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 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.

AOASG May 2016 Newsletter: Australian Productivity Commission & US VP on OA; OA week theme & what “open” really means

17 May 2016: in this month’s newsletter

What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing in AU & NZ
What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing globally
Upcoming events in OA & scholarly publishing
OA week is back!
Recent writing & resources on OA


What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing in AU & NZ

The Productivity Commission of the Australian Government issued its Draft Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements.

One of its recommendations was:
“15.1 All Australian, and State and Territory Governments should implement an open access policy for publicly-funded research. The policy should provide free access through an open access repository 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.” 

Among a range of other comments was this: it is “important when crafting policies relating to open access to delineate exactly what is meant by the term.”

The report garnered a lot of positive comment, internationally, including from TechDirt – “the Productivity Commission, released one of the most amazing reports on copyright that you’ll see out of a government body.”

Responses are invited by June 3, 2016.

A second consultation is on Data Availability and Use for which an issues paper was released on 18 April  to assist anyone wanting to prepare a submission to the public inquiry. It outlines a range of issues about which the Commission is seeking information. Initial submissions are due by Friday 29 July 2016. Further comment will be sought upon release of the draft report in November 2016.

An International Alliance of Research Library Associations, including CAULendorsed an Accord on Open Data

Richard White, the University of Otago’s copyright officer, took a look at the recent revelations about Sci-Hub usage (see more below).

Jane McCredie at the Medical Journal of Australia wrote on OA in this blog: Open access, the modern dilemma.

What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing globally

US Vice-Presidential support for open access
In speech to the AACR US Vice-President Joe Biden  came out strongly in support of OA, data sharing and collaboration as part of the $1 billion Cancer Moonshot initiative. SPARC reported on this here.

How do researchers access scholarly publications?
There was even more discussion about Sci-Hub following an article in Science  (Who’s downloading pirated papers? Everyone). along with a feature on its founder and a responsefrom the Editor-in-Chief of Science.

To continue the theme of the ways in which academics access research, a paper which surveyed how students access the resources they need found only one in five obtain all resources legally.

Creative Commons and rights statements
Ryan Merkely, CEO of Creative Commons, wrote in ForbesYou Pay to Read Research You Fund. That’s Ludicrous.  And in the courts, a judgement (Court Correctly Interprets Creative Commons Licenses) on Creative Commons was hailed as an important  interpretation of the issues. – an initiative of Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America – announced the provision of 11 standardized rights statements for online cultural heritage.

Meetings on open scholarship

The European Union Presidency Conference on Open Science  was held on April 4 and 5. The conference preamble noted that “Open Science is a key priority of the Dutch Presidency. The Netherlands [who hold the presidency currently] is committed to open access to scientific publications and the best possible re-use of research data, and it would like to accelerate the transition this requires.” The output of that conference was the  Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science,  which feedback was solicited on (the AOASG gave feedback  on this). The final version of this document is not yet released. The draft document proposed ambitious goals around open access and data sharing and reuse in science, ie:
Two pan-European goals for 2020
  • Full open access for all scientific publications.
  • A fundamentally new approach towards optimal reuse of research data.
 Two flanking policies
  • New assessment, reward and evaluation systems. ‘
  • Alignment of policies and exchange of best practices.
There were then twelve concrete actions proposed as a result of these goals.
Danny Kingsley reported on the first OSI workshop in this blog Watch this space.

The Force 11 meeting covered many forward looking discussions. A specifically interesting one was reported here Working Beyond Borders: Why We Need Global Diversity in Scholarly Communications

Policy and more
JISC in the UK outlined released its OA Publisher Compliance document.

A paper defending hybrid journals by the Publishers Association triggered a strong response from RLUK.

COAR and UNESCO issued a Statement on Open Access, responding to European initiatives focused on gold OA. They note: “This statement highlights a number of issues that need to be addressed by organizations during the large-scale shift from subscription-based to Open access mode of publishing”

News from OA publishers
The DOAJ announced it had removed more than 3000 journals from its database for failing reapply by the deadline. This is part of a long-term project to curate the DOAJ list of journals.

