Not just available, but also useful: we must keep pushing to improve open access to research

This article by Virginia Barbour was originally published on 27/10/17 on The Conversation.

There is a huge appetite for science and other research – so why aren’t more academic publications truly ‘open access’?

Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis became freely available online this week, and promptly crashed a server following massive public interest.

It’s a clear example of the public appetite for open access scientific information, and of the potential reach when articles are available.

But most of the world’s academic literature is still only legally available behind a paywall.

It’s time we brought the idea of open access publication truly to fruition: not just so more people can read research, but also to improve the application of academic work to address issues such as health inequity and poverty.


Read more: How the insights of the Large Hadron Collider are being made open to everyone


A brief history of open access

The example of Hawking’s thesis backs up what we know already from the numbers: work that is freely available is at least two to three times more likely to be read than closed access articles, and is 47% more likely to be cited in Wikipedia.

Defined simply, “open access” publications refer to work that is freely available, licensed in way that allows broad use and reuse, and which is permanently archived in a public repository or open publishing platform.

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Open Access Week, and 15 years since the Budapest Open Access initiative (one of the first definitions of open access) was launched.

In the past 15 years open access has morphed somewhat. It started as a fairly niche proposal, with small numbers of open access publishers in operation and ad hoc networks of repositories. Now it’s a truly global movement. Thousands of open access articles are freely available either through publishing in open access journals, or via the many open institutional repositories globally.

There were 32.4 million accesses of content from Australian academic research repositories in 2014. But compared with the pace of change in the online newspaper or music industry, the adoption of open access to academic research is slow. Why? A few factors come into play.


Read more: Your questions answered on open access


Commercial agendas

One fundamental problem is that universities pay vast sums of money to support academic publishing through subscriptions. Most of this goes into the bank accounts of a small number of commercial publishers who have a powerful interest in not supporting wholesale change in business models.

This handful of publishers has been systematically buying up smaller publishers and journals, creating an oligopoly. They have now moved into ways of collecting revenues for open access via article processing charges (APCs) – payment for publication once a research paper has passed peer review.

APCs are levied by many, but not all, open access publishers (including not-for-profit ones). However, the highest APCs are seen at commercial publishers especially in their journals that are not fully open access – so-called hybrid journals, where costs can be up to US$5,000 per article.

Different definitions

Different descriptors of open access can be confusing.

Research made open in a journal is referred to as “gold”, and in an institutional repository it is “green”. Work made open illegally has been called “black”. But open access is also often used as a synonym for just free access of a static version of a paper PDF, with no right to reuse.

True open access takes the form of a fully digitally interoperable article, electronically marked with rich metadata that indicates who wrote it, and with a licence that allows use and reuse. Such papers can be used in teaching, included seamlessly in other academic work, and much more – all with clear attribution and credit to the original author.

These ideas have been consolidated into the “F.A.I.R.” principles to describe research that is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. A statement laying out these principles for Australian research was developed last year.


Read more: Bored reading science? Let’s change how scientists write


Leadership matters

The importance of strong leadership in pushing the case for open access is evident in the Netherlands. Dutch science minister Sander Dekker has taken on open access as a cause, which has resulted in a national plan for open science.

In Australia, open access policies are predominantly repository-based at the two big funders: the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

An overall national position would be immensely valuable. Positive first steps were made towards this when the Productivity Commission made a recommendation for national and states open access policies in the 2016 Inquiry into Intellectual Policy Arrangements. In August 2017 the federal government accepted this recommendation.

A vision and a pathway

Even if all the above issues were dealt with, open access will continue to advance piecemeal, unless we have a long-term clarification of what we’re aiming for and how to get there.

It’s important to note that increasing open access is not the end goal in itself. We need open access in order to fulfil other urgent priorities such as maximising collaboration, improving global health, and reducing poverty, and this is the theme of this year’s open access week.

It’s worth noting here that caution may be needed around open access to sensitive data, for example relating to patients or threatened species, or some commercial work.

An effective open access scholarly ecosystem requires a collaborative, long-term commitment to policies and infrastructure by key players. Examples of how this can take place were detailed this week by a publisher and COAR, the global repository association.

The ConversationIn 2017 it’s high time to look beyond narrow definitions of open access. Let’s focus on infrastructure planning and building for the next decade, where research outputs are available not just for reading, but also for effective application.

Virginia Barbour, Director, Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuwhera whakaahua: can indigenous perspectives help to transform scholarly communication?

Luqman Hayes, Scholarly Communications Team Leader, Auckland University of Technology

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Luqman Hayes

The scholarly communication/open access discourse is not short on voices, which makes writing anything on the topic a somewhat fraught exercise.

It seems at times as though no amount of strong argument, lobbying and initiative is able to shift the discussion to a more transformative position offering viable, sustainable alternatives in the face of the status quo.

So why add another voice? Especially if it is to tell the story of setting up an open access journal publishing service at a university. This is not new, right? But what if the process of doing so revealed another way of considering the concept of open access?

Horopaki (context)

In October 2016 Auckland University of Technology (AUT) launched its journal hosting service with two peer-reviewed titles edited by AUT academics. The decision to do so had been in response to calls from academics within the University to provide such a hosting. Those calls led to a feasibility study by the Library in 2014, some University funds and a project which set out with fairly modest objectives and a narrow focus (You can read the full story here.)

Tuwhera (opening up)

Perhaps it was the thinking around the naming of the platform which enabled the aperture of those aims to broaden. Tuwhera is a te reo Māori word which can be translated as a stative verb (be open) or the modified noun forms (open, opening up). In choosing a Māori word for our service we wanted to acknowledge the Treaty of Waitangi as well as to consider that the work we do and the way in which we do it can have a bicultural aspect to it.

Mindful of tokenism, we consulted with Māori members of academic staff at AUT around the naming of the service and when we launched, we did so with significant Māori elements or tikanga, as part of the ceremony, such as waiata (song) and karakia (blessing or prayer) to celebrate and bless Tuwhera.

