AOASG Response to Australian Government Paper “Vision for a Science Nation”

Earlier this year the Australian Government responded to the Chief Scientist’s paper, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future, which was published in September 2014. The Australian Government’s response was entitled Vision for a Science Nation and responses were invited to it.

The AOASG prepared a response, which specifically focusses on discussions around Open Access to the research literature. The response is available below. If you would like a copy of the response or have feedback, please contact us eo@aoasg.org.au

Australasian Open Access Support Group Response to:

Vision for a Science Nation – Responding to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future

July 2015

The AOASG is encouraged that both this paper and the Chief Scientist’s recommendations include reference to the importance of access to research. Professor Chubb divided his report into four sections:

  • Building competitiveness
  • Supporting high quality education and training
  • Maximising research potential
  • Strengthening international engagement

He made one specific recommendation with respect to open access, under the Maximising research potential section where he recommended the government should:

“Enhance dissemination of Australian STEM research by expanding open access policies and improving the supporting infrastructure.”

In addition, he referenced the need for IP regimes to support open access under the recommendation Building competitiveness section, where he noted the need to:

“Support the translation and commercialisation of STEM discoveries through: “a modern and flexible IP framework that embraces a range of capabilities from open access regimes to smart and agile use of patent and technology transfer strategies.”

In its response we note that the Government indicated two areas where it would increase access to research:

Australian competitiveness

“The Government is implementing a strategy to improve the translation of research into commercial outcomes by…

developing a plan to provide business with greater online access to publicly funded research and researchers’ expertise;”

Research

“Enhancing dissemination of Australian research

Australia’s research councils and some Government science agencies have arrangements in place to ensure wide access to research publications arising from the research they fund or conduct. There is no comprehensive policy covering all publicly funded research.

The Government will develop a policy to ensure that more publicly-funded research findings are shared openly and available to be used commercially or in other ways that will bring the greatest benefit to Australians.”

AOASG comments

These recommendations and the responses come at crucial time for developments in research publishing and access policies globally, with a vigorous ongoing international debate.

Scholarship is at a crossroads. The research outputs from publically and privately funded research are often locked behind paywalls preventing new research opportunities for those without access to libraries with large budgets and excluding those in developing countries from the publically funded knowledge that is produced as a result of government research funding.

The UK model of Gold Open Access is unfundable and unsustainable. The results of studies by the Wellcome Trust [1] and RCUK [2] show that more than £UK15 million was spent by  RCUK in 2013/4 on  costs of Gold Open Access publishing with a large proportion (and the highest article processing charges) being spent on “hybrid” Open Access – i.e. payment to traditional publishers for single articles within a subscription journal.  Despite such models most of the world’s research remains inaccessible as current models reward publishers for limiting access to research.

There are models that Australia should use to increase access to research. Science Europe’s Social Sciences Committee Opinion Paper “The Need for Diamond Engagement around Open Access to High Quality Research Output” [3] highlights the need for partnership between policy makers and publishers to facilitate deposition in repositories; standardisation and interoperability of research information metadata; and the need to build on infrastructures and networks already in place. Other models are possible and are being tried. For example, Knowledge unlatched [4] is a completely different open access book publishing model which uses library purchases to pay for the first copy to be published and made available open access subsequently to all. This model has developed to ensure valuable scholarly works continue to be published and available in an environment where commercial publishers’ sales targets, and not academic merit alone, can be a significant factor in the decision as to whether a scholarly monograph is published or not.

Increasing access to research has benefits across all of Australian society and potentially can provide value in all of the areas highlighted by the Chief Scientist – competitiveness, high quality education and training, research and international engagement.

In order to have the maximum effect on all these areas, the Government needs to adopt principles as it seeks to develop a policy on Open Access for Australia.

  1. Open Access must be implemented flexibly. It is becoming clear that there will be no one single solution for Open Access, but rather it will need a number of different models within an environment where the default is “Open”. What is currently lacking however is sufficient funding to develop new experiments and support innovative solutions. The Government should encourage and make available financial support for the development of multiple solutions, through funded experiments where needed and support for functioning, already established solutions. Examples of experiments include Knowledge Unlatched [4] for the publication of books in the humanities and SCOAP3 for Particle physics [5].
  1. Green Open Access, providing access via university repositories is currently the most well established mechanism for providing access to the diverse outputs of Australian Universities. The investment in repositories is currently through individual universities, delivering a fragmented landscape without a cohesive infrastructure and resulting in delays in implementing, for example, technologies for different metrics to provide information on impact. Repositories need to be able to innovate develop within an international and national environment. They should be part of the research infrastructure roadmap and a national project and program is required. It needs to link to international work such as that of COAR [6].
  1. There may also be a case for support of Gold Open Access journals via article processing charges (APCs) publishing in some circumstances, especially from innovative, not for profit or society publishers. However, Universities currently have little ability to support APCs, given their current commitment to the payment of journal subscriptions.
  1. Any policy on Open Access should not be aimed at providing access to just one sector (e.g. science or business). Open Access to Australian research outputs including older research material in collections is also a key component of improving education and engagement in science in Australia and any policy therefore should aim to increase access across all of Australian society. In addition, increasing global access to the research from Australia plays a role in international engagement.
  1. Reuse and machine readability of Open Access work is a critical issue in order to maximise its usefulness. Currently, many works that are labelled “Open Access” are in fact only free to read, in that they do not have an associated license that enshrines right to reuse, mine and build on the work – and may only be free after an embargo period. The Government should build on work by its existing Licensing Framework, AusGoal [7] and encourage the development of policies across the University sector that require all work to be licensed in such a way, under Creative Commons licensing [8], that enable reuse. We believe this fits into the Chief Scientist’s recommendation for “a modern and flexible IP framework”.
  1. Lack of interoperability and as yet patchy uptake of some infrastructure initiatives are holding back Open Access development. The Government should support the development and implementation of standards and interoperability initiatives in key areas such as exchange of data within and between national and international repository networks (as currently being led internationally by COAR, 6), facilitation of deposition of articles in repositories, as well as essential infrastructure, such as the uptake of ORCiD [9] identifiers for researchers. It is also important that any Open Access policy is developed in conjunction with current initiatives on open data publishing.
  1. The role of supporting particularly Early Career researchers needs consideration and development. Mechanisms to support these researchers are required to enable maximum benefit for the future of Australian research.
  1. Any development in Open Access should also be considered in parallel with ongoing developments such as those on metrics and incentives within research. There has been much anxiety among scientists that new ways of publishing and dissemination are not adequately rewarded by their institutions and funders and the Government should encourage a culture whereby being “Open” is supported and rewarded. The UK’s HEFCE has recently published a report with recommendations for the use of metrics in the UK’s higher education sector. [10]

References

  1. Wellcome Trust The Reckoning: An Analysis of Wellcome Trust Open Access Spend 2013-14
  2. Research Councils UK 2014 Independent Review of Implementation
  3. Science Europe’s Social Sciences Committee Opinion Paper The Need for Diamond Engagement around Open Access to High Quality Research Output
  4. Knowledge Unlatched http://www.knowledgeunlatched.org/
  5. SCOAP3 – Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics http://scoap3.org/
  6. Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) https://www.coar-repositories.org/
  7. AUSGOAL http://www.ausgoal.gov.au/
  8. Creative Commons Australia http://creativecommons.org.au/
  9. Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCiD) http://orcid.org/
  10. HEFCE The Metric Tide

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