Berlin 9: The Worldwide Policy Environment (Wednesday)

On November 10, 2011, in Events, by cornelius

Avice Meehan moderated the first session of the Berlin 9 Open Access conference session on The Worldwide Policy Environment. She introduced the three presenters:

  • Jean-François Dechamp, Policy Officer, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
  • Harold Varmus, Director, U.S. National Cancer Institute
  • Cyril Muller, Vice President, External Affairs Department, The World Bank

After a brief introduction by Avice, Jean-Francois Dechamp took to the podium, to talk about the European policy context of Open Access. Jean-Francois described how the European Commission acts as a policy maker, a funding agency, and as an infrastructure funder and capacity builder. He cited Commission documents stating that “publicly funded research should be open access” and the noted that the Commission aims to to make Open Access to publicatons “the gerade principle for projects funded by the EU research Framework Programmes”. Key reasons for the European Commission to support Open Access include to serve science and research, benefit innovation and improve return on investment in R&D. OA publishing costs (article charges) are covered by FP7, although fairly few researchers realize this. Dechamp cited a study conducted by the EUC where the majority of researchers involved indicated that they were ready to self-archive, but that the legal challenges were daunting. He cited a soon-to-be-released study (ERAC, 2010-2011) that found that the overall significance of OA in the member states has significantly increased over the past few years.

Harold Varmus of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and NIH came next. Harold stressed that he was not speaking as the representative of a policy-making institution, but as a scientist. He lamented that the shift towards OA is not happening fast enough and asked for a broader idea of Open Access that must go beyond access to publications, to access to data and (ultimately) knowledge. True Open Access, according to Harold, means gold road OA, in accord with the Berlin Declaration — embargos aren’t good enough. Harold traced his contact with OA to 1998 when he heard about arXiv (built by Paul Ginsparg) and thought that such a resource should also exist for biomedicine. He went on to emphasize that different fields have different needs, and that publishing must be sensitive to these needs. Harold also stressed the success of Pubmed Central, with a size of now 2 mio articles. In 2006 publishers were encouraged to donate articles (with limited success), in 2008 a mandate was introduced to publish NIH-supported research on PubmedCentral after an embargo period. Harold noted that economics are essential and that there’s always a business plan attached to journals. He noted that while researchers love their publishers, they love the people who give them money even more, pointing to the central influence of funders in relation to OA. Harold noted the success of PLoS, specifically of PLoS ONE. He further echoed Cathy Norton’s observation that the public at large wants access — not just abstracts and titles, but the actual data. While articles are the best product of academic research, they are also emotionally laden. Harold noted that while funders see articles as mere vehicles of knowledge, authors also write for fame and prestige, not just to contribute to knowledge. He closed by arguing strongly for a new regime of review (post rather than pre). Authors should be forced to list their most important contributions rather than bean counting by relying on long publication lists and the impact factor.

Cyril Muller approached the topic differntly in his talk, focusing on the Open Data Approach of his insitution, the World bank, and on the positive effects that they had observed in making the data collected by them digitally available. He described the three pillars of their approach (Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Solutions) and presented statistics on how much information were now made available online, rather than in print via their Open Knowledge Repository. He provided interesting examples of information-enabled innovation in Africa and elsewhere. My notes are unfortunately somewhat incomplete on Cyril’s talk, but it really focused on Open (Government) Data more than on Open Access (to Scholarly Publications), putting it more into a thematic camp with a variety of initiatives from that direction.