The launch was held around the time of Open Access Week in 2016 when events and conversations taking place catalysed some of those wider possibilities: using Tuwhera for lay summaries of new and ongoing research or for launching entirely new publications to expose scholarship unique to the Pacific region not being disseminated elsewhere.

The definition of what we understood Tuwhera to be evolved. Our criteria for selecting journals was fast becoming outdated and we were presented with the opportunity of reconfiguring the platform so as to incubate new publications and offer new and non-traditional publishing opportunities to emerging and early career researchers alongside their more established peers. Tuwhera was taking on a kind of whānau (family) role, being a support and a guide and providing a home. An open home, if you will.

Akoranga (learnings)

It seemed as though there were lessons here from the Māori concepts underpinning our work, an insight which was echoed elsewhere, such as by Mal Booth in a blog post on ‘Revolutionising Scholarly Publishing’ in which he made similar observations about learning from indigenous approaches to sharing knowledge.

Such concepts in the context of Aotearoa might include Mātauranga Maori (Māori knowledge) – a complex and “open” system of knowing the world passed on through the layering of stories, wisdom and narratives and expressed via elements such as whakapapa (genealogy), kōrero (discussion), waiata (song) and whakatauki (proverbs).

Further evidence of how looking to indigenous worldviews might influence the scholarly communication environment can be found in Chris Cormack’s 2015 talk at Open Source Open Society on the application of Marae-based consensus building in developing free software as part of creating a commons-based future. Cormack cites several of the underlying principles of the marae (or Māori meeting house) and refers to a range of whakatauki which may usefully guide us away from the perspective of knowledge as residing with the individual.

Whakaahua (transformation)

As a team we have sought to bring shared values into the way in which we work, such as the African term Ubuntu (a person is a person through other people) which has similarities to the Maori concept of mana tangata- to be a person is not to stand alone but to be one with one’s people.

Might such a philosophical reassessment of the largely meritocratic, individualistic values and motivations which currently drive academic output help to shape a sustainable, culturally relevant, holistic and communitarian scholarly communication landscape?

The answer may be all of ours to discover, as the whakatauki states:

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

You can hear more about Tuwhera and the influence of te Ao Maori (Maori worldview) on our work by listening to my webinar presentation from 15th August 2017.

“Is copyright an immovable barrier? Taking up Poynder’s call for strategic thinking in the OA Movement”

Mandy Henk, (Public Lead, Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand) and Nerida Quatermass (Project Manager, Creative Commons Australia at QUT) explain the background to their webinar on copyright, licensing and open access.

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Mandy Henk

NeridaQuatermassQUT

Nerida Quatermass

In February of this year Open Access scholar Richard Poynder, wrote an article calling out Open Access advocates for failing to appreciate the importance of copyright; for not “offer[ing] an effective strategy for achieving open access”; and, in doing so, “playing into the hands of legacy publishers.”

Is this a fair critique? And if so, how can we, as a movement, rethink and redevelop so that we are addressing the failures of strategy Poynder identifies.

Is his claim that we have failed to “win the hearts and minds of most researchers” true?

And if it is, is copyright really subverting our cause–or is it just one of many challenges that the movement faces?

All movements benefit from critiques–the jibs and jabs that help us to hone our thinking and revise our strategy.  Richard Poynder has long served the Open Access movement as such a critic and his most recent article offers considerable food for thought on how we have approached some of the stickiest barriers the movement faces.

The core of his argument is that copyright itself, and the failure of Open Access advocates to fully realise its importance, is an “immovable barrier” to achieving open access. He musters a range of arguments and a case study to support this claim–but he brings precious little data to the table.  That said his arguments do have a certain ring of truth to them.  Certainly we haven’t won as many hearts and minds as we need.  Certainly, the mess that is hybrid open access, APC fees, and double-dipping makes many of us cringe with frustration.  After over 15 years of effort, library budget problems continue, legacy publishers are as powerful as ever, and the strong Western bias of our scholarly record continues.

But his claim that the root of these failures is found in copyright law seems a bit too glib. Yes, CC-BY has not been a panacea. Yes, publishers are still insisting on de facto exclusive control, even when articles are being published under an open access model.  But Poynder himself identifies a range of other challenges as well– the association of open access with increased administrative control; researchers’ continued focus on impact factor and prestige; preservation in the digital environment.  It seems hard to square these challenges with the argument that the real problem is copyright.

But that doesn’t invalidate his critique of the effectiveness of our strategy.

If anything, it strengthens the idea that we need a fresh approach, that we need to face the challenge of strategy, of developing an effective and executable plan to realise our vision.

Green or Gold? Open or Hybrid? Funder mandated or researcher controlled?  A movement divided against itself cannot stand. Perhaps this too highlights that we haven’t really settled on a shared vision for the scholarly communications system. Perhaps what is really needed is a new mode of analysis, a new way of looking at the problem.

Systems thinking offers a fresh approach–one that can help us to develop broader analyses and perhaps suggest new strategies and tactics, while helping us to identify downsides in our current approaches. What would a systems based model of the scholarly communications system look like? How could we go about directing our movement, diverse and dispersed, to undertake such an analysis? And how should we as advocates work together to take these analyses and turn them into effective action?

Open Access has been a long journey for many of us and maybe it’s time to step back, listen to our critics, and rethink our approach for the next 15 years.

Join Mandy Henk, (Public Lead, Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand) and Nerida Quatermass (Project Manager, Creative Commons Australia at QUT) today at 3:00 pm (NZ time), 1:00 pm AEST and 11:00 am AWST  for a discussion that encourages participants to think about the Open Access movement and strategy development at a whole-system level.

 

 

Fair Open Access Principles for journals

By Mark Wilson & Alex Holcombe

That scholarly communication should be “Fair” is an increasingly common concept  for both data and research outputs more widely, including the F.A.I.R. framework which articulates a set of specific principles to enhance the discoverability, use and impact of Australia’s research outputs.