Two new manuscript submissions systems for open access publishing  were launched. From eLife there was Continuum, a new open-source tool for publishing and from the PLOS journals, Aperta was launched on PLOS Biology. In other journal newsCanadian Science Publishing announced the launch of FACETS, Canada’s first and only multidisciplinary open access science journal.

An analysis of two publishers, Springer Open  and de Gruyter,  have shown that they are developing a model whereby institutions sponsor a journal, that then has no article processing charge for authors.

OA papers and data in particle physics 
In news from CERN, the SCOAP3 initiative was extended for three more years and CERN put 300TB of data from the Large Hadron Collider online.

Costs of publishing now more transparent than ever
More and more data on costs in publishing are being released, with  the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) publishing its Publication Cost Data 2015

In the annual Periodicals Price Survey 2016 the authors  found an “average e-journal package price increase of 5.8% to 6.3%, down slightly from last year’s average of 6.6%. this year’s feature examines pricing for 18,473 unique titles, our largest sample to date. Increasing the sample makes the results more reliable”

Preprints and their place in scholarly communication are a hot topic for discussion. Hilda Bastian dissected some of the issues in her blog, Breaking Down Pros and Cons of Preprints in Biomedicine – where she also draws the cartoons.

But in further new of their increasing acceptability, Crossrefannounced that members will soon be able to assign Crossref DOIs to preprints.

Growth of OA
Heather Morrison continues her excellent  regular summary, Dramatic Growth of Open Access  with a March 31, 2016 update. More controversially, she noted that Elsevier is now the worlds largest publisher of OA journals (by number of journals) which is prompted discussion on twitter about what that really means for OA .

The COAR annual meeting had a theme of The Role of Collaboration in Building a Global Knowledge Commons. Following the meeting, COAR announced a new initiative – the COAR Next Generation Repositories Project “to position repositories as the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication, on top of which layers of value added services will be deployed, thereby transforming the system, making it more research-centric, open to and supportive of innovation, while also collectively managed by the scholarly community.”

Book publishing

The HathiTrust Research Center announced that it had expanded its services to support computational researchon the entire collection of one of the world’s largest digital libraries, held by HathiTrust.

And finally… prizes!
In Phase I of the Open Science Prize, an initiative from the Wellcome Trust, US National Institutes of Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, six winning teams received prizes of $80,000 to develop their prototypes. Winners included MyGene2: Accelerating Gene Discovery with Radically Open Data Sharing, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Washington, United States, and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.

Want more OA news?

We can’t cover everything here! For daily email updates the best ways to keep up to date is the Open Access Tracking Project. Our Twitter account has posts throughout each day and our curated newsfeed on the website is updated daily.

The newsletter archive provides snapshots of key issues throughout the year.

Upcoming events in OA & scholarly publishing

11th Annual Conference on Open Repositories takes place at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) from the 13th – 16th June 2016.

The theme for this years’ aaDHDigital Humanities Australasia Conference in Hobart, 20-23 June  is  “Working with Complexity“.

Open Con will be on 12-14 November in Washington, DC, with satellite events hosted around the world. From the website Open Con describes itself as  “a platform for the next generation to learn about Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data, develop critical skills, and catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information—from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital research data.”

OASPA’s 8th Conference on OA Scholarly Publishing (COASP) will be on 21st & 22nd September, 2016. at Westin Arlington Gateway, Virginia.

OA week is back!

SPARC has announced that the theme for this year’s 9th International Open Access Week, to be held October 24-30, will be “Open in Action.” Details below.

International Open Access Week has always been about action, and this year’s theme encourages all stakeholders to take concrete steps to make their own work more openly available and encourage others to do the same. From posting pre-prints in a repository to supporting colleagues in making their work more accessible, this year’s Open Access Week will focus on moving from discussion to action in opening up our system for communicating research.

Established by SPARC and partners in the student community in 2008, International Open Access Week is an opportunity to take action in making openness the default for research—to raise the visibility of scholarship, accelerate research, and turn breakthroughs into better lives. This year’s Open Access Week will be held from October 24ththrough the 30th; however, those celebrating the week are encouraged to schedule local events whenever is most suitable during the year.

