Democracy or career?
- We need to push this agenda forward, stated Sofie Carsten Nielsen, Denmark’s Minister of Higher Education and Science, clearly setting the stage for the discussion on Scientific Impact and Open Access on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 at the ESOF conference.
The discussion had two parts – first a panel debate at the Carlsberg Academy and thereafter a general discussion at the Open Access, Open Bar, Open Mic event at Café Elefanten – and addressed the issue of how best to manage new models and metrics for measuring scientific impact. In recent years, Open Access has provided researchers with a new framework for conveying their findings to a wider audience. Open, free access to scientific work is affecting many of the processes traditionally involved in disseminating new knowledge.
“Researchers have an obligation to achieve impact. There are certainly opportunities to publish in Open Access journals in my field but there are also institutional pressures to publish in top-rated journals and these journals are not necessarily open access, so I must consider that when choosing avenues to publish my work.” Dr Janine Swail, Lecturer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Nottingham, and Board member of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE)
The researcher has a responsibility
Tuesday’s discussions focused on the role of the researcher in relation to Open Access publication. Article 27 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely…to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. This entails that the individual researcher has a responsibility to disseminate his or her findings. Open Access publication makes it easier to reach a larger audience than publication in journals, which have high subscription costs. Open Access publication is a fundamentally democratic act, which conveys knowledge at no cost.
This poses a challenge for researchers, however, who also have to think about their careers. Currently the scientific impact of a researcher is largely derived from publication in subscription-based journals. Some journals do not automatically allow published research articles to be made freely available on the Internet as well. Thus, the researcher may have to choose between promoting his or her career or sharing knowledge on a democratic basis. Dr Janine Swail, Lecturer at the University of Nottingham, was invited to share her views on this dilemma. She finds that while most researchers would very much like to publish via Open Access channels, they are under pressure from their institutions to show preference for publishing in established journals. Researchers need to keep their own careers in mind – and each must deal with the pressure of the “publish or perish” principle. Universities, naturally, seeks to garner as much respect as possible for staff members. So what can be done to resolve this dilemma?
“The impression I had during the discussions was that there is a high degree of willingness to seek a common result. I am particularly pleased that the Danish minister, who will chair the Nordic Council of Ministers for Education and Research (MR-U) next year, is keenly interested in, committed to and knowledgeable about research, and takes a clearly-defined, positive view of Open Access. This is an extremely good starting point for moving forward and achieving results,” Niels Stern, Head of Unit, NCM Publications.
New Danish Open Access strategy
The principle of Open Access began as a movement but is today an integral part of the overall framework for research, with new means of measuring the impact of freely shared knowledge constantly emerging. The discussion’s most important point, which appeared in many of the arguments, was that Open Access is no longer cumbersome or the “Obscure Alternative” it was seen as ten years ago. On the contrary, Open Access is part of an entirely natural progression in a world in which the pursuit of knowledge now largely takes place via Internet search engines.
The topic was discussed from many angles and with an eye towards future approaches. There is broad-based political support for Open Access on the principle that the outcome of research made possible through public funding should be available to the public. Denmark’s Minister of Higher Education and Science took advantage of the opportunity to announce the country’s new Open Access strategy, which has as its first objective to create, by 2017, through the establishment of digital repositories, free access to 80 per cent of all Danish peer-reviewed research articles published in 2016 by the nation’s research institutions.
“The key thing that I saw today was the momentum with policy development and implementation. We are moving very rapidly towards a world where research is going to be accessible by default, sooner than I think people expect.” Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director, Public Library of Science.
The Nordic Council of Ministers – under which NordForsk is established to deal with research funding, cooperation and policy – recently launched its own Open Access platform where publications from activities funded under Nordic governmental cooperation in the Nordic Region in the upcoming years will be made freely accessible. This means that Open Access publication will be natural whenever a project has received Council-based funding. The database targets a wide audience and has been designed to provide decision-makers, civil servants and other interested parties with easy, free-of-charge access to the most recent studies and analyses relating to the Nordic countries.
These same trends were emphasised by Alan Leshner, who will be launching a free online version of Science Magazine next year. Thus, the contours of some very forward-looking solutions emerged during the discussions. These will entail political goodwill, new commercial models in the world of publishing, and a close connection between Open Access and allocations from agencies, funds and others that finance research and, not least, the active desire and willingness of researchers to communicate the results of their research, and therefore to take responsibility ensuring that the knowledge they generate may be used and further refined by others to the benefit of us all.
“Funding agencies need to take the development of new metrics into consideration and make sure that they fund the costs of Open Access. The same is true for universities when they recruit people.” Marja Makarow, Vice President for Research, Academy of Finland, and Chair of the NordForsk Board.
“Open Access is simply the consequence of us moving from paper to digital, and we should not make it any more complicated. Instead we should profit from that transition.” Sijbolt Noorda, Open Access Ambassador in the Netherlands.
Sofie Carsten Nielsen, Denmark’s Minister of Higher Education and Science.
Alan Leshner, Executive Publisher of Science
Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director, Public Library of Science
Sijbolt Noorda, Chair of the European University Association’s Open Access Working Group.
Marja Makarow, Vice President for Research of the Academy of Finland and Chair of the NordForsk Board
Janine Swail, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Nottingham
Niels Stern, Head of Unit, NCM Publications
Quentin Cooper, Freelance Science broadcaster and writer, moderator
Text: Linn Hoff Jensen
Photos: Terje Heiestad