Here, Mark Wilson & Alex Holcombe describe another specific use of Fair: the Fair Open Access Principles for journals.


In March 2017 a group of researchers and librarians interested in journal reform formalized the Fair Open Access Principles.

The basic principles are:

  1. The journal has a transparent ownership structure, and is controlled by and responsive to the scholarly community.
  2. Authors of articles in the journal retain copyright.
  3. All articles are published open access and an explicit open access licence is used.
  4. Submission and publication is not conditional in any way on the payment of a fee from the author or its employing institution, or on membership of an institution or society.
  5. Any fees paid on behalf of the journal to publishers are low, transparent, and in proportion to the work carried out.

Detailed clarification and interpretation of the principles is provided at the site.

Here, instead, we put these principles into context and explain the mFAIRoaPrinciplesotivation behind them.

Our basic thesis is that the current situation in which commercial publishers own the title to journals is untenable. Many existing journals were begun by scholars but subsequently acquired by Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and other commercial publishers. These publishers now have a strong incentive to oppose any reform of the journal that would benefit the community of authors, editors and readers but not help the short-term interests of its own shareholders. We have seen several examples of this in recent years the Wikipedia entry for Elsevier, for example, collects many examples of malfeasance.

The evidence is now overwhelming that the interests of large commercial publishers are not well aligned with the interests of the research community or the general public. Thus Principle 1 is key. Changing a journal to open access but allowing it to be bought easily by Elsevier, for example, would be a pointless exercise. We must decouple ownership of journals from publication services. This will allow editorial boards to shop around for publishers, who must compete on price and service quality rather than exploit a monopolistic position. In other words, a functioning market will arise. Also, journals will have more chance to innovate by not being locked into inflexible and outdated infrastructure.

Principle 2 (authors retaining copyright) seems obvious. Large publishers have claimed that having authors assign them copyright to articles protects the authors. We know of no case where this has happened. However, publishers have prevented authors from reusing their own work!

Open access is of course the main goal and thus the associated principle (Principle 3) needs little explanation. Some authors appear to believe that posting occasional preprints/postprints on their own website is as good as true open access. This is not the case – some of the reasons are licence issues, confusion about the version of record, lack of machine readability, inconsistent searchability, and unreliable archiving.

APCs (Article Processing Charges) are a common feature of open access journals and a main source of income, particularly for “predatory” journals whose sole function is to make money for unscrupulous owners. Large commercial publishers have responded to pressure by offering OA if an APC is paid. These APCs are typically well over US$1000. The fact that over 60% of journals in DOAJ do not charge any APC, and the low APCs of some high quality newer full service publishers (such as Ubiquity Press) shows that there is much room for improvement. In many fields there is considerable resistance to authors paying APCs directly. For example in a recent survey of mathematicians that we undertook, published in the European Mathematical Society Newsletter,
about a quarter of respondents declared APCs unacceptable in principle and another quarter said they should be paid by library consortia. We do not deny that there are costs associated with OA publishing, and are not advocating every journal run using self-hosted OJS and volunteer time (although there are many successful and long-lived journals of that type, like Journal of Machine Learning Research or Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, and we feel it still has untapped potential). We aim to ensure that unnecessary barriers are not erected for authors, in particular fees – Principle 4. Any payments on behalf of authors should be made in an automatic way – the idea is for consortia of institutions to fund reasonable operating costs of OA journals directly.

Principle 5 (reasonable and transparent costs) will automatically hold if the journal is sufficiently well run and independent as described by Principle 1, and is included in order to reinforce the point that a competitive market is our main goal rather than wasting public money to maintain the current profits of publishers. Recently, initiatives such as OA2020 have emphasized large-scale conversion of subscription journals to OA. We believe that if the ownership of the journals isn’t simultaneously changed, there will remain little incentive for publishers to keep prices down. If a researcher believes that a paper in Nature will make her career, will she be denied this by the APC-paying agency if Nature choose to charge a premium APC? In addition, if journal ownership is not taken from the publishers, they can lock us into their existing technologies, which hinders innovation in scholarly communication.

We are presently working on disciplinary organizations aimed at helping journals flip from a subscription model to Fair OA, and have so far started LingOA,  MathOA and PsyOA. We plan a Fair Open Access Alliance which will include independent journals already practising FairOA principles, flipped journals, and other institutional members with a strong belief in FairOA. The idea is to share resources and harmonize journal practices. We hope that these activities will yield a way forward that avoids sterile debates about Green vs Gold OA. We welcome feedback and offers of help in our wider effort to convert the entire scholarly literature to Fair Open Access.

 

Mark C. Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at University of Auckland, and founding member of MathOA Foundation.

Alex O. Holcombe is an Associate Professor of Psychology at The University of Sydney and is a founding member of PsyOA (PsyOA.org).

In their own words: academics talk about open access

thumbnail_Richard_by_Catriona_McKillop

Richard White. Portrait in green’ by Catriona McKillop, used with permission.

By Richard White –  Manager, Copyright & Open Access Vice-Chancellor’s OfficeUniversity of Otago.

Many of you reading this post will – like me – be dedicated advocates for open access to research.  To us the benefits are plain and it can be frustrating that we still, after fifteen or more years of OA as a movement, hear comments like:

“I have been told by my [head of department] that publishing in OA has less status because you are paying to get published – I am not sure that this is true but it seems to be a prevalent idea.”
This is an actual response from an early-career academic to a survey on OA publishing we conducted at my own institution, the University of Otago.  It’s a particularly illustrative comment: the eager youngster finding his or her way as a researcher goes to the senior colleague for advice, who with a sweeping generalisation writes off OA as a legitimate option; the respondent seems to want to believe that making his or her research as findable and readable as possible is A Good Thing but demurs to the head of department’s opinion, and the myth that OA journals have some sort of monopoly  on poor quality is continued.

