Open Access Afternoon report (Helen Young)

It's International Open Access Week!

Just yesterday, La Trobe held its second Open Access Afternoon, and this report is for those who want to re-live the excitement - or who couldn't make it on the day.
DVC - Research Keith Nugent opening the event
Photo by Tseen Khoo

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Keith Nugent opened proceedings by emphasising La Trobe’s commitment to Open Access as a key tool in the University’s engagement and impact agenda. Open Access is an important way of making sure that people know about our work and are able to use it. Major funding bodies, including the ARC and NHMRC, prioritise making publicly-funded research openly available. As Keith said, it's important for the future of the university as an institution and for the future of research.

Simon Huggard, Deputy Director of Research and Collections at the Library, then spoke about the purpose of the week, giving an overview of current issues and initiatives around Open Access. The increasing monopolies of major journal publishers are a significant challenge for libraries and researchers. Australian libraries pay more than $200 million for journal subscriptions, a major outlay of resources. Publishers often ‘double dip’ by charging authors to publish Open Access without reducing subscription fees to the same journal.

Simon outlined strong policy moves to encourage Open Access and address the outpouring of resources spent on accessing outputs where the research was publicly funded. The Productivity Commission report into Intellectual Property Arrangements recommended that “Australian, and State and Territory governments, should implement an open access policy for publicly-funded research”.

Simon Huggard on the Open Access context | Photo by Steven Chang

Jonathan O’Donnell, a guest speaker from RMIT's College of Design and Social Context, talked about what can be achieved through open archives and crowdsourcing transcriptions. He participated in a project by called The Real Face of White Australia, which turns handwritten bureaucratic travel documents from the era of the White Australia Policy into electronic and searchable forms. As Jonathan pointed out, before a certain point in history, all documents in the archive are handwritten and need human interaction to be made accessible and usable in modern digital research. Crowdsourcing transcription makes an extremely time-consuming task possible and puts otherwise closed information into the hands of a wide range of historians, including family historians for whom these records provide insight into their own identities.

The first panel of the afternoon, after a chatty tea break, featured Lisa Amir (Judith Lumley Centre) and Thomas Shafee (LIMS), who shared their insights on editing open access resources.

Lisa is the founding editor-in-chief of the International Breastfeeding Journal, published by BioMed Central (Springer). Lisa began the journal in 2006 at the beginning of a groundswell in Open Access journals. Lisa’s approach, like that of many other editors of these journals, is “if it’s good research, we want to publish it.” They aim to make research available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. The International Breastfeeding Journal has a very high uptake from readers outside the academy, with more than 100,000 for one article.

From an editorial perspective there are several advantages of an online open access journal:
  • There is no need to worry about word count or restrict the number of tables and figures.
  • Timing of journal issues is not an issue, and work on topical matters can be published quickly.
  • Videos, colour images, and supplementary files can be included.

Open Access journals play a very important role making information available to readers, including outside the academy, and in low-income countries.

Thomas Shafee is a biochemist and bioinformatician, and author and editor on Wikipedia. He is interested in how to encourage better integration between academia and the public on Wikipedia. 72% of internet users search for medical information online, about half of them are influenced in their medical decisions by what they find. Journal articles are read exponentially less than Wikipedia pages. Practicing doctors and research scientists also use Wikipedia. It's a very important source of medical information for some language groups and in low-income countries because unmetered access is provided. To overcome the issue of poor article quality, a complex and dedicated community of Wikipedia editors (internal peer reviewers) oversee the information that appears on the platform. Inconsistent coverage is a well-known issue, including missing or outdated information.

How can academic experts be encouraged to contribute to Wikipedia? There are many ways! For example, Cochrane Library and Cancer Research UK have dedicated staff to help integrate information as it becomes available; undergraduate course credits could be allotted for contributing; and there are dual-publishing models where content is published in a journal first and then in a journal (e.g. PLOS One Bio). In the Wiki Journal of Medicine, Wiki Journal of Science, and Wiki Journal of Humanities, information is published on Wikipedia first, while peer-review is undertaken for journal publication. Journals such as Gene and RNA Biology have parallel publication where the scholar writes two pieces on the same topic, one generalist for Wikipedia and one for a specialist audience of journal readers.

First panel: Lisa (Judith Lumley Centre), Thomas (LIMS),
Christine (Library) | Photo by Tseen Khoo
The final session of the afternoon focused on using Open Access textbooks. Fiona Salisbury (Deputy Director, Learning and Engagement, Library) introduced the La Trobe eBureau resources, and academics who had undertaken eBureau projects spoke on the topic (Brianna Julien and Louise Lexis [Life Sciences] and Sarah Midford [Humanities and Social Sciences]). The eBureau project aims to create affordable and easy access to textbooks for students, and increase visibility for the authors. Another advantage is that etextbooks can have different sorts of learning objects and exercises in them, and can support a purely online model of teaching delivery. The eBureau was created through an LTU Innovation Grant in 2016, which helped develop the platform and proof of concept.

Later in Open Access Week is "Tapping into the data deluge: Finding open data for your research"! Date and time: Thursday 26 Oct, 2-3pm - registration link


ETA: From invited speaker Jonathan O'Donnell, here's the article he mentioned about emerging modes of peer review, including open peer review - A multi-disciplinary perspective on emergent and future innovations in peer review