AOASG response to Productivity Commission Intellectual Property Arrangements, Draft report

aoasgAOASG response to Productivity Commission Intellectual Property Arrangements, Draft report

Prepared by Dr Virginia Barbour, Executive Director, on behalf of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, (AOASG), June 2, 2016

General comments

The AOASG ( welcomes the Productivity Commission report. We limit our response to Chapter 15: IP and Public Institutions, though we note the comment on p4 that “Open access repositories can further assist in the dissemination of ideas generated through publicly‑funded initiatives.”, which we agree with for all outputs of research.

We particularly welcome:

DRAFT Recommendation 15.1

“All Australian, and State and Territory Governments should implement an open access policy for publiclyfunded research

We also believe there is an opportunity with this report to bring some clarity to the issues surrounding copyright and license as applied to research outputs.

Specific comments

Page 401

Paragraph entitled “Key points”


The dissemination of research findings does not have to be limited by IP applied on the work that it reports.

We agree that journals remain an important mechanism of dissemination, but they are now just one part of a rapidly evolving ecosystem of publishing and the same issues apply to all outlets for dissemination of research, and which include not just research articles but also data, code, software, etc.

Copyright per se does not limit dissemination – it is the retention of copyright, coupled with restrictive licenses as applied by subscription publishers that limit dissemination. We feel it is essential to separate out these two issues.

Page 404

Paragraph beginning “The key relevant questions for this inquiry relate to:

  • where the IP system frustrates the achievement of the underlying goal for public funding
  • changes to the IP system that would accentuate the benefits of such public funding.


For scholarly publishing we already have the tools to hand to ensure that authors retain rights to and get credit for their work while allowing for maximum dissemination. The two tools required are proper application of copyright in conjunction with Creative Commons Licenses.

However, the current inconsistent and largely publisher-driven application of these tools does “frustrate the achievement of the underlying goal for public funding”.

This is to be expected when publishers are operating under a subscription model. In this situation the long term practice has been to require the transfer of copyright to journals, and also require that restrictive licenses agreements are signed.

However, restriction of author rights is not now limited to subscription publications.  For articles that are apparently open access, Elsevier, for example, requires that authors grant Elsevier an exclusive license ( to publish for article published under a CC BY license (intended to be the most liberal of the licenses). This is direct contradiction of both the spirit and the letter of the Creative Commons license (

Furthermore, a number of publishers are seeking to assert rights over earlier versions of articles, an area where they have no jurisdiction. Rights being asserted include requirements for citation of articles to which a preprint may relate This is an example of a meaningless and probably unenforceable requirement, but which may nonetheless have a stifling effect on authors seeking to share research before formal publication.

Page 405

Paragraph beginning “A major mechanism for diffusion of ideas is through academic journals”


The models of dissemination of scholarly outputs are changing very substantially and though journals remain at the core, as above we note that there are other important mechanisms now such as preprint servers, repositories (for data as well as for research manuscripts) etc. Despite the diverse array of outputs and their routes of dissemination the issue in relation to IP are largely the same.

  • Copyright needs to remain with the generators of the work (if work is not owned by the Government or is otherwise in the public domain);
  • Generators of work must be credited for that work;
  • Licenses applied to the work should maximize its discoverability, dissemination and reuse.

Copyright does not per se limit reuse, but it will do if coupled with restrictive licenses. For example, an author may retain copyright but grant an exclusive license to a journal which could then restrict reuse (see above); conversely an author may assign copyright to another body (e.g. their institution) but if that is coupled with a non-exclusive license that allows reuse, dissemination is not impeded.

We therefore suggest that the Commission separates out the issues of copyright and licenses and makes the following recommendations

  1. Authors (or their institutions) should retain copyright to research outputs.
  2. Outputs should be licensed under the most appropriate, usually the least restrictive, internationally accepted license from Creative Commons, preferably CC BY.
  3. Publisher-specific licenses, even supposedly “open access” ones such as those from Elsevier (, should not be supported as they lead to further confusion.
  4. These terms should apply to all research outputs wherever they are stored and wherever they are in the lifecycle of the research including but not limited to; preprint, author’s accepted manuscript, published article, data etc.

Page 406

Page beginning Copyright for publically funded research


We believe copyright over research articles should not be mixed up with IP rights over the subject of the research itself. In particular, copyright itself, whether held by authors or publishers, does not limit the visibility or accessibility or reusability of articles or associated data. What does limit accessibility and reusability is the license associated with those works (see above) and which was previously most commonly denoted as “All rights reserved”

With the technology now available to us, the role of copyright has changed. As Jan Velterop said in 2005, ( “copyright can [now] be used for what it is meant to in science, not to make the articles artificially scarce and in the process restrict their distribution, but instead, to ensure that their potential for maximum possible dissemination can be realised”

Page 407

Paragraph beginning “universities and some publishers”


The fact that universities are able to provide access to journals may be seamless, but it is at great cost. In fact the vast majority of research journals require a subscription. In 2014, Australian universities paid AUD 221 million (data from the Council of Australian University Librarians, CAUL) for access to electronic journals. While it is true that open access journals are increasing, currently they remain in the minority and the proportion of work that is fully open access is around 12-15%, though many more articles are free to access at some point.