 

OK, I’m over-dramatising this for effect but at Otago we knew that, although this comment describes the prevalence of this attitude, many of our staff were publishing in open access avenues and that many were extremely well-informed about OA, hence undertaking the survey.  While we could read the plethora of research now available on researchers’ attitudes to open access, this commonly presents a Euro- or US-centric view.  Here, at the bottom of the world, we are operating in an entirely different political and organisational context so a survey seemed a good means of not only understanding our researchers’ attitudes towards and practices in OA publishing but also of facilitating a more informed debate about our institutional policies and practices.

 

What did we learn?  On the face of it, our results mirrored those of surveys carried out in other places and on different scales.  Otago researchers believe that Research articles should be freely available to all, with 86% agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement and several comments of this nature being made:

 

“If research is publicly funded, then the results should be accessible to the public without cost/delay/other barriers.”

 

“We research in areas of health equity and indigenous health. Open Access publishing is a way of reducing the inequity in access to research for marginalised populations.”

 

Almost exactly the same proportion said that Obtaining funding to publish OA is a barrier that prevents adoption, with 84% agreeing/strongly agreeing.

 

“Open access publishing is a good thing and some of the journals are very good. But, the cost is an enormous barrier which we have no answers to at a Dept level.”

 

“Good ‘non-funded’ work gets blocked unless a cake stall is held!”

 

Several respondents explicitly acknowledged the difficulties of these divergent factors:

 

“I’m undecided on whether I should pay for my work to be published.  I support OA, in principle I do not support publishers profiting from the products of publicly funded bodies.  There are inappropriate drivers to publications for academics and these undermine the academic mission.”

 

This bifurcation is pretty typical, as was the fact that respondents indicated heavy use of academic social networking sites for sharing their research (64% using such services) and limited use of our own institutional research repository or other Green OA options (only 12% having practised some form of Green OA in the previous two years).

 

What was more instructive was the level of engagement with OA.  82% indicated that they provided peer-review or editorial services to ‘traditional’ journals but as many as half said they did so for OA journals.  Moreover, almost half had published at least one Gold OA article in the previous two years, with about one-fifth of all Gold OA articles being published without cost.  And there was clear evidence of the chilling effect of fees – or the perception that OA must cost money – on publishing choices, with almost one-third of those who hadn’t published any Gold OA articles indicating that they chose not to because it was “unaffordable” for various reasons.

 

“Too expensive.  I publish about 2-3 articles per year on open access and that’s all I can afford.”

 

“In my field many of the journals with the highest impact factor are open access so I would very much like to publish in them but the university won’t pay for the article charges.”

 

All this is a reminder that it’s easy to lose sight of what the average researcher thinks about open access, informed as it will be by their own experiences and the OA climate within their own discipline and even their own department.  We need to keep plugging away to dispel myths surrounding open access, informing and educating people about the benefits so that they can make informed decisions about their publications.  And perhaps most importantly these sorts of comments remind us that we need to build the infrastructure of openness around academics to make it easier for them to be open than not.

 

This survey was the topic of discussion at AOASG’s webinar on 8th May, 2017.

 

Visit our project page on Figshare to read the full report on the findings of our survey – including a vast number of comments like the above – or to download the survey questions and/or results data.

 

You can even take the survey yourself if you’re interested in the tool we developed.  Everything is licenced with Creative Commons for reuse, of course.

 

Not the Beall and end-all*

Assessing quality publications from multiple perspectives

By Dr Andy Pleffer & Susan Shrubb

MQ Lib_Bamboo garden_SS

image by Susan Shrubb CC BY

In the wake of the Scholarly Open Access blog shutting down (January 15, 2017), many commentators have focused on its author Jeffrey Beall and the now defunct blacklists he once maintained on ‘predatory’ publishers and journals, ‘misleading’ metrics and ‘hi-jacked’ journals. Adding to the mystery, Beall’s typically active Twitter account was recently dormant for over two months, with until recently the only public statement on the matter being supplied by his employer, the University of Colorado. Beall now says that “there was pressure from my university to stop”.

Regardless of whether you considered his work divisive, an essential service to the academic community, or somewhere in between, these opinions are beside the point. No single person or source is equipped to bear the responsibility of being the ultimate authority on what constitutes as a best (or poor) practice scholarly publishing outlet. And nor should we – as a community of academic researchers and support staff – be so willing to bestow such authority on individuals, lists, metrics or indexing databases alone. Outlets need to be assessed in the context of many measures of quality and this will always require some level of additional work.

Assessing reputable places to publish is a shared responsibility; one that should (ideally) be dispersed among academic authors and their institution(s). Those who have a stake in such assessment may include – but by no means be limited to – researchers and trusted colleagues, students and supervisors, research administrators and research librarians.

Beall’s work has most certainly shone a light on some of the most deceptive publishing practices to take place in recent years. However, his work is only a small part of the landscape. Positive attributes of scholarly publishers cannot be adequately identified through examples of negative behaviour alone, nor can they be determined in isolation from any positive measures of quality. Comprehensive decisions on quality can only be achieved when authors are widely informed. Therefore, in order to obtain a sense of the bigger picture, we must first ‘zoom out’ by consulting a broad range of sources – just as you would when investigating any research topic.

There is a wealth of reputable resources to be drawn on when critiquing suitable publishing outlets for your scholarly research. Many such resources have been established for some time (e.g. DOAJ, Ulrich’s, Scimago and SHERPA/RoMEO), while other credible initiatives continue to emerge (e.g. Think Check Submit). The usefulness of each of these for your own situation may vary depending on your motives for publishing, your research topic and any time constraints or pressures. What is of greater importance though is the series of questions we ask alongside the collective information that can be gathered on a publication outlet.

Is the scope of the outlet clearly defined on its official website? Does the outlet transparently list an editorial board (with institutional affiliations) comprising recognised experts from relevant fields? Are the peer review, copyright and Article Processing Charge (APC) policies easy to find and understand?

