Wednesday 7 December 2011
What is the benefit of open access to academia? Who will pay for open education resources? These questions and many more are answered by our live chat panel.
Universities have much to gain by sharing the research or data that they produce with others through open access policies. Photograph: David Gray/REUTERS.
Matthew Cockerill, managing director of open access publisher BioMed Central
When looking at global impact, open access is definitely not just about North – South information transfer: BioMed Central ran its second Open Access Africa event this week in Ghana. These events have proved to be inspirational, with the enthusiasm and passion for open access from African researchers creating a completely unique atmosphere. Open access not only increases access to established journals for African researchers, but it also helps African journals to evolve to server the global research community. Check out the Pan-African Medical Journal for a great example of a locally run African open access journal with great international visibility.
Academic societies could increase readership and impact via OA: Many small societies have journals which barely break even, and may struggle to gain visibility and readership, as they suffer attrition in subscriptions due to library budget squeezes. These societies have a huge amount to gain from open access in terms of increasing readership and impact. The Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, for example, is a society journal which increased its impact factor from 2.278 to 4.328 following a move to open access. We actually have several such society case studies online.
Erecting a paywall around content isn’t going to make your open access journal economically viable: There are many ways to make an open access journal economically viable but a paywall isn’t one of them. Looking at BioMed Central’s journals, while the majority are funded through author-facing fees, a good number are centrally supported by research organisations whose mission includes not only the funding of research, but also the communication of research, and so have no author fees.
The SCOAP3 project in high energy physics is an interesting example of a relatively well-defined field, in which the authors and readers come basically from the same small set of institutions. There has now been a collective agreement to simply ‘flip’ the model, committing to pay publishers approximately the same as was being paid in subscription fees, but making all the content open access. No one loses out (not even the publishers), and the community gains barrier-free access to high-energy physics research.
Mandates work pretty well to engage academics in OA: Mandates have had success, interestingly, both when they have been externally imposed (like the Wellcome Trust‘s) or self-imposed, like those at the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences, and more recently at Princeton.
Steve Carson, external relations director, MIT OpenCourseWare
OCW raises important questions about the mission of the university: An important aspect of OCW is that it forces a discussion of intellectual property and the mission of the university in the dissemination of knowledge with a bit of urgency. I actually think this is the biggest impact of the new “Share” button on Blackboard. Now, suddenly, schools using Blackboard are going to have to have these discussions. I wonder how many of them have even thought about the IP implications of their faculty openly sharing content and research before. This discussion I think permeates the teacher-researcher divide.
OA contributes to student experience: OER and OA are important change agents in reimagining the campus-based experience. MIT as an institution now knows much more about its own curriculum through OCW and is beginning to think about ways of reshaping it. With so much more of our own teaching captured in this way, we have opportunities to make the educational experience for our own students more flexible, personal and effective. And those benefits in turn encourage OER production to become a more entrenched part of general academic practice.
Traditional publishers are looking for ways to adapt. Work with them: In 2008, MIT signed an agreement with an “E” journal publisher that allows us to publish illustrations and excerpts from their articles under our open content license. Traditional publishers see that things cannot go on as they are, and they are looking for ways to adapt. Find compromises and start partnerships.
Gareth Johnson, chair, UK Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR)
Top down support would be of real value to repository managers: We need continuing, almost hands on involvement of senior management teams. If research publications (and data and education objects) are important enough to be shared for the fiscal stability of the institution, for the growth of the knowledge economy, for the impact of the university as a whole; then it needs senior engagement and active support. Otherwise it risks just ending up being another struggling service that despite the valiant efforts of staff never really achieves its potential.
I think we are beginning to see that in some institutions but it’s still something we need bodies such as funders, HEFCE, RCUK and JISC to keep on the agenda – along with OA as a whole.
Repositories must start to focus on discoverability: For too long, repositories have focused on the obtaining of work. The second, oft forgotten goal, is that of discoverability. It doesn’t matter how stuffed full of exciting, innovative and wonderful research your repository is, if it can’t be discovered. Make sure that the metadata is as broadly descriptive as possible, and can by the major search engines. Encourage academics to point to their work through social and other discussion channels like email lists.
Josh Brown, programme manager, JISC
Shared success stories and risk management will encourage academic involvement in OA: We should continue to encourage the academic community to make content available freely wherever possible. The case is often best made by two things: The first is evidence of benefits to academics and others, such as the benefits of OA to business or the Knowledge Exchange OA success stories, which show the power of openness to cause all kinds of positive results. The second is to clear management of risks, for example, managing embargoes on e-theses which contain sensitive material or third party copyright and rigorous plagiarism checks.
Get those senior managers who have already bought in to leverage their influence: Take the example of Martin Hall, VC at Salford, he’s chair of the OAIG and a member of David Willetts’ working group looking at research access. He’s helping to shape a policy agenda, with a strong evidence base to help to join-up thinking in this area.
Amber Thomas, programme manager, JISC
It is important to build your digital infrastructure first: One of the things JISC is doing is working in the background to build a digital infrastructure. Cliff Lynch calls this the “low level plumbing” that libraries and technologists care about. For example, we are improving the way repositories work together and nurturing low cost journal platforms, and we’re working with experts to improve the way people and content are identified, and the way metadata is shared, through protocols like SWORD. We are also working with interesting initiatives like the Learning Registry.
Resource: Academics deciding how others can share their work should read this post by Kathi Fletcher ‘why not NC‘.
OER IPR toolkit: These resources provide a copyright and licensing toolkit for projects engaging with OER.
David Kernohan, programme manager, UKOER
We must move away from talking about the ‘dissemination of OER’: It’s an odd choice of word as it implies that academics would wait and be passively fed contextually perfect teaching materials. I’m not sure even JISC could manage that. In UKOER, the debates have been around search and discovery. We’ve looked at better search tools (examples of easy ways to find OER include xpert and Jorum), and improving academic search practice (via mainstream search engines) as well as digital literacy which helps academics feel comfortable with the digital space.
Martin Weller, professor of educational technology, Open University (OU)
The question of how much will OA cost must be addressed: Wiley has suggested three models of OA and some are more sustainable than others. My preferred model of ‘little OER’ has academics releasing work as they go, for example, slideshare presentations. This is just a by-product of what they do, so the cost is minimal. But publishing is slightly different. As an editor of an OA journal (JIME) it does require some financial input. At the moment this has to come from university funds. But we already give free time to journals, so certainly professional societies can afford to do OA publishing. There is also a suggestion that libraries and HEIs take the money they currently give to publishers and pay for OA journals instead.
Richard Sands, managing editor, BMJ Open, BMJ Group
A scientific breakthrough that can be credited to OA will drive uptake: If a major scientific breakthrough in the STM (scientific, technical and medical) field were to happen thanks to the availability of research or raw data that might not otherwise have been available without open access, the interest and uptake of OA would certainly improve.
Ulrich Tiedau, lecturer, University College London
Resource: Research in Learning Technology, formerly known as ALT-J, is a great example of a peer-reviewed journal that is making the transition to OA journal and others can learn from their example.
Ernesto Priego, digital culture scholar, The Comics Grid
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Eliza Anyangwe · guardian.co.uk