen to receive ideas for inclusion, questioned for clarity and understanding and accepted many of the numerous suggestions.
The prototypes are designed to fill current gaps in the OA landscape, additional work will be necessary to convert to a service. Alternative services or solutions may fill the gaps and in that case Monitor will cease further development and become redundant. If developed, a future system may be a local web or hosted service (the developers felt the latter was most likely) with an API to interface with other systems for import and export of data.
Details of their work published on Jisc Monitor blog See their outputs for details of the system specification and wireframes (screen presentations).
Monitor Local
Four work areas: publication, costs, compliance and tasks (monitoring progress, driving work). This workshop reviewed the costs requirements but other areas were discussed briefly.
Compliance checking is designed to be flexible as change is expected and it is possible to use the compliance element standalone (w/o other three elements) and interface to other systems.
The tasks display user interface assists in managing daily work by indicating ‘What needs doing?’ An indicator displays how complete individual tasks are and a task drop down takes users to different screens.
Monitoring of pre-pay accounts is not possible using Monitor. The Monitor Local data model maps to RIOXX elements.
Monitor Global
UK Aggregation – data could be fed from Monitor local or from proprietary apps or spreadsheets.
 Leverage UK negotiation
 Reduce institutional reporting requirements
 Outing bad practice
OA compliance automation was demonstrated using a spreadsheet download (data included PMCID, PMID and DOI and title) to interrogate services e.g. EPMC, DOAJ, CORE, Sherpa and text mining of publishers websites. Potential reports from Global might include expenditure by publisher, expenditure in OA/Hybrid journals and by institution. Linking and comparison with KB+ to provide comparison of subscription spend and APC payments is recognised but some way in the future.
Monitor are demonstrating at two UKSG workshops (31/03/2015 and 01/04/2015) and welcome feedback in the next six – seven weeks.