Open access medical content and the world’s largest encyclopedia

Authors & Wikipedians: Thomas Shafee, Diptanshu Das, James Heilman & Gwinyai Masukume

Wikipedia aims to make a free and accessible summary of all human knowledge and is therefore one of the most well known open access efforts. The cumulative efforts of its volunteer writers (Wikipedians) has resulted in it dwarfing all previous encyclopedias in scope and depth. Additional collaborations with members of the open access community are taking this further. Many of these ideas are globally relevant, however a number of initiatives exist in Australia and New Zealand. A pair of recent papers in Science and JECH make the case that there has never been a better time to help shape the world’s most-read information source.

An open access encyclopedia

A few decades ago, an encyclopedia was a luxury that few could afford. Now, all with Internet access have free access to an encyclopedia larger than could fit in most homes, if printed. Wikipedia is extensively used by the general public, as well as doctors, medical students, lawmakers, and educators.

Indeed, it’s the primary free information source in many countries, especially for biomedical content. For example, during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the rapid updating and translation of relevant Wikipedia into more than 115 languages lead to these articles being read nearly 100 million times that year. Access to Wikipedia without data charges is also available in over 50 countries via the Wikipedia Zero project, covering more than 300 million people. The offline medical Wikipedia app and Internet-in-a-box initiatives offer greater accessibility to those with limited connectivity. With over half of the world’s population not online, and many more with only intermittent access, these efforts are critical.

Wikipedia and the open access movement strengthen each other

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and therefore can only summarise existing knowledge. It therefore depends on citing reliable and verifiable reference sources to support its statements. Since it is editable by anyone, it is particularly important that anyone be able to cross-check the stated ‘facts’. Indeed, Wikipedia is the 6th highest referrer of DOI links (the unique hyperlinks assigned to academic articles).

However, most Wikipedia readers (and many of its writers) do not have access to paywalled articles. How then can references be checked? Some journals provide access to Wikipedians through the Wikipedia Resource Library. This allows details within paywalled sources to be duly summarised and distributed, but it’s an imperfect solution. Readers wanting to check a source or read deeper into a subject hit the wall, and images can’t be easily replicated. Wikipedia articles commonly cite open access articles, however there are often no open access alternatives to paywalled articles. Currently, there is no perfect solution for which sources to cite, but any efforts that strengthen open access benefit the encyclopedia.

What can be done to help?

Any advances in the open access movement aid Wikipedia, as well as more targeted efforts.

On an individual level, teaching people how to directly edit Wikipedia enables them to get involved on the ground-level. There are widespread Australian examples, including universities, conferences, libraries, and  societies across the country. Similar events in New Zealand have been hosted by Royal Society Te Apārangi and Whanganui museum. The editing interface has been updated to be as easy to use as a Word document. People may contribute for a specific event (an edit-a-thon), or become regular contributors. The writer community organises itself into groups  called ‘WikiProjects’ with shared topic interests. Efforts include adding or improving text, copy-editing, reviewing new edits, and adding images or other media.

Encouraging professional bodies to formally recognise Wikipedia editing as a service to the academic community and wider world will help legitimize it as a worthwhile use of time by busy professionals. Greater involvement by subject experts can improve Wikipedia’s quality. As yet, no Australian or New Zealand funding body formally recognises Wikipedia editing for grant or fellowship applications.

We also strongly support the expansion of dual-publishing of peer reviewed articles by academic journals (e.g. by PLOS, Gene, and Wiki.J.Med). This process creates a citable ‘version of record’ in the journal (providing academic credit for the authors) and the content is then used to create or overhaul the relevant Wikipedia pages. Through Wikipedia, health professionals can massively impact public health literacy (even obscure Wikipedia pages usually get hundreds or thousands of views per day). Academics similarly gain a public impact that is matched by few other platforms. In return, the encyclopedia benefits from the accurate and expert-reviewed information and the journal gains greater exposure.

