A flow of policy reports focusing on research and access to the outputs of research appeared over the past month. Today the European Commission published two communications that respond to the way the “internet has fundamentally changed the world of science and research”.
One on Access and preservation to scientific information reflects the outcome of a lengthy evidence process on how to achieve open access (OA) and ensure longevity of access and re-use of research.
The EC’s position supports OA to research papers encouraging both Green and Gold routes, in line with recent proposals from the UK Research Councils. It seeks to address the sustainability issues relating to increased subscriptions as well as accelerating the benefits of digital distribution on the web.
The Communication nicely expresses some of advantages as helping to:
“accelerate innovation (faster to market = faster growth); foster collaboration and avoid duplication of effort (greater efficiency); build on previous research results (improved quality of results); involve citizens and society (improved transparency of the scientific process)."
Research data is also addressed, as you’d expect. The EC proposes that they will implement a pilot with regard to research data deposit in a similar vein to their previous OA pilot to publications. It recommends that research data from publicly funded research is publicly accessible and re-usable. These are welcome proposals, and I think Jisc can support universities in the UK in response to them.
The other communication - A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth (pdf) – sees open access to publications and research data as essential and encourages open innovation between what they term the “knowledge triangle”, research, business and education. It’s great to see that the EC have brought together open access to research, alongside the development of research infrastructures (see their roadmap) to support world class research and facilities and collaborations with business, small and medium size enterprises and wider society. This is a major contribution to achieving a thriving European economy, as well as sustainable research production and use. This reflects the UK department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) policies on Research and Innovation and the Strategic Vision for UK e-Infrastructure (pdfs).
As I say there have been several key policy documents in the last month or so, the Royal Society ‘Science as an Open Enterprise’, the UK Government open data white paper and the Finch report: expanding access to research publications, all of which suggest concerted movement toward a more open research environment.
So what about implementation of these policies for UK universities?
In terms of OA to articles Jisc is working on practical implementation in partnership with other stakeholders:
- for example Jisc Collections can support the licensing recommendations in the Finch report and the Jisc development of repository services is underway via EDINA working with universities and research funders.
- In the UK transition to OA, maintaining an efficient and competitive scholarly publishing market is important. Key processes, such as peer review and academic publishing, must be sustained and evolve, and incentives will be needed to enable all stakeholders to play their part. Importantly, progress toward open access to UK published research will need to be measured. Methodologies for this purpose are being developed in the UK by the Open Access Implementation Group (OAIG).
- On behalf of OAIG, the Wellcome Trust and Jisc are working to specify the role of an intermediary in enhancing the management of ‘gold’ article processing charges (APC’s); this is seen as a key role in the transition. Recently the OAIG report Going for Gold? shows economic modelling of OA adoption: it looks at both Green and Gold and finds that with worldwide Gold OA, all universities would see savings if article processing charges were at the current average levels.
Open data and software
The Royal Society report makes the case for open inquiry being at the centre of scientific enterprise; it calls for data to be “intelligently open” – more on that later. Open data and software are themes in the EC communications, and in the UK we’re seeing policies from research funders and universities on these issues.
Last week the Software Sustainability Institute hosted a workshop at OR12 in Edinburgh where the early plans for a software repository for NERC research was discussed. In order to replicate and access data for research often the software used for related simulations and analysis have to re-usable too, this issue is now gaining serious attention.
- The EC Riding the Wave report called for a collaborative data infrastructure. The Knowledge Exchange report (pdf) gives a good overview of actions that are underway to realise this in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Demark and the Jisc led European project, Sim4RDM, is working with European partners to develop shared policies and practice. Global coordination, from the US, to Europe to Australia is under active discussion with the proposal of an international Data Web Forum where essential interoperability issues will be addressed to help develop a sustainable data infrastructure.
- The Jisc Digital Curation Centre and research data management programme are providing practical solutions to the deposit and re-use of research data, for example they support the use of data management plans for universities to implement research council requirements.
The building blocks of a more open research environment are here, but I would say the "intelligently open" phrase from the Royal Society report is important, it’s about the right data being shared in a usable way and accessible to researchers, business and the public.
So yes, stakeholders (universities, researchers, funders, publishers and infrastructure providers) must work together to develop policies, technical tools, infrastructure and capacity to enable the 'intelligently open' research that we see promised.
I welcome the EC positions, but what do they mean to you?