Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap: Response

The Draft National Research Infrastructure Roadmap was published in December 2016, with a call for comments.

The response of AOASG (https://aoasg.org.au/) and CCAU (http://creativecommons.org.au/) is as follows.

Key Recommendations

1.                   Adopt Nine Focus Areas

·         Digital Data and eResearch Platforms

·         Platforms for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS)

 

We support the definition of Digital Data and eResearch Platforms as set out.[1] We welcome the  recommendations for the formation of The Australian Data Cloud,  but given the increasing need for integration of all the outputs of research we urge that it forms part of a wider strategy that includes other research outputs and associated policies required for implementation.

The rationale is as follows.  As research becomes increasingly digital, there are opportunities for the maximisation of its dissemination and by implication how much it can contribute to knowledge, innovation and wealth creation in Australia and beyond. In this regard we welcome a focus area on platforms for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS), which is an area where the potential for developing integrated digital infrastructure is only just beginning to be addressed. We would urge, however, that when platforms in HASS are being considered, a key element should be the need for inclusion of journal articles and other relevant research outputs, not just data collections.

Maximum dissemination of research will happen when there is coherent overarching policy as well as robust infrastructure.  In July 2016, a working group of university, research, business, government and not-for-profit sector representatives met to draft a national statement of principle aimed at opening up access to all of Australia’s research. The resulting statement proposes a framework for this access that builds on principles already established for data [2]: namely that all Australia’s research output should be F.A.I.R. (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). We submit that for research data and outputs to be truly accessible and reusable, they should be legally, as well as technologically, reusable. This requires that they be free of overly burdensome copyright restraints and that research outputs are openly licensed.

We note that the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap specifically references the concept of F.A.I.R. in relation to data[3] but we would urge that it is applied to all research outputs.

The adoption of a F.A.I.R. policy Australia-wide would remove ambiguity in the expectations of researchers and reduce the incoherence of approach that arises from external pressures, especially from commercial publisher policies. Furthermore, it would ensure that Australia is in alignment with international policy directions in relation to more open research.

Such a policy would align with the stated definition of National Research Infrastructure i.e. – an infrastructure that “optimises the use of scarce resources to create scale from geographically distributed and highly networked facilities.” [4]

However, as well as policy, there is a need to enhance current infrastructure to ensure that all research outputs are available and integrated nationally and internationally. How best to implement this remains to be determined but the current state of the Australian research literature as fragmented and largely non-interoperable needs to be remedied.

3.                   Develop a Roadmap Investment Plan

We agree with the approach proposed: for wide engagement as this plan is developed; and with the portfolio approach.[5] As noted above, one key area for investment that is specifically required is to ensure that the outputs of research from key infrastructure projects, as well as other research outputs, are fully interoperable both nationally and internationally. The implementation of the policy noted above would support this interoperability but it also requires investment in key areas that form the cornerstone of interoperability. ORCiD identifiers for researchers are key metadata, now invested in and well promulgated through an Australian national consortium.[6] Less well established, and not currently funded, are processes required for consistent application and interoperability of other metadata for all research outputs across the entire network of institutional repositories in Australia. Rollout of such a program across the sector would lead to a dramatic increase in national and international utility of these repositories and their content. Such an approach would also build on the previous investment in these repositories under the ASHER funding scheme.[7]

In order to ensure the success of this Roadmap it is essential that long-term, stable funding from specific, ring-fenced sources, such as the Education Investment Fund, is committed for infrastructure programmes, to allow planning across budget cycles.

5.            Recognise that a Skilled Workforce is critical to national research infrastructure

There is a noticeable gap in the consistent training and support of researchers in acquiring and maintaining the skills they require to fully participate in digital scholarship. We recommend that in addition to the skills required for specific facilities and projects, programmes in training in digital literacy are developed consistently across the higher education sector.  Acquisition of such skills is now largely left up to researchers to actively seek out, rather than being considered a core training requirement. The combination of advantages in efficiency and integrity offered by moving towards an Open Science future will be better realised with more focussed attention on such workforce skills.

National Research Infrastructure Principles[8]

We support these principles, especialy those that emhasise maximising capability, collaborations, broad benefits, business case inclusion, business cases with user access, and access guidelines with as few barriers as possible.

Final comments

We highlight the observation relating to Government Leadership.[9]

“In economic terms, investment in national-scale research infrastructure in Australia or internationally is the government response to market failure as there is no functioning market to address the gap.”

We strongly suggest that in the dissemination of research outputs there is at worst a “market failure” or at best a market lagging in the provision of a functioning infrastructure to support dissemination of scholarly work. Hence, there is a critical need – and an opportunity now with development of this Roadmap – for the Australian government to take a whole-of-sector approach to ensure maximum dissemination of all of Australia’s research outputs, especially those derived from large, centrally funded infrastructure projects.

 

[1] Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap p24

[2] https://www.force11.org/group/fairgroup/fairprinciples

[3] Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap p24

[4] Ibid p14

[5] Ibid p12

[6] https://aaf.edu.au/orcid/

[7] https://industry.gov.au/science/ResearchInfrastructure/Pages/ASHERandIAP.aspx

[8] Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap p15

[9] ibid p12

Submitted by Virginia Barbour, Executive Director, AOASG, on behalf of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) & Creative Commons Australia  (CCAU)