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Open Everything at UCT Open Education Week

The first global Open Education Week took place from 5-10 March.  One of the questions that I found myself asking when I was asked to participate in some of the UCT events was ‘What is open education?’  Is it the use of  OER – putting course materials online – or something broader? The answers that emerged from panelists at the University of Cape Town moved well beyond the narrower frame of courseware to a challenging and interesting discussion of the interconnectedness of communications for the university’s different missions in a rapidly evolving digital environment.

This is in line with the Open Education Week’s aims:

Open education is about sharing, reducing barriers and increasing access in education. It includes free and open access to platforms, tools and resources in education (such as learning materials, course materials, videos of lectures, assessment tools, research, study groups, textbooks, etc.). Open education seeks to create a world in which the desire to learn is fully met by the opportunity to do so, where everyone, everywhere is able to access affordable, educationally and culturally appropriate opportunities to gain whatever knowledge or training they desire.

At UCT, the key event was an afternoon-long Western Cape-based panel discussion on Tuesday 6 March involving speakers from UCT, the University of the Western Cape and Stellenbosch University.  A gratifying number of people attended, filling the seminar room on what was a mid-term working afternoon. My impression was that ‘open everything’ is a much more mainstream cause that has been the case in the past and is attracting wider attention than before.  Of course, attitudes to open approaches havereceived a boost in South Africa with the Department of Higher Education’s adoption of OER policies in its new Green Paper, as I wrote in a recent blog and the Department of Basic Education’s adoption of OER resources in schools.

Dr Max Price

Dr Max Price

The UCT Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price, opened the panel discussion. This was significant in itself – a Vice-Chancellor lending support to an open education event. Commenting on the mainstreaming of OER policy internationally, Price identified the challenges facing wider open education practices as not only technical, but residing principally in the attitudes of staff. There are a number of fears that have to be dealt with, he argued – IP issues, fear of loss of control, of the work required. Very usefully, Price suggested the need for the creation of incentives, a citation system for OERs and career credit awarded to participating academics.

It was good to hear such a direct message of support from the leader of a university that I have long seen as ambivalent about these issues, but which is now clearly moving steadily towards a more comprehensive institution-wide open agenda.

The panelist’s presentations revealed different approaches in the participating institutions, with Stellenbosch standing out for the strength of the open access programme it is able to implement as a result of top-level logistical and financial support. From UCT, a narrative emerged of longstanding commitment to open dissemination by individual academics and departments, often going back decades. There was also a lively introduction to citizen science initiatives taking place at UCT. There is also a sophisticated understanding of an understanding of what is now an integrated research communication. From UWC also, insight into a long tradition of open source, open education and open access and the increased capacity that this brings.

The two chief challenges appear to be the question of institutional buy-in and top-level championing, and the challenge now being posed to a silo approach to the three university missions of research, teaching and learning and community engagement.

Michelle Willmers

This emerged clearly in the presentation by Laura Czerniewicz from the Open UCT Initiative and Michelle Willmers from the Scholarly Communication in Africa project, also at UCT. They presented a dynamic vision of developments in the ways in which research is now communicated. There is a shift from from a linear model of research publication as the end point and terminus of a research programme to a dynamic networked research environment in which communication takes place at every stage of the research cycle and the distinction between different outputs is diminished. The boundaries are blurring between research outputs as formal publications, research reports and other ‘grey literature’; enhanced publications such as  ‘translations’ for policy purposes or community impact; and teaching and learning resources. This also allows for the development of alternative metrics for valuing research contributions.

Dr Marion Jacobs, Dean of the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences, spoke, from her perspective as the Dean of a world-leading medical faculty, of a strong political and context-driven Afrocentric approach to communications in health studies. This involves recognition of excellence in research publication alongside commitment to meeting the needs of the SA health system in which access to health services is of primary importance. She provided examples of a number of online resources that contribute to public health care, ensured effective communications between health workers and patients in a multilingual country, and ensured the production of students fit for purpose in the South African context.

 Ed Rybicki , an A-rated virologist at UCT, confirmed an unacknowledged tradition – that there are a number of academics at UCT and other SA universities with a long record of putting research and teaching resources online for free access. Ed said that Africa produces just 0.7%v of global research, 66% of that from South Africa. We need to share it, he insisted. Ed says everything that he produces is and has long been open. He described a productive relationship with an Australian illustrator combining free and commercial provision of high quality scientific illustrations and the value of new developments like Apple’s iTextbook formatting tools.  The advantages that have accrued have been wide global takeup of open resources and the immediacy of web exposure of new developments.