The “Open in Action” theme will also highlight the researchers, librarians, students, and others who have made a commitment to working in the open and how that decision has benefitted them—from researchers just starting their careers to those at the top of their field.

Recent writing & resources on OA

The Open Access Directory listing of social medial sites about OA has been updated and revised. You can help improve it by suggesting edits.

In Fifty shades of open Jeffrey Pomerantz and Robin Peek take  an entertaining and highly informative trip through “open” everything – from open beer and puppies to open code and open access

AOASG Submission to the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements for Higher Education

September 2015


The Australasian Open Access Support Group (AOASG) was established in 2013 by nine Australian universities that were committed to ensuring that the research outputs of Australia were made available openly with the ultimate aim of optimising the return on investment in research done in Australian Universities

Over the past three years the AOASG has worked to assist researchers, funders, research organisations and libraries by sharing knowledge about and assisting in building capacity for Open Access.

The AOASG now includes all eight New Zealand universities as well as nine Australian universities.

AOASG welcomes the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements for Higher Education, in particular the focus on increasing the impact of the significant investment made by the Commonwealth Government in universities.

Comments from the AOASG follow in relation to Sections 1,2, and 4 of the issues paper.


Section 1

To achieve industry impact and enable commercialisation, the research outcomes from universities need to be easily discoverable, free online with clear reuse rights, and with linked access to the data that underpins the research.

Recent years have seen the government launch some important initiatives to assist availability of research outputs. AOASG welcomes the policies of the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)which recommend Open Access for research outputs from research funded by the Councils. We note that compliance is as yet, unmeasured.

The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy funded projects (eg ANDS) have significantly improved the infrastructure for access to data from research, although much remains to be done in order for data to consistently be made open. We note that research from Houghton and Gruen finds that:

“Conservatively, we estimate that the value of data in Australia’s public research to be at least $1.9 billion and possibly up to $6 billion a year at current levels of expenditure and activity. Research data curation and sharing might be worth at least $1.8 billion and possibly up to $5.5 billion a year, of which perhaps $1.4 billion to $4.9 billion annually is yet to be realized. Hence, any policy around publicly-funded research data should aim to realise as much of this unrealised value as practicable [1]”

There will be genuine financial benefit from making research outputs, including data, available on an open access basis.

Research [2] into the use of research by industry and business associations has found that major barriers include a lack of access to research findings and data. These barriers are compounded by inadequate discoverability of the research. Furthermore, there is as yet inconsistent linking via unique identifiers of researchers (such as ORCiD) to research publications and data

Australian Government policy is underdeveloped in this area, leading to inconsistent practices, limited availability of funded research outputs and sub-optimal industry impact.

mandated deposit

2010 – 2014

Figure 1. The percentage of Australasian Institutions with a mandated deposit for all research publications. There was a marked increase in the number of universities mandating deposit for all types of research publications, with the percentage rising from 16% in 2013 to 37% in 2014. [3]

In conclusion, factors impeding commercialisation of the research output of Australia’s universities (1.4.1), and barriers to improving research-industry collaboration (1.4.2) include:

  • a lack of policy frameworks to ensure research is published openly and is thus available
  • a lack of an overarching national discovery mechanism – for example the ability to search seamlessly across all research outputs, including published work and that deposited in repositories.
  • a lack of a service that would support industry awareness of new research (such as the SHARE initiative in the US) [4].
  • No entity which is responsible for the the collaboration required between policy makers, such as ARC and NHMRC, academic institutions, and those who can provide technology and infrastructure, such as Intersect and the National Library of Australia.

