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Open access: Delivering on its potential

This week, October 22-28, marks Open Access Week, a global event that brings various parties together to discuss, publicize and advocate for open access. On October 23, leading open access journal PLOS Biology publishes an editorial that aims to direct this year’s discussion towards the need to focus on the re-usability of, and not just access to, the research literature.

With the incredible rise in the number of open access research papers available online, it is now time to focus on ensuring that we can make the most out of that access, argues Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director at PLOS and author of the editorial.

“If we are to exploit the potential that open access provides,” writes Neylon, “we must look beyond just making research findings accessible to ensuring that they are legally and technically available for re-use.” Many journals that currently claim to publish ‘open access’ research actually withhold rights such as re-use, particularly commercial re-use, under the terms of their license. This, says Neylon, is at odds with the idea of open access, and must be addressed if we are to make full use of open research. “Mere access is not enough to deliver on the promise of a truly network-enabled research communication system,” he says.

The scientific community is at a point where more research is accessible than ever before, and this is only going to continue growing as funders, policy-makers and institutions across the world are enacting their own open access initiatives. Being able to build upon this research, to gather data, and to refine results is key to scientific progress, and is the only way to ensure that science can advance at the speed of which it is now capable thanks to the growth of the Internet, the editorial explains.

There have already been many examples of how research can progress when resources and information are fully shareable and useable thanks to worldwide networks, and there can be countless more if a system is built that enables scientists to fully and easily build on each other’s work, argues Neylon. As he explains, “Making things accessible is a necessary step to make this happen, but it is not sufficient.”

  1. OA Week: Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Ineffectiveness

    We have now tested the Finch Committee‘s Hypothesis that Green Open Access Mandates are ineffective in generating deposits in institutional repositories. With data from ROARMAP on institutional Green OA mandates and data from ROAR on institutional repositories, we show that deposit number and rate is significantly correlated with mandate strength (classified as 1-12): The stronger the mandate, the more the deposits. The strongest mandates generate deposit rates of 70%+ within 2 years of adoption, compared to the un-mandated deposit rate of 20%. The effect is already detectable at the national level, where the UK, which has the largest proportion of Green OA mandates, has a national OA rate of 35%, compared to the global baseline of 25%. The conclusion is that, contrary to the Finch Hypothesis, Green Open Access Mandates do have a major effect, and the stronger the mandate, the stronger the effect (the Liege ID/OA mandate, linked to research performance evaluation, being the strongest mandate model). RCUK (as well as all universities, research institutions and research funders worldwide) would be well advised to adopt the strongest Green OA mandates and to integrate institutional and funder mandates.

    Gargouri, Yassine, Lariviere, Vincent, Gingras, Yves, Brody, Tim, Carr, Les and Harnad, Stevan (2012) Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Effectiveness Open Access Week 2012

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