Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 Strategic Plan Issues Paper
Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) response
Submitted by Dr Virginia Barbour, Director AOASG, on behalf of AOASG on 7th June, 2017
The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) welcomes the chance to provide input into this issues paper. The AOASG[i] is supported by eleven universities in Australia and eight in New Zealand; Creative Commons Australia and New Zealand are affiliate members. AOASG works to increase access to academic research outputs and to promote innovation in all areas of scholarly communications. We collaborate with relevant national and international organisations that are working in this area, in particular the ARC and the NHMRC in relation to their open access policies. We also promote public discussion of the need for access to research outputs and we are building capacity in this area by supporting communities of practice in Australia and New Zealand and by providing advice to universities and other relevant organisations.
We believe that unrestricted access to scholarly research outputs is an essential underpinning of Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 Strategic Plan. The seamless exchange of information is one of the key enablers of innovation globally and locally. Over the past several years the concept of improving the exchange of information has matured beyond statements on open access, which were first articulated fifteen years ago.[ii] A more considered approach is that information should not just be available or open but that it should be “F.A.I.R.” – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1. F.A.I.R. goes beyond free and open access to research outputs
The F.A.I.R. principles were originally developed in relation to data[iii] but can now be applied to all research outputs and for Australia are articulated in the F.A.I.R. statement[iv], which was developed in 2016 by a working party convened originally under the auspices of Universities Australia Deputy Vice Chancellors (Research) Committee. AOASG is now taking forward discussions on how the F.A.I.R. principles might be implemented in Australia. The steering group overseeing this will shortly be meeting for the first time. It is therefore especially timely for AOASG to provide input into the Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 Strategic Plan.
The F.A.I.R approach puts metadata and interoperability as key components of seamless scholarly communication. As well as technical improvements in the availability of research by ensuring that research outputs are more easily available for scrutiny, it also supports the increasing move towards better integrity of the academic literature, and thus its reliability and reproducibility.
We have commented on specific areas in the plan, below, which we believe are of especial relevance. However, we note that seamless exchange of information is of critical importance for all of the articulated vision, i.e. “an Australia counted within the top tier of innovation nations, known and respected for its excellence in science, research and commercialization.”[v]
Challenge 3: Delivering high-quality and relevant education and skills development for Australians throughout their lives
Question: Can you nominate your three highest-priority responses to address this challenge?
There are two specific areas of within this challenge that we would highlight. The first is the need to have seamless access to academic research outputs in accordance with the F.A.I.R. principles of accessibility, interoperability, and reusability as noted above. The second is the need for specific education in how scholarly communication itself is evolving and the tools that academics, especially, need to be familiar with. Advances in new mechanisms for sharing scholarly work will have a profound effect on the workflow of academics and in how everyone, including from outside academia, access that work. The diversity of innovation is represented by the project 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication.[vi] Those who work in this area need to be educated and trained in these evolving methods. Libraries currently provide the bulk of this training. An alternative model for delivering such training is the peer-to-peer model that the Software Carpentry program has developed.[vii]
Question: How can we increase people and idea exchanges between industry and the education and training system?
Again we would note the role of the F.A.I.R. principles of accessibility, interoperability, and reusability in facilitating the exchange of information. One specific project we are undertaking in accordance with these principles to better improve the interoperability of research within Australia and New Zealand research repositories is to agree on and implement a minimum set of metadata across repositories in this region.
Question: How do we create and support a culture of agile learning?
See comment above on the peer-to-peer approach of software carpentry.
Challenge 4: Maximising the engagement of our world class research system with end users
Question: What is your reaction to this challenge? What’s missing? Can you nominate your three highest-priority?
Seamless exchange of information in accordance with the F.A.I.R. principles of accessibility, interoperability, and reusability underpins engagement with end users. This exchange may be as simple as ensuring that research articles can be incorporated into educational materials by making them available in an accessible location with the appropriate license, through to the highly technical challenges that are associated with ensuring the reusability and interoperability of full datasets.
Question: Do we have the right incentives to encourage research translation?
Incentives in academia are the subject of intense debate, especially as perverse incentives may actually inhibit the sharing of research in anything other than a limited set of journals.[viii] There is a need to provide incentives for actions other than simply publishing research outputs. One example is to provide an incentive for data sharing, as articulated by the data sharing principles from the CODATA task force.[ix]
Challenge 5: Maximising advantage from international knowledge, talent and capital
Question: How can we maximise the value of international knowledge exchange?
In order for maximum knowledge exchange, especially internationally, where virtually all exchange of information happens online, it is essential that knowledge is appropriately structured and described. As well as the F.A.I.R. principles of accessibility, interoperability, and reusability we note the importance of initiatives that many universities are now putting in place for data in the form of data management plans which recognize the need to not just store data or provide access to it, but for its long-term curation. This infrastructure needs to be in place for all research outputs. The work of national organisations such as ANDS[x] have been crucial for data in this regard and it is notable that the Australian Government recognized the need for investment in this area. We would argue that there is a need for specific investment now to build similar infrastructure for all research outputs to ensure they can participate fully in the global knowledge exchange system that is necessary to underpin an innovative nation.
[i] Australasian Open Access Strategy Group https://aoasg.org.au/
[iii] Force 11 FAIR Data Principleshttps://www.force11.org/group/fairgroup/fairprinciples
[iv] F.A.I.R. Statement https://www.fair-access.net.au
[v] Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 Strategic Plan Issues paper page 3
[ix] CODATA Data Citation Principles http://www.codata.org/task-groups/data-citation-standards-and-practices