Last week, as part of Open Access Week 2012, colleagues at LSHTM, Birkbeck, LSE, and SOAS (as well as myself) organised an event, Opening Research and Data. It was intended to be a broad overview of “where we’re at” with open access. As such, we were lucky to be able to put together a bill that was eminently capable of taking a high-level look at the open agenda, particularly in light of recent developments such as the Finch Report and the new RCUK policy on open access.
The first presenter was Frederick Friend, Honorary Director Scholarly Communication at UCL. Frederick gave a broad overview of the development of open access up to the present day. The strongest message I took from his presentation was the flaws in the Finch Report, and as a result the flaws in the RCUK open access policy. He noted that there was (unjust) antagonism towards institutional repositories (IRs) , particularly since IRs are the medium of by which the vast majority of the 20% of open access journal content has been made available. He also characterised the Gold option recommended by Finch and RCUK as being uncosted and to the detriment of cheaper Green OA. He likened the policy to trying to make an aeroplane flight to open access with just one (Gold) engine- something much easier to do with two (green and gold) engines! He also asked academic colleagues to question what exactly they will receive in return for potentially very high Gold OA article processing charges. You can view Frederick Friend’s presentation here.
Next up was Professor Stephen Curry from Imperial College London. Prof Curry is, as he admitted, someone who has recently become interested in open access, and has blogged prolifically on the issue recently, as well as writing on open access and other scientific matters for The Guardian. His general message was that it had been a positive year for open access, since the “fundamentally unanswerable” argument for open access had been won, and awareness of open access was greater than ever before. He had a few concerns, which echoed those of Fred Friend, in particular that Finch & RCUK’s emphasis on Gold will benefit commercial publishers, and that the open access movement must show more unity given the sometimes divisive and rancorous nature of the Gold v. Green debate. Finally, he mentioned that the spurious indicator of academic worth, the Impact Factor, should be done away with. You can view Prof Curry’s presentation here.
Providing a couple of “real-life” experiences of open access were Dr Melissa Terras and Dr Antonio Gasparrini. Dr Terras, a Digital Humanities scholar at UCL, presented about her experiences at using social media (in particular blogging and Twitter) to promote papers made available in UCL’s Discovery repository. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a combination of well-nurtured social networks and openly accessible research equals lots of downloads and hence wide dissemination of research (and see here for a fuller account of a previous version of this presentation). You can view Dr Terras’ presentation here.
Dr Gasparrini is an early-career medical researcher at LSHTM. His presentation focussed on navigating the often confusing open access environment to ensure he complied with open access policy, in this case that of the MRC. In his experience, it was often a question of trading off limited funds assigned for Gold OA against a journal’s reputation, as summarised by Impact Factor. Dr Gasparrini’s best find was that of the Journal of Statistical Software, a fully-open access journal with an APC cost of £0, and a good Impact Factor too. Dr Gasparrini finished his presentation by pointing to the open software movement, which seems to have gotten far further towards “open” than scholarly communications (though there are structural and commercial reasons for this, I would argue). You can view Dr Gasparrini’s presentation here.
Finally it was the turn of the funding agencies to give their perspective, in two presentations. The first was from David Carr from the Wellcome Trust, who detailed Wellcome’s open access policy. Open access to research is covered by an RCUK-like policy, which emphasises Gold over Green open access. David also laid some emphasis on Wellcome’s plans to better enforce already required research data management plans, which should further the open data agenda (something covered in passing, rather than in depth, by the day’s presentations). You can view David’s presentation here.
Last up was Ben Ryan from EPSRC, who was wearing his RCUK policy hat. Ben had the somewhat unenviable task of explaining RCUK’s open access policy to an audience comprised of a large number of those likely to be critical of RCUK’s policy, not least repository managers. Criticism of the policy has been well-rehearsed elsewhere, but one notable statement from Ben was that RCUK would not be prescriptive within institutions about how they complied with the policy; instead it would be down to individuals to choose, within the criteria laid down by RCUK. The possible perverse effects of the policy have also been documented (briefly, journal publishers may up embargo periods to prevent Green OA being an option); Stephen Curry, in the later discussion, noted that any publisher changing embargo periods to exclude Green OA as an option would be likely to see authors vote with their feet. Ben’s presentation can be viewed here.
The day was rounded off with a lively discussion, proving that people had been thinking about and engaging with the issues raised. Despite being somewhat biased, as I helped organise the event, I think it was a great success and a worthy and thought-provoking way in which to celebrate Open Access Week 2012.
Filed under: Events, Open Access, Gold open access, green open access, open access week 2012, open data, RCUK