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Open Access Australasia Submission to Australia National Research Infrastructure Roadmap Exposure Draft, December 2021

The National Research Infrastructure Roadmap Exposure Draft was published in December 2021 with a call for feedback.

The specific questions are here. (Questions 1-3 are about who is responding)

Open Access Australasia submitted a response to the specific questions, below.

We also submitted a short supplementary document, Investing in the scholarly communication ecosystem in Australia

Question 4 – Are the recommendations relevant to the current NRI environment? 

Recommendation 1: Adopt the NRI Principles


Recommendation 2: Provide continuity and long-term funding to NRI

Agree – very important

Recommendation 3: Adopt a challenge framework to support NRI planning and investment

The framework is limited to specific research scenarios. We suggest it include challenges in relation to overarching needs eg  to make data, publications and other research outputs openly available by default

Recommendation 4: Establish an Expert NRI Advisory Group to drive a more effective NRI ecosystem

We welcome this recommendation and would be keen to be involved in developing the remit of this Group. Previous NRI roadmaps took a relatively narrow view of what infrastructure encompasses and as we detail in answer to question 6 ,  expanding the remit of the NRI is timely and will place Australia well in the global research ecosystem

Recommendation 5: Drive a more integrated NRI ecosystem

Agree  the time is right to ensure the ecosystem becomes more integrated. Interoperability is key in the FAIR environment. 

Recommendation 6: Improve industry engagement with NRI


Recommendation 7: Develop a National Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy

We welcome this Recommendation and  propose that it includes scholarly communications infrastructure. Over the past 20 years research publishing has begun to transform from a largely closed system, where research articles were only accessible through subscriptions, and the underlying data were, with a few notable exceptions (such as genomic and physics data), not accessible , to a system that is  more open, but not in a strategically aligned way. A 21st century open scholarly communication system should  be diverse, agile, equitable and supportive of specific needs in the Australian environment to make Australian research globally available and to maximise its impact.

Recommendation 8: Prepare Australia to tackle future challenges

Agree. Including forward planning and investment in scholarly communication system aligns with this Recommendation

Question 5 – Do the principles articulate the vision and key elements required of NRI, including investment? 

We support the principles of the NRI, but as noted in our response to Question 6, we feel that the principles should be extended beyond the current remit of the NRI to encompass support for scholarly communication – an important output of the research that NRI provides support for. A holistic approach to research infrastructure from beginning to end would substantially increase the impact of Australia’s research.

Question 6 – The NRI roadmap has a clear focus on identifying the NRI investments required to support Australian research over the next 5-10 years. Are there any national research infrastructure needs missing in the draft roadmap? 

Support for scholarly communications infrastructure is not addressed in the Exposure Draft. A modern, open scholarly communication infrastructure is needed to support researchers, funders, policymakers and the Australian public  for publishing, synthesizing and accessing research. Most recently, through initiatives at the Council of Australian University Librarians,  increasing openness in Australia has been through  a transition of subscription journals to open access. This work aligns with that of the Chief Scientist on open access. However, as noted in the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, there is a need for matching investment in other key components of the scholarly publishing ecosystem, such as  for wholly open access publishers,  long-term development and modernisation of institutional repositories that curate and preserve Australian universities’ research, and academic-led experimentation in open research options.

We propose four strands of investment for the NRI Roadmap.

  1. Investment in  upgrading of university repositories through a nationally coordinated program. Upgrading would allow Australia’s university repositories to fully support and integrate in global networks such as the European OpenAIRE initiative. It would ensure that university repositories are able to  align with other related infrastructure projects – for example in data, such as those managed by ARDC.
  2. Develop a funding pool to support innovation in scholarly communication. Funding could be modelled on Research England’s emerging priorities fund. This approach would encourage experimentation, especially of academic-led initiatives.
  3. Provide specific support for initiatives that are unique to Australia such as journals that publish Indigenous and other regionally relevant research. 
  4. Provide  mechanisms for long-term stable funding of supporting infrastructure for scholarly communication. Globally, research communication depends on services that provide quality control for publishing, e.g.Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Currently none of these services receive Australian government support,depending for  funding on crowdsourcing initiatives such as the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Sciences (SCOSS).

Question 7 – A key priority for Australia is to enhance research translation. The 2021 NRI Roadmap identifies some reforms and investments to achieve this. What other reforms would help deliver this priority? 

Visible and accessible research infrastructure is enhanced by open access to research including journal articles and research reports commissioned by industry. Taking a more expansive view of industry, however, will create even greater impact – the roadmap should include NGOs, associations, and other bodies that work in partnership with universities and industry that could benefit from NRI. Permissive licensing and copyright reforms are also required to support access to and visibility of research publications (and data).

We encourage NRI to make the invisible visible: much of the supporting infrastructure and interoperability required for persistent identifiers, linking equipment, datasets, journal articles and other outputs requires standards, open tools, costs, and staff, but this work is frequently hidden and absorbed by institutions.

Question 8 – The Roadmap proposes that Australia could make landmark investments to drive step changes in research and innovation over the next 10 to 15 years. Do you agree with the assessment of potential areas for investment in the report? What other areas do you consider might fit the definition of landmark investment? 

Open Access Australasia recommends the proposal to invest in Digital Research Infrastructure including repositories and researcher training. As indicated in the response to question 6 point 3, we recommend adding investment in publishing infrastructure such as via “diamond”,  academic-led (free to read and free to publish with costs underwritten by a society or institution) open access journals and the underpinning architecture, and to develop these in collaboration with Australian learned societies and institutions. Many libraries have experience in serving as publishers on such journals. This approach has several benefits: supports research quality in disciplines underserved by traditional, commercial publishers; provides sovereign capability in serving Australia’s national research priorities; and provides a sustainable route to research communication. Many countries already include such initiatives in their open science plans and funding. An example is Redalyc (Redalyc.org) which is a diamond open access repository system which publishes 740,000 research articles from 1.8 million South American, African and Spanish and Portuguese speaking authors.

Question 9 – Please add any other comments you would like to provide to the Expert Working Group. 

Data has great potential, but as the exposure draft notes, skills, metadata, and preservation are fundamental requirements to realise that potential. Furthermore, while well-described and managed data can stand alone, without access to the associated publications and other outputs derived from that data, that potential falls short. 

A more global outlook is necessary – while national priorities and capabilities are fundamental, discovery, research and publishing are global endeavours. Interoperability of institutional, state, and national infrastructure such as repositories of publications, data, and non-traditional research outputs is essential.

Priorities addressed under Digital Research Infrastructure are also dependent on broader considerations such as research integrity, incentives, and evaluation that are not addressed in the exposure draft.

Contact: Dr Virginia Barbour Director, Open Access Australasia