Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Open Access Week 2012: Opening Research and Data, Monday 22 October

Yesterday, to mark the start of Open Access Week, staff from LSHTM, Birkbeck, SOAS, LSE and City University London organised the above half-day event to bring together academics, funders, students and open access advocates to discuss the increasingly important role of open access within the scholarly community and how to engage with the opportunities and challenges it has generated.

The afternoon kicked off with Fred Friend, Honorary Director of Scholarly Communication at UCL, who gave delegates with an excellent summary of the history of the open access movement to date and his views of where we are now and how we can progress.  Following Fred, Stephen Curry (Professor of Structural Biology, Imperial College London), discussed a wide range of topics, including how he recently become engaged in the open access debate, the Internet and its impact on scholarly communication, the Finch Report and RCUK policy and his views on why we haven’t been able to reach the full potential of open access.

In the next session, Melissa Terras (Co-Director, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities) shared her experiences of the impact that using social media to promote her open access publications had on the number of downloads. I was particularly impressed by the statistic that the papers she made available in an open access repository and promoted via social media were downloaded 11 times more than those on the journal platform behind a paywall. Next up was Antonio Gasparrini a Lecturer in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at LSHTM who is working on a 3-years MRC-funded fellowship. He spoke from a very practical perspective about his experiences of under budgeting for Article Processing Charges (APCs) in grant applications, the role of impact factors, copyright transfer and costs in selecting which journal to publish in and whether APCs are really value for money.

The final two sessions of the day were given to representatives from two major research funders. David Carr of the Wellcome Trust outlined the Trust’s open access policy and the launch of a new open access journal eLIFE which is
supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust. He also spoke about the benefits and challenges to opening research data and the importance of funders and institutions working together to overcome the barriers. Ben Ryan (Senior Evaluation Manager, EPSRC) who was speaking on behalf of RCUK, gave the audience an introduction to the background of the development of the much debated RCUK policy and clarified some of the points that I was previously unclear about.

The day ended with a group discussion which covered topics such as confidentiality clauses in library subscription packages, publisher embargo periods for green open access papers in the wake of the RCUK policy and how other research outputs such as learned monographs can be made open access. As usual with such discussions more questions were raised than could be answered in such a short space of time but it was a great forum to start the debate which I hope will continue throughout Open Access Week and beyond…

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