Larger groups and organisations can also be mobilised to contribute to Wikipedia as an open access outlet. For example, Blausen Medical and have contributed galleries of open access images and videos, which are used to illustrate the encyclopedia. Institutions such as the Cochrane, Cancer research UK, and Consumer Reports have teamed up with experienced Wikipedians and trained their members to add information and references to relevant Wikipedia articles. Journals can also be encouraged to release their back-catalogues under open access licenses, unlocking vital sources. Studies at Australia’s Monash University also recommended integrating Wikipedia editing into university courses, and several universities, such as the University of Sydney, do just this.  Even database services can integrate their data into Wikipedia’s structured knowledge database, WikiData (e.g. on genes and RNA families).

By Marcos Vinicius de Paulo (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The big picture

Although the recent articles in Science and JECH focused on the biomedical field, these are examples of a much wider phenomenon. For instance, there have been several ongoing collaborations between Galleries, Libraries and Museums around the world to add their knowledge to Wikipedia under open access licenses.

Wikipedia also has the potential to be a knowledge access platform for the 4 billion people who are not currently online. Its open license allows people to translate, build upon, and distribute its content in new and innovative ways with no requirements beyond attribution and releasing what they create under a similar license.

Wikipedia and the open access movement are already intertwined. Open access publishing provides information needed for growing, improving and updating Wikipedia. Meanwhile, Wikipedians search, summarise and combine that vast sea of information into free articles. Each benefits from the strengths of the other, and can be helped by specific collaboration efforts.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation that hosts Wikipedia, is currently formulating its strategy through to 2030 and has identified collaboration with the wider knowledge ecosystem as one of its key themes.


Shafee, Thomas; Masukume, Gwinyai; Kipersztok, Lisa; Das, Diptanshu; Häggström, Mikael; Heilman, James (2017-10-29). “The evolution of Wikipedia’s medical content: past, present and future”. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 71 (10). doi:10.1136/jech-2016-208601.

Shafee, Thomas; Mietchen, Daniel; Su, Andrew I. (2017-08-11). “Academics can help shape Wikipedia”. Science. 357 (6351): 557–558. doi:10.1126/science.aao0462.

Lead image (white books):   Michael Mandiberg (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

This work is licensed by AOASG under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Competing interests:

All authors have contributed to Wikipedia articles, are current participants in WikiProject Medicine, and are on the editorial board of WikiJournal of Medicine. Thomas Shafee is on the editorial board of PLOS Genetics. James Heilman is a former and current member of the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees. The authors do not receive financial compensation for their contributions to these projects.

Follow the authors on Twitter:

Gwinyai Masukume
James Heilman
Diptanshu Das

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

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

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.

Large Hadron Collider exhibit comes to town: an Open Access success story

By Sandra Fry

The world’s greatest scientific collaboration comes to Brisbane, Australia today with the opening of the Hadron Collider exhibit at the Queensland Museum.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest, most powerful particle accelerator ever built, consisting of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets which sits in a tunnel 100 metres underground at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland.

The project was dubbed the biggest science experiment of all time, and has involved thousands of scientists funded by hundreds of universities and governments around the world.

One of the most significant outcomes of the collaboration has been the very deliberate focus on ensuring the findings are available freely and openly.  The sciences have been leading the movement towards Open Access (OA) and an increasing number of Australian research organisations including universities, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council policies have OA policies.  The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) advocates on behalf of its member universities who are based in Australia and New Zealand and its affiliates to promote OA through collaboration and raising awareness.

One of the biggest discoveries to come from the LHC was in 2012 with the discovery of Higgs boson elementary particle – it was last remaining particle from the Standard Model of particle physics to be observed.  Australian Professor Geoffrey Taylor  (pictured below) is a director and chief investigator at the Centre of excellence in Particle Physics (CoEEP) at the University of Melbourne.  He was heavily involved in the Higgs boson discovery along with many other Australian scientists and said it came after decades of inquiry around across the globe.


“It was a very fundamental discovery, and it was a component of the Standard Model which was missing, but through this building of the Large Hadron Collider scope, its higher energies, higher intensities, we were capable of discovering the Hicks and we did.

“So that was a massive step forward for understanding the fundamental basis of the universe, and what particles are made of and what their basic interactions are.”

Professor Taylor said this LHC exhibition presents science on industrial scale, and that has benefits in the community.

“First of all it drives this collaboration for ventures in science and engineering, but on the other side of the coin, it involves major industrialisation and commercial involvement, and knowledge transfer.”

