Berlin 9: Opening session (Wednesday)

On November 10, 2011, in Events, by cornelius

There are my notes from the opening session of the Berlin 9 Open Access Conference. I’ve already blogged the pre-conference workshops on Open Access Publishing and Open Access Policy.

The conference opened with welcoming remarks, first from the HHMI’s VP and chief scientific officer Jack E. Dixon, then from HHMI’s head Robert Tijan, followed by the Max Planck Society’s Bernard Schutz, and finally from the Marine Biology Lab’s Cathy Norton. Jack Dixon struck an optimistic note, observing that “the tide is turning, in a very positive way.” Robert Tijan observed that those who fund research should be more active in publishing, a reference to eLife, a new Open Access journal in the lifes sciences jointly launched by HHMI and the Max Planck Society. He went on to note that “scientific work is not complete before the results become accessible… what we do doesn’t have any impact otherwise.” Bernard Schutz focused on the development of the Berlin Declartion in his talk. 30 institutions had been original signatories in 2003 when the Declaration was first drafted, 338 institutions are now among the signatories. A global expansion of the Berlin meetings from Europe (Berlin 1 to Berlin 7) to the world (Berlin 8 in China, Berlin 9 in the U.S.) had been vital, because “research and publishing are glibal issues”. Bernard noted that much had been achieved in relation to green road OA and repositories, but that the Max Planck Society regards the popularization of gold road open access as an important achievement for the future. He went on to note that interdisciplinarity and innovation (e.g. in business) are enabled by OA. Free information is a common good and the spread of knowledge to stakeholders outside academia (teachers and students) is enabled by OA. Bernard observed that to many publishers “the business model is less important than the business itself” and that many publishers would transition to OA if viable business models could be established. He decribed disagreements between publishers, institutions, and researchers in some areas and stressed that the Max Planck Society is ready to work with all stakeholders on the issues at hand. Finally, he stated “we want to become more inclusive” and characterized Open Access as part of a larger movement towards (more) Free Information.

Cathy Norton from the Marine Biology Lab focused on issues close to her field in her talk. She discussed the success of MedLine and pointed out how interested the public is in certain areas of scientific information. The future of medicine, according to Cathy, lies in personalization of drugs and treatments, something that can only be achieved by having large volumes of data freely available. Techniques such as text mining and visual search are key to utilizing such new approaches, as are efforts such as semantic MedLine that map ontological relationships in large volumes of text. Cathy closed by noting the importance of citizen engagement, e.g. in relation to biodiversity data (95% of the publications on biodiversity are from North America and Europe, while the species described are virtually all found in Africa and South America).

The session closed with a questions from Stuart Shieber who wondered how the Max Planck Society wants to support creating an environment that allows publishers to transition to Open Access, a hint that Bernard Schutz made. Bernard replied that there were ongoing conversations between publishers and the MPS on these issues.