This is the seventh Q&A in a series exploring the current state of Open Access (OA). On this occasion the questions are answered by Danny Kingsley, Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG), an organisation founded at the end of last year by six Australian universities in order to provide “a concerted and coordinated Australian voice in support of open access.”
So far, 2013 has seen the OA scene dominated by events in the US and Europe. In the US, for instance, we have seen the publication of the OSTP Memorandum and the introduction of the FASTR bill in Congress. In Europe, the EU has committed to OA for its Horizon 2020 Framework Programme and the European Research Council has published its Guidelines for Open Access.
But it is the controversial OA Policy introduced on April 1st by Research Councils UK (RCUK) that has attracted the greatest attention (and opprobrium) within the OA movement, not least because of its stipulation that researchers favour Gold over Green OA, and its endorsement of Hybrid OA.
But how does the picture look outside the US and Europe? I hope we can explore this in some of the Q&As in this series. Today, Danny Kingsley provides a perspective from Australia. Prior to taking on her role at AOASG, Kingsley spent five years studying the OA situation in Australia for her PhD, and then four years as a repository manager at the Australian National University (ANU), so she has a keen understanding of the OA scene in Australia.
On the positive side, says Kingsley, the flood of international statements about OA we have seen this year (e.g. here) has strengthened the voice of those advocating for OA. And Australia is well placed to benefit from this: All of its universities now have an institutional repository, and both the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have introduced OA mandates that favour Green OA.
On the negative side, says Kingsley, researchers' lack of engagement with Open Access remains “a continual disappointment.” As a result, she suggests, OA advocates need “to stop talking to ourselves and work out the best way to engage the researchers.”
Unfortunately, however, this task has been made that much harder by the recommendations of the Finch Report (on which the controversial RCUK Policy was based), and the consequent decision by RCUK to favour Gold OA, and endorse Hybrid OA.
Indeed, Kingsley’s account suggests that, rather than being a tipping point for OA, the RCUK Policy has impeded progress, not just in the UK but globally. “The Finch/RCUK decision to back and fund Gold Open Access including Hybrid has had ramifications around the world with publishers tightening the deposit and embargo rules for repositories,” she says. “While this is ostensibly to encourage UK researchers to take the Gold OA option to comply with their rules it affects everyone.”
Moreover, adds Kingsley, “Hybrid is tainting Open Access because researchers often think this is what Open Access means and are (understandably) upset and angry about the changes they feel are being forced upon them.”
Whether the impact of Finch/RCUK is being felt in the same way elsewhere, including in the developing world, will perhaps become clearer in future interviews. As Kingsley acknowledges, “Australia still aligns itself mostly with Europe and North America”.
It is worth noting, however, that Kingsley views OA in a broader context than some. She suggests, for instance, that it be seen as a component part of a larger revolution that the research process needs to undergo. For instance she says, changing the reward system, “such as including Open Access as something that counts for assessment exercises, will be a definitive incentive to change behaviour.”
However she adds, “the real game changer” (and which would encourage take-up of OA) would be to overhaul the reward system used to incentivise researchers. “The publishers have been able to maintain the status quo because the reward system backs the outdated and inappropriate Journal Impact Factor as a measure of quality.”
She adds, “We need to instead value & reward article level metrics. A focus on these rather than the journal not only makes it more difficult to game (as there are multiple factors) but it also means there will be a push away from the journal as a measure of value. That’s when we can really start looking at revolutionising the scholarly communication system.”
To get the full picture on how Kingsley views the current state of OA, what she thinks still needs to be done, and where she believes the priorities should lie, please read the Q&A below.
Earlier contributors to this series include palaeontologist Mike Taylor, cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad, former librarian Fred Friend, SPARC director Heather Joseph, publishing consultant Joseph Esposito and Portuguese librarian Eloy Rodrigues.
The Q&A begins
Q: When and why did you become an OA advocate?
