AOASG Response to Productivity Commission Inquiry Final Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements

This response was on behalf of the AOASG in February 2017 to The Productivity Commission Inquiry Final Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements

We are grateful to the Productivity Commission in their Inquiry Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements report for Recommendation 16.1[1] that the Government implement an open access policy for publicly-funded research, specifically

“The Australian, and State and Territory governments should implement an open access policy for publicly-funded research. The policy should provide free and open access arrangements for all publications funded by governments, directly or through university funding, within 12 months of publication. The policy should minimise exemptions.

The Australian Government should seek to establish the same policy for international agencies to which it is a contributory funder, but which still charge for their publications, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.”


  1. We strongly agree that there is a need for a national open access policy and that any policy at the states’ level should be aligned with that at a national level, and with international policy developments.
  2. We urge that the policy should require immediate access. Embargos are a substantial barrier not only to wide access to research, but also to the translation and impact of research. Furthermore, because of the reuse restrictions usually associated with outputs released after an embargo, embargos are not compatible with a long term sustainable model of open access
  3. In the development of the open access policy support should be provided for its implementation in accordance with the F.A.I.R principles (that research outputs be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable[2][3]). These principles articulate specific requirements, including on the appropriate licensing of the work and other core principles.

[1] p38



AOASG response to Productivity Commission Issues Paper on Data Availability and Use

AOASG response to Productivity Commission Issues Paper on Data Availability and Use

Prepared by Dr Virginia Barbour, Executive Director, AOASG, on behalf of the AOASG; July 2016

The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) [1] exists to advocate, collaborate, raise awareness and lead and build capacity for open access in Australia and New Zealand. The AOASG is supported by ten Australian and eight New Zealand Institutions.

General comments

The AOASG welcomes the Productivity Commission inquiry into data availability and use. The inquiry is timely both nationally and globally. We limit our response to the general sections and paragraphs 1 and 4 under the scope of the inquiry.

We especially note and agree that this inquiry should consider domestic and international best practices and the measures adopted internationally to encourage sharing and linking of both public and private data.

Specific comments

Page 3


Paragraph entitled:  Open Data

Open data has most usefully been characterised as having the four characteristics  denoted by the acronym: FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.[2] This terminology is more useful than the term “open”, which can be interpreted in many different ways. As the developers of the FAIR principles note: “FAIR Principles put specific emphasis on enhancing the ability of machines to automatically find and use the data, in addition to supporting its reuse by individuals.” The move to more open data is part of the drive for more open scholarship generally, that has been highlighted by a number of global initiatives recently including the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science, an initiative of the Dutch Government, during their chairing of the EU in Jan-June 2016.[3]

Page 4

Box 1 Paragraph entitled: Why does data matter?

Data are also critical in ensuring the reproducibility of the academic literature. Without data to back up published research findings, research is based on trust at best. There are many examples now of researchers being unable to reproduce previously published research findings and where the data behind published papers have been found to be unavailable or uninterpretable. Furthermore, there are many cases where lack of data availability has been linked to fraud in research and publishing.[4] There is now an increasing global consensus that in order to better ensure the integrity of research and to prevent research fraud and improve its investigation, researchers should be willing to make the data that underpins academic papers available. Such data should be in a format that allows their interrogation, provided that appropriate processes are in place to ensure the protection of sensitive data. The Australian National Data Service (ANDS)[5] has provided guidance on handling sensitive data, including those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.[6] As data become more open it is essential such guidance remains current.

As well as the principles noted above, there is also increasing infrastructure in place directed at increasing the sharing of these data.  National examples, with well-established policies, tools and processes in place include ANDS and its many tools including its portal, Research Data Australia.[7] International repositories for academic data include long established publicly supported ones such as GenBank[8] and non-profit and commercially used ones such as Dryad[9] and Figshare,[10] respectively. Many Australian institutions also have their own data repositories which are linked to Research Data Australia.

Page 8

Box 2 Paragraph entitled: Insufficient dataset linkage?

Poor, or absent, linkage between published research and the underlying data is one of the most important reasons leading to poor reproducibility in much of the academic literature, especially in some areas of science and medicine.[11]  It has also been well established that URLs cited in papers decay very dramatically after publication, having a half-life of at best 4.7 years after publication in one study[12]—which reinforces the need for the development of a secure culture of archiving, not merely linkage to temporary websites for example.

Page 9

Paragraph entitled: Benefits of increasing data availability and use

As noted above, one clear benefit of increasing data availability would be to increase the reliability of the published literature. This in turn leads to increased efficiency of research. The issue of lack of data leading to waste in research is mentioned in the campaign by the Reward Alliance, one of whose key recommendations is “Make publicly available the full protocols, analysis plans or sequence of analytical choices, and raw data for all designed and undertaken biomedical research”.[13]

Page 13

Paragraph entitled: More recently the Australian Government…

We very much welcome the Australian Government’s stated commitment to open data. Of particular importance is the requirement for a Creative Commons license,[14] which fulfils the “R” i.e. reusable part of a FAIR framework for data. Guidance will be required to ensure which license is the most appropriate one for specific contexts and recommendations on developing such guidance would be important in ensuring data is optimally re-useable.