He said there is a large amount of technology which comes out of this research which is all publicly funded.

“Something like two or three times the turnover of what it would cost…. which I think it’s important for the public to know, it’s not just a drain … it generates growth.”

Much of the research being extracted from experiments using the LHC is made available around the globe via Open Access initiatives.

According to Dr Salvatore Mele, from CERN (pictured below), research in the field of physics has always been openly available.


“For more than half a century, researchers mailed each other hard copies of preprints, preliminary articles they had submitted for publication”  Dr Mele said, and now there are repositories like, all around the work hosting millions of  Open Access articles and preprints.

“Thanks to our Open Access initiative SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics), most of the articles in the field are also Open Access in their final peer-reviewed published version.

Dr Mele said that by aligning the mission of researchers, libraries, funding agencies and publishers it is possible to remove access barriers.

“Just imagine if all medical research was available to any single medical worker anywhere in the world,” he said.

Dr Mele said the impact of these scientific discoveries being available freely and openly has enormous impact on the research community.

“We have a way to measure how often these ‘preprints’, preliminary articles in our field, cite each other. This means that by being openly and freely available,ideas can spread before being formally published: we see that these citations happen up to one year before the day in which articles are published.

“Open Access accelerates science!” he said.

“Another way to measure impact is how often scientific articles are downloaded. While you cannot be sure this means someone has read them and got an idea – that of course cannot happen if you do not read the articles. We have been amazed to see that journals that SCOAP3 has made openly accessible on publisher web sites are downloaded twice as much as before.”  Five Australian universities are part of the consortium that supports SCOAP3, including two in Queensland, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Griffith University, as well as ANU, The University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia.

Dr Mele said the research community should not only share their work with peers in other disciplines, they should engage with libraries and funding agencies to support Open Access as part of the investment in research.

There is increasing pressure by funding agencies at national and international levels to embrace Open Access, Dr Mele said.

“Large charities, such as the Wellcome Trust and now the Gates Foundation, have been instrumental in moving this agenda and raise awareness in important areas in the life sciences and medical research, among others.

“In Europe, governments have agreed in the importance of Open Access in particular and Open Science in general: in May this year ministers of the European Union Member states concluded that Open Access should become the default for scientific publishing.

He said there are no negatives in making research open to everyone for free.

“In some fields there is hesitation about using them [open access journals], their reputation, and how to pay for them. In our field we see that research published in Open Access journals is downloaded twice as much as before, and by virtue of the fact that authors do not need to pay for this service, there are neither barriers nor hesitations,” Dr Mele said.

The Hadron Collider: Step Inside the World’s Greatest Experiment opens at the Queensland Museum & Sciencentre on December 9.

AOASG and Creative Commons Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

AOASG is delighted to have formed affiliations with both Creative Commons  Australia and  Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over the past year, the AOASG has changed its focus and its name from being purely Australian and focused on support (Australian Open Access Support Group) to being Australasian and with more of an emphasis on strategy (Australasian Open Access Strategy Group). As publishing changes globally, especially the move to a more open publishing world, the role of supporting infrastructure and standards such as licenses from Creative Commons becomes even more strategically important.


We already work with Creative Commons  in a number of ways. Last year we collaborated with Creative Commons  Australia on the production of a resource “Know your rights” to explain what the licenses mean for users. Together, we run regular online meet ups in Australia and New Zealand thus supporting communities of practices in both places.

creativecommonskiwi-300x278However, Creative Commons’ work in areas outside the remit of AOASG – such as the Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums (GLAM) and schools  provides a welcome opportunity to reach out beyond the boundaries of traditional scholarly publishing. In return, we hope that the affiliation of Creative Commons  Australia and Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand with AOASG will reinforce the importance of licenses within the academic publishing community.

We look forward to more collaborations across the three organisations in future.


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

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

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

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

General comments

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

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

Specific comments

Page 3


Paragraph entitled:  Open Data

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

Page 4

Box 1 Paragraph entitled: Why does data matter?

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

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

Page 8

Box 2 Paragraph entitled: Insufficient dataset linkage?