A: In 1995 I did my honours thesis looking at attitudes amongst researchers to a move to electronic journals — that was the year the World Wide Web came into broader public use. I worked as a science journalist on graduation, and then a few years later press releases started coming across my desk using the term ‘Open Access’. Some of the names I had cited in my honours thesis were involved in this new movement — like for instance Stevan Harnad.
So I decided the time had come to return to study. In 2004 I started my PhD looking into the reasons why researchers support the idea of Open Access but don’t engage with it, submitting in 2008. I began that research with a feeling that Open Access made sense, and ended it as a vocal advocate for Open Access both within my home institution and in Australia. Working subsequently for four years as a university repository manager made me fully aware of the multitude of small obstacles to the widespread uptake of Open Access across the community.
Many of the barriers are embedded in administrative systems but challenges occur at every level of the scholarly communication endeavour. Sometimes in the role of advocate it feels like you are pulling a very heavy ship behind you.
Q: What would you say have been the biggest achievements of the OA movement since you became an advocate, and what have been the biggest disappointments?
A: Certainly all of the recent international statements on Open Access that have been pouring out of the high end of town is gratifying. It does give a much stronger voice to those who have been going hoarse saying the same things repeatedly. Our two funding body mandates have finally brought discussions about Open Access more into the mainstream in Australia. But not all of these policies have been positive. The continuing fallout from the Finch/RCUK emphasis on Gold Open Access demonstrates how disappointing this decision has been to the Open Access community.
The lack of engagement by the research community with Open Access is a continual disappointment. My personal experience has found that one-on-one conversations with people is highly effective, but clearly inefficient for large scale implementation. Open access discussions happen within the library community. This makes sense, librarians started the debate decades ago and continue to be the on-the-floor practitioners of Open Access. But we need to stop talking to ourselves and work out the best way to engage the researchers.
On a personal level a huge disappointment in Australia has been a reluctance to take seriously the broader issue of changes to the scholarly communication system — there are no employed academics researching in this area in Australia that I am aware of, let alone a department or office of scholarly communication.
Q: There has always been a great deal of discussion (and disagreement) about the roles that Green and Gold OA should play. In light of recent developments (e.g. the OSTP Memorandum, the ARC and NHMRC OA policies, the RCUK OA policy, and the European Research Council Guidelines on OA) what would you say are the respective roles that Green and Gold OA should be playing today?
A: The benefit of Green Open Access is that it does not force academics to publish in a specific place — they can continue to publish where they wish. Placing a copy of their work into a repository means that the broader community can find out about the research. (Disclosure statement — the AOASG, for whom I work, specifically supports Open Access through deposit in repositories). Repositories are relatively inexpensive to run, particularly, as in Australia, if it can be tied into a system that already requires collection of all publications for funding reporting. Green Open Access also allows access to a broad range of grey literature — an important part of the academic discourse. Both the ARC & NHMRC policies favour Green.
Gold Open Access offers an alternative way to publish work. Gold journals published by fully OA commercial publishers — such as through PLoS and BioMed Central, for example have demonstrated that Open Access journals can be high impact. Thinking more broadly about the scholarly communication landscape, some Gold journals are experimenting with new publishing models — RNA Biology articles require an accompanying explanatory peer-reviewed wiki. Libre is proposing publishing the reviews with the articles. The majority of OA journals that are free to publish and free to read represent the academic community taking back responsibility for the publication process.
Overall there is room for both. It is unlikely there will be a wholesale change to Gold Open Access, and even if this becomes the predominant model, this will not happen overnight. Green not only gives us time to make these transitions, but also offers options for a transformation of the way the community engages with research outputs.
Q: What about Hybrid OA?
A: I do not support Hybrid Open Access in any way. It is from my perspective indefensible. If the publisher of a subscription journal feels that it would be good to have certain research available Open Access then they should permit deposit of and immediate access to the Accepted Version in a repository. Despite the repetition of the claim by publishers about threats to their ‘sustainability’, there is no evidence that this affects subscriptions. So the only explanation for offering the Hybrid option is that it increases income for the publisher.