Page 14

Question: What benefits would the community derive from increasing the availability and use of public sector data?

See comments above which relate to the reliability of the academic literature and increased efficiency that would accrue through better access to and reliability of data associated with publications. Of note, many academic journals also now recognise the importance of such data sharing including, for example, the PLOS journals.[15]

However, currently there are few accepted processes for citing data, though the Research Data Alliance[16] and Force11,[17] two international organisations, both have groups that have worked on citation practices.

One crucial element of improving data accessibility is to ensure that academics who generate the data for others to use are given appropriate credit for it. Systems to reward such behaviour need to be developed and supported by institutions and funders of research.


Page 22

Question: How should the costs associated with making more public sector data widely available be funded?

Page 22

Question: Is availability of skilled labour an issue in areas such as data science or other data‑specific occupations? Is there a role for government in improving the skills base in this area?

There is unquestionably a lack of comfort among many academics in the curation of data associated with their work. There is a need for skills in data management and analysis, especially of complex datasets, to be incorporated into the training of early career researchers. Programmes such as Data Carpentry[19] have been successful in peer to peer training of researchers, though clearly could be scaled up further.

[1] ‘Australasian Open Access Strategy Group’, Australasian Open Access Strategy Group <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[2] ‘Article Metrics – The FAIR Guiding Principles for Scientific Data Management and Stewardship : Scientific Data’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[3] NL EU 2016, Amsterdam Call for Action on Open ScienceNL <;.

[4] ‘Cases | Committee on Publication Ethics: COPE’ <; [accessed 27 July 2016].

[5] ANDS, ‘Australian National Data Service’, ANDS <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[6] ANDS, ‘Ethics, Consent and Data Sharing’, ANDS <; [accessed 27 July 2016].

[7] ‘Research Data Australia’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[8] ‘GenBank Home’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[9] ‘ Dryad’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[10] ‘Figshare – Credit for All Your Research’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[11] John P. A. Ioannidis, ‘Why Most Clinical Research Is Not Useful’, PLOS Med, 13.6 (2016), e1002049 <;.

[12] P. Habibzadeh, ‘Decay of References to Web Sites in Articles Published in General Medical Journals: Mainstream vs Small Journals’, Applied Clinical Informatics, 4.4 (2013), 455–64 <;.

[13] ‘Key Recommendations | Research Waste’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[14] ‘Creative Commons Australia’, Creative Commons Australia <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[15] ‘PLOS Data Availability’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[16] ‘Research Data Alliance Data Citation Working Group’, RDA, 2013 <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[17] ‘Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles – FINAL | FORCE11’ <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

[18] Australian Government Department of Industry and Science, ‘Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (ASHER) and the Implementation Assistance Program (IAP)’ <; [accessed 27 July 2016].

[19] ‘Data Carpentry’, Data Carpentry <; [accessed 18 July 2016].

AOASG response to Productivity Commission Intellectual Property Arrangements, Draft report

aoasgAOASG response to Productivity Commission Intellectual Property Arrangements, Draft report

Prepared by Dr Virginia Barbour, Executive Director, on behalf of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, (AOASG), June 2, 2016

General comments

The AOASG ( welcomes the Productivity Commission report. We limit our response to Chapter 15: IP and Public Institutions, though we note the comment on p4 that “Open access repositories can further assist in the dissemination of ideas generated through publicly‑funded initiatives.”, which we agree with for all outputs of research.

We particularly welcome:

DRAFT Recommendation 15.1

“All Australian, and State and Territory Governments should implement an open access policy for publiclyfunded research

We also believe there is an opportunity with this report to bring some clarity to the issues surrounding copyright and license as applied to research outputs.

Specific comments

Page 401

Paragraph entitled “Key points”


The dissemination of research findings does not have to be limited by IP applied on the work that it reports.

We agree that journals remain an important mechanism of dissemination, but they are now just one part of a rapidly evolving ecosystem of publishing and the same issues apply to all outlets for dissemination of research, and which include not just research articles but also data, code, software, etc.

Copyright per se does not limit dissemination – it is the retention of copyright, coupled with restrictive licenses as applied by subscription publishers that limit dissemination. We feel it is essential to separate out these two issues.

Page 404

Paragraph beginning “The key relevant questions for this inquiry relate to:

  • where the IP system frustrates the achievement of the underlying goal for public funding
  • changes to the IP system that would accentuate the benefits of such public funding.


For scholarly publishing we already have the tools to hand to ensure that authors retain rights to and get credit for their work while allowing for maximum dissemination. The two tools required are proper application of copyright in conjunction with Creative Commons Licenses.

However, the current inconsistent and largely publisher-driven application of these tools does “frustrate the achievement of the underlying goal for public funding”.

This is to be expected when publishers are operating under a subscription model. In this situation the long term practice has been to require the transfer of copyright to journals, and also require that restrictive licenses agreements are signed.