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

Page 9

Paragraph entitled: Benefits of increasing data availability and use

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

Page 13

Paragraph entitled: More recently the Australian Government…

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

Page 14

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

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

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

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


Page 22

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

Page 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identifying publishing outlets that follow best practice

Andy Pleffer provides advice  on deciding where to publish, based on Macquarie University’s approach 

checklist-1402461_1920There are two sides to the proverbial open access coin. Heads: the open access movement has produced many high quality, peer-review publications designed to make research accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Tails: the adoption of quasi-open access models appeals to new publishers seeking to set up journals with little-to-no standards for quality—where publications are at best a waste of effort, and at worst damaging to your career.

Sarah Beaubien and Max Eckhard (Grand Valley State University) addressed this tension through their seminal piece on Open Access Journal Quality Indicators, which has subsequently been adopted and promulgated by many other US institutions. And rightfully so, as the article champions three principles that are crucial to identifying best practice approaches to publishing academic research:

  1. On each occasion you are looking to publish your research, each outlet you consider should be evaluated on its own merits.
  2. There is no single criterion that will always reliably indicate high or low quality.
  3. Informed decisions occur when a series of tried and trusted criteria cumulate to reveal either a net positive or negative result.

At Macquarie University, we determined that the overarching theme uniting these three principles is due diligence. By providing enough guiding information on concerns in the current publishing landscape, we aim to enable researchers in developing your own sense of quality and, ultimately, empowering you to become self-sufficient in critiquing potential outlets for your scholarly research.We aim for advice that  is:

  • focused on the big picture
  • simple to understand
  • adaptable to different contexts (or disciplines), and
  • experiential, in that its value builds through repeated application.

As a researcher, selecting appropriate venues is an investment in your own currency. When you have invested many months or years thoroughly researching and writing your scholarly work, the end goal should be to maximise the return on your investment: to gain exposure, engagement and influence with your research. The most successful investments are built on a wise strategy, and a wise research publication strategy is informed by a sound understanding of best practice.

We call this “strategic publishing”. Designed in consultation with academics and senior administrators, these guidelines address four key themes in best practice publishing: relevance, reputation, visibility and validity. In summary, your chosen outlet must be:

  • relevant to your field of research to guarantee it will target an appropriate audience
  • considered reputable to those in your research community
  • visible and easy to access for your research to be read, and
  • characterised by ethical and valid publishing practices.

Underpinned by evidence, this approach is characterised by investigating and responding to checklists of tried and trusted criteria in order to determine a net result—one that can be compared and contrasted across myriad outlets. Other great resources that resonate and harmonise with this method include the Think Check Submit checklist, the SHERPA/RoMEO database of copyright and self-archiving policies, and the joint peak body initiative on Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.

Times change. Individual outlets and publishers come and go: some change hands; some change policies. Places are exchanged on editorial boards, while metrics and rankings designed to gauge quality publication outlets are only applicable to specified time periods.

Do not risk the currency of your research on complacency or guesswork. Have a well-defined publishing strategy, monitor its impact and adapt it as necessary. By doing your due diligence and associating your work with outlets that follow best practice approaches to publishing, you will be placing yourself in a much better position to grow the reach of your research.

Dr Andy Pleffer manages research data projects and develops resources for researchers at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Macquarie University is a member of AOASG.




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 response to Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science

The EUNL Conference on Open Science, convened during the Netherland’s presidency of the EU, last week proposed ambitious goals around open access and data sharing and reuse in science.

These are listed below – and at the bottom is the AOASG response, which is included on this public page along with other comments

Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science

There are two pan-European goals for 2020

  1. Full open access for all scientificpublications.This requires leadership and can be accelerated through new publishing models and compliance with standards set.
  2. A fundamentally new approach towards optimal reuse of research data.Data sharing and stewardship is the default approach for all publicly funded research. This requires definitions, standards and infrastructures.

Two flanking policies

To reach these goals by 2020 we need flanking policy:

  1. New assessment, reward and evaluation systems. New systems that really deal with the core of knowledge creation and account for the impact of scientific research on science and society at large, including the economy, and incentivise citizen science.
  2. Alignment of policies and exchange of best practices. Practices, activities and policies should be aligned and best practices and information should be shared. It will increase clarity and comparability for all parties concerned and to achieve joint and concerted actions. This should be accompanied by regular monitoring-based stocktaking.