Page 407

Paragraph beginning “Recognising that further incentives”


This is indeed a hugely active area of policy development globally. It is clear that there is a number of different approaches to open access, with some countries favouring it via journals primarily (e.g. the UK and most recently the Netherlands) and others such as the US and Australia approaching it via the route of repositories – usually institutional. What is currently unclear, however, is the copyright and license status of much of the material within institutional repositories and this has led to difficulties in promoting seamless dissemination via these venues.

Page 408

Paragraph beginning “A similar trend”


We agree that there is no one policy now covering all publicly funded research and we therefore support Recommendation 15.1 on page 409. We particularly welcome the insightful comment on page 409 that precedes it: “It is important when crafting policy in relation to open access to delineate exactly what is meant by the term” As noted above, the interchangeable use of phrases open access and free access, without clear indication of what these terms mean with regard to copyright and licenses has led to much confusion among authors in particular. We would urge caution therefore in the use of these terms, including in this recommendation. We do not recommend the development of different policies at national, state and territory levels. Rather, we believe the opportunity should be taken to craft one overarching policy that is applicable nationally.

Page 408

Paragraph beginning “encouragement of different ways”


We welcome the recognition that new models of publishing will need to be supported and that funds must be allocated for this purpose as the transition occurs. However, a fundamental aim of a transition to new publishing models must be that costs are lowered. Schimmer and colleagues ( have modelled this (via the “flipping” of journals from subscription to open access for three countries, including Germany. Whether this can be replicated elsewhere remains to be seen. It is not yet clear the flipping projects will reduce costs over a sustained period if pricing decisions remain in the hands of the established vendors. What will be crucially important is the encouragement of a diversity of publishing models from a variety of players, not just the five large publishers ( who currently dominate scholarly publishing.

Furthermore, such innovation and openness should be specifically rewarded – not just “treated neutrally” as on the bottom of page 408.

How researchers can protect themselves from publishing and conference scams

Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian at ANU and AOASG’s Deputy Chair, provides practical advice to researchers on how to prevent exploitation through being published in a journal, or participating in a conference, that could be considered “predatory” or “vanity”.

With the evolution of open access, enterprises have emerged that run conferences and journals with low or no peer review or other quality mechanisms. They approach academics, particularly early career academics, soliciting contributions for reputable sounding journals and conferences.

On 2 August, the ABC’s Background briefing highlighted the operation of this industry, Predatory publishers criticised for ‘unethical, unprincipled’ tactics” focusing in particular on one organisation, OMICS. There is little doubt that the industry has burgeoned.  The standard of review in such unethical journals can best be described by the example of the article written by David Mazières and Eddie Kohler which contains basically the words of the title repeated over and over. The article was accepted by the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology and the review process included a peer review report that described it as “excellent”. You can see the documentation here. Not only will these publishers take your publications, they will charge you for the pleasure (or lack of).

Jeffrey Beall, librarian at Auraria Library, University of Colorado, Denver, coined the term “predatory publisher” after noticing a large number of emails requesting he submit articles to or join editorial boards of journals he had not heard of.  His research has resulted in lists – “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” and “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals”.

While Beall’s lists have been the subject of some debate, acknowledging publishers that are low quality is important to assist researchers. The debate on predatory publishing does not mean that open access publishing is poor per se. There are many high quality open access publishers, including well established university presses at the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University and University of Technology, Sydney.

Ensuring the quality of the journals you submit to and conference you propose papers for is important to assist you in developing your research profile and building your career.

And don’t forget, traditional publishers can also have problems of quality. For example, in early 2014 Springer and IEEE removed more than 120 papers after Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, discovered  computer-generated papers published in their journals.

How can you prevent this happening to you?

Three major tips are:

  • If you haven’t heard of the journal or conference check Beall’s list or ask your local librarian
  • Don’t believe the web site – ask your colleagues and look at indicators of journal impact. A library’s guide to Increasing your research impact with information on Journal measures and tools can help you
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails – choose the journals you wish to submit to.

If in doubt contact your local Library or Research Office.

The Australasian Open Access Support Group is committed to supporting quality open access publishing and will continue to provide information through this web site and in our twitter, newsletters and discussion list.

Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian (Chief Scholarly Information Services), The Australian National University, Canberra.

Australian Chief Scientist comes out in support of Open Access.

Ian Chubb recommends in his newly released STEM strategy that the government “enhance dissemination of Australian STEM research by expanding open access policies and improving the supporting infrastructure.” and “Support the translation and commercialisation of STEM discoveries through: … a modern and flexible IP framework that embraces a range of capabilities from open access regimes to …” Check out pages 18 and 28 of the full report [pdf]

Reflections on the OAR Conference 2013

The QUT hosted the Open Access and Research Conference 2013 between 31 October – 1 November 2013. The conference was preceded by several half-day Pre-conference workshops on the 30 October.Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 12.55.16 PM

Overall, the conference worked on the theme of Discovery, Impact and Innovation and aimed to provide an opportunity to reflect on the progress of Open Access and to consider the strategic advantages these developments bring to the research sector more generally. A broad spectrum of policy and research management issues were covered including advocacy, open innovation and alternative metrics.

