From frontline to baseline: 10 takeaways from UKSG’s One-Day Conference on ‘Open Access Realities’

Last week, I had the privilege of chairing UKSG‘s One-Day Conference on ‘Open Access Realities‘. There was a full house of about 150 people, with librarians, publishers and other ‘interested parties’ such as subscription agents and technology vendors fairly equally represented – this is not always the case at such events, and reflects UKSG’s unique role in ‘connecting the knowledge community’. The programme was also different to many other open access events that I’ve been to, with a particular focus on the practical realities of implementing OA. Although there are still debates to be had at the ‘cutting-edge’ of the movement – for example, in the area of open access to data – it’s also important to step back from the ‘frontline’ and ensure that organisations across the community are keeping up with the ‘baseline’. In my introduction, I suggested that we can compare the progress of OA to Bruce Tuckman‘s model for group development (below): the idea of OA was formed, has been through quite a stage of storming, and we’re now in the process of ‘norming’ – working out the logistics, diversifying its application, taking different routes around roadblocks, trying to pin down a common language, experimenting and developing. tuckman
Within that analogy, it’s events like UKSG’s One-Day Conference, that focus on the practicalities, that will help us achieve the stage where OA is comprehensively ‘performing’. I thought it might be helpful to share the points that gave me most food for thoughts on the day:

  1. Contrary to what many assert, the general public does access and read research content: “If PLOS gets an article on the front page of Reddit, we get 140,000 readers” (Damian Pattinson, editorial director, PLOS)
  2. Dependent as it is on the subscription publishing model (and publishers’ policies), how can green OA be more than a promotional model during a period of transition? (Lars Bjørnshauge, director of European library relations at SPARC Europe, and director of DOAJ)
  3. In order for libraries to be able to transition budgets to fund APCs, they should centralise (nationalise?) procurement and management of the core / majority if content that is common across most institutions (Lars Bjørnshauge again)
  4. Since Finch, there has been more progress on increasing global access to UK research than on increasing UK access to global research. We must be careful not to get too far ahead, and end up bearing a disproportionate amount of the global costs of OA (Michael Jubb, director of the Research Information Network)
  5. For university leaders, open access (to research publications) is only one aspect of a wider trend toward transparency; the Research Sector Transparency Board is also focussed on open data and data security (equally big, if not bigger, issues) (Adam Tickell, provost and vice-principal, University of Birmingham)
  6. OA’s facilitation of data mining helps to identify research misconduct in ways peer review never could (Adam Tickell; Peter Murray-Rust later showed an excellent example of this, where a machine reading an article identified a doctored image that the ‘naked eye’ could not see)
  7. Agile, innovative responses to OA can be better served by a ‘hacker culture’ of small organisations and individuals collaborating than by established organisations where expectations are too high to allow trial and error (extrapolation from points made by Caroline Edwards, lecturer at Birkbeck and director of the Open Library of Humanities)
  8. Small initiatives can also benefit from extensions of the ‘gift culture’ that exists in academia, where academics are used to giving away their work and time for free (Caroline Edwards)
  9. Publishers’ perceived slowness in terms of OA adoption in part reflects that “we’re a service industry based on the needs of researchers” and there isn’t yet a clear grassroots demand to help inform the nature of the OA transition (Vicky Gardner, open access publisher, Taylor & Francis)
  10. Content mining is an important extension of OA rights – publications should be made more machine-readable to maximise their value to ongoing research and application (Peter Murray-Rust, reader in molecular informatics at the University of Cambridge)

Videos of the conference are now available on UKSG’s YouTube channel. Speakers’ slides (where used) are available on the event homepage.