While Beall’s sudden departure from this discourse has been met with some suggestions for others to fill the void and take up his mantle, this again misses the point. The time is ripe for the academic community to encourage users of his blacklists – or, for that matter, users of any other list attempting to rank or articulate quality outlets – to actively adopt a broader suite of indicators and thereby build a stronger evidence base with which to make informed decisions on where to publish.

This approach has been the central to Macquarie University’s Strategic Publishing statement: a wise publishing strategy is supported by informed decisions about an outlet prior to publication. When you have invested many months or years thoroughly researching and writing your scholarly work, make sure you also take the time to ask and investigate some basic questions about a publishing outlet’s operations.

Regardless of whether we, as a community, support retiring the term “predatory publishing” or opt to replace it with another phrase altogether, we must agree to focus less on what constitutes poor (or ‘parasitic’) practices and instead facilitate a shared commitment to continuous learning, sharing knowledge among colleagues and educating each other about how to navigate the current publishing landscape together.

Dr Andy Pleffer (a research administrator) and Susan Shrubb (research librarian and budding photographer) lead the Strategic Publishing initiative at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Macquarie University is a member of AOASG.

*Thanks to Emma Lawler for inspiration behind the title.

Webinar recording & slides now available here

Measuring the openness of research

by David M. Nichols & Michael B. Twidale

NOTE:  This blog was the basis of webinar #3 in the AOASG’s 2017 Webinar series.  You can listen here to the webinar which was presented on 20th June, and see the slides here. 

As academics we are measured in many different ways, in particular our research is often characterised through the venues in which we publish and the citations to our works. Roger Burrows observes that when the value of academics is quantified, represented and framed through metrics then our “academic values” are likewise transformed. Stacy Konkiel comments that “most institutions simply measure what can be easily counted, rather than using carefully chosen data to measure their progress towards embodying important scholarly values.”

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Photo: Sean MacEntee CC by 2.0

As researchers wanting to advocate for open access, we decided to explore openness from the perspective of designing a metric. Doing this made us realize that metric design is a socio-technical problem, involving considering what is easy to count, what is important to count—and what to do when these are different. A further consideration is the strange issue that a real-world metric can affect what it tries to measure. If people know you are measuring them them may change what they do. If it is a score and they are competitive they may try to increase that score. Normally this is an annoying problem for social scientists: but as social engineers we want to embrace this feature. We definitely do want to design metrics whose very existence makes people want to change their score by increasing access to information. Fortunately for this aim, we suspect that many academics are rather competitive and even the mere mention of a new metric starts some people thinking about their personal score, that of their peers and what they might do to improve their score.

In order to regard openness itself as a valued quality we need metrics that directly reflect the accessibility of all the diverse aspects of scholarly communication. In Getting our hands dirty: why academics should design metrics and address the lack of transparency Chris Elsden, Sebastian Mellor and Rob Comber argue that academics should “complement critiques of metrics with getting our hands dirty in reflectively and critically designing metrics.” We have attempted to create an alternative list of openness-oriented metrics in our paper Metrics for Openness.

In addition to directly expressing the proportion of works that are open (as ImpactStory now does) we suggest it is important to consider the nature of the online location: is the work on a personal web site or in a managed repository? Explicit metrics around such practical facets of openness can serve to validate and recognise the, often invisible, practical work of making outputs freely available.

A corollary of work behind paywalls is that there is cost for access. We suggest these costs can be personalised in the same manner as an h-index: how much does it cost for someone to access all your work? As with h-indices, such metrics can be directed at different sets of outputs; from individuals to institutions to countries. We hypothesise an avid reader who wishes to access all the non-open outputs of an institution. What would this reader have to pay to read all the 2016 outputs of a university? And how does that cost align with the often lofty vision of the institution to spread knowledge to the world?

The nature of scholarly outputs has changed and it is now widely recognised that supporting information such as data and code are important for interpretation and reproducibility. Consequently, these output types also need openness metrics and we extend our previous work to represent these facets of scholarly communication. Additional interpretations of openness are also amenable to the same approach.

We close by quoting part of the conclusion from the paper:

The simple act of measuring current practice can be a powerful incentive to alter that practice: we suggest authors could start with calculating their own Practical Openness Index. Where that measurement is impeded by a lack of metadata an explicit statement of potential benefits can support moves to enhance metadata provision.

A further benefit to quantifying concepts relating to the openness of published research is to provide a basis for management and policy decision-making. The frequently repeated maxim; that to control something you must first measure it, applies here. We might add that measurement also has a publicity component: one way to raise the profile of an issue is simply to measure it: what gets measured gets noticed. Indeed, it may well be that what gets measured gets to frame the argument. From an open access advocacy perspective, we suggest that it should be just as common for authors to publicise their Openness Indices as it is to publicise their h-index.


As part of the writing of the paper we subjected our own CVs to an openness-centric analysis and we can report that even this simple action creates an incentive to improve. Why not try them on your own works?

Nichols, D.M. and Twidale, M.B. (2016) Metrics for openness. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.23741

Accepted repository version.

Authors

David M. Nichols    Department of Computer Science, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Michael B. Twidale School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

No competing interests declared.

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)

Creative Commons Australia and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group Response to the Productivity Commission Draft Report Data Availability and Use

 

Prepared by Dr Virginia Barbour (AOASG) and Jessica Stevens (CCAU), December 12, 2016.