There was a huge amount covered in the two days, and as always the opportunity to meet colleagues face to face after in some cases years of online collaboration was a highlight. The conference was filmed and the video recordings are linked on this page from presentations from Day One and Day Two below. The full program can be downloaded here.

This blog will summarise some of the key messages that emerged from the discussions. A caveat – these are a tiny sample of the whole event. For a bigger perspective see the Twitter feed: #OAR2013conf

Global and National Open Access Developments

The first day focused on Global and National Open Access Developments. The sessions covered the breadth of recent international initiatives.  Key messages are below

  • The current publishing model is not sustainable.

In the future the dominant model of publishing will have the web as the distribution. Managing and controlling a publishing environment of global publishers will be difficult. The ARC cannot be too prescriptive about open access models because it funds across so many domains. – Prof Aidan Byrne | Australian Research Council

  • The public remain depressingly confused about open access.

The web has been around for 20 years, after 10 years of monitoring the debates about open access it became clear that high profile universities in the USA and Europe were not going to take the lead on the policy front.  QUT then started implementing an open access policy in 2003. It took less than a year before it was endorsed by the University Academic Board. Prof Tom Cochrane | Queensland University of Technology

  • It is extremely important to ensure the definition of open access is consistent and includes detail about reuse of material.

Reuse included machine analysis of information. It is difficult to retrospectively add details into policies. It is also very helpful to tie this policy into existing policy platforms. The NIH policy has been extremely successful and more than 2/3 of the users of the research are outside the academy – Developing a Framework for Open Access Policies in the United States
 Heather Joseph | Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, United States

  • Having good open access requires: good policy development, infrastructure to support the open access system and advocacy of the policy.

Despite the gobsmackingly complex area that is European politics, they have managed to pull off the Horizon2020 policy development. The policy is consistent across the European Union and beyond. Part of the reason it succeeded was a huge campaign of 18,000 signatures from the research community. – Open Access Developments in Europe
 Dr Alma Swan | Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, Europe

  • Australia is building real momentum in the open access area.

Now one quarter of Australian institutions have open access policies, there are several open access monograph presses, and both government funding bodies are mandating open access to funded research outputs – Open Access Developments in Australia 
Dr Danny Kingsley | Australian Open Access Support Group

  • Chinese publishers are increasingly ambitious in the international market.

Publication in China is oriented towards evaluation of academia, and is only undertaken by state owned publishers, many enjoying subsidy from the government. There are about 1000 open access journals in China, many with a higher than average impact factor. The centralised platform of 89 institutional repositories called GRID (Chinese Academy of Science IR) – with over 400,000 full text items. – Open Access Developments in China
 Dr Xiang Ren | University of Southern Queensland

  • India is a net importer of knowledge – so open access helps India.

While India is not playing a significant role in open science and scholarship it is addressing ‘open’ issues elsewhere. There is a National Repository for open education, India has adopted the AustLI model for access to legal Acts, there are also interesting developments in the patent space to allow access to cheaper drugs. – Opening India 
Prof Shamnad Basheer | National University of Juridical Sciences, India

  • A good policy requires deposit immediately on acceptance for publication.

This ensures things are deposited and there are ways to allow researchers to have access to papers even during the embargoes. Waiting until the end of an embargo potentially loses use and application during that period – OA: A Short History of the Problem and Its Solution
 Prof Stevan Harnad | University of Southampton, United Kingdom

  • It is good to reach out to communities in their own language.

Open access advocacy in developing countries uses a range of tools, from high level stakeholders and influential researchers through to radio talk shows and actively engaging the community. Tools like usage statistics and live examples have proved successful. Open Access Advocacy in Developing and Transition Countries
 Iryna Kuchma | Electronic Information for Libraries, Ukraine

  • The open and networked web can be exploited to solve complex scientific problems.

For this to work it is important to have research outcomes that are reproducible or repurposable. It requires communicating research to different audiences who have different needs for support and functionality. Currently we do not have the data or models we need to analyse the system of scholarly outputs. We must not lose control of data into proprietary hands. Network Ready Research: Architectures and Instrumentation for Effective Scholarship
 Dr Cameron Neylon | Public Library of Science, United Kingdom

  • Altmetrics are a researcher’s footprint in the community.

They complement traditional metrics and research evaluation. Researchers thinking about a research impact strategy and funding agencies might want to include an impact statement in their Final Reports. – Altmetrics as Indicators of Public Impact
 Pat Loria | Charles Sturt University

Video of presentations from Day One

Open Data, Open Innovation and Open Access Publishing

The second day featured thematic sessions – focusing on specific areas of research and information management necessary to the advancement of Open Access. Specifically Open Data, Open Innovation and Open Access Publishing. Key messages:

  • Having a mandate alone is not enough.