Dr Reg Raju

Dr Reggie Raju, the Director of Library IT and Communication at Stellenbosch University  (SUN) described the impact of institutional support at Stellenbosch in creating a shared research space. The goal is to create a research footprint for the university, through an institutional repository, Sun Scholar , now ranked 165 out of 1,200  repositories internationally, and through an investment that has allowed the creation of a suite of online journals published by SUN and hosted on an OJS platform. The results of this programme, instituted in 2011 have been immediate, with rapid and substantial increases in journal readership and impact and growth in international submissions to the journals.

Mark Horner, of Siyavula told a story of a fairly common occurrence – a public interest project that emerges from a university but finds its space for expansion outside the walls of the institution, in Mark’s case with the Shuttleworth Foundation. A programme for open access science textbooks from schools has, in a 9-year trajectory, taken off from the basis of a collaborative postgraduate effort to becoming a mainstream government-supported resource now aiming for independent sustainability. The success story is that 2.5 million print copies of open access science and maths textbooks for high schools are being distributed by the Department of Education.

The afternoon ended with vivid overviews of citizen science programmes in biodiversity, presented by Tali Hoffman and Prof Les Underhill from the Avian Demography Unit in the Zoology Department and the Department of Statistical Science.

What was clear is that open education is alive and well in a number of centres in the Western Cape. However, there is fragmentation and too much dependence on often unacknowledged departmental and individual contributions. The SUN example, demonstrating the power of institution-level investment could usefully be explored in other institutions.  Institutional and government policy development to support open education in its widest sense would go a long way towards delivering the our national goals of growing participation in higher education and the enhancing university contributions to national development.

Posted in African Scholarship, Open Education, Research, Uncategorized.

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UNESCO takes Open Access into the mainstream – but what about South Africa?

Paris sunset

In 2011 the last event I attended was the UNESCO Open Access Forum held in Paris in November. I came away with the strong sense that open access was at last in the mainstream, a central component of global thinking, based on access to knowledge as a fundamental human right and on arguments about the effectiveness of open access in contributing to social and economic benefits. At about the same time I was asked to compile an overview of open access in South Africa, bringing me face to face with the variety and the fragmentation of the South African open access scene. What is missing in South Africa was any coherent involvement of government in brokering policies on communication or technology policy for a 21st century vision of higher education in Africa – where South Africa could be leading the way.

As I discussed in my last blog , a new Green Paper on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa has taken quite a strong stance on policy for open educational resources, drawing on UNESCO’s OER intervention as a validation for this policy strand. But what about open access – access to research findings?  There is very little about research communication in the Green Paper – as is all too often the case with analysis of research capacity development in South Africa, or indeed in the region. And why should South Africa bother?

The UNESCO OA Forum was important not only because the organization is now putting its weight behind OA – and particularly OA policy development – but also for what we learned abut mainstream OA interventions across the world, providing insights into how OA was functioning and what benefits were emerging.

The UNESCO OA strategy was adopted by the General Conference in its 36th meeting in November 2011, building on UNESCO’s ‘resolve to build knowledge societies through the use of information technologies’. The underpinning vision is that access to information is crucial as a way of reducing the knowledge divide and increasing socio-economic development in a world in which Northern dominance of knowledge production and high prices for technology access and the high prices for peer reviewed research publications act as barriers. The OA strategy plan places a strong emphasis on the creation of an enabling environment, the fostering of collaboration and the advocacy role that UNESCO could play in national policy development (a set of OA policy guidelines will be published shortly).

On the journal front, the message was that OA journals were growing exponentially, from 560 journals in 2003 to over 7,300 in 2011, as Lars Bjornshauge of SPARC reported, but that there is a problem in the preponderance of small, single-journal publishers. For the latter problem, aggregation services are important, something that does have national policy implications, as is the case in South Africa where the Academy of Science is running the the SciELO South Africa initiative with government support. While the overwhelming majority of journals (71% in general and 87% in Latin America) do not charge article processing fees, there are questions around how to deal with the APC costs for those that do, especially for developing country authors. Again, there is a potential policy issue in setting up guidelines and financial streams for dealing with APCs.

