A workshop, held in Barcelona, demonstrated the level of interest in the issues of open access and preservation across Europe. Representatives from the UK, Germany, Estonia, Poland, Spain, Greece, Ireland, and many more gathered.
The aim of the workshop was to collaborate with our counterparts in Europe to achieve the vision and recommendations identified in the European Commission Communication on open access and the preservation of scientific information. As summarised by my colleague Paul Stokes, what the Communication asks is that:
- Research and funding policies which reflect the new open and linked digital world.
- Policies that are defined at a national and sub-national level.
- A robust and interconnected e-infrastructure is required to improve preservation & access to scientific information.
- A suitable new solution which needs to be established to support the transition in publication methods and emerging scientific processes.
The key principles of the Communication are:
All publicly funded research should be made available through open access as early as possible.
- That this should be underpinned by robust preservation.
- Business will benefit from access to research.
It's imperative for Europe to work together to realise these aims and this was something all delegates seemed dedicated to achieve. Experts at the meeting tackled open access, open research data and preservation. A range of issues were raised where further collaboration, and in some cases coordination, is required. These were naturally from the policy, infrastructure provider and information professional perspective – after all we were discussing implementing the Communication recommendations at a national level and moving the underpinning infrastructure forward to support policy.
The Commission wants to help Europe make progress and recommend a coordinated follow-up to their recommendations through “national points of reference”. It is early days, a survey of workshop participants asked if they had or intended to appoint a national point of reference.
- 29% indicated that a national point of reference had been appointed already
- Of the 71% who haven’t yet appointed a national point of reference, 54% expressed an intention to appoint one.
However, thinking about the change in the practice of research is also very important. How can you marry the policy direction with research practice? Of course many researchers are undertaking open research and are also involved in curation of their outputs. However, in order to make a more wholesale change the need to address the issue of incentives was raised; how can researchers be incentivised to make their research open access, whether it is the data or the final paper, and how can they fulfil the curation needs required to fulfil the aspirations of the communication?
A critical area of importance that the research data group focused on was the issue of skills, and the fact that digital data management requires a set of skills that are not yet widely developed and practised. There have been developments in this area (for one example see the Jisc research data programme) but it was believed by the experts that the skills of both information professionals and researchers needs more attention if the aim of open access data is to be realised. Discussion focused on the need for recognised qualifications for information professionals, training for early career researchers; and librarians and scientists working together on data management.
One of the aims of the workshop was to start to identify areas where collaboration and co-ordination might help member states achieve the goals of the Communication. Generally there were a lot areas raised where exchange of knowledge would be valuable, but rather than a new forum being required it was felt there are already mechanisms, although in some cases these might need further resource.
For example, in the area of open access for publications discussion indicated that working through existing fora on sharing what works in national transition models and financial arrangements for transition to Open Access should be possible. However, a gap which no obvious existing body fulfilled was identified; this was the area of specific infrastructure for Open Access. The discussion concluded there is a requirement for further work on identifying both the needs, and addressing sustainability and governance arrangements for Open Access infrastructure.
The workshop has started to raise the profile of the need to further address European collaboration and coordination, whether it is through mechanisms based on the national points of reference or ensuring existing forums seek to further address the recommendations. I believe that Europe does need to work on these issues collaboratively to remain competitive and the Communication offers a framework for this.