An empty repository is useless, a partly filled repository is partly useless. It doesn’t work spontaneously – there is a need for an institutional policy that must be enforced. The Liege repository has 60,000+ items with 60% full text available – as only articles are mandated. The average number of downloads for items is 61.73. – Perspectives of a Vice-Chancellor Prof Bernard Rentier | University of Liège, Belgium

  • The patent system is supposed to lubricate the system but is increasingly throwing sand into the gears.

Copyright protects expression and patents protect functionality. Strong patents mean people make investments in order for people to convert ideas into product. However there is increasing concern that actual and potential litigation are not just costly but actually inhibiting innovation. The Economics of Open Innovation
 Prof Adam Jaffe | Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand

  • Open stuff is useless unless you can translate it to something that means something.

We are no longer moving physical things, we are now moving information through the knowledge space. Because patents are jurisdictional there are many other countries that can use the patented information. The new facility The Lens is a map of the patent world allowing innovators worldwide to access all of the knowledge held in the patent system. “Solving the Problem of Problem Solving”: How Open Access will Shift the Demographics of Innovation to Create a More Fair Society and More Resilient Global Economy.
 Prof Richard Jefferson | Cambia

  • If monographs are behind paywalls when journals are free there is a problem for monographs.

The systems supporting scholarly communication via the monograph are falling down. Under the Knowledge Unlatched model libraries from around the world collaborate to share the publications. This spreads the costs of OA across many institutions globally. It ensures HSS books are accessible as OA journals. Libraries should avoid double dipping – if they were going to buy the titles on the startup list, sign up for KU instead. Knowledge Unlatched
 Dr Lucy Montgomery | Knowledge Unlatched

  • It is not adequate to ignore the humanities and say ‘we will deal with monographs later’

With monographs IP is not about capitalism but it is recompensation for the professional labour of editorial input that is significant and inherent to the quality of the product. The format is not important in policy setting (pixels or print). Ideally there would be a shared infrastructure that everyone can tap into, but this needs startup assistance. Free as in Love: the Humanities and Creative Arts in Open Access Publishing
 Dr John Byron | Book Industry Collaborative Council

  • We need to be thinking of knowledge as a network and an infrastructure – a common intellectual conversation and a quest for knowledge.

At the core scholarly communication is about communicating new knowledge. The default price on items online. The marginal cost of serving one more copy of an article is zero (more or less). The license is the one thing that does not cost anything – the more people reading doesn’t change the first copy costs. The question is how to charge for what actually costs money. There is a need to protect and retain core business but innovate on the non-core processes. Innovation in the Age of Open Access Publishing 
Dr Caroline Sutton | Co-Action Publishing, Sweden

Video of presentations from Day Two

Open Access Champion 2013 – Open Journal Project

To celebrate Open Access Week 2013, the Australian Open Access Support Group is recognising two ‘Open Access Champions’ – an individual and an organisation.

The Open Access Champion 2013 – Organisation Category has been awarded to the not-for-profit international development organisation Engineers Without Borders Institute’s Open Journal Project.

Julian O’Shea, the Director of the EWB Institute, who is heading up the project, spoke to Danny Kingsley about what has happened in the three months since the AOASG featured a story about the project in July.


In bestowing the Open Access Champion 2013 award the AOASG is recognising the excellent work that Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has been doing to open access to research. The Open Journal Project publishes the Journal of Humanitarian Engineering (JHE)  which is not only open access, but provides easy to understand interpretations of the technical papers, translated into the local language(s) and addresses other issues of accessibility.

This project exemplifies a true commitment to open access in its pure form. The Project has considered all aspects of accessibility, well beyond the first step of simply providing access to the original research. In addition, the stated intention of the Project to act as a stimulus for others to follow the example set further increases the already impressive impact of the Project.

Increasing academic engagement

Since the project launched there has been a great deal of interest, explained Julian. “What is really pleasing is the level of academic interest,” he said.

The EWB have been talking to practitioners in the area of WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene Wash) research. Despite the focus on development, much of this research is still published in closed journals.

“This is probably one of the most important groups for development practice”, he explained. “But even people who would like to be out in the open publish in closed journals”.

The group has been offering them the opportunity to publish in the JHE. And to increase interest, the EWB have started discussions with organisers of the international WASH conference being held next year in Australia. The JHE is intending to publish a WASH-themed issue at the same time.

“The conference brings together leading academics and practitioners in WASH, so we will be using this as a platform to showcase our relatively young journal,” said Julian. “We want to build a network of the WASH and to formalise this as another opportunity to publish”.

The project is also looking to engage researchers in many of the countries where the humanitarian work is being conducted.  “We are looking at opportunities for them to publish”, said Julian.

The Project has considered the issue of different academic standards in different countries. “If you apply a fixed standard to your journal you are ruling out many parts of the world that do not have that experience,” he said. “English is the primary language of our journal”.