There were some powerful players participating in the forum, including the European Commission, the FAO, WHO, donor organisations like the Wellcome Trust, and professional organsiations like IFLA and the International Association of STM Publishers, The EU commitment is to a high level vision of e-infrastrucure  and a package of policies, programmes and activities for the support of OA, spelled out by Carlos Morais Pires, Norbert Lossau and Jean-Francois Dechamp This plays out in two Communities of Practice (CoP), the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) and Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe (OpenAIRE). Preparatory work is being done on a European Open Data Infrastructure (for EU organizational data). The strategic vision behind all this combines the language of innovation, educational empowerment, resource efficiency, economic competitiveness, employment growth and poverty reduction. In other words, mobilizing top level support in the EU for the adoption of an internet society approach to collaboration and openness is not just an idealistic commitment to human rights, but a hard-headed strategy for competitiveness, growth and social stability.  This is based on hard and soft law, is backed up by support services and is worth investing in.

I have had discussions over the years with publishers from the FAO at book fairs over the years and so was very interested to see the comprehensive and powerful programme that is being put into place through the collaborative CIARD programme – for Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research and Development – presented by Stephen Rudgard. The CIARD partners, a wide range of agricultural organisations – will collaborate to promote common platforms, adopt open systems and create a global network of information. The aim is to ensure effective investment in agricultural research, strengthen capacity for the creation of research repositories and also for the ‘creation of networks for formal and informal networks for repackaging outputs’ – in other words for ensuring wider access and appropriate communication levels beyond the research community.

The importance of this kind of ‘translation’ emerged in Robert Kiley’s presentation on the Wellcome Trust’s open access initiative, which requires the research it funds to be published in an open access journal or placed in the PubMed Central repository. This was also endorsed by a statistic provided by Alma Swan – that 40% of the users in PubMed Central are ordinary citizens. Kiley argued that the UK would save money adopting OA publishing, if the APC fees were at the level of £2,000 and that for the Wellcome Trust to support publication of all the research outputs produced from its research that it funded would cost only 1.25% of its research funding. There are also arguments for the effect of the open availability of research as an important stimulus for innovation and economic growth, especially for small businesses, as demonstrated in a Danish study. Citing hard-headed figures, this article explores the costs that are incurred when small businesses don’t have access to research outputs and the financial benefits that accrue through open innovation when they do.

Against this background, it is striking that so little discussion – and for that matter, research – in South Africa pays attention to the importance of effective communication of research and the need for technical infrastructure and skills to support this. Instead, the discussion focuses on journal articles published in ‘leading’ journals (i.e. ISI) and the ‘impact’ status and competitiveness that this is perceived to bring. The Minister of Higher Education and Training knows the limitations of this system, as I have explored in a journal article. It would be good to open a discussion of the advantages of open access for southern Africa in the context of the Green Paper.

Posted in Open Access, Policy.

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OER in the mainstream – South Africa takes a leap into OER policy

2012 looks as if it might be the year that OER and open access reach the mainstream, globally and in South Africa. In the last few months in South Africa, the national department responsible for schools had announced the take-up of a major OER science and maths resource and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has included in a new Green Paper a recommendation for the widespread use of open educational resources.

Open science

A notable shift in the mainstreaming of OER has been a decision in late 2011by the Department of Basic Education (which is responsible for schools) to adopt open science and maths books for countrywide distribution to all schools. This means the distribution of millions of print books and the availability an online version of the text plus additional resources under open licences.  Mark Horner, Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and the brain behind Siyavula and Free High School Science Textbooks blogged in late 2011 in a state of justified excitement:

‘Openly-licensed, Siyavula textbooks are being printed and distributed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for all learners taking Physical Science and/or Mathematics in Grades 10-12 in the whole country for 2012! I don’t know of any country doing anything like this before.’

The Minister of Basic Education has now formally alluded to this venture in a major speech announcing the school-leaving examination results, as Arthur Attwell has reported.  Arthur hailed this move as a game-changer and a potential turning point in the provision of school textbooks in South Africa. He points out that publishers, who have known about this venture for a while, are very concerned that the provision of these books might undermine the sales of officially selected textbooks, although the Department says that they are intended as supplementary material. It would seem from the Minister’s speech that she sees this move as a model for potential private/public partnerships between the State and a range of non-profit and commercial partners.

The angry reaction of the publishing industry, on the other hand, seems to rest on the perception that the regulated process for the accreditation and distribution of textbooks – to which, to do them justice, they have contributed considerable sweat and tears – has been bypassed.