Section 2 and 4

One reliable measure of the use of research is by counting the number of citations to that work in other publications.  This is an important metric for researchers. There is substantial evidence that making research available via Open Access publications increases citations [5], ie researchers can improve their citation rate in this way.  However, it is important that such citations are measured at the article, not the journal level and are part of an overall programme of considered impact evaluation.[6]

In order to optimise accessibility, use and reuse of research outputs by industry measures (2.3.5) we recommend that award assessment and impact measurement (4.3.6) should include identification of and metrics for:

  • research outputs – number that have been made openly accessible and information on their use and reuse
  • research datasets – number that have been made openly accessible and information on their use and reuse
  • grant acquittals and reporting should include a requirement that outputs are reported in terms of those that are freely or openly accessible, and by what method and those that are behind a paywall

On the question of what can universities do to enhance collaboration (4.3.3) we believe that making universities’ research more discoverable via Open Access, either via universities’ repositories or through fully open access journals is a crucial first step. There is substantial evidence that industry – especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) [3] – are not able to routinely and affordably access the research they need.

However, an important overarching barrier to improving accessibility and hence translation of both research publications and the associated data is financial – ie the cost of Open Access publication, repository infrastructure and data curation.

Full funding for the dissemination of results in the relevant grants, with specific line items associated with such funding would we believe substantially improve the use, reuse, impact and translation of Australian research.

1. Houghton, J., Gruen, N. (2014) Open Research Data Report to the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). November 2014

2. Houghton, Swan and Brown Access to Research and Technical Information in Denmark

3. Council of Australian University Librarians (2014) 2014 Research Publications Repository Survey Report

4. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) jointly launched the SHARE initiative in 2013.

5. SPARC Europe The Open Access Citation Advantage Service

6. The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics

A PDF version of this submission is available here:

Open data is good, because …

Belinda Weaver writes on the many benefits of open data

Contact: Twitter @cloudaus

Why should we advocate for open data? What benefits does it bring?

Transparency, for one.

Governments do stuff. We don’t always like it. It helps if we have the data to back up our objections. The Guardian datablog publishes and visualises a lot of information which helps pierce the opacity around government. Two examples – the costs of the post-GFC UK bank bailout and where UK spending actually goes. Both do a great job of communicating a message, and the data can be downloaded and reused.

The ABC’s FactCheck service is one way Australians can check on what governments are saying.

Open data makes things more efficient.

Disasters happen. In the helping phase, open data helps relief agencies get the information they need to direct operations on the ground. It helps governments get the plans and details of the infrastructure they need to fix. The New Zealand response to the Christchurch earthquake is a case in point. is a global source of information to help make disaster response quicker and more efficient.

Open data helps join things up.

Cities are complex beasts and making things work in synch requires a lot of planning and coordination. provides a platform for all kinds of data – transport, air quality – to be stored, interrogated and overlaid. Chicago and San Francisco in the US and Glasgow and Newcastle in the UK have all implemented Plenario for cities data. Data exists on a single map and a single timeline, making it easy to access multiple datasets at once, even those originally housed at different data portals.

Open data democratises access.

Codex Sinaiaticus, the Christian Bible in Greek, was handwritten more than 1,600 years ago, and is the oldest substantial book to survive antiquity. The manuscript contains the oldest complete copy of the New Testament.  Its text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible, and the manuscript is of supreme importance for the history of the book.  The MS is in four locations – London, St Petersburg, Sinai and Leipzig. Now the item has been fully digitised, scholars from anywhere can work on it. What was once accessible only to a privileged few is now open to all.

Open data enables new businesses.

The Go Brisbane app allows users to save favourite journeys and view timetables for them very quickly. This beats using official transport websites where getting the same information takes a whole lot longer. Open mapping information has created a range of new businesses – travel, holidays, restaurant guides, walking tours, direction finders … the possibilities are endless.

Open data saves lives.

‘Dr Internet’ is blamed for many false diagnoses, but it can also foster real ones. As more and more medical information becomes freely available, patients can investigate their problems and possibly find some answers, as this story shows

Have you got a good open data story? Share it here.

About the author

Belinda Weaver is eResearch Analyst Team Leader, Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation.

Australian Chief Scientist comes out in support of Open Access.