Many people who work in the area of humanitarian engineering may not have higher education degrees and may not have done formal academic writing. “If English is their second language we are happy to provide people in international research who can support and collaborate on the work”, said Julian. This is an open invitation, he explained, noting the journal is still a peer-reviewed journal committed to academic and technical rigour. “Their ideas have no less merit to their work but they do face academic hurdles”.

Sharing the message in the community

The target audience for the journal’s articles are practitioners in the field in developing countries. “What we have found is the idea that something is on the web so therefore it can be accessed is a bit of a stretch”, explained Julian. The EWB have a program which is a design challenge for Australian students – to come up with research outcomes that can be more readily understood.

“They make plain language guides rather than just the 10 page article,” he said. “So part of the process is we have readable understandable summaries of the research.”

The EWB are also planning to start spreading the word in person. “As of next year we will be disseminating these outcomes in country,” he said. “Because we have a network of people in country, with our local partners we will be holding local workshops targeting the groups we know about and share in person about what some of these outcomes have been”.

The group hopes to run some workshops in Nepal, one on water and one on energy. This will be using a human connection. “We can’t underestimate that,” said Julian. “Sharing in person makes it a lot more real. We will be working on the networks within their communities that spread the word”.

This AOASG award is not the only recognition the project has had. It was shortlisted for the World Youth Summit awards which recognises ICT and technology solutions addressing poverty alleviation. “We were the only program nominated from Australia”, explained Julian.

Future plans

The Project continues to innovate, with a summer project planned. “A student will develop a technology solution that converts an academic paper’s pdf or preprint into a low bandwidth version”, explained Julian.

The EWB are hoping to be able to automate the conversion, to allow the process to be scaled up across whole journals. “We expect to have a prototype by early next year that will enable editors and publishers to have a version that is low bandwidth friendly,” he said. “So these can be accessed in the developing world where downloading a pdf can be a technical challenge – this will give practitioners more scope to download. The outcome of the project will be open source so it can be shared.

Julian and the EWB team are brimming with ideas, but time is an issue as the Open Journal Project is just one of the projects currently running. Julian would like to develop a resource pack for editors and publishers to help them with these access issues. “It could help them with the change from one type of licensing to other”, he said.  “That would make it more of a movement.”

ARC & NHMRC OAWk panel discussion

In celebration of Open Access Week, the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG) and the Australian National University (ANU) invited the Chief Executive Officers of the two government funding agencies to a panel discussion about their open access policies.

Professor Aidan Byrne, CEO of the Australian Research Council (ARC), and Professor Warwick Anderson, CEO of the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) spoke about their open access policies, and then participated in a Q&A session that was moderated by ANU Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Young.

The session was recorded and is available on the ANU You Tube Channel  (see below for time stamps of different parts of the recording). The slides and an audio recording are also available (note the recording goes for the whole event but there were only slides from Professor Anderson’s presentation).


Summary of the discussion

The presentations covered the broader international open access landscape and how much this has changed in the past year. Both Professor Anderson and Professor Byrne discussed how, given the speed of change in scholarly communication, it is almost impossible to know what the open access agenda will look like in five years time. For this reason, neither the NHMRC nor the ARC wish to be prescriptive about how to implement their policies.

The presentations underlined that neither policy advocates a particular method of achieving open access, or specifically requires payment for open access. However, the NHMRC considers the cost of publishing journal articles a legitimate Direct Cost of Research, and the ARC is progressively removing the caps on the percentage of research funds that can be used for publication.

One of the questions that arose was the issue of monitoring compliance to the policies. Both organisations are working on the premise that as researchers make their work open access they will see the benefit of having work available. Professor Anderson noted the NHMRC’s Research Grant Management System now allows Chief Investigators to list publications linked to grants and these will be checked next year. While there are no current plans to withhold future grants from researchers that do not comply with the policies, this could become the case into the future.

More than one researcher noted the challenges with making creative works, or culturally sensitive research freely available. Professor Byrne reiterated that these were examples of why the ARC was not expecting 100% compliance to their policy.

Time points during the recording:

(Note: 2:34 means 2 minutes and 34 seconds into the recording etc)

2:34 – Professor Anderson’s presentation on the NHMRC policy

20:24 – Professor Byrne’s presentation on the ARC policy

28:48 – Question session begins

28.54 – The first question referred to elements of image copyright in particular in the visual arts, given this is an area where people rely on the images for their livelihood

30:49 – The second person asked if there were particular things we should be doing in Australia to comply with the policies and whether we should be positioning ourselves in terms of the international context?

34:36 – This question referred to issues of monitoring compliance, and asked about the tagging proposal from CAUL for harvesting articles and where that proposal is going

40:00 – There was a statement about Australia being a leader in open access monographs

40:26 – A technical question followed about grant applications and asked how compliant researchers had to be in their applications

43:21 – This was a discussion about the dissemination of culturally sensitive research materials

46:36 – The question related to data, and noted that the policies have been shaped and informed by changed expectations of an open society but how have they been shaped and formed by processes in government to make data more open for the taxpayers?