Although this is not the first time that pupils have been provided with supplementary materials by the national department, my impression has been that in the past these have been workbooks, not necessarily in competition with textbooks. The books being provided through FHSST, on the other hand, are building on a long and careful collaborative textbook development programme at the Shuttleworth Foundation. I do not see this as a matter of state publishing: the FHSST programme was developed independently and was picked up by the Department of Basic Education after its completion.

Horner describes the extensive consultation that took place with the Department in to agree on the necessary revisions and the hard work that followed in delivering to the departmental brief. The books are now freely available on the web, as Everything Science and Everything Maths. The licence (CC-BY-ND) governing the use of the materials is accompanied by a clearly articulated statement of what is allowed:

 You are allowed and encouraged to freely copy this book. You can photocopy, print and distribute it as often as you like. You can download it onto your mobile phone, iPad, PC or flash drive. You can burn it to CD, e-mail it around or upload it to your website. The only restriction is that you have to keep this book, its cover and short-codes unchanged.

One benefit of this open licence is that the online versions of the textbooks are now available beyond the borders of South Africa, and could be of great value to pupils and teachers in other African countries. It will be very interesting to see how widely they are taken up and what further ventures arise from that potential.

The books provide a rich resource, with the conventional PDF/print text supplemented by video materials, for students and teachers, links to support services and to a wide range of open resources, with further enrichment and support material due in March. This should provide a level of interactivity absent from conventional textbooks and potentially a higher level of support in an educational system badly in need of upliftment. The open model should allow for this potential to be leveraged as widely as possible.

Arthur is right about the disruptive potential of this venture. One level on which the disruption plays out is that this venture is being undertaken at national level, allowing for the printing and distribution of millions of books for countrywide distribution.  The normal textbook provisioning and distribution model for books purchased from publishers, although based on a national catalogue, is a painfully fragmented provincial process, full of grief for publishers and booksellers, as the latest issue of the bookselling industry magazine, Bookmark, spells out.

Another disruptive aspect of this venture resides in the availability of digital enrichment materials and additional online resources. It would be interesting to compare the Siyavula digital material with the teacher resource materials provided by the publishers. My guess would be that the Siyavula material is likely to be richer, taking into account the interactivity and social networking potential of the Web. Another telling comparison would be with the resources available in in the higher education system, in open source online learning systems such as Vula at the University of Cape Town (a member of the Sakai consortium), underpinned as they are by high levels of pedagogical and research skills.

The latter comparison becomes even more relevant in the light of another bold move in the SA educational system. No sooner had we got on top of the implication of OER in school education, than the DHET Minister announced the launch of a consultation period for a new Green Paper on Post-school Education and Training. In this document, an argument is made for national support for the development of OER resources as a capacity-building exercise, drawing on the existing digital learning environments already available in many universities and citing mainstream national initiatives by UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning, and the initiatives by the governments of Brazil, New Zealand, and the US as role models.

 [T]he DHET will support efforts that invest a larger proportion of total expenditure in the design and development of high quality learning resources, as a strategy for increasing and assuring the quality of provision across the entire post schooling system. These resources should be made freely available as Open Educational Resources (OER) for use with appropriate adaptation. This would be in line with a growing international movement, supported heavily by organizations such as UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) that advocate the development of OER (p. 59).

Key motivations for OER, the document argues, lie in ‘the potential improvements in quality and reductions in cost’. What is proposed is that DHET will:

  • Determine ways to provide support for the production and sharing of learning materials as OER at institutions in the post schooling sector. In the first instance all material developed by the promised South African Institute for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training will be made available as OER.
  • Consider the adoption or adaptation, in accordance with national needs, of an appropriate Open Licensing Framework for use by all education stakeholders, within an overarching policy framework on intellectual property rights and copyright in higher education.

This is heady stuff and we are certainly in for a turbulent year. The question going forward will be how to make the potential of open educational resources and open textbooks work alongside the commercial provisioning model, which represents a considerable investment in materials development in South Africa, particularly in the schools system. As the publishers point out, the country needs to preserve the variety and choice that is provided by a successful industry, in the interests of quality education.  But how ready are commercial publishers to break out of their conventional space to take risks with new models?

Then, to complicate things, yesterday provided another wild card:  announcement by Apple of their new textbook venture – the topic of the next blog.

2012 certainly looks like a year of radical change in educational publishing

Posted in Intellectual Property Rights, Open Access, Open Education, Policy.

