Thursday, 7 November 2013

Energy & insight at Open Access & Research conference

Comments from my colleague Dr Siddeswara Guru at TERN have prompted me to update my blog, which I have neglected for a year (gosh!). Guru and I were at the eResearchAustralasia conference held in Brisbane in October. At the data citation workshop, we each presented on our experiences implementing Digital Object Identifiers for data collections and encouraging a practice of data citation among researchers. He highlighted the fact that he used to enjoy reading my blog on the Gold Standards project, though that blog is now closed because the project has ended. It reminded me that it was because of that blog that I was able to make new connections with admirable colleagues working in the same space, trying to address the same challenges. It’s inspired me to put this blog post together, to share thoughts and ideas that hopefully you can engage with. This post is about the Open Access and Research conference, and I plan to post later some reflections on the eResearch conference as well as the CAUL Research Repository Community Days. As my ‘day job’, I’m project managing the implementation of Symplectic at Griffith University, and I look forward to sharing some of those experiences with you.

I attended the Open Access and Research conference (Twitter: ) 30 October to 1 November in P Block, the new Science & Engineering centre at QUT Gardens Point campus complete with the fantastical Cube, “one of the world’s largest touch and display systems”. There were over 150 attendees from across Australia, New Zealand and further abroad. The thing that struck me most about this conference – apart from the excellent venue - was the high quality of the speakers, demonstrated in the knowledge and energy they brought to their presentations. It was easy to engage in the variety of topics covered at the conference despite the heavy schedule of talk after talk.

Dr Danny Kingsley, Executive Officer for the Australian Open Access Support Group, delivered a presentation on Open Access developments in Australia with her hallmark energy, insight and enthusiasm. I second the tweet from another attendee expressing a wish to bottle Danny’s energy! Other exemplary talks were delivered by Dr Alma Swan (SPARC Europe), Iryna Kuchma (EIL, Ukraine) and Prof Stevan Harnad (via videolink, UK).  I felt the open access conditions of almost every country in the world was covered at the conference, illustrated with a dizzying array of statistics, diagrams and visualisations that warrant a re-visit of all of the presentation slides. There were really too many great speakers to mention however I think Prof Bernard Rentier (University of Leige, Belgium) stole the show. His passion and indistinct mixture of carrot and stick to get Leige researchers to deposit in their Institutional Repository set the bar high and caused ‘open access envy’ in pretty much everyone in the audience.

Most of my takeaway’s were of course in the area of research data and included:
·      Dr Ross Wilkinson: the Hubble telescope has an open access archive for data and this has led to a significant increase in publications. A good example of the benefits of data sharing.
·      Marco Fahmi: open data is still not well understood, is expensive to create, maintain, sustain. He noted that alot of helicopter parenting is going on with research data. It’s better to let your data grow wings and fly away.
·      Prof Tom Cochrane, QUT: best weapon of science in the 21 century will be openness. Followed by talk of the success of QUTs repository deposit mandate and enviable slides of QUT repository growth. QUT established the world's first institution wide OA Policy.
·      Dr Alma Swan: Swan: European commission will be announcing an open data pilot in Horizon 2020. OpenAIRE, LIBER and COAR have made recommendations for EC Open Data Pilot.
·      Dr Danny Kingsley: all Australian universities have a repository. Over 200 000 open access items in Australian university repositories. One quarter of all Australian universities have an OA mandate.
·      New Open Access mandates can be registered in ROARMAP.
·      Dr Matthew Todd: the open source malaria project - a great example of researchers collaborating across borders and technology.
·      Dr Alex Holcombe, Uni Sydney: need to link claims to evidence i.e. publications to underlying data.
·      Pat Loria’s challenge for altmetricians [is that actually a word?] for a metric on openness.
·      Prof. Bernard Rentier: "an empty repository is useless, a partly filled repository is partly useless". An official policy is required. Don't impose, rather inform researchers only pubs in repository will be considered for evaluation, promotion, grants. Institutional repositories improve visibility, preservation, reporting, and integration with other systems.
·      Dr Ross Wilkinson (again): library is the key custodian for research data collections. Information professionals are key to managing this.
·      Dr Lucy Montgomery on the Knowledge Unlatched project: academic monograph sales have declined by 90% over 20 years. This affects publishers, libraries, academics and readers. Drivers for open access books include the struggling monograph market, funder requirements, technology, author wishes.
·      Dr Irinya Kuchma: open access means 'unrestricted and unlimited access to knowledge' to many around the world.
·      ARC are not going to mandate Open Data policy immediately, but encourage researchers to think about the best way to manage it. Watch this space.

What does it all mean? In brief, it means that while there is much work to do in managing open access to research publications, we have even more work to do in making the underlying research data open and accessible. Progress has undoubtedly been made but there are many challenges in achieving open data at the level of institutions, funders and individual researchers. I assume that conference presentations will be made available shortly on the website at