49:01 – The question referred to the cost associated with publication, in particular when groups are disadvantaged because they do not have the resources to come up with the page charges to publish

57:40 – The final question asked about where the country is going in terms of major infrastructure for research

Assessing research impact: AOASG submission

Measuring the impact of research has been on and off the government’s agenda for many years now. Originally part of the Research Quality Framework, impact was removed from the 5880919002_b92743b247_mExcellence in Research for Australia during its trial in 2009.

Due to its increasing relevance, measuring impact was trialled again in 2012 by the Australian Technology Network and the final report from this study: “Excellence in innovation: Research impacting our nation’s future – assessing the benefits” was released in November 2012.

Plans to assess impact

The Department of Innovation is currently exploring options for the design and development of an impact assessment program. It intends to pilot this in 2014.

As part of this process, the Department released a Discussion Paper in July 2013– “Assessing the wider benefits arising from university-based research

The Paper seeks the “views of interested parties regarding a future assessment of the benefits arising from university-based research”.

Before research administrators throw their hands up at yet another assessment program, the Discussion Paper does recognise the overwhelming compliance burden on universities and the need to simplify this burden. . The Preamble states that plans include “scaling back and streamlining a number of current data collection and analysis exercises”.

Overall, the Government believes that a research benefit assessment will:

  1. demonstrate the public benefits attributable to university-based research;
  2. identify the successful pathways to benefit;
  3. support the development of a culture and practices within universities that encourage and value research collaboration and engagement; and
  4. further develop the evidence base upon which to facilitate future engagement between the research sector and research users, as well as future policy and strategy.

Submission from AOASG

AOASG prepared a submission in response to the discussion paper proposing that open access should be a measurable for assessing impact and that some reward should be associated with making work freely and openly available.

All submissions will be made available to the public on the Dept of Innovation website. In anticipation, the AOASG submission is copied below.

Response to principles from the paper

NOTE: AOASG chose to only respond to Principles 1, 3 and 5.

Principle 1 – Provide useful information to universities

Principle 1 is to be applauded. It is sensible and practical to marry the types of data required with the types of data the Universities are already producing. This will minimise the burden on Universities in aggregating data and producing reports.

Open access repositories in Australian universities are developed in a finite set of software with common underlying code – OAI-PMH. This allows for aggregation and harvesting across multiple platforms. Such repositories usually maintain statistics about individual works, such as the number of downloads and places where these downloads have originated.

Prior to developing or recommending any specific data for reporting on impact, we suggest that a survey be conducted of university libraries to gather information on the type of data collection methods already in place within open access repositories. This also has the benefit of supporting Principle 2 – Minimise administrative burden.

Principle 3 – Encourage research engagement and collaboration, and research that benefits the nation

Principle 3 notes that this assessment should encourage and assist universities to “better recognise and reward (for example in recruitment and promotion exercises) the contribution of academics to engagement and collaborative activities”. A fundamental component of this assessment is an academic’s involvement in open access and their approach to making research freely available.

Many Australian researchers share their work with the broader community by placing a copy of it in their institutional repository, or in a subject-based repository such as PubMed Central, SSRN, arXiv, or RePEc. The ARC & NHMRC open access policies are likely to encourage more researchers to follow this trend. However, currently there is no aggregated data, and little individual data, on the extent to which Australian researchers are making their own work available. In addition, some researchers also widen the accessibility of research outputs by working as editors, publishers and reviewers for open access journals published out of Australian universities. A definitive list is currently being developed of these journals however this list does not indicate the level and extent of open access activity in the country.  The efforts of academics and researchers to share research openly is currently not measured nor rewarded through any promotion or funding incentives.

Principle 5 – Collect and assess at the institution level, with some granularity by discipline

Principle 5 – is a good suggestion given that some types of research will naturally have a wider impact than others. Impact will also vary over time with some research outputs producing impact after a considerable time and others making immediate significant impact. It is more challenging to articulate the benefit to wider society of research in, say, pure inorganic chemistry than, for example, forestry. When considering the need to granulate the information available, the benefit of using data from open access repositories as suggested above, is the metadata for each record contains information about the author, subjects and clearly the institution.

Response to methodological considerations

What considerations should guide the inclusion of metrics within the assessment?

It has become clear that the established measurement systems such as the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) can be affected by those who seek to manipulate the outcomes. A recent clear example this is occurring is the JIF decision to suppress a larger than usual number of titles this year due to “anomalous citation patterns resulting in a significant distortion of the Journal Impact Factor”. Any reliance on metrics as a measure of quality and/or use of research needs to consider attempts to manipulate new measures as a potential outcome. One way of minimising data manipulation is to use a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures.

What information do universities currently collect that might form the basis for research engagement metrics?

As noted above in section 2 all Australian universities and CSIRO have an open access institutional repository. Such repositories usually collect information on the research that is available, how often it has been downloaded and where the interest has originated.

What metrics are currently available (or could be developed) that would help to reveal other pathways to research benefit?

