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Making Opportunities for Scholarship More Open: Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education

OpenCon 2015 graphicPosted on behalf of Rachel Obbard, Assistant Professor of Engineering
Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth

Part 1 of 2 on what I learned at OpenCon 2015: Background and Open Access
(Read Part 2: OpenCon: Early Career Researchers Pave the Way)

Background

There is something extraordinary happening.  Lots of extraordinary things, actually, all benefits of the internet – improvements in our understanding and appreciation of other cultures, support for marginalized segments of the population, new economic models, international collaboration, alternatives to traditional schooling – the list goes on and on.  One of the most powerful of these in the scholarly context is the Open Movement, the trend towards more open sharing of data, scientific publications, and educational resources.

In November, I had the good fortune to attend OpenCon 2015, an annual conference where attendees work toward developing a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data. OpenCon is more than a conference series; it is a community that aims to advance Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. Once a year, its members come together from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action.

Thanks to a travel scholarship provided by Dartmouth College Library, I was able to attend two days of talks, panels, and project presentations in Brussels, Belgium (November 14-16, 2015), and take part in workshops on specific problems, strategies, and tools of the Open Movement*, including Creating Open Content, Advocating Open Access on Campus, The Role of Open Content in the Classroom, and What can Funders Do to Incentivize Open Science?  I came away with ideas, resources, and contacts to a vibrant OpenCon community. I describe in two blog posts the key messages I took home from the conference, and some practical steps for students and educators who want to support the movement.

*Although the Open Movement is a distributed effort, there are a few influential individuals, such as Michael Eisen, early Open pioneer and Founder and Editor of PLOS, and some organizations, the biggest of which is SPARC® (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and its the Right to Research Coalition project, an international alliance of student organizations that advocate for and educate students about open methods of scholarly publishing (see http://www.sparc.arl.org/).  At Dartmouth, the Library’s Open Dartmouth Working Group provides educational programming and consulting for the Dartmouth community on these issues.

Open Access and Public Access

Open Access refers to making scholarly work available to everyone, not just those who can afford it or those who have the good fortune to work for institutions that can. In theory, the greater the access, the greater our collective productivity. The devil in the details here lies in developing economic models for open access journals. Someone needs to pay for the editorial staff and infrastructure required to compile, publish, and curate quality work. Currently many open access journals require paper processing fees, which shift the cost from reader to author but may simply replace one barrier with another. Within the Open Movement there is a growing sentiment that “We need to abandon [traditional] scientific journals, not reform them” (quote from an OpenCon speaker). There were even stickers putting down a popular, and notoriously heavy-handed, publisher.

I came away from OpenCon with ideas for things I could do in each of the Open focus areas. I include them here as suggestions for action.

Practical Steps

  1. Sign the Open Pledge (http://www.openaccesspledge.com/) and post it on your webpage.
    “I pledge to devote most of my reviewing and editing efforts to manuscripts destined for open access. For other manuscripts, I will restrict myself to one review by me for each review obtained for me by an outlet that is not open access. Here, manuscripts destined for open access mean those that the authors or journal post on institutional or university repositories, or those that are made open access by the publisher within 12 months. Because I believe that access to publicly funded research should be free, I will also support open access in other ways.”
  1. Publish more. Publish openly. Make your past publications accessible wherever possible.
    1. Publish pre-prints on your web pages when you can. Talk to the librarians in the Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing Program about what you can post where. Publishing pre-prints is often permitted even by traditional journals. For guidelines on what is allowed, see the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers' policies on copyright and self-archiving. You will be encouraged to deposit these in the Dartmouth Academic Commons, Dartmouth’s institutional repository,  as that develops.
    2. Publish negative data (data that doesn’t support your hypothesis, or is simply not being used).
    3. Be active on your scholarly or scientific journal editorial boards to effect change to a more open system in your field.
  2. The Directory of Open Access Journals is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. Dartmouth librarians can also help authors identify open access journals for their next papers.
  3. Apply for the Dartmouth Open Access Fund to cover article processing fees.
  4. On the institutional level, open access publishing could be enabled by changes in promotion and tenure guidelines that encourage open access publication. Many institutions are considering using this metric as well as impact factor or citations as proxies for impact, as open access publishing can lead to broader impact.

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