Twelve action items with concrete actions to be taken

Twelve action items have been included in this Call for Action. They all contribute to the transition towards open science and have been grouped around five cross-cutting themes that follow the structure of the European Open Science Agenda as proposed by the European Commission. This may help for a quick-start of the Open Science Policy Platform that will be established in May 2016. Each action item contains concrete actions that can be taken immediately by the Member States, the European Commission and the stakeholders:

Removing barriers to open science
1. Change assessment, evaluation and reward systems in science
2. Facilitate text and data mining of content
3. Improve insight into IPR and issues such as privacy
4. Create transparency on the costs and conditions of academic communication

Developing research infrastructures
5. Introduce FAIR and secure data principles
6. Set up common e-infrastructures

Fostering and creating incentives for open science
7. Adopt open access principles
8. Stimulate new publishing models for knowledge transfer
9. Stimulate evidence-based research on innovations in open science

Mainstreaming and further promoting open science policies
10. Develop, implement, monitor and refine open access plans

Stimulating and embedding open science in science and society
11. Involve researchers and new users in open science
12. Encourage stakeholders to share expertise and information on open science


AOASG response to Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science

Submitted on behalf of Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG  by Virginia Barbour

General comments:

We welcome the initiative being taken by the EU on open science.

Like other commentators, we would urge the consideration that these principles should apply to all of forms of scholarly outputs across all disciplines, not just science.

Specific comments below:

We recognize the need for global, not just pan-European collaboration on many of these action items, in particular for action items1.  Change assessment, evaluation and reward systems in science and also item 6. Set up common e-infrastructures

  1. Changing the reward system, to incentivize openness and sharing is the core to any wholesale transformation of scholarly communication towards openness. This change needs to happen not just at the level of individual departments or institutions or even countries, but needs to be truly international and become part of the assessment of institutions, not just individual academics. For example, many of the current university league tables are heavily reliant on the publishing as it exists now. Unless alternatives are available there will not be any substantial buy in globally.

6. Common infrastructure will underpin whether or not openness fulfils its promise. Rather than common “e-infrastructures” it may be better phrased as common international standards which facilitate inter-operability, reuse, citability, reproducibility and linking. Without interoperable structures globally we risk repeating the current situation with silos of open research outputs, rather than silos of closed outputs, as we have now. We note that in the detailed explanation of this point  the need is  stated to “Align practices in Europe and beyond” and we urge that this is considered early in any developments.

We believe further clarification of the intentions and extent of the recommendations around items 2, 3 and 5 are needed. Specifically, text and data mining rights should be extended to research publications as well as data. Furthermore, reuse should extend to other uses beyond TDM.

7. and 8. We very much support the stated intentions to “Provide a framework for developing new publishing models” and “Encourage the development of publishing models that provide free access for readers/users.” We suggest that the publication in such new models should be specifically rewarded under any new incentive structures that are developed.

AOASG April 2016 newsletter

In this month’s newsletter

What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing in AU & NZ
What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing globally
Has academic publishing reached its Napster moment?
Are funders of OA getting good value for money?
Upcoming events in OA & scholarly publishing
Recent writing & resources on OA

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

It was Open Data Day on March 5 and as part of that the Queensland Government Science Division of the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation highlighted a number of data sets that are available for use and re-use through the Queensland Government Open Data Portal,

In an article for the Conversation, Roxanne Missingham from ANU discussed the cost of textbooks and how an open access model could be the answer.

Linda O’Brien from Griffith University  highlighted the need for access to research to support the Australian government’s Innovation and Science Australia agenda.

What’s new in OA & scholarly publishing globally

March 7-11 was Open Education Week . A nice visualisation of initiatives is shownhere. One specific one worth calling out is Poland’s national program of open textbooks.

An analysis written for the Smithsonian Institution on The impact of open access on galleries, libraries, archives, and museums concluded that “A strengthened institutional brand, increased use and dissemination of collections, and increased funding opportunities have been some of the benefits associated with open-access initiatives.”

The Open Library of the Humanities expanded with all eleven sites of the University of California Library system joining its Library Partnership Subsidy scheme.

Knowledge Unlatched launched a new German branch and announced it will be scaling up more in 2016.