Link to submission

Link to Productivity Commission Draft Report

Summary

Creative Commons Australia (‘CCAU’) and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (‘AOASG’) welcome the opportunity to comment on the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Data Availability and Use (‘Draft Report’). ‘Creative Commons is an international non-profit organisation that provides free licences and tools that copyright owners can use to allow others to share, reuse and remix their material, legally’.[1] CCAU is an affiliate that supports Creative Commons in Australia.[2] The AOASG is a non-profit organisation which aims to advocate, collaborate, raise awareness and lead and build capacity with respect to open access for all the outputs of scholarship in Australia and New Zealand.[3]

CCAU and AOASG support the implementation of policies to increase availability and use of data. We aim to contribute to the discussion regarding consumer rights, specifically, the right to access. As noted by the Commission in their Draft Report, the legal and policy frameworks under which data (both private and public) is collected and shared and accessed in Australia is not as progressive as other parts of the world, for example the European Union’s Open Data strategy as a core part of the Digital Single Market.[4] Australia’s inaction in this ‘global movement’ may have a detrimental effect on innovation and research outputs.[5]

The Draft Report proposes a ‘fundamental change’ to the ‘legal and policy frameworks under which public and private sector data is collected’.[6] This proposed fundamental change is timely, sensible and would better align Australia’s data practices with those of other international jurisdictions. CCAU and AOASG support the findings and draft recommendations, in particular those contained in Chapter 3, ‘Public Sector and Research Data Collection and Access’, Chapter 6, ‘Making Data Useful, Chapter 8, ‘Options for Comprehensive Reform’ and Chapter 9, ‘A framework’. The recommendations highlight a number of factors, including the importance of public interest with respect to facilitating access to publically funded data and information. There is a clear need to align the Australian legal framework and policies with respect to data availability and use with the best practices and norms of other international jurisdictions. The advantages for Australia to be gained through alignment of legal and policy frameworks for data availability will include the facilitation of sharing of data between jurisdictions.

Specific Comments on chapters

Overview

There are terms in the report that are not consistently defined such as the use of the term ‘open access.[7] We would urge that terms should be specifically defined and used consistently. It is essential to differentiate between ‘free access and ‘open access’. ‘Free access’ only denotes there is no cost to the reader. Open access includes the application of an appropriate license such as those endorsed by CCAU and Australian Government’s Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL),[8] secure archiving, as well as free access.

Chapter 3 Public Sector and Research Data Collection and Access

CCAU and the AOASG support the recommendations to implement data registers.[9] We believe that public sector data should be ‘open by default’.[10] The implementation of data registers would assist in the aggregation and curation of data. The recommendation that data should be released as a first priority and that the register would provide information with respect to any data sets that are not publically available would provide more transparency in research findings, funding distribution and overall, the implementation of registers for data aggregation would be of significant benefit for Australian consumers. Such registers would increase the visibility and discoverability of research data. This recommendation highlights the importance of metadata in the discoverability process, specifically in the description of datasets.[11] Poor quality metadata is one of the key reasons data is functionally unavailable. There is an urgent need for consistency in the application of standard metadata to datasets. We support the recommendation to implement data registers and that these registers publish up to date lists of data.[12]

As noted in the Draft Report, arrangements for sharing and releasing research data in Australia are under review.[13] There are a number of ongoing investigations into open data and open research. As noted in this Draft Report, the Australian Government recently released its Draft Report on Research Infrastructure which noted the importance of discoverability of research data and proposes, in accordance with emerging standards, that research should be, ‘Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable’ (F.A.I.R.).[14] Another group noted in the Draft Report, The Open Access Working Group’,[15] is also investigating the issues pertaining to open access and research data.  In addition to these, we also note a group convened by Universities Australia and the Council of Australian University Librarians (of which AOASG is a member) is advocating for an approach to access to research outputs more widely under the F.A.I.R. principles.[16] We believe that the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report, to make research data more openly available and to implement registers to aggregate the data, would align closely with the objectives of these other interested groups and ultimately would be beneficial for the Australian research culture. As noted by the Commission, increasing access to research data is consistent with recent international academic developments.[17]

There has been significant public policy and investment represented by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) in the past 6 years.[18] This investment, to support data and its responsible curation and identification as a major element of research infrastructure in Australia has been world-leading. This report complements this infrastructure initiative through the development of stronger policy and legal frameworks.

Whilst the Draft Report mentions the Australian Research Council (ARC) figure for research outputs, we note that this figure should be taken as a very provisional figure, given the current difficulties of collecting such data consistently.[19]

We further agree with the Productivity Commission that the recommendations made in the recent Intellectual Property Arrangements Inquiry, Draft Report, with respect to making publications from publicly-funded research available on an open access basis after one year, should be extended to the ‘underlying data’.[20] We would strongly suggest that the one year limit should be an absolute maximum and in general, immediate open access should be the standard.

Chapter 6 Making Data Useful

We support the recommendation for Government agencies to adopt and implement data management standards to support increased data availability.[21] We would further add that this recommendation and its careful implementation is likely to have the most immediate and far reaching effect of the majority of the recommendations.

We note that a concern of the Commission with respect to improving the useability of public data is implementing consistent metadata and metadata standards and the potential upfront costs on initial data custodians.[22] We agree that the curation and aggregation of data comes with associated financial and implementation cost. Data management plans and pre-planning data management strategies are central to minimising the costs associated with data management that have to be borne by custodians. We note that generally, the costs of such management are repaid many times over in the extra value that can be extracted from well curated datasets compared with poorly curated datasets. Data management as part of the lifecycle of research overall is an area which requires more consideration and resourcing, especially within academic institutions.

With respect to the ‘standardisation and curation of data in the research sector’,[23] we would note that although a number of journals do have data sharing policies, they are solely aimed at availability of data associated with specific publications, and not at the wider goal of good data management practices. We note that access to data is just one aspect of such practices. We would strongly advise against any data availability policy or process that directs access to data via publisher sites as an appropriate option. It should be noted that the aims of publishers operate separately from the needs of researchers, institutions or indeed the national interests of a country and the greater good of society globally. Providing access to important datasets at publishers’ sites risks replicating the same situation we have now for many research papers, which, despite more than 15 years of global advocacy for public access, remain behind publishers’ paywalls.

By contrast, open access repositories at Australian academic and research institutions, and regional and national sites for data storage such as Nectar Cloud,[24] as well as open access discipline-specific repositories (of which many now exist) are appropriate sites. We would urge that all research institutions should be supported to develop robust data management strategies of which the provision of repositories should form one part. Furthermore, given the rapidly evolving landscape of options for data curation and storage, we would re-emphasise the need for ongoing training in this area, and encouragement for institutions to develop training frameworks to support the provision of scaffolded data management training to their research communities.