The act of making a work open access creates a pathway to research benefit. Open access increases the potential impact of the work because it ensures the work can be accessed, applied or built upon by other researchers, industry, practitioners and the public. On this basis, we propose that the act of making research publicly available is a fundamental metric of assessing research benefit. This would also support and endorse the open access policies of the ARC & NHMRC. The metric could be twofold – at the individual researcher level (in terms of promotion) and/or at the institutional level.

While in some cases publisher copyright conditions will prevent work being made available, having an appropriate version of the work deposited in a repository with a ‘Request copy’ button facilitating access could be considered ‘making it available’ for this purpose.

Repositories capture article download information at the level of the individual article. This data could also be used as a metric of a pathway to research benefit. There is a proven link between making work open access and citations. The general collection of download statistics would be only one of several measures that can be aggregated to demonstrate interest in an use of research (see the next point).

In addition to ERA, NSRC, GDS, AusPat and HERDC data, are there other existing data collections that may be of relevance?

Recently there has been a move to develop a series of metrics that assess the value of individual articles rather than placing value on the journal or publication in which the article appeared. These article level metrics offer real time feedback about the way a research article is being used.

One example is the metrics page provided for a published article that lists the number of HTML views, PDF downloads, XML downloads as well as the number of citations and where the article has been shared on social media, such as through Twitter. There are however, many other examples of article level metrics already in existence. Examples include: Altmetric, ImpactStory, Plum Analytics & PLOS ALM. Discussion of research on social media sites indicates a level of impact beyond the confines of the scholarly publication system, with the added benefit of being instantly and easily quantifiable. The timeliness and convenience of these metrics addresses the need for “current information on the prospect of benefits from research” as identified in the Discussion Paper.

What are the challenges of using these data collections to assess research engagement?

It will be necessary to determine which sets of article level metrics are the most appropriate for specific purpose. There may be a need for some aggregation to correlate several sets of metrics about the same item.

Response to ‘other comments’ section

We have two suggestions for additions to Appendix A – “Examples of possible metrics”.

An additional Research engagement mechanism could be “Provision of research outputs in a publicly and freely available outlet”. The Measure could be “The percentage of research that is freely and publicly available within 6 months of publication”, and the Source would be “Institutional repositories, subject based repositories or open access publications”.

Currently one of the research engagement mechanisms listed is “Research engagement via online publications”. The measure suggested is “Unique article views per author” and the source is “Websites such as The Conversation”. We are in full support of this suggestion. The Conversation is an opportunity for researchers to discuss their work in accessible language and the author dashboard for The Conversation provides comprehensive metrics about readership.

However we suggest there are other metrics within the classification of ‘online publications’. Open access repositories can provide metrics on unique article views per author. We therefore suggest an additional source being “Institutional repositories, and other article level metrics”.

Four issues restricting widespread green OA in Australia

Australia is a world leader in many aspects of open access. We have institutional repositories in all universities, funding mandates with the two main funding bodies, statements on or mandates for open access at a large number of institutions and a large research output available in many open access avenues. A summary of centrally supported initiatives in this area is here.

However we can do more. This blog outlines four impediments to the widespread uptake of open access in Australia: a lack of data about what Australian research is available, Copyright transfer agreements, the academic reward system and improved national discovery services. We suggest some solutions for each of these issues.

Issue 1 – Lack of data about what Australian research is available OA.

We collect good data in Australia there is good data about the amount of research being created and published annually. Equally, a considerable amount of Australian research is being made available to the wider community through deposit of research in institutional repositories, subject based repositories (PubMed Central, arXiv , SSRN and the like), through publication in open access journals.

However, this information is not compiled in a way to ascertain:
1. What percentage of current Australian research is available open access.
2. Where Australian research is being made available (institutional or subject-based repositories and open access journals).
3. The disciplinary spread of open access materials – an important indicator of areas needing attention.

Without this information it will be difficult to ascertain the level of impact the ARC and NHMRC policies are having on the availability of open access material from current Australian research. There are three actions that could help inform this area.

Solution 1

First it would be enormously helpful to know the percentage of Australian publications that are available open access.

There have been two definitive studies published on worldwide open access availability. Björk et al’s 2010 study concluded that 21% of research published in 2008 was openly accessible in 2009. Gargouri et al’s 2012 study found 24% of research was openly accessible.

But in these studies the method used to determine which work was available was to search for the items manually across several search platforms. This is clearly very time consuming. A study like this in Australia will require funding.

Solution 2

Second we need an easily accessible summary of the number of full text open access items in institutional repositories across the country. In an attempt to address this, the National Library of Australia aggregates research outputs from all Australian university repositories into Trove, and is working with the sector to improve discoverability and metrics around this collection. One challenge is that some repositories do not specify whether records have an open access full text item attached.

This issue was raised during a poll of repository managers in 2012. The poll found that as at June that year there were about 200,000 open access articles, theses and archive material (which includes images) in Australian university institutional repositories. Currently there is no automated way of obtaining an updated figure.