The European Union Presidency Conference on Open Science kicks off on April 4. The conference preamble notes 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 follow up to the Berlin 12 meeting was launched in March. The initiative, called OA2020 has as its aim “the swift, smooth and scholarly-oriented transformation of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to open access publishing.”  The site is worth looking at with its suggestion of the steps needed for such a transition, which include crucially “a better understanding of publishing output and cost distribution.” Thus far theexpression of interest has 39 signatories, most from Europe.

Meanwhile, it seems that France is heading towardsgreen open access

The UK’s HEFCE OA policy began on 1st April 2016. The policy requires that to be eligible for submission to the next Research Excellence Framework, (REF), authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted for publication must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository.

At the Research Libraries UK conference OA was a prominent topic including a presentation from  Gerard Meijer of Radboud University, Nijmegen on the OA transformation in the Netherlands.

The Open Data button launched – a follow up to the Open Access Button.


The review commissioned by Harvard University’s Library Office for Scholarly Communication on Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences – more informally known as “Journal-flipping” opened for public comment.

A draft code of conduct for altmetrics providers & aggregators has been launched and is available for comment on the NISO site.


A new open science site for Japan launched with links to policies, events and updates.

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 thewebsite is updated daily.

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

Has academic publishing reached its Napster moment?

Last month we reported on debate around Sci-Hub. Since then the debate has reached the mainstream media in a big way with discussions in the New York Times, and Washington Post. Whatever comes next it is clear that the site has stirred up much debate and has re-focussed attention on the problem of lack of access to academic papers.

Meanwhile an interesting parallel debate has been provoked by the two recent global health crises of Ebola and Zika virus. Again, as we discussed last month scientists have committed to sharing data and science publishers have committed to make access to this research free – at least for the duration of the epidemics, not necessarily long term. The Economist reported on how new models of publishing are desperately needed in such settings, but as yet are slow to catch on. Meanwhile,NPR reported on the concern that many who work in countries affected by these epidemics have when western scientists “parachute in” to do all the interesting analyses which may or may not be shared, and rarely includes local scientists in a meaningful way.

Are funders getting good value for money?

The Wellcome Trust published its 2014/5 analysis of where its money goes in OA. It’s worth comparing with last year’s analysis. All the data are on Figshare.

Points to note include:

  • As in 2014 hybrid publishing is the most expensive model.
  • OA journals published by subscription publishers tended to have higher APCs then their “born digital” counterparts.
  • Elsevier is the most expensive publisher
  • 392 articles for which the Wellcome paid an APC were not available OA – ie in PMC or Europe PMC. As they say “In financial terms this equates to around £765,000.  Spending this level of money – and not having access to the article in the designated repository – is clearly unacceptable.”
  • 50% of Wiley papers were non-compliant with the policy
  • There were  many examples of papers where the licence cited on the PMC article  was different to the licence cited on the publisher web site.

The blog ends by noting that the Wellcome will be developing “a more detailed set of principles and requirements which have to be met before we regard a journal to be compliant.  Journals which confirm that they can meet these will be compliant with our policy; those which don’t, will not.” They add that they will still fund hybrid journals for now but “If hybrid publishers are unable to commit to the Wellcome Trust’s set of requirements and do not significantly improve the quality of the service, then classifying those hybrid journals as “non-compliant” will be an inevitable next step.”

A critical issue in the acceptance of OA via the APC route has to be that it guarantees OA and hence the Wellcome’s statement on what it is doing in compliance is important. It’s worth noting that SCOAP3 has > 99% compliance for its OA model – which has now published more than 10,000 articles.

A useful briefing paper on costs in scholarly publishing was released by Alma Swan on behalf ofPasteur4OA. This is one of a series of Pasteur4OA resources.

Upcoming events in OA & scholarly publishing

The FORCE11 FORCE16 conference will be in Portland Oregon on April 17 -19, 2016. 

OASPA’s  8th Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing (COASP) will be held on the 21st & 22nd September, 2016.

Recent writing & resources on OA

Peter Suber’s book Knowledge Unbound: Selected Writings on Open Access, 2002–2011 was published  and is OA to read.

Creative Commons launched its 2016-2020 strategy