April 6, 2023
Open Access Australasia submission to consultation process for National Science and Research Priorities and National Science Statement
What are Australia’s greatest challenges that science could help to address? What opportunities should we seize? What strengths should we maintain and/or build?
This response is submitted on behalf of Open Access Australasia (https://oaaustralasia.org/).
Open Access Australasia is a membership organisation of 21 Australian university libraries, all New Zealand university libraries through the Council of New Zealand University Librarians, Creative Commons Australia, Tohatoha Aotearoa Commons, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) Wikimedia Australia, the Australian Citizen Science Association and National and State Libraries Australasia. Its mission is to attain open access to research in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand through advocacy, collaboration, awareness, and capacity building across the Australian and New Zealand research sectors.
We advocate and support a commitment to open access and also the wider concept of open science in Australia, defined by UNESCO in its Open Science Recommendation (https://en.unesco.org/science-sustainable-future/open-science/recommendation) as:
Open science is defined as an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible and reusable for everyone, to increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society, and to open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community. It comprises all scientific disciplines and aspects of scholarly practices, including basic and applied sciences, natural and social sciences and the humanities, and it builds on the following key pillars: open scientific knowledge, open science infrastructures, science communication, open engagement of societal actors and open dialogue with other knowledge systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved, as perhaps never before, how crucial open science was in addressing a global emergency. However, as we emerge from the COVID pandemic it has become clear that many publishers who previously made their research open are now placing these papers behind paywalls. Much of the collaborative approach during the pandemic was developed ad hoc without prior planning. As we face the looming challenge of climate change, without a coordinated approach any initiatives are likely to be piecemeal and potentially driven by commercial rather than public imperatives. More concerningly, there has been no nationally coordinated approach to the adoption of open science principles and thus no national investment in open science infrastructure.
The key areas that would benefit from a coordinated and collaborative approach to open science include:
- Public Health Responses, for example to emerging health challenges such as COVID
- Environmental Equity & Justice, for example in addressing climate change through maximising the distribution of and participation in research
- Preventative Health, for example in relation to chronic disease prevention
- Innovation in the open science ecosystem, through for example targeted investment in areas where we are lacking capacity
Australia is a signatory to the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation and the National Statement provides an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate leadership in this area.
Adoption of a national approach to open science, as advocated for by UNESCO, would enable faster access and a more coordinated and collaborative approach to maximizing the availability and utility of publicly funded research as well as addressing other challenges in Australia’s science priorities.
Does Australia have the capability and capacity needed to address these challenges, opportunities and strengths? If not, how could we build this?
- Australia needs stronger and coordinated national level Open Access mandates to publicly-funded research with robust monitoring and compliance mechanisms, and copyright reform to ensure researchers and institutions retain copyright ownership in publicly funded research instead of being assigned to publishers. The recent Productivity Commission 5-year Productivity Inquiry: Advancing Prosperity noted open access in “Recommendation 5.3 Improving collaborative networks and knowledge transfer Governments could strengthen collaborative networks for diffusion and facilitate knowledge transfer through…requiring open access for government funded research in journals, papers and publications that is currently locked behind paywalls. In implementing this change, the government should compare the benefits and costs of the Chief Scientist’s proposed open access model with the benefits and costs of other potential approaches”
Open Access Australasia agrees with the need for a careful approach to a national open access policy and specifically urges recognition of the need for a diversity of models. It is important that any approach does not provide undue advantage to the commercial publishers that dominate the current system, but instead supports a range of models, including local initiatives in publishing, academic-led publishing and innovative models.
- Australia needs to formally recognise and reward researchers who make their research open. It could do so by aligning with principles outlined in the DORA Declaration (https://sfdora.org/) and the Hong Kong Principles (https://www.wcrif.org/guidance/hong-kong-principles).
- Australia would benefit from a national approach on open science and greater engagement with implementing the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation (see above).
- Open science and open access support business and innovation by supporting immediate access to academic research.
- Australia should incentivise citizen science as part of open science, as this enhances public engagement with science and innovation.
- Under the current subscription system, much of the spending in Australian publicly funded universities goes to international publishers who pay researchers nothing for the research papers they author and review but instead charge universities substantial fees to access those papers. There is an opportunity as we move to a more open publishing system that the hundreds of millions of dollars currently used to pay for access to research could instead be used to fund a national program of innovation in open publishing and in infrastructure for open science and open access.
- Specifically, Australia must invest in underpinning specific infrastructure that maximises access to research, such as:
- repositories based at universities and other research-producing institutions that host open access journal articles, and unique research outputs including theses, creative works and data
- Sustainable approaches to hosting emerging forms of research in Australia, including code, equipment, and software
- Open journal platforms, pre & post print servers and other open access initiatives.
- Australia should develop an ongoing mechanism for supporting innovation and experimentation in open access and open science.
- The benefits of Australia supporting a robust diverse system of approaches to open access to research and open science would ensure:
- Visibility and interoperability of Australian research in the global publishing system, including Indigenous research
- Australian-led and owned journals, publishers, and data platforms meeting Australian and international research priorities
Contact: Dr Virginia Barbour, Director, Open Access Australasia firstname.lastname@example.org