Jisc Monitor – The Final Episode – From ideas to prototypes (by David Kay)

Back Story

Completing at the end of May 2015, and with inputs from over 60 UK institutions, the 12 month Jisc Monitor project is tasked with developing designs and prototype software that indicate how institutions (and the broader supply chain) might go about supporting and tracking Open Access publication processes, especially with reference to compliance and costs.

Since December’s mid-point review of potential developments arising, the project has been focused on two related applications that commend themselves for consideration as key components in the Jisc OA offer – currently referenced under the working titles of ‘Monitor Local’ and ‘Monitor UK Aggregator’.  As an enabler to these types of services, and OA management more generally, Monitor also is experimenting with a service to enable institutions to identify publications where their academics do not have a lead role as the corresponding author (GUIDE – Getting Useful IDs Early).

You can read more about the intent of the prototypes in The Jisc Monitor Local UK GUIDE. The underlying requirements (over 200 in total!) for the broader OA management space collected in the earlier phases of the project are also available in navigable form at http://demonstrators.ostephens.com/monitor-reqs/.

Prototype Feedback – Address complexity with flexibility and automation

In the run up to Easter, the team has been able to test these propositions and to examine prototypes with a good range of interested users at two UKSG sessions in Glasgow and at a prototype workshop in Birmingham.

At the Birmingham workshop, we demonstrated the scope of the financial data recording in Monitor Local and then posed a key question – whether the proposed approach would be too complex for everyday operations, especially for institutions processing small numbers of APCs? Users wholly welcomed the approach, especially when balanced by the option to enter data in the simplest possible way when an institution wishes just to record a total cost without prior estimates, order values or breakdown. Based on that advice, the team will adopt a similar approach when it comes to making compliance management flexible, whilst addressing essential funder mandates.

Time saving in the face of both volume and complexity was a key principle for Monitor Local design emphasised at each event. Institutions of differing sizes and research missions will be challenged by OA Monitoring in different ways – some looking for efficiencies in the face of high volumes of academic outputs, others looking for automated support where administrators have lower familiarity with the nuances of such as compliance. It is therefore essential that onerous tasks, such as compliance checking, are automated to the point where human intervention needs to be triggered (if at all).

The team also gathered positive critical feedback to demonstrations of the Monitor UK Aggregation, which includes both cost and compliance data building on the Total Cost of Ownership project recommendations. The potential of this data to meet the needs of institutions (including benchmarking), the Funding Councils and Jisc (informing publisher negotiations) was widely recognized. The prototype at http://apc.ooz.cottagelabs.com/ contains over 8,000 transactions across a wide range of institutions and publishers, suggests real opportunities for onward refinement.

Recognising the sector-wide value of this data, delegates emphasised that it should be possible to feed institutional data into the UK Aggregation using a standard data profile without obligation to use Monitor Local. This will be important for institutions developing alternative systems and workflows for local OA management. Thankfully, the prototype and its API have been designed with this in mind.

Last but not least, at UKSG we discussed the importance of integration between these potential Monitor services and other Jisc services for managing e-resources, notably integrating with KB+ in order to maximise the opportunities to get value for money from fuller analysis of the combination of subscription and OA costs.

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This integration is not part of the current prototyping, but the design work undertaken has established it as a realistic possibility if Monitor Local progresses to service in 2015-16.


The Monitor team is on track to complete its Local and UK Aggregation prototypes by the end of May. In parallel, and taking account of the potential outlined here, Jisc is consulting on what services should be prioritised in its OA offer to the UK community.  Therefore we hope institutions will continue to provide feedback in the final prototyping stage that will inform such service development decisions.

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