Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, July 23, 2007

Emerging consensus for OA in Australia

Arthur Sale has posted some notes on the recent meeting of Australia’s National Scholarly Communication Forum, Improving Access to Australian Publicly Funded Research (Canberra, Australia, July 16, 2007).  Excerpt:

The convener, Colin Steele, will provide an official summary on the website of the Academy of the Humanities….

The forum was attended by around 100 people from around Australia, with several international speakers. There were several important differences from the Forum held 2 years ago (which I also attended).

  • There is now an overwhelming consensus that research data and research publications should be made available free on the Internet, as soon as possible, and justified by the public good. There was probably only one ambivalent voice.
  • Good evidence was provided by John Houghton that the public good was synonymous with economic good – indeed Australia was vastly losing out on research impact without open access to its research outputs and research data. John’s report on Research communication costs in Australia (with Steele & Sheehan)…deserves to be read by everyone in the open access arena….
  • The overwhelming consensus was described by almost every speaker from DEST through academics to outsiders as a “presumption that open access should be provided” ameliorated by
    • In the case of research publications, taking into cognizance that the publishing industry was interposed between research outputs and accessibility.
    • In the case of research data, there were some exceptions that needed to be made, primarily of commercial reasons (ie exploitation) but also governmental and aboriginal cultural reasons.
  • It was widely acknowledged that the current business models for publications used by most publishers were unsustainable. The oligopoly rents which are charged, and the bundling models (‘big deals’) used to minimize competition, were simply not going to be acceptable nor economically sustainable long term. Moves to other models were inevitable.
  • Some discussion took place on the funding of author-side fees for “Gold” OA journals. It was felt that Australia would need to do a significant amount of work on these to reach what the Wellcome Trust had provided, or what was possible under RCUK rules. Aistralian library subscriptions were devolved to universities, and diverting a fraction of them to author-side fees would take some negotiation.
  • It was noted that the present RQF activity would not do much for opening access to Australian research, since much of the documents to be mounted in repositories would have restricted access….There were three positive factors from the RQF:
    • All Australian universities would have an institutional (or consortial) repository by end 2007,
    • DEST was determined to press on with its Accessibility Framework, outside the RQF, and 
    • The ‘Research Impact’ part of the RQF could accommodate publications that did not fit the paper journal mould.
  • Linkages with JISC, the OECD and the USA are highly valued.

I left the Forum thinking that much of the work we have been doing since 2005 has been fruitful. All decision-makers are now aware of the value of open access, and are convinced that it is the way of the future and Internet-ready. Publisher arguments and traditional subscription models are almost universally regarded as being self-serving/unsustainable. The logic of ‘mandates’ is accepted, though there is still some reluctance to take the final steps, seeming to prefer to let others do it first. Australia may not be in the vanguard of open access changes (we produce 2-3% of the world’s research), but it is monitoring them closely and will follow as soon as it is expedient to do so….

Update.  The presentations from the meeting are now online.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)