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OA week 2020: Open access has never been more important

This year's OA Week theme is important – and there is lots of work to do to realise it!

The theme of this year’s international open access week is “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. The urgent necessity of the theme is outlined in this blog from SPARC, who coordinate the international event, which concludes: ”Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be consistently prioritized year-round and integrated into the fabric of the open community, from how our infrastructure is built to how we organize community discussions to the governance structures we use.”

There are a number of movements happening now that seek to change academic publishing profoundly, including the use of preprints and the development of open, non-commercial infrastructure to support publishing. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an explosion of public interest in research which has highlighted the importance of good communication. All of these factors highlight the potential for transformation in scholarly communication.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought to the fore many inequalities including in the way that women have been disproportionately affected, socially, financially and professionally. This disadvantage has extended to their underrepresentation in both research being conducted on the pandemic and in whose voices are being heard in public discussions about the pandemic. In Australia and New Zealand we have additional profound challenges, in the proper recognition and inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in research. 

This year, the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) has collaborated with a group of open access practitioners from the AOASG membership: Emma McLean, UNSW, Katya Henry, QUT, Luqman Hayes, AUT, Mary Filsell, Flinders, and Thomas Shafee, La Trobe who have developed a program of ten events across the week. This program brings together open access research practices, (such as preprints and open data) with broader principles (such as infrastructure, interconnectedness, and communication). The presenters, panels and workshops also aim to bring broader representation of voices to look at structural equity and inclusion from perspectives including citizen scientists and Indigenous researchers and specialists. We have also a specially recorded interview with Professor Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate, who discusses scholarly publishing and open access.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that open research is crucial. By centering diversity, equity, and inclusion in open research this  movement has the ability to change academic research and publishing for the better. We hope that the events of this week will provide a starting point to take forward discussions and action to build the foundation for long term change.

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