At the start of this week, which is Open Access week, we heard from Martin Weller about some of his fears for the future of Open Access. We’ve been collecting a few opinions from around the OKFN on the future of OA. Here’s a selection. What do you think?

###Ross Mounce: The future of publicly-funded research is inevitably Open Access.

With increasing realisation that research is best distributed electronically – for speed, economic efficiency, and fairness – Open Access to publicly-funded academic research is inevitable.

It costs money to implement, maintain and enforce artificial paywalls to restrict access to research online. These create frustrating and time-consuming barriers to accessing research. Open Access is thus an obviously beneficial system that simply allows ALL to read, re-use and remix academic research, thereby truly maximising the potential return on investment from these works.

###Peter Murray-Rust: Is Open Access Open?

Is Open Access really “Open”? The features of Open I value are:

  • Meritocracy: That doesn’t mean that decisions are made by hand counting, but it means that people’s views are listened to, and they enter the process when it seems right to the community.
  • Universality of participation, particularly from citizens without formal membership or qualifications. A feeling of community.
  • A willingness to listen to other views and find means of changing strategy where necessary
  • Openness of process. It is clear what is happening, even if you are not in command.
  • Openness of results. This is universally fundamental. Although there have been major differences of opinion in Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) everyone is agreed that the final result is free to use, modify, redistribute without permission and for any purpose.
  • A mechanism to change current practice. The key thing about Wikipedia is that it dramatically enhances the way we use knowledge. Many activities in the OKF (and other Open Organisations) are helping to change practice in government, development agencies, companies. It’s not about price restrictions, it’s about giving back control to the citizens of the world.

How does OA match up? Not very well:

  • It’s not universal: it looks inwards to universities. There is no space for the ‘citizen’, or even the individual.
  • It has oligarchic and closed decision procedures: the Enabling Open Scholarship committee costs 50 euros per year to join, and requires recommendation by an existing member.
  • Discussion is closed: differing opinions aren’t listened to or wanted.
  • The product isn’t, necessarily, open either: whilst a CC-BY license would easily ensure manuscript openness, in fact the term “open access” is applied to almost anything, and means very little.

Only if we can have a truly Open discussion about these issues, will we make any progress.

A longer version of Peter’s thoughts will be published later this week.

###Christian Heise: Open Access is the fundament for Open Science.

In Feburary 2002 the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) launched a worldwide campaign for open access (OA). Even if it did not invent the idea, the initiative articulated the first major international statement and public definition of open access. Now, ten years later, it has made new recommendations for the next ten years (summarized by me in five points):

1. Every institution of higher education should have access to an open access repository (through a consortium or outsourcing), and every publishing scholar in every field and country, including those not affiliated with institutions of higher education, should have deposit rights.

2. Every institution of higher education should have a policy that all future scholarly articles by faculty members and all future theses and dissertations are made open access as soon as practicable, and deposited in the institution’s designated open access repository, preferably licensed CC-BY.

3. Research institutions, including funders, should support the development and maintenance of the tools, directories, and resources essential to the progress and sustainability of open access, including: tools and APIs to convert deposits made in PDF format into machine-readable formats such as XML; the means to harvest from and re-deposit to other repositories; and tools working with alternative impact metrics.

4. The use of classic journal impact factors is discouraged. The Initiative encourage the development of alternative metrics for impact and quality which are less simplistic, more reliable, and entirely open for use and reuse.

5. The open access community should act in concert more often and we should do more to make universities, publishers, editors, referees and researchers aware of standards of professional conduct for open access publishing. We also need to articulate more clearly, with more evidence, and to more stakeholder groups the advantages and potentials of open access

These recommendations are pretty detailed on what has to be done to get a sustainable open access process in the near future. However, the far future has to be the evolution from Open Access to the holistic concept of Open Science (open access + open science data).

###Tom Olijhoek: Open Interconnected Specialist Communities

In my view the future of science will ultimately depend on the formation of many interconnected scientific communities covering all possible areas. Making optimal use of the internet and social media,
scientists and citizens within and between these communities will collaborate to produce more useful knowledge than ever before and to store, maintain and provide information for those who seek it.
Especially for medical scientists in the developing world, these communities would provide vehicles for innovation, health improvement and development in their respective countries. Following this line of thought, the only hope on winning the battle against malaria, aids, neglected diseases and other tropical infections will lie in free access to and sharing of information, and in joining forces by way of social media and open science communities. MalariaWorld is our first experiment in this mode of specialist open access scientific community.

###Laurent Romary: L’open access est un état d’esprit

L’open access est un état d’esprit pour le chercheur. Tous les moyens sont bons pour favoriser la dissémination des savoirs, publications, données, expertises. On peut douter que le système de publication commercial, tel que nous le connaissons actuellement réponde véritablement aux attentes des chercheurs et aux enjeux de l’interconnection des connaissances. Les infrastructures de recherche de demain, gérées par les chercheurs eux-mêmes, devront comprendre des environnements virtuels de recherche, où chaque scientifique (en sciences dures tout comme en sciences humaines) gérera ses observables, ses commentaires, ses résultats et choisira librement et sans barrière financière de les diffuser ou de les faire évaluer.

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Theodora is press officer at the Open Knowledge Foundation, based in London. Get in touch via

2 thoughts on “The future of Open Access”

  1. OA Week: Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Ineffectiveness

    We have now tested the Finch Committee‘s Hypothesis that Green Open Access Mandates are ineffective in generating deposits in institutional repositories. With data from ROARMAP on institutional Green OA mandates and data from ROAR on institutional repositories, we show that deposit number and rate is significantly correlated with mandate strength (classified as 1-12): The stronger the mandate, the more the deposits. The strongest mandates generate deposit rates of 70%+ within 2 years of adoption, compared to the un-mandated deposit rate of 20%. The effect is already detectable at the national level, where the UK, which has the largest proportion of Green OA mandates, has a national OA rate of 35%, compared to the global baseline of 25%. The conclusion is that, contrary to the Finch Hypothesis, Green Open Access Mandates do have a major effect, and the stronger the mandate, the stronger the effect (the Liege ID/OA mandate, linked to research performance evaluation, being the strongest mandate model). RCUK (as well as all universities, research institutions and research funders worldwide) would be well advised to adopt the strongest Green OA mandates and to integrate institutional and funder mandates.

    Gargouri Y, Lariviere V, Gingras Y, Brody T, Carr L & Harnad S (2012) Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Ineffectiveness Open Access Week 2012

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