Open Access Week: It Matters How We Open Knowledge

The theme for this year’s International Open Access Week (October 25-31) is, “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.” The notion of structural equity is a dominant issue in today’s geopolitics. Open Access Week was created by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) for the academic and research community to “learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.”

A Quick Refresher: What is Open Access?

Open Access refers to “the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the right to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open Access ensures that anyone can access and use these results—to turn ideas into industries and breakthroughs into better lives.” (SPARC*). See this video for a fuller explanation:

 

Open Science

The theme of Open Knowledge focusing on structural equity coincides with UNESCO’s recent Recommendation on Open Science report. This report is the first framework for establishing global standards for OA. The goal is to have research that is truly open, to “embrace a diversity of knowledge, practices, workflows, languages, research outputs and research topics that support the needs and epistemic pluralism of the scientific community as a whole, diverse research communities and scholars, as well as the wider public and knowledge holders […].”

UNESCO will adopt this report in November 2021. Some salient quotes from the report underscore the importance of this document:

Open Science should embrace a diversity of knowledge, practices, workflows, languages, research outputs and research topics that support the needs and epistemic pluralism of the scientific community as a whole, diverse research communities and scholars, as well as the wider public and knowledge holders beyond the traditional scientific community, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and social actors from different countries and regions, as appropriate. 

And,

Open Science should play a significant role in ensuring equity among researchers from developed and developing countries, enabling fair and reciprocal sharing of scientific inputs and outputs and equal access to scientific knowledge to both producers and consumers of knowledge regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career stage, discipline, language, religion, disability, ethnicity or migratory status or any other grounds.

SPARC has been at the forefront of Open Access since 1998. In its 2021 Update: SPARC Landscape Analysis and Roadmap for Action, it argues for fostering equitable open science practices. SPARC gives one example that has been around for years but not known in the larger scientific community:

The weight accorded to leading journals because of their impact factors (IF) has given these journals the incentive to operate a covert science policy: publishers and editors have incentives to maintain or raise their IF, and this leads them to prioritize publishing articles that are likely to be widely cited. This means they will prefer to publish articles in areas that are “fashionable” and of wide interest, and this focus of the leading publishers in turn affects funding and the priorities of funding bodies…. Unfashionable disciplines and approaches (like those affecting rare diseases or people in disadvantaged communities) are structurally disadvantaged by these dynamics.

The report outlines trends—rising market concentration, increased bundling, and inclusive access—that limit student choices and widen the usage of monitoring technologies, and further demonstrate that OA is being fought on a number of fronts, including academic freedom. See the activities planned for Open Access Week 2021.

Resources

OASIS. Developed at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library, Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool for discovering open content. OASIS currently searches open content from 114 different sources (66 sources in 2018) and contains 440,269 records.

Open Science video. What is Open Science? See this video created by the Knowledge Network for University Libraries (The Netherlands).

The Company of Biologists. The Editors-in-Chief of Development, Journal of Cell Science and Journal of Experimental Biology share their thoughts on Open Access publishing in this video.

UNESCO, Open Educational Resources (OER).

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