Chapter 8. Options for Comprehensive Reform

We welcome the overarching views taken in this section.[25] We agree that there is currently ‘no shared vision amongst public sector data holders in Australia on how to consistently deliver widespread data sharing and release’.[26] We support the finding and the view that there is now an opportunity to develop this shared vision.

We note the Commission is seeking views with respect to the curation of the data, whether it should occur by the original data custodian or whether ‘…giving the release authority the ability to curate the data (aggregated model) could provide it with a secondary revenue source to help support and retain its capability’.[27] If the data was available on an open access basis, there would be no reason why the data couldn’t be further curated to make it more useful by the release authority.

With respect to research data, we would strongly support the federated model, guided by a well-defined set of policies and standards, including specific standards for metadata. This area of policies and standards in data management is a further area where ANDS has provided important leadership.[28] We further agree that there is a clear need for a designated agency to oversee the policy considerations.[29] Such an agency would be important to ensure accountability for progress and outcomes and further, this designated agency would be a champion with respect to encouraging the necessary cultural change in various sectors.

We would note that there are a number of organisations, with overlapping aims advocating for change towards more openness in research outputs and data. In addition to ANDS, organisations include ourselves; AOASG, which represents a number of Australian Universities, and Creative Commons Australia, as well as Open Data Institute Queensland, (ODIQ’).[30]  However, we agree that more extensive advocating and championing ‘…this policy of greater openness’ would be beneficial. [31]

With respect to reforms to open up re-use of research data, specifically, the proposed conditions on funding, we would support incentivising institutions and also specific researchers by providing benefits to those that share data.[32] Part of this opening up of data would require the adoption of standards that ensure data sharing and reuse was properly tracked, for example by the adoption of standards for citing datasets.

With respect to building on existing journal publication requirements,[33] as noted above, we would not recommend that data sharing in research be led by journal requirements, but instead should be a more comprehensive approach that is driven by data management polices from academic and research institutions. This would also allow an Australian-led approach as opposed to one led from publishers based overseas.

The Productivity Commission asserts that, ‘[m]aking data available for reuse can be a resource intensive process that requires specific skills and experience. However, the amount of resources required can also be exaggerated’.[34] Our experience is that these costs must not be underestimated. There are substantial costs (especially of time) associated with making even small datasets functionally available in a way that ensures the data are can be properly scrutinised and reused. Especially important is that data are tagged with the right metadata. We believe these costs are outweighed by the benefits that can be derived from well-curated data, but these costs need to be built into projects, ideally at their inception. To do so systematically requires a wholesale approach of policies, standards and incentives and of training for those that generate and curate data. Apart from programs led by ANDS, there are few if any, systematic training programs in place. We believe that this is an area that requires more attention in this Inquiry.

Chapter 9 A Framework for Australia’s Data Future

CCAU and the AOASG supports the implementation of National Interest Datasets (NIDs) with a default position of immediate release of these datasets unless classified as sensitive. Further, we agree that sensitive data that is able to be de-identified should be done so and publically released within a minimal period of time. Whilst there are some instances in which it may not be appropriate to release datasets, we argue that such situations should be restricted to a very limited set of situations. We further agree that community participation and input with respect to NIDs is central to ensuring transparency in the decision making process. We note that the scope of what may be classified as a NID is unclear.

We support the draft recommendation to establish an Office of the National Data Custodian.[37] A centralised body which oversees the data management policy within Australia will provide stability and certainty with respect to the use of datasets within Australia. We support the draft recommendation to implement accredited release authorities (ARAs).[38] We believe that ARAs will provide an important safeguard to ensure that the datasets and registers are maintained and up to date. We support the use of ARAs to promote trust and transparency in organisations.

We believe that it is important for unreleased data sets to be accessible for specific purposes such as research undertaken by Universities. As such, we support the recommendation for the National Data Custodian to provide accreditation to trusted users to make certain uses of the datasets.[39]  Use of these unreleased datasets would enable research to progress and increase transparency in findings. Whilst we support this recommendation, ultimately our position is that datasets should only remain unreleased in specific circumstances where the data is unable to be de-identified or the data is sensitive.

As noted above, we support initiatives for both researchers and institutions to reward the sharing of data. We support the draft recommendation to prioritise public research funding on the basis of institutions making their research data available.[40]  Openly available data promotes good research practices and aligns with objectives of open data such as shareable and useable data. We would note that institutions will need time to implement the necessary change to comply with this recommendation.

CCAU and the AOASG advocate that the default position with respect to data should be released on an open access basis so that data is easily accessible to the public. We thus support the draft recommendation that ‘all non-sensitive public sector data should be released’.[41] We believe that the introduction of an Act which promotes the release of data, especially data in the public interest and data that is publically funded is in the public interest.[42] Further, legislation which improves the rights to access data by individuals and institutions would be of significant benefit to the Australian community.

Conclusion

Overall, CCAU and the AOASG support the draft recommendations and findings contained in the Draft Report. The recommendations highlight the necessity for a fundamental change in Australian legal policy and framework with respect to the management, release and availability of data. The Draft Report acknowledges the steps required to address Australia’s current deficiency in the area of data management and the importance of better aligning Australia’s practices with those of other jurisdictions. We would, however, note that there is a specific and urgent need to address the lack of training for those that generate and curate datasets.

[1] Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/; Creative Commons Australia and Organization for Transformative Works Submission to the Australian Government’s Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper, 5 September 2014,

http://eprints.qut.edu.au/78481/1/OnlineCopyrightInfringementCreativeCommonsAustraliaAndOrganizationForTransformativeWorks.pdf.

[2] The views expressed here are those of the Australian affiliate, and are not endorsed by Creative Commons Corporation in the US.

[3] The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, https://aoasg.org.au/.