Solution 3

Third, a compliance monitoring tool needs to be developed to assist the ARC and NHMRC manage their open access policies. Currently all institutional repositories in Australia are implementing a standardised field in their repositories to indicate an item results from funding. But to date there is no indication of how this might be harvested and reported on.

Issue 2 – Copyright transfer agreements

As AOASG has already noted, there is a serious challenge keeping up with copyright agreements as they change. In reality, it is extremely difficult for an individual researcher to remain across all of the nuances of the copyright agreements. There have been studies to demonstrate that doing the copyright checking on behalf of the researcher increases deposits into repositories.

But the broader problem is actually two fold. First researchers often have little understanding of the copyright status of their published work. Many do not read the copyright transfer agreements they sign before publication. In addition, most researchers do not keep a copy of these legal documents. While there is currently some advice for researchers about copyright management, such as this page from the University of Sydney, generally awareness of copyright remains poor amongst the research community.

But before we start wagging our fingers at researchers, let’s consider the second, related issue. The copyright transfer agreements presented to researchers by publishers are often many pages long, written in small font and hard to understand. In addition these agreements are not consistent – they differ between publishers and often titles from the same publisher have different agreements.

Generally publishers ask researchers to assign exclusive copyright to them. But in most cases publishers only need the right of first publication of work, and normally do not need to control how research is used and distributed beyond this. There are options for researchers to negotiate different arrangements with their publishers, but the level of uptake of these in Australia is anecdotally very low.

It is highly unlikely there is any specific action that can force publishers to simplify their copyright transfer agreements. But there are a couple of actions the research community can make to improve the current situation.

Solution 4

It would help to have an Australian version of the SPARC Author Addendum tool which can be attached to copyright transfer agreements. This would need to be supported by a concerted education campaign about what rights researchers have, including training materials.

Solution 5

In addition the many researchers in Australia who work as editors for scholarly journals are in a good position to negotiate these arrangements with their publishers on behalf of their authors. An education campaign aimed at journal editors would assist them in this action.

Issue 3 – The academic reward system

The academic reward system supports the current publishing status quo. Widespread uptake of open access will continue to be a challenge while this is the case. A reliance on a numerical analysis of the number of articles published in journals with high Journal Impact Factors as a proxy for quality assessment is a narrow and limiting system.

There are many issues with the Journal Impact Factor. It also causes challenges for open access is it retains emphasis on a small number of specific journals which are in, the vast majority, subscription based. Yet there is evidence to show that open access & subscription journals of the same age have the same impact, indicating that it is time to look at other methods of assessing quality.

Currently the markers used to assess promotion do not differ much from those used for grant allocation. However, the contribution made by researchers to their academic community reaches far beyond simply their publication output. This includes editing journals and the peer review of papers. As there is currently no quantification of this work, the extent of the problem is unknown, although concerns about work overload have been expressed by the academic community. There are serious implications for the sustainability of scholarly publication in terms of human capital.

Solution 6

We need to move to assessment based on article level metrics rather than the organ of publication. It would be helpful if assessments such as ERA and funding allocation were to embrace new, existing alternative metrics. Examples include: Impact Story, Plum Analytics, PLOS ALM, Altmetrics and Google Scholar.

Solution 7

Institutions could consider recognising the hidden work academics undertake supporting the publication process in their promotion rounds. Recognition of peer review and editing roles as well as those researchers who are also publishing journals by running an open access journal using OJS or the like would add value to these activities and make the scholarly publication system more sustainable.

Issue 4 – Improved national discovery services

This last issue is in some ways, related to the first – knowing more about where the research we are producing is ending up. But it has a broader remit, for example incorporating data as a research outcome. Currently researchers can register their data with Research Data Australia which lists over 87,000 collections from over 23,000 contributing research teams.

We need to move beyond simply collecting research, and start working on ways to link data as research outcomes to reports on research publications.

During 2004 and 2008 the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) provided assistance and support for the repository community and developed technical solutions relating to interoperability and other repository issues.

APSR was supported by Systemic Infrastructure Initiative (SII) funding [note original post said NCRIS funding – thanks to David Groenewegen for pointing out the error. Amended 16 August]. When this ended, repository manager support was taken over by CAIRSS, financed in 2009-2010 by remainder money from another SII funded project, Australian Research Repositories Online to the World (ARROW) . The university library community through CAUL continued to support this project in 2011-2012 and the work has now been folded into the responsibility of another CAUL committee.

But the work APSR did developing country-wide technical solutions has not continued. Currently repositories around the country are being developed and maintained in isolation from one another.

Solution 8

An investment in current institutional repositories to increase functionality and interoperability will assist compliance with mandates (both Australian and international) and usability into the future. It will also enable a resolution of the metadata issue for country-wide harvesting by Trove.

Solution 9

We suggest revisiting support for country-wide technical development of solutions to common problems facing repositories throughout Australia. An example of a project that could be undertaken is the Funders and Authors Compliance Tool developed in the UK – SHERPA/FACT. This assists researchers to comply with open access mandates.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group