This is why Open Access advocates refer to Hybrid Open Access as double-dipping. The institution (in Australia almost fully supported by the taxpayer) pays twice — first for the ‘opportunity’ to make a particular article Open Access, and again for the subscription to the remainder of the journal. The Finch/RCUK rules have not helped, as some publishers appear to be extending their embargo periods to funnel more authors down the Hybrid path.
And the costs are very high. It is not just that Hybrid APCs are consistently higher than for fully OA journals, as recent evidence shows. But consider the cost to an individual department — particularly one without external funding — that publishes, say 20 papers a year. The approximately $60,000 they would have to outlay on Hybrid publication precludes employing a research assistant or two. Hybrid is tainting Open Access because researchers often think this is what Open Access means and are (understandably) upset and angry about the changes they feel are being forced upon them.
Q: How would you characterise the current state of OA, in Australia, Asia, and internationally?
A: There certainly has been a big increase in statements about Open Access from governments and large organisations around the world. This indicates that there is a realisation at the highest level that Open Access to research results is good for society. Mandates are also on the increase amongst funders and institutions, with the two primary Australian funding agencies, the ARC and NHMRC announcing their policies in the last year. However publishers changing their copyright rules are a constant problem for compliance, and pose some threat to the logistics of Green Open Access. The Finch/RCUK decision is affecting the whole world as publishers tighten their rules, extend their embargoes and try and funnel authors into Hybrid.
But there is a long way to go. In Australia we are well placed. Apart from the formation of the Australian Open Access Support Group this year, we have the infrastructure in place. All universities have a repository, we have full collection of research output metadata, and in addition to the funder mandates several research institutions also have them. But while we have a couple of exemplar universities with a high percentage of full text articles in their repositories, this is not replicated across the board. Many Australian universities have only a small percentage of their current research available so there are still major hurdles.
There are some interesting things happening in the region, Japan is making some big headway, for example mandating that all theses are available Open Access. But Australia still aligns itself mostly with Europe and North America, rather than engaging the local region. This is slowly changing.
Q: What still needs to be done, and by whom?
A: There needs to be activity on several fronts. Firstly, comprehension of the issues around Open Access is extremely poor amongst the academic community. As the people who do the work and are inconvenienced by a lack of access, they potentially have a real power to change things. As editors of journals they are in a strong position to negotiate with their publishers — indeed there have been some successes in this area recently. But while there is misinformation and indifference amongst this group we will fail to have traction. So increasing awareness of the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ about Open Access amongst the academics is paramount. And very difficult.
On an institutional level, having mandates is a very good first step. But this needs to be within a broader context of the intellectual property policy. The Harvard model — which means that work is published on the proviso that it is able to be deposited and made available in the institution’s repository — changes the legal standing of the research being produced from our institutions. This is a big ask, however. Altering policies within institutions is a complex process and will only succeed if accompanied with a concerted advocacy and information program.
Turning to government, in Australia the majority of research funding originates from the government. So changing the reward system, such as including Open Access as something that counts for assessment exercises, will be a definitive incentive to change behaviour.
Q: What in your view is the single most important task that the OA movement should focus on today?
A: The real game changer will be altering the reward system. The publishers have been able to maintain the status quo because the reward system backs the outdated and inappropriate Journal Impact Factor as a measure of quality. Apart from measuring the vessel (journal) rather than the content (article), it is becoming clear that this type of measure is being ‘gamed’, rendering this kind of assessment even less useful.
We need to instead value & reward article level metrics. A focus on these rather than the journal not only makes it more difficult to game (as there are multiple factors) but it also means there will be a push away from the journal as a measure of value. That’s when we can really start looking at revolutionising the scholarly communication system.
And tying Open Access to reward works. The UK Wellcome Trust and the US NIH have both tightened their funding rules to restrict full access to the funds or any further funds until compliance with the Open Access policies is met. The University of Liege’s repository ORBi has over 50,000 full text items as a direct result of their decision to only consider research that is available Open Access in promotional & tenure applications.