[4] European Commission https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/open-data

[5] Productivity Commission, Draft report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 12

[6] Productivity Commission, Draft report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 12.

[7] Productivity Commission, Draft report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 25.

[8] The Australian Government’s Open Access Licensing Framework, http://www.ausgoal.gov.au/.

[9] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation 3.1.

[10] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 96.

[11] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 140.

[12] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation 3.2.

[13] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 136.

[14] Australian Government, National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, ‘National Research Infrastructure Capability’ Issues Paper, July 2016, 48 <http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/20160716-NRIR-Capability-Issues-Paper-16-July-version-proposed-final….pdf>.

[15] Which involves the Department of Education and Training, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the Department of Health, the Australian Research Council, and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

[16] Force 11, The Future of Research Communication and e-Scholarship, ‘The FAIR Data Principles’, <https://www.force11.org/group/fairgroup/fairprinciples>.

[17] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 138.

[18] Australian National Data Service http://www.ands.org.au/

[19] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 138.

[20] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Intellectual Property Arrangements’ April 2016.

[21] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Intellectual Property Arrangements’ April 2016, Draft Recommendation 6.1.

[22] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 243.

[23] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 250.

[24] Nectar Cloud https://nectar.org.au/research-cloud/

[25] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Findings 8.1, 8.2 and 8.3.

[26] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Finding 8.2, 317

[27] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft, 325.

[28] Australian National Data Service http://www.ands.org.au/working-with-data

[29] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 328.

[30] Open Data Institute Queensland, (ODIQ), <http://queensland.theodi.org/&gt;.

[31] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 329.

[32] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 329.

[33] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 330.

[34] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 330.

[35] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 331.

[36] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, 331.

[37] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation 9.5.

[38] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation, 9.6

[39] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation, 9.7 and 9.8.

[40] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation, 9.9.

[41] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation, 9.10.

[42] Productivity Commission, Draft Report, ‘Data Availability and Use’, November 2016, Draft Recommendation, 9.11.

How the insights of the Large Hadron Collider are being made open to everyone: The Conversation

If you visit the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exhibition, now at the Queensland Museum, you’ll see the recreation of a moment when the scientist who saw the first results indicating discovery of the Higgs boson laments she can’t yet tell anyone.

It’s a transitory problem for her, lasting as long as it takes for the result to be thoroughly cross-checked. But it illustrates a key concept in science: it’s not enough to do it; it must be communicated.

That’s what is behind one of the lesser known initiatives of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research): an ambitious plan to make all its research in particle physics available to everyone, with a big global collaboration inspired by the way scientists came together to make discoveries at the LHC.

This initiative is called SCOAP³, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access in Particle Physics Publishing, and is now about to enter its fourth year of operation. It’s a worldwide collaboration of more than 3,000 libraries (including six in Australia), key funding agencies and research centres in 44 countries, together with three intergovernmental organisations.

It aims to make work previously only available to paying subscribers of academic journals freely and immediately available to everyone. In its first three years it has made more than 13,000 articles available.

Not only are these articles free for anyone to read, but because they are published under a Creative Commons attribution license (CCBY), they are also available for anyone to use in anyway they wish, such as to illustrate a talk, pass onto a class of school children, or feed to an artificial intelligence program to extract information from. And these usage rights are enshrined forever.

Open science

The concept of sharing research is not new in physics. Open access to research is now a growing worldwide initiative, including in Australasia. CERN, which runs the LHC, was also where the world wide web was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist at CERN.

The main purpose of the web was to enable researchers contributing to CERN from all over the world share documents, including scientific drafts, no matter what computer systems they were using.

Before the web, physicists had been sharing paper drafts by post for decades, so they were one of the first groups to really embrace the new online opportunities for sharing early research. Today, the pre-press site arxiv.org has more than a million free article drafts covering physics, mathematics, astronomy and more.

But, with such a specialised field, do these “open access” papers really matter? The short answer is “yes”. Downloads have doubled to journals participating in SCOAP³.

With millions of open access articles now being downloaded across all specialities, there is enormous opportunity for new ideas and collaborations to spring from chance readership. This is an important trend: the concept of serendipity enabled by open access was explored in 2015 in an episode of ABC RN’s Future Tense program.

Greater than the sum of the parts

There’s also a bigger picture to SCOAP³’s open access model. Not long ago, the research literature was fragmented. Individual papers and the connections between them were only as good as the physical library, with its paper journals, that academics had access to.

Now we can do searches in much less time than we spend thinking of the search question, and the results we are presented with are crucially dependent on how easily available the findings themselves are. And availability is not just a function of whether an article is free or not but whether it is truly open, i.e. connected and reusable.

One concept is whether research is “FAIR”, or Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. In short, can anyone find, read, use and reuse the work?

The principle is most advanced for data, but in Australia work is ongoing to apply it to all research outputs. This approach was also proposed at the November 2016 meeting of the G20 Science, Technology and Innovation Ministers Meeting. Research findings that are not FAIR can, effectively, be invisible. It’s a huge waste of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund research that won’t be seen.

There is an even bigger picture that research and research publications have to fit into: that of science in society.

Across the world we see politicians challenging accepted scientific norms. Is the fact that most academic research remains available only to those who can pay to see it contributing to an acceptance of such misinformed views?

If one role for science is to inform public debate, then restricting access to that science will necessarily hinder any informed public debate. Although no one suggests that most readers of news sites will regularly want to delve into the details of papers in high energy physics, open access papers are 47% more likely to end up being cited in Wikipedia, which is a source that many non-scientists do turn to.

Even worse, work that is not available openly now may not even be available in perpetuity, something that is being discussed by scientists in the USA.

So in the same way that CERN itself is an example of the power of international collaboration to ask some of the fundamental scientific questions of our time, SCOAP³ provides a way to ensure that the answers, whatever they are, are available to everyone, forever.

The Conversation

Virginia Barbour, Executive Director, Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.