However, restriction of author rights is not now limited to subscription publications.  For articles that are apparently open access, Elsevier, for example, requires that authors grant Elsevier an exclusive license ( to publish for article published under a CC BY license (intended to be the most liberal of the licenses). This is direct contradiction of both the spirit and the letter of the Creative Commons license (

Furthermore, a number of publishers are seeking to assert rights over earlier versions of articles, an area where they have no jurisdiction. Rights being asserted include requirements for citation of articles to which a preprint may relate This is an example of a meaningless and probably unenforceable requirement, but which may nonetheless have a stifling effect on authors seeking to share research before formal publication.

Page 405

Paragraph beginning “A major mechanism for diffusion of ideas is through academic journals”


The models of dissemination of scholarly outputs are changing very substantially and though journals remain at the core, as above we note that there are other important mechanisms now such as preprint servers, repositories (for data as well as for research manuscripts) etc. Despite the diverse array of outputs and their routes of dissemination the issue in relation to IP are largely the same.

  • Copyright needs to remain with the generators of the work (if work is not owned by the Government or is otherwise in the public domain);
  • Generators of work must be credited for that work;
  • Licenses applied to the work should maximize its discoverability, dissemination and reuse.

Copyright does not per se limit reuse, but it will do if coupled with restrictive licenses. For example, an author may retain copyright but grant an exclusive license to a journal which could then restrict reuse (see above); conversely an author may assign copyright to another body (e.g. their institution) but if that is coupled with a non-exclusive license that allows reuse, dissemination is not impeded.

We therefore suggest that the Commission separates out the issues of copyright and licenses and makes the following recommendations

  1. Authors (or their institutions) should retain copyright to research outputs.
  2. Outputs should be licensed under the most appropriate, usually the least restrictive, internationally accepted license from Creative Commons, preferably CC BY.
  3. Publisher-specific licenses, even supposedly “open access” ones such as those from Elsevier (, should not be supported as they lead to further confusion.
  4. These terms should apply to all research outputs wherever they are stored and wherever they are in the lifecycle of the research including but not limited to; preprint, author’s accepted manuscript, published article, data etc.

Page 406

Page beginning Copyright for publically funded research


We believe copyright over research articles should not be mixed up with IP rights over the subject of the research itself. In particular, copyright itself, whether held by authors or publishers, does not limit the visibility or accessibility or reusability of articles or associated data. What does limit accessibility and reusability is the license associated with those works (see above) and which was previously most commonly denoted as “All rights reserved”

With the technology now available to us, the role of copyright has changed. As Jan Velterop said in 2005, ( “copyright can [now] be used for what it is meant to in science, not to make the articles artificially scarce and in the process restrict their distribution, but instead, to ensure that their potential for maximum possible dissemination can be realised”

Page 407

Paragraph beginning “universities and some publishers”


The fact that universities are able to provide access to journals may be seamless, but it is at great cost. In fact the vast majority of research journals require a subscription. In 2014, Australian universities paid AUD 221 million (data from the Council of Australian University Librarians, CAUL) for access to electronic journals. While it is true that open access journals are increasing, currently they remain in the minority and the proportion of work that is fully open access is around 12-15%, though many more articles are free to access at some point.

Page 407

Paragraph beginning “Recognising that further incentives”


This is indeed a hugely active area of policy development globally. It is clear that there is a number of different approaches to open access, with some countries favouring it via journals primarily (e.g. the UK and most recently the Netherlands) and others such as the US and Australia approaching it via the route of repositories – usually institutional. What is currently unclear, however, is the copyright and license status of much of the material within institutional repositories and this has led to difficulties in promoting seamless dissemination via these venues.

Page 408

Paragraph beginning “A similar trend”


We agree that there is no one policy now covering all publicly funded research and we therefore support Recommendation 15.1 on page 409. We particularly welcome the insightful comment on page 409 that precedes it: “It is important when crafting policy in relation to open access to delineate exactly what is meant by the term” As noted above, the interchangeable use of phrases open access and free access, without clear indication of what these terms mean with regard to copyright and licenses has led to much confusion among authors in particular. We would urge caution therefore in the use of these terms, including in this recommendation. We do not recommend the development of different policies at national, state and territory levels. Rather, we believe the opportunity should be taken to craft one overarching policy that is applicable nationally.

Page 408

Paragraph beginning “encouragement of different ways”


We welcome the recognition that new models of publishing will need to be supported and that funds must be allocated for this purpose as the transition occurs. However, a fundamental aim of a transition to new publishing models must be that costs are lowered. Schimmer and colleagues ( have modelled this (via the “flipping” of journals from subscription to open access for three countries, including Germany. Whether this can be replicated elsewhere remains to be seen. It is not yet clear the flipping projects will reduce costs over a sustained period if pricing decisions remain in the hands of the established vendors. What will be crucially important is the encouragement of a diversity of publishing models from a variety of players, not just the five large publishers ( who currently dominate scholarly publishing.

Furthermore, such innovation and openness should be specifically rewarded – not just “treated neutrally” as on the bottom of page 408.