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Lies, damned lies… and metrics

Two contradictory things are happening side by side in discussion of scholarly publishing right now. On the one hand, the discourse of open access – seeking to remedy the failures of the current system – bases itself overwhelmingly on the value of the journal article as the artefact to be made open, while at the same time, stronger and stronger criticisms are levelled against journals as an effective mode of scientific communication. Questions are also being asked about the appropriateness of the metrics that are used to make judgements on the quality of the articles published, determining the reputation of authors and their institutions. It is well known that this system consigns developing country research to the periphery of a ‘global’ system, marginalising very important research issues – such as ‘neglected diseases’ that apply to large percentages of the world’s population. These concerns now appear to have a strong echo in the mainstream, even if the perspective of the global South is not clearly articulated in the discussion.

In a scathing critique of the current journal system on the LSE Impact of Social Science blog, Bjorn Brembs, a neurobiologist from Freie Universitat Berlin, lays into the ineffectual communication system provided by journal publishing in its bloated state, compounded by the distortions that result from the commonly accepted journal hierarchy and its supporting metrics. Given the vast numbers of journals, this is no longer a functional space for dialogue between scholars, he argues. Trying to establish what would be worth reading is skewed further by the use of inaccurate and misleading metrics as a proxy for quality – a blind and misplaced belief in the magic of numeric measures.

The most commonly accepted metric, Thompson Reuter’s Journal Impact Factor, is demonstrated to be lacking in transparency, not reproducible and statistically unsound. Backing up this claim with a number of analytical articles, from PLOS Medicine, the BMJ and the International Mathematical Union, he comes to the conclusion that ‘[T]he dominant metric by which this journal rank is established, Thomson Reuters’ “Impact Factor” (IF) is so embarrassingly flawed, it boggles the mind that any scientist can utter these two words without blushing.’

As Brembs quite rightly argues, there is little correlation between the impact factor of a journal, based on the number of citations in that journal, and the individual articles that might or might not have been cited in that journal. And so the extension of the journal citation count to article metrics and author evaluation constitutes a serious distortion, a blind and misplaced belief in statistics as magic.

Brembs’s critique of the current journal system – and that of the sources that he draws on – also highlights subject and language bias in the citation system and journal rankings, but does not draw attention to the way the system functions to marginalize an overwhelming proportion of the world’s scientists – those in the developing world.

This critique comes hot on the heels of another diatribe, from George Monbiot, in the Guardian on 29 August who lashed out at the paywalls and profiteering of the leading journals and their culture of greed, an article that trended on Twitter, obviously striking a nerve. Brembs endorses and reinforces Monbiot’s rejection of the profit system that drives current journal publishing.

It was therefore good to see a few hundred years of the the original English-speaking journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, made available online by the Royal Society. Going back to the first edition, one rapidly encounters what has been lost in the commercialisation of our journals in the last half century. In his Introduction, Henry Oldenburg gives us insight into the spirit of collaboration and experimentation and the openness of communication that the journal aimed for at this time.

Scientific knowledge in this early journal is seen as a conversation, so that ‘those addicted to and conversant in such matters may be invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving Natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts and Sciences. All for the Glory of God, the Honour and Advantage of these Kingdoms, and the Universal Good of Mankind.’

This sounds much closer to what could be an African vision of research as collaboration and participation, contributing to the public good. Modern journals are very closed-up and arcane artefacts compared to this vision. In fact this first journal looks and sounds very much like a blog – with some leading scientists like Boyle, Hook and Huygens contributing – with the serious and trivial side by side, short and longer pieces, explanations of experiments and stories of odd an ingenious things, from how to kill a rattlesnake to an anecdote of old people growing new teeth.

It would be good to see some serious discussion about the tendency for southern African universities and researchers to buy blindly into dysfunctional systems like the ISI Journal Impact Factor rather than determining what our own values are and what research publication systems would best suit our goals. Saleem Badat, Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, taking apart the university ranking system in the UNESCO World Social Science Report 2010 finds the same kind of distortions and inadequacies that Brembs complains of.  Badat warns against the ‘perverse and dangerous effects’ than can result from ‘uncritical mimicry of and ‘catching up’ with the so-called world-class university’. Instead, he suggests that the diverse goals of different institutions and countries should be reflected in a horizontal continuum that ‘makes provision for universities to pursue different missions.’