Ian Chubb recommends in his newly released STEM strategy that the government “enhance dissemination of Australian STEM research by expanding open access policies and improving the supporting infrastructure.” and “Support the translation and commercialisation of STEM discoveries through: … a modern and flexible IP framework that embraces a range of capabilities from open access regimes to …” Check out pages 18 and 28 of the full report [pdf]

Centrally supported open access initiatives in Australia

Australia has a good track record in relation to open access, from hosting one of the first country-wide thesis repositories in the world to supporting the development and management of institutional repositories. While initially much of this work was pioneered by the university libraries, the Australian Government has made significant commitments more recently.

This blog post gives a short rundown of some of the open access initiatives Australia has seen since 2000, starting with the most recent developments – open access mandates from the two main funding bodies.

Funding mandates

In 2012 the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) announced its revised policy on the dissemination of research findings, effective 1 July 2012. The Australian Research Council (ARC) released its Open Access Policy on 1 January 2013. Both policies require that any publications arising from a funded research project must be deposited into an open access institutional repository within a 12 month period from the date of publication.

There are two minor differences between the two policies. The NHMRC relates only to journal articles where the ARC encompasses all publication outputs. In addition, the NHMRC mandate affects all publications as of 1 July 2012, but the ARC will only affect the outputs produced from the research funded in 2013. Researchers are also encouraged to make accompanying datasets available open access.

Enabling open access

Both the NHMRC and ARC mandates specifically require deposit of metadata (and ideally full text of the work) into the researchers’ institutional repository. This position takes advantage of the existing infrastructure already in place in Australian institutions.

All universities in Australia host a repository, many of them developed with funds the government provided through the Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (ASHER). This scheme which ran from 2007-2009 was originally intended to assist the reporting requirement for the Research Quality Framework (RQF) research assessment exercise, which became Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). The ASHER program had the aim of “enhancing access to research through the use of digital repositories”.

Australian repositories run on software platforms ranging from EPrints, DSpace, ARROW (a VTLS commercial front end to Fedora), to ProQuest Digital Commons (bepress). A full list of repository software platforms for Australian universities is here.

Support for open access in Australia

Repositories in Australia are generally managed by libraries and have been supported by an ongoing organised community. In 2009-2010, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) established the CAUL Australian Institutional Repository Support Service (CAIRSS) and when central government funding for the service ended, the university libraries agreed to continue the service by supporting it with member contributions. CAIRSS ended in December 2012, however the email list continues a strong community of practice.

In October 2012 the Australian Open Access Support Group launched, commencing staffed operations in January 2013. The group aims to provide advice and information to all practitioners in the area of open access.

Open theses

Historically Australia has a strong track record in providing access to research. The Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) program began in 2000 as a system of sharing PhD theses over the internet. The ADT was a central registry and open access display of theses, which were held in self-contained repositories at each university using a shared software platform that had been developed for the purpose. The first theses were made available in July 2000.  In 2011, as all theses were then being held in universities’ institutional repositories, the ADT was decommissioned. It was estimated that the number of full text Australian theses available in repositories at the time was over 30,000.

Open data

The Australian Government has made a significant commitment to the development of a successful digital economy underpinned by an open government approach, aimed at providing better access to government held information and also to the outputs of government funded research.

The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) is federally funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. It has responsibility for supporting public access to as much publicly funded research data as can be provided within the constraints of privacy, copyright, and technology. In an attempt to provide a platform for sharing information about data, ANDS has developed a discovery service for data resulting from Australian research, called Research Data Australia, which is a national data registry service meshing searchable web pages that describe Australian research data collections supplementing published research. Records in Research Data Australia link to the host institution, which may (or not) have a direct link to the data.

Open government

The work of ANDS reflects the broader government position in Australia of making public data publicly available. The Declaration of Open Government  was announced on July 16, 2010. This policy position is in the process of practical implementation across the country, providing access to information about locations of government services, for example. The level of engagement between government areas and different levels of government varies.

Another government initiative has been the Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL) which has an emphasis on open formats and open access to publicly funded information and provides a framework to facilitate open data from government agencies. In addition to providing information and fora for discussion, it has developed a licence suite that includes the Australian Creative Commons Version 3.0 licences.

Other publicly funded institutions in Australia also share their research through repositories. The Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO) has a Research Publications Repository. In addition, some government departments are making their research available, such as the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group