Centrally supported open access initiatives in Australia

Australia has a good track record in relation to open access, from hosting one of the first country-wide thesis repositories in the world to supporting the development and management of institutional repositories. While initially much of this work was pioneered by the university libraries, the Australian Government has made significant commitments more recently.

This blog post gives a short rundown of some of the open access initiatives Australia has seen since 2000, starting with the most recent developments – open access mandates from the two main funding bodies.

Funding mandates

In 2012 the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) announced its revised policy on the dissemination of research findings, effective 1 July 2012. The Australian Research Council (ARC) released its Open Access Policy on 1 January 2013. Both policies require that any publications arising from a funded research project must be deposited into an open access institutional repository within a 12 month period from the date of publication.

There are two minor differences between the two policies. The NHMRC relates only to journal articles where the ARC encompasses all publication outputs. In addition, the NHMRC mandate affects all publications as of 1 July 2012, but the ARC will only affect the outputs produced from the research funded in 2013. Researchers are also encouraged to make accompanying datasets available open access.

Enabling open access

Both the NHMRC and ARC mandates specifically require deposit of metadata (and ideally full text of the work) into the researchers’ institutional repository. This position takes advantage of the existing infrastructure already in place in Australian institutions.

All universities in Australia host a repository, many of them developed with funds the government provided through the Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (ASHER). This scheme which ran from 2007-2009 was originally intended to assist the reporting requirement for the Research Quality Framework (RQF) research assessment exercise, which became Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). The ASHER program had the aim of “enhancing access to research through the use of digital repositories”.

Australian repositories run on software platforms ranging from EPrints, DSpace, ARROW (a VTLS commercial front end to Fedora), to ProQuest Digital Commons (bepress). A full list of repository software platforms for Australian universities is here.

Support for open access in Australia

Repositories in Australia are generally managed by libraries and have been supported by an ongoing organised community. In 2009-2010, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) established the CAUL Australian Institutional Repository Support Service (CAIRSS) and when central government funding for the service ended, the university libraries agreed to continue the service by supporting it with member contributions. CAIRSS ended in December 2012, however the email list continues a strong community of practice.

In October 2012 the Australian Open Access Support Group launched, commencing staffed operations in January 2013. The group aims to provide advice and information to all practitioners in the area of open access.

Open theses

Historically Australia has a strong track record in providing access to research. The Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) program began in 2000 as a system of sharing PhD theses over the internet. The ADT was a central registry and open access display of theses, which were held in self-contained repositories at each university using a shared software platform that had been developed for the purpose. The first theses were made available in July 2000.  In 2011, as all theses were then being held in universities’ institutional repositories, the ADT was decommissioned. It was estimated that the number of full text Australian theses available in repositories at the time was over 30,000.

Open data

The Australian Government has made a significant commitment to the development of a successful digital economy underpinned by an open government approach, aimed at providing better access to government held information and also to the outputs of government funded research.

The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) is federally funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. It has responsibility for supporting public access to as much publicly funded research data as can be provided within the constraints of privacy, copyright, and technology. In an attempt to provide a platform for sharing information about data, ANDS has developed a discovery service for data resulting from Australian research, called Research Data Australia, which is a national data registry service meshing searchable web pages that describe Australian research data collections supplementing published research. Records in Research Data Australia link to the host institution, which may (or not) have a direct link to the data.

Open government

The work of ANDS reflects the broader government position in Australia of making public data publicly available. The Declaration of Open Government  was announced on July 16, 2010. This policy position is in the process of practical implementation across the country, providing access to information about locations of government services, for example. The level of engagement between government areas and different levels of government varies.

Another government initiative has been the Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL) which has an emphasis on open formats and open access to publicly funded information and provides a framework to facilitate open data from government agencies. In addition to providing information and fora for discussion, it has developed a licence suite that includes the Australian Creative Commons Version 3.0 licences.

Other publicly funded institutions in Australia also share their research through repositories. The Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO) has a Research Publications Repository. In addition, some government departments are making their research available, such as the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group

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4 thoughts on “Centrally supported open access initiatives in Australia

  1. Pingback: Altmetrics and open access – a measure of public interest | Australian Open Access Support Group

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  4. Pingback: A Global View of Open Access – Part 4 | Tony Hey on eScience

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