Ensuring patrons have access to all library collections and subscriptions is an important part of librarians’ roles. This complex process involves navigating everything from IP address updates to VPN software. And the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of remote working have only added further complications. This post explores the ways we’re making access to the Version of Record simpler, for researchers and librarians alike.
It’s imperative that researchers have easy access to the Version of Record (VOR) for published research. Not only is this because researchers feel it’s the most reliable form of research – according to a survey we conducted – but because the VOR is usually considerably more accessible compared to preprint servers or shared PDFs.
Ensuring that researchers can access the VOR whenever they need it – and from wherever they’re working – is a challenge that will be familiar to all academic librarians. A challenge which has only grown following the rise in remote working around the world since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Before the pandemic hit, 95% of our institutional authentication happened via onsite IP address recognition. This can be complex for librarians to maintain – more on how we’re making this easier below – but when home working became the norm as the pandemic hit, a new set of issues around remote access arose. And that has brought a number of big changes to the ways researchers access subscription content.
Our work to simplify access to content for researchers means that we’re now seeing users employing a constellation of different methods to authenticate their access to our content. Alongside IP recognition, options now include persisted access, ResearchGate Syndication, Google Scholar CASA, and more. So what are these options and how are we using them?
Persisted access has been the most impactful change we’ve made since March 2020 to ease researcher authentication and access. It works by storing known institution authentication information for 180 days via a cookie in the user’s browser, meaning researchers can access the content they need wherever they are.
By November 2021, we were seeing 38% of visitors accessing our platforms through persisted access. And that, in turn, led to a 70% reduction in denials for previously authenticated users at the start of the pandemic, dramatically improving user experience.
Springer Nature and ResearchGate began a pioneering content-sharing pilot in 2019 in response to several challenges, such as how to streamline authentication, enable seamless access, and support researchers in finding the version of record.
We were the first publisher to proactively engage with ResearchGate to identify a collaborative solution to these challenges. As a result of the syndication, content usage has increased: for some participating journals by up to 19.5%.
Institutions are also receiving a clearer understanding of their institutional usage and are gaining better visibility of who is using their subscribed content via ResearchGate. And most importantly, researchers are enjoying a better experience, having access to content directly from the platform.
One of the big challenges of using IP addresses for authentication is that institutions regularly need to update them. Every time an IP address change occurs, librarians and information managers need to notify all of their content providers. This can be hundreds of individual publishers and may require multiple emails to each. Meanwhile, some users may be denied access to content for as long as this process takes.
We’ve been working with theIPregistry.org for several years now to make this process easier. Registered users can check, monitor, and update their institution's IP address details on the IPregistry website, and those changes are automatically communicated to all the publishers using their service. And the big bonus? It’s free for libraries to use. (You can register at app.theIPregistry.org.)
SeamlessAccess is a service designed to help foster a more streamlined online access experience when using scholarly collaboration tools, information resources, and shared research infrastructure. The service promotes digital authentication by using an existing single-sign-on infrastructure through a user’s institution.
Springer Nature was the first publisher to implement the SeamlessAccess experience of federated access on Nature.com in November 2019. It means users from participating institutions only have to log in once per browser, after which the publisher websites will remember their institutional affiliation, making future authentication when outside of their institution’s network easier.
Meanwhile, Google Scholar CASA (Campus Activated Subscriber Access) is an authentication enhancement that improves the authentication for off-campus users of Google Scholar. When a user is on-campus, and they connect to a University network using the university's IP, permission is granted to access the university's subscriptions. Google automatically creates an affiliation between that user and their institution, and the resulting cookie will permit access in the same way when the user is no longer able to access via IP. Once the affiliation is created, it’s valid for 30 days and grants immediate access to Springer Nature content without the user needing to log in.
Like SeamlessAccess, GetFTR (Get Full Text Research) enables faster access for researchers to high quality published research. Through GetFTR we’ve made it easier for researchers discovering content on websites like Dimensions, Researcher, and Semantic Scholar to access the Version of Record (VOR) on SpringerLink and Nature.com.
There’s more about how all these systems work, as well as more on Persisted Access, in this webinar recording. Find out more about implementing remote access options for libraries. And don’t forget to register with theIPregistry.org.
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