We would do well to listen – a matter of playing catch-up with the future instead of the past.

Posted in African Scholarship, Digital Divide, Open Access, Policy, Scholarly Publishing.


Access to knowledge – the times they are a’changing

I am back in South Africa, after more intercontinental flights than I would like to recall, with an overwhelming sense that there is a decisive shift happening on a number of fronts in the area I work in. I have been to conferences and workshops on open access, A2K, scholarly publishing futures, and the formulation of a more balanced and just intellectual property regime. At all of them, there was a sense of urgency, but also of confidence, as a diverse community engaged with changing paradigms in all of these fields.

That on its own would not be too surprising. The broad community I work in is one that is committed to change, to equalising and democratising access to and participation in knowledge production. What feels different now is that our efforts are being accompanied by a landslide of other events – signs of shifts in national and regional policy, consolidated support for open access, acceleration in the development of alternative metrics for evaluating research effectiveness, and increased and sometimes vehement media attention.

In this blog I will try to track the broad landscape of change and will then engage with the different threads in a series of blogs, to spell out what I think the implications are for South Africa, Africa and the developing world. What I fear is that we in Africa are all too often, in our attempts to be ‘world class’, chasing last year’s – or rather last century’s – vision. As Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Saleem Badat, wrote in the UNESCO World Social Science Report 2010, there is a danger for developing country universities in ‘uncritical mimicry and ‘catching up’ with the so-called world class university in order to further socio-economic development’. With the current rate of change, this is a clear and present danger and we risk being stuck in last year’s paradigms.

So – a brief overview of what has been happening. (or brief-ish, as a lot is going on):

In scholarly publishing there has been a lively debate on alternative metrics to replace the dominant Web of Science journal impact factor as a measure of research effectiveness. This is particularly important for developing countries, marginalised by this system and by the global university rankings that go with it. The Altmetric discussion has involved the development of a range of technology tools and fostered arguments for more diversified, qualitative and nuanced ways of evaluating academic performance. A core argument is that readers of journal articles should be able to replicate the experiments described in journal articles, requiring the availability of data and information on research process provided online alongside the journal article itself.

This in turn interfaces with changes in scholarly publishing models. In the first instance, there has been a dramatic growth in open access journal publishing. The PLOSOne open access journal model is getting increased prominence and is being emulated by other journals. The features are a broad disciplinary focus rather than a narrow concept of ‘the journal of…’ The peer review model is different, with articles being reviewed for scientific rigour before publication and impact after publication, using ‘citation metrics, usage statistics, blogosphere coverage, social bookmarks, community rating and expert assessment’. PLOSOne encourages the creation of communities, and the generation of a ‘hub’ of information around a journal article.

What emerges is a view of journal publishing that sees the article as part of the research process. This in turn surely means closing the gap between open access and open science.

Commercial scholarly journal publishing has been under the lash in the media, with George Monbiot writing a scathing article in the Guardian claiming that ‘academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist’ and the New York Times charting rising levels of protest in US and UK universities to the high prices of scholarly journals, with cancelled subsciptions and increased support for open access.

The question of peer review has been taken up at government level in the UK, where a parliamentary committee is reviewing this area. It appears to broadly support the PLOSOne model; supports the idea of pre-print servers to allow for collaboration and early feedback; argues for transparency and openness rather than blind review; and expresses serious caution about the use of the journal impact factor as a proxy for individual evaluation.

Intellectual property has also been in the spotlight. A series of regional workshops culminated in the World Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest held at the American University of Washington. The outcome was the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest signed by over 700 people in the weeks after its launch. This challenges the industry-dominated IP regime that currently dominates and provides a policy agenda geared to a more balanced acknowledgement of the rights of creators and users.

This approach is echoed in the UK’s Hargreaves Report on IP, commissioned by the UK government in late 2010. The report recommends that IP policy should be based on evidence rather than on industry lobbies; that over-regulation should be resisted; argues for limits on copyright and more generous exceptions; and recommends ways of creating access to orphan works. Parliament has supported the rapid implementation of the report’s recommendation.

The European Union has also taken up the issue of orphan works and has agreed a set of principles for making out of print books and journals available, providing for the digitisation and making available of out-of-print works through a voluntary system run through a democratically-managed collecting society.

In general, there seems to be a move towards openness, rising criticism of big corporation lobbying and protectionism.

 

Posted in Intellectual Property Rights, Open Access, Scholarly Publishing.