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Making the case for a national approach for Open Research in Australia

2020 was a challenging year globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019-2020 bushfires reinforced the need for a strategic, long-term approach to open research in Australia.


This paper summarises a program of work undertaken by the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) during 2020. Through three strands of work: bringing together key national participants at roundtables to discuss possible approaches; learning from other countries that have developed open research strategies; and providing opportunities for public discussions, the program aimed to develop further the case for a national approach for open research in Australia.
The work that is summarised here is in addition to many other activities related to open research in Australia, including by the NHMRC, ARC, Australian Research Data Commons, Universities Australia, Group of Eight Universities, the Office of the Chief Scientist and the Learned Academies.



At the beginning of 2020, CAUL and AOASG were preparing to convene roundtables of key groups within Australia to discuss a national approach to open research in Australia. These roundtables were the culmination of a series of discussions and activities throughout 2019. They were given impetus by developments overseas and nationally, which had indicated that there was an emerging interest in developing an overarching national approach in Australia to open research, that combined the various elements of an open research ecosystem. An initial roundtable was planned for March 2020 in Canberra, but like many events was cancelled at short notice as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated.

Work prior to planned March 2020 roundtable

CAUL reports and policy statements

Roadmap to Plan S for Australia
Intellectual property rights retention in scholarly works at Australian universities
Collection and Reporting of Article Processing Charges
Review of Australian Repository Infrastructure
Statement on Open Scholarship

Advocacy and other outreach

AOASG resources including ongoing webinar series

Policy submissions

● Developing a strategic approach to open scholarship in Australia: Joint CAUL-AOASG Election Statement
Initial and follow up submissions to House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and training – Inquiry into Funding Australia’s Research
Support for Federal Government response to the recommendations from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements

FAIR Steering Group

The FAIR Steering Group has been active since 2016. The membership comprises a cross section of organisations with an interest in open research. The current Chair is Catherine Clark, CAUL Director of the Advancing Open Scholarship Program. Its key output was a statement that supported the principles of FAIR for research outputs. Since the statement was released it has been a valuable sounding board for discussions on FAIR and open research across Australia, including the 2020 activities.

June 2020: first online roundtable

Following further discussions with the FAIR Steering Group, the postponed roundtable was convened online in June 2020.
Appendix – Virtual Sessions on Open and FAIR dissemination of research: background briefing May 2020.

Key discussion points

● Need to ensure that infrastructure is ready to fully support a national approach
● Need to clearly define the scope of the national approach
● Important to communicate the imperatives and benefits of open scholarship widely
● Any approach needs to be national, but should also reference and leverage international initiatives
● The roundtable participants agreed that an Australian national approach for FAIR and open research is required

June – November 2020: consultations and public events

From June to November 2020, AOASG and CAUL undertook a series of consultations: with individual roundtable participants; international collaborators from Finland, Malaysia, Ireland, Canada and the EU; and representatives of key governmental organisations.
Following these consultations, three public events were convened in order to provide open discussions on a national approach.

First webinar, 12 November 2020

International Perspectives: Developing a national strategy for open research
● Dr Pirjo-Leena Forsström (IT Centre for Science, Finland)
● Dr Patricia Clarke (HRB Open Research, Ireland)
● Professor Noorsaadah Abd. Rahman (University of Malaya)

Second webinar 23 November 2020

National perspectives: Developing an overarching national strategy for open research in Australia
● Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist, CSIRO and Australia’s next Chief Scientist
● Professor Robyn Owens, Emeritus Professor, and former DVCR, UWA
● Ryan Winn, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Learned Academies

Unconference session 4 December 2020

An Australian National Strategy for Open Research: Let’s talk!
Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-research and Open Science (AIMOS) conference
● Dr Ginny Barbour (AOASG)
● Dr Eva Méndez (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) and the EU Open Science Policy Platform

December 2020: second online roundtable

At the beginning of December 2020, CAUL and AOASG co-hosted a second roundtable.

Key discussion points

● A national strategy needs a sponsor coming from government or a government-related portfolio.
● Any strategy would need to be developed by all the stakeholder groups (and more) that were represented at the roundtables so as to ensure it is relevant, well understood, and gains commitment and participation across the sector.

Conclusions from 2020 activities


● It is not necessary for Australia to wholly reinvent the process of developing an open research strategy: there is much to learn from other countries
● There is no one prescribed route or starting point, though the process often starts with a coalition of the willing
● Careful consideration is needed to ensure both the process and the stakeholders are appropriate for the Australian environment.
Some components are essential
● A high level champion or sponsor, with good links to government, maximises the chance of success
● Wide consultation and buy in across the sector are needed, and hence time frames need to reflect that
● Specific case studies that demonstrate need are likely to be necessary
● Dedicated logistical and/or financial support is essential for the coordination of the development of a strategy

Next steps

The importance of open research, and hence a coordinated strategy, will only continue to increase in 2021 and beyond. AOASG and CAUL will continue to meet with relevant stakeholders, including Dr Foley, the new Chief Scientist, in the early part of 2021 to determine in the first instance who the sponsor for a national approach might be.

January 2021
Virginia Barbour, Director, AOASG
Catherine Clark, CAUL Director, Advancing Open Scholarship (FAIR) Program, University Librarian, Curtin University
Mark Sutherland, Executive Director, CAUL