The National Scholarly Communications Forum (NSCF) Australia, in existence since 1994, is a cross-sectoral body that addresses, through regular forums, the multi-disciplinary issues of scholarly communication.
The 2015 National Scholarly Communications Forum, Unlocking the Future: Scholarly Communication & Publishing in a Global Research Environment, was held at the ANU on September 7, with nearly one hundred attendees from Research Councils, the Academies, government departments, publishing, academia, libraries and information providers.
Topics discussed include: present and future scholarly publishing frameworks and research communication ecosystems; present and future publication metrics in relation to research evaluation and university league tables; peer review and editorial standards; global perspectives of current journal publishing; costs of subscription publishing and article access; new modes of scholarly monograph production; and open models of knowledge creation and distribution.
Key generic discussion points from the 2015 Forum
- Scholarly communication costs are rarely taken into account by funding bodies, yet the creation, production, distribution and access to research content is a core activity of the scholarly community.
- Who is responsible in Australia for coordinating and researching scholarly communication policy and analysis? In Australia, scholarly communication initiatives and co-ordination are fragmented between research councils, government departments and universities. (See Appendices 1 and 2 for initiatives in the Netherlands and the UK).
- Higher education institutions are autonomous and competitive, rarely coming together to address scholarly communication issues.
- The creation, distribution and accessibility of Australia’s scholarly knowledge needs to be nationally addressed by key national bodies (arguably, the only two organisations currently addressing across the board scholarly communication issues are the NSCF and the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG), which, however, are only advisory bodies).
- Who owns scholarly knowledge? Universities and research institutions create the knowledge but, in the main, multinational publishers acquire it through transfer of rights (often as a condition of publication) and sell it back to the creators’ institutions at ever increasing prices. (These issues are likely to be highlighted in 2015/16 by the devaluation of the Australian dollar – most subscriptions are paid for Northern hemisphere currencies).
- Open Access (gold or green), making publicly funded research publications available free to readers, is seen globally as the future model for dissemination of scholarly research but the crucial issues to be addressed are the nature and timing of the transition and associated costs.
- Open Science (Open Access and Open Data) ensures academic integrity and transparent research scrutiny.
- Scholarly behaviour is driven by the prevailing reward systems, usually enshrined in conservative historical publication metrics, used by research councils, universities and funding bodies. It can be summarised in the phrase ‘publish or perish’, although the vast majority of articles published globally are relatively little read or cited.
- Peer review remains as an essential component of scholarly evaluation but is currently under strain from a variety of factors. More formal recognition of peer review and editorial activities as “credits” in research careers should be considered.
- Australia lacks a nationally co-ordinated discovery mechanism to search seamlessly across all repository research outputs.
How do we:
- Ensure and facilitate effective cross-governmental coordination to make Australian research, funded by taxpayers, is more widely available (see Appendices 1 and 2).
- Reward open access practice and publication
- Develop and support open frameworks to ensure Australian research supports innovation, especially through the harmonisation of IP regimes. (The Dutch Copyright Act now provides the legal basis by which academic authors can make their research results available worldwide via open access).
- Reframe researcher knowledge of scholarly communication issues.
- Improve research quality metrics to include digital scholarship and public impact indicators and foster impact tracking in diverse tools.
- Improve data collection and transparency of Australian scholarly communication indicators, e.g. subscriptions to multinational publishers, Australian APC article charges, deposits in institutional repositories and ARC ERA data analysis.
Appendix 1 – Netherlands
Australia needs a national open access framework like that of the Netherlands, which provides through the Dutch national website, information about the advantages of open access to publicly financed research.
“The national website on open access has been completely revamped. It now has a new, up-to-date look and is more interactive. Open Access Netherlands provides information in both Dutch and English about key open access developments in the Netherlands. The site also presents general up-to-date information on open access, a subject that is important for scholarship at home and abroad. The site is now organised with specific groups in mind, making it even easier for you to find the right information. There are a wide range of options when it comes to sharing information via social media. These are prominently displayed on the new site. The site is responsive, which means that you can use it on your smartphone or other small screen.”
The Dutch national website is a collaborative initiative of various organisations and universities, NWO, TU Delft, UKB, VSNU and SURF.
The cost of funding such national frameworks is miniscule compared to the totality of research grants and the free donation by researchers of their articles to academic publishers, their free peer-reviewing, and the institutional research infrastructure that supports the production of articles. See the studies by Professor John Houghton on scholarly communication costs in this context.
How can open access benefit you?
Open access can boost the visibility, dissemination, use and impact of your work.
What can you do?
- Be aware of your rights; don’t just give them away. At the very least, retain your right to exploitation as long as possible.
- Make use of Creative Commons licences to organise your rights. This will make it easier to tackle any infringements.
- Deposit a copy of your article or book (together with the relevant research data) in your institute’s repository. Contact your repository manager for instructions on how to do this.
- Are you publishing in an open access journal? If the agreements with your publisher permit, also deposit your publication immediately in your institute’s repository. A repository generally has the usage data and tools for CVs and citation analysis. All publications are shown in NARCISor the HBO Knowledge Base and are archived in the e-Depot of the National Library of the Netherlands. Searchability is also guaranteed via Google and Google Scholar.
- It is not enough to publish on your own website. Websites date quickly and provide no guarantee that the full publication will remain findable. At the very least, you should deposit a copy in the repository.
- Is your research funded by FP7or Horizon 2020? If so, you are obliged to deposit peer- reviewed articles and final versions of manuscripts in a repository, or do you best to do so within 6 or 12 months of publication.
- Is your research funded by the European Research Council (ERC)? If so, you are obliged to make digital copies of your publications available in open access within six months of official publication. This can be done through your institute’s repository, in discipline-specific repositories or via your own website.
- It is best to send your fresh article to an open access journal. These are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or the Electronic Journals Library. Open access journals differ in one important respect from traditional journals: they can be consulted free of charge.
- Do you require funding because the open access journal charges a publication fee? Many research funders provide assistance with publication costs. Your own university may also offer funding options, for example, through discount agreements (SAGE) or ‘piggyback’ memberships (Biomed Central). A few universities (TU Delft and Utrecht) have a fund that helps defray the cost of open access publishing.
- If you are more ambitious, consider starting your own open access journal or publishing your book in open access.
- Join the editorial board of journals, series, wikis and other open access publications.
- If you edit a journal whose publisher is not prepared to take these steps, look for alternatives, such as the ones described in Create Change. Or consider giving up your editorial post and launching a new open access journal. There are many academic libraries all set to help you.
Appendix 2 – JISC UK
There is no comparable bodies in Australia to the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK, nor to the joined-up open access activities of HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England). JISC has recently released ‘Unpicking the Open Access Lock’. It’s ‘top tips’ are:
- Encourage REF-compliant policy
- Assess your current position
- Get your communication strategy right
- Implement ORCID
- Help researchers navigate OA policies
- Check repository reporting capabilities
- Record article processing charges (APCs)
- Share your APC data
- Add a ‘copy request’ button
- Install a tracker code
Jisc’s own OA good practice pathfinder projects have been working on a range of outputs focused on developing approaches to implement an effective OA policy.
How do we implement an incremental, across-the-board stakeholder framework for collective action in Australia to ensure the widest access to publicly funded Australian research in order to maximise impact, innovation in the knowledge economy and community benefit? In any process, we will need to identify the key goals and guiding principles supporting public policy on access to research findings and identify the possible routes and mechanisms in order to achieve the key goals.