The Entitlement Registry: the key to SafeNet

We’ve had some staffing changes here at EDINA. Robbie Ireland left to join the BBC in an exciting new role, and Celia Jenkins has taken over as Project Officer for SafeNet. Welcome, Celia!

Happy New Year! As well as being the first blog post of the year, this is my first blog post as the new SafeNet Project Officer. These are exciting times for SafeNet, so I am thrilled to now be part of the team.

This is not my first experience of working with serials. I have been working as SUNCAT Bibliographic Assistant in EDINA for seven years. How time flies! SUNCAT is a Serials Union Catalogue for the UK research community, delivered by on behalf of Jisc. As part of this job I process and check the bibliographic data sent to us by over 100 UK libraries, plus CONSER, ISSN and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). I was also previously a Research Assistant with Professor Charles Oppenheim and Dr Steve Probets (at Loughborough University), working on a joint project with Bill Hubbard of SHERPA (based at the University of Nottingham) to improve the coverage and functionality of the SHERPA/RoMEO database. This involved analysing publishers’ Copyright Transfer Agreements using a specially created controlled vocabulary. This work was part of the Jisc/SURF ‘Partnering on Copyright’ programme, which had the aim of providing information and help to those involved with open access and scholarly communications, focusing on balanced approaches in copyright for achieving optimal access to scholarly information through open access.

An image of Bergman's Lock and Key store.

Bergman’s Lock and Key. By Tom Harpel from Seattle, Washington, United States, 2004 (Flickr.com – image description page) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Entitlement Registry: the authoritative key to SafeNet

It is clear that the Entitlement Registry is a core component of SafeNet. The overall aim of SafeNet is to ensure that the right people (authorised users) get the right information (full text content) at the right time (continual access), and so the right data to enable this is crucial. This is where the Entitlement Registry comes in.

The Entitlement Registry has two main functions:
1. To act as the source of authorisation to licensed content in the SafeNet Archive, thereby ensuring people get access to what they are entitled to.
2. To provide librarians with clear, concise and authoritative information on the entitlement rights that institution has to their subscribed content.

It will, therefore, need to contain a wide range of information: institution’s entitlement rights; the list of journals these rights pertain to; and evidence of these rights. Obtaining and processing such information to populate the Entitlement Registry is going to be a challenging task. It will require working closely with both publishers and libraries, collecting data from different sources and of varying quality.

Data needed for success

It is crucial that the data in the Entitlement Registry is reliable and complete enough to grant users access to journal content. With regards to historic (past and present) entitlements, we anticipate that entitlements rights will need to be clarified, especially for smaller publishers. We will be establishing a systematic process for verification over time as we get more experience with the data issues that arise. For now, we are undertaking a series of ‘acquisition exercises’ to focus on specific data sets and working with libraries and publishers to assess the data quality. Looking to the future, we hope that we can establish processes to capture information in a more systematic way, with the goal of reducing the sense of ambiguity that currently exists.

In order that all stakeholders can have trust in the authority of the registry, we are analysing the post-cancellation entitlement rights found in publishers’ licensing agreements in a standard and methodical way. To enable this, we are developing a controlled vocabulary. This has to be comprehensive enough so that it is able to cover post-cancellation rights found across the range of publisher licenses. It also has to be intuitive and not overly complex, both so that people can easily see what the permitted rights are to subscribed content and so that others may be able to analyse entitlement rights and help populate such a database in future.

Throughout September 2015, the SafeNet team conducted a series of interviews with UK HE institutions to understand the quality of their entitlement records, how they use these records in the renewal process, and the recurrent problems that libraries face in the post-cancellation access domain. Having access to their entitlement rights and understanding these emerged as key issues for librarians, and we are hoping that the work described above to clarify the permitted post-cancellation access arrangements for a variety of publishers will have a significant impact on library practises.

Next steps

Our next step is to look at how post-cancellation access is covered in publishers’ licensing agreements. We are starting with NESLi2 licences: Jisc investment in this area is paying off as we can easily find current and historic NESLi2 licenses in the KB+ service. By analysing these licenses we can identify what information needs to be recorded in the registry and develop a controlled vocabulary (list of fields) and their definitions. This vocabulary can then be used to populate the registry. This process will be very interesting, identifying similarities and differences to licenses and working out what needs to be represented and differentiated. In this initial phase, it will definitely be a case of learning and adapting.

Ultimately, what SafeNet hopes to achieve is to make the post-cancellation access process as reliable, authoritative and efficient as possible, working with libraries and publishers to provide a national entitlement registry and archive. This is a complex process to improve, but through collaboration and co-ordination it is one that is not only achievable but also extremely valuable to the scholarly community.