During the first week of November, South Africa was host to two major Open Access meetings: Open Access Africa (#OAAfrica2012), an event sponsored by BioMed Central and hosted by the University of Cape Town from November 4-5, and Berlin 10 (#Berlin10SA), hosted by Stellenbosch University from November 6-8, 2012. Approximately 150 delegates attended the Open Access Africa meeting, and nearly 270 delegates participated in Berlin 10. Collectively, the two meetings covered Open Access issues in great depth, breadth, and scope. This article is the second in a series and focuses on issues broadly related to Open Access and international development that were raised during both meetings. Part 1 can be accessed here, Part 3 is available here.
A Human Rights Approach to Open Access
During the first day of Open Access Africa, Eve Gray (Honorary Research Associate, University of Cape Town), launched the week of discussions with a bang by unequivocally linking Open Access to human rights during her presentation, “The Rapidly-Changing Policy Environment: Implications for Publishers and Universities.” She referenced the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arguing that Open Access is a moral mandate, as it provides access to scientific knowledge and cultural knowledge.
Furthermore, Open Access is the road to innovation, leading to social innovation and social development. As Gray explained, “Open Access has the potential to provide solutions to social issues, especially through public health.” She referenced the 2011 Danish Report, “Access to Research and Technical Information in Denmark,” a report to the Danish Agency for Science, Technology, and Innovation (FI) and Denmark’s Electronic Research Library (DEFF), which focuses on access to information by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The study investigated how private sector researchers access information, what kinds of information they need, and, in particular, barriers with current toll subscription models. Gray noted that scientists have noted that they also need access to failed research so firms do not repeat the same mistakes.
Gray discussed referenced key international organizations including UNESCO, the European Commission, the World Bank, the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and their various flavors of support for Open Access. Each of these organizations has a different approach to and interest in Open Access, yet the takeaway is that “investment in research communication and its infrastructure is essential.” The WB and FAO approaches are particularly pertinent to development. As Gray explained, “if you want to compete and contribute to development, you need to make [research] translatable and reusable,” which is possible when organizations such as the WB and FAO release their research and data with Creative Commons licenses encouraging use, reuse, and interoperability of materials.
At Berlin 10, Ms. Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, raised several similar and related issues in her keynote address. She focused on the global reach of knowledge. She too referenced the Danish study Gray mentioned, emphasizing that Open Access is important to the private sector, stating that “Open Access to knowledge can spark innovation, generate jobs, and create wealth.” In terms of the global picture, she noted: “Developing and implementing open access is a worldwide challenge that calls for solutions that are locally pertinent and globally compatible – solutions that are flexible enough to adapt to a rapidly-changing environment.” The full text of Ms. Geoghegan-Quinn’s remarks is available here.
Sustainability of Open Access: The Perspective of Research Funders
Representatives from three major research funding organizations, Wellcome Trust (Open Access Africa & Berlin 10), The World Bank (Open Access Africa & Berlin 10), and the UK Department for International Development (Berlin 10) presented about issues related to sustainability of Open Access.
Chris Bird, Senior Solicitor at Wellcome Trust, started his presentation by noting that the Wellcome Trust’s Open Access policy stems from their commitment to maximize the impact of the research outputs and the organization’s belief that research could make a major contribution in supporting global development efforts such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
While the Wellcome Trust has been a leader in terms of mandating Open Access for its funded research, compliance by scientists has been “disappointingly low” – only between 50 and 60% of Wellcome Trust-funded research papers have been deposited into PubMed Central per policy requirements. To improve the situation, Wellcome Trust is now taking a three-pronged approach to support the sustainability of Open Access. They are:
- Funding OA – as Bird clearly stated, “publication costs are part of the research costs” – which needs to be factored into how research is funded.
- Developing infrastructure – by building resources such as Europe PubMed Central; supporting development of eLife, a new OA journal; and being involved in various activities designed to raise awareness of OA within the research community.
- Strengthening the Wellcome Trust’s OA policy – including sanctions for non-compliance and shifting to required adoption of a CC-BY license whenever the Wellcome Trust has paid an OA fee for publication.
In addition, Bird shared some perspectives on OA and Africa. He noted that “Gold OA is vital to ensure researchers can immediately access and use published research findings, wherever they are based in the world, but we must ensure that researchers in research-poor settings are not restricted in their ability to publish their world.” He clearly stated that “publication has a cost,” and that “we believe strongly that funders must recognize and resource these costs as an integral part of funding research.”
Matthew Harvey from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) continued along similar themes in his talk entitled, “What Difference to the Sustainability of Open Access Can a Donor like DFID Make?” He explained that DFID’s activities are framed by the Millennium Development Goals but that their approach is on evidence – DFID seeks to implement evidence-based activities by demonstrating, for each intervention, its need and how the intervention is to be conducted. All of this requires access to a full body of evidence, which clearly ties into Open Access.
DFID is supporting Open Access through two main strategies: (1) funding OA programmes such as the INASP-led Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERii) and the Mobilising Knowledge for Development (MK4D) Open Access Advocacy Programme managed by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and (2) enacting their own policy – “Research Open and Enhanced Access Policy.”
DFID’s policy emphasizes not just access, but accessibility. Their interpretation of research outputs is quite broad – it includes peer-reviewed journal articles but also reports, books, book chapters, data sets, multimedia, websites – i.e. anything and everything. In addition, the DFID policy requires research proposals to include an “Access and Data Management Plan” along with associated costs, as part of the research budget. The policy also specifies that datasets must be deposited within 12 months final date of data collection. Furthermore, DFID is encouraging researchers who submit proposals to consider various ways DFID funds could be used to support Open Access — in addition to funding APCs, they would consider supporting other re-use applications to encourage usage and accessibility such as translations. The requests need to be appropriate in terms of cost and purpose, but DFID’s support is quite broad in scope.
Open Access and Poverty Reduction
Towards the end of his presentation, Harvey stressed that DFID’s perspective is that Open Access is not an end in itself, and that “continued interest [by DFID] will require a demonstrable or at least plausible connection to poverty reduction.”
This idea of a connection between Open Access and poverty reduction was also raised by Carlos Rossel, Publisher of the World Bank, who spoke at both Open Access Africa and Berlin 10. Rossel made a compelling case for aligning Open Access with organizational mission – in the case of the World Bank, that means making published materials and data available to be freely accessed and reused. Rossel suggested that the perspective of the World Bank is that while publishing does not lead directly to gains against poverty, their belief is that anything they can do to remove impediments in the fight against poverty can help to achieve that goal. Rossel very clearly encouraged any and all mission-driven organizations to adopt Open Access: “Open Access is right for the World Bank. If you are a mission-driven organization, Open Access should be right for you, too.”
This is the second post in a series highlighting some of the major issues and themes raised during the 2012 Open Access Africa and Berlin 10 meetings. Additional posts will highlight the the changing university environment. Slides from both meetings have been posted to their respective websites — click on session titles from within each meeting’s programme. Click here for the Open Access Africa programme or the Berlin 10 programme. Podcasts from several Berlin 10 sessions are also available.