Q: What does OA have to offer the developing world?
A: Ask not what does OA have to offer the developing world, but what the developing world has to offer back. If suddenly we have 100% of the world’s smart people able to see the latest thinking and contributing to solutions for the big issues the world faces, instead of the small proportion that happen to be in well-funded institutions, the efficiency gains are almost incalculable.
But there is another side to this. Obviously providing access to research outputs increases the ability for researchers in the developing world to participate more equitably. But if we were to move to a fully Gold Open Access model it would mean researchers in smaller & less-resourced institutions go from a situation where it is effectively ‘free’ to publish to one where it is ‘free’ to read. Even allowing for the fact that the majority of Gold journals do not charge APCs, in a Gold world, a lack of funds restricts access to publishing opportunities. For this reason Green trumps Gold in the situation of providing access to researchers in developing countries.
Q: What are your expectations for OA in 2013?
A: There have already been many statements and policies about Open Access released at high levels just in the first half of this year. The proof will be in the implementation of these policies. The Finch/RCUK decision to back and fund Gold Open Access including Hybrid has had ramifications around the world with publishers tightening the deposit and embargo rules for repositories. While this is ostensibly to encourage UK researchers to take the Gold OA option to comply with their rules it affects everyone. I expect that publishers will clamp down further on Green Open Access. While this is depressing as an Open Access advocate, in one sense it does indicate that more people are making their work available in this manner.
I repeat, there is no evidence in existence to show that permitting immediate Green Open Access has had any effect on publisher’s subscription levels. Frankly, I would welcome a study showing empirical evidence either way. SAGE’s recent decision to permit fully-Green OA, and Taylor & Francis’s decision to indefinitely extend the Library and Information Science fully-Green trial both offer excellent potential case studies. But another of my expectations is the publishers won't release the related subscription data to answer this question definitively.
Q: Will OA in your view be any less expensive than subscription publishing? If so, why/how? Does cost matter anyway?
A: Yes of course cost matters, but I am going to slightly sidestep this question. What do we mean by ‘expensive’? To whom? There have been many studies looking into the cost benefits and challenges of Open Access, not least by Australia’s Professor John Houghton, and I deflect to these which show that yes Open Access is less expensive.
But on a broader scale, what happens if we change the scholarly communication system to something that reflects what modern technologies can offer? Consider just two issues in scholarly communication. A reward system that results in such a large number of papers being submitted to a select few journals that there can be a 95% rejection rate, and the related problem of the same paper being reviewed many times as it moves from journal to journal. The wasted human capital is immense.
Open access offers a new way of approaching the publication endeavour. If the current expenditure on access is redirected to publication then not only is there universal access, but research productivity increases. And if we embrace article level metrics, sharing research results fairly amongst the world’s researchers, opening the conversation about research through open review and so on, then the entire research process becomes immeasurably more efficient worldwide. Surely that’s cost efficiency?
Dr Danny Kingsley is the Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group (http://aoasg.org.au) which aims to inform the discussions around Open Access at a time of great change in this area. She is responsible for developing the content on the website, including explainers, blogs and general information about the topic. She runs a discussion list and Twitter feed (@openaccess_oz) as part of the outreach activities of the group.
Her previous role was for four years as the Manager, Scholarly Communication and ePublishing at the Australian National University. She was responsible for developing policies relating to scholarly communication and Open Access, and rebuilt the DSpace repository prior to its July 2011 re-launch. During the research phase of her PhD looking at the barriers to opening up access to science publications Danny worked part time with the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories.
Danny also works as an Associate Lecturer (part-time) in science communication. She has lectured in undergraduate and masters courses and for the Questacon Science Circus Graduate Diploma at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science since 2006.
Danny worked as a science communicator for 15 years, including two years with ABC Science Online as a journalist for News in Science, and was also a co-producer of Health Matters. She has worked in TV, radio and print.