Thoughts from ‘Open Access: Understanding the New Environment’

A couple of weeks ago (23rd October), I attended “Open Access: Understanding the New Environment”, an event hosted by the University of Kent as part of Open Access Week.

Half my working week is spent doing things with our institutional repository. Mainly, I amend and create metadata for the items that go into the repository, and sometimes I answer queries about it and help academic staff deposit their research. Open Access (OA) was something I’d heard a lot about in connection with repositories and other things, and I felt that I should try and find out more about it, both for my own development and in case I was ever asked about it!

The programme for the afternoon consisted of talks from a variety of speakers involved in OA in some way. I won’t write about them all here, because you can read an excellent summary of the day at Phil Ward’s blog, Research Fundermentals. You can listen to all of the talks online, should you so wish.

Although all the talks were of interest, the ones I found particularly interesting were Rosemary Hunter on “Gold, Green or in Between: Establishing an Open Access Journal” and Kevin Ashley’s talk on “Research Data Management and Open Access”. I’d come across OA journals in the course of my work on the repository, and it was fascinating to hear the story of, firstly, the difficulties experienced by academics and journal editors in dealing with big publishers, and secondly, about how an OA journal can be set up. After hearing Rosemary’s talk I, and others, I think, were left wondering why more people don’t set up OA journals in order to bypass many of the problems inherent to other forms of OA. As Phil writes:

[feminists@law, the OA journal] was light in terms of expense (a single Article Processing Charge (APC) could pay for the cost of a whole journal, using online OA), and flexible in terms of the type of media that could be accepted (it no longer had to be solely text-based); but it was not lightweight in terms of academic rigour or seriousness.

Kevin Ashley, director of the Digital Curation Centre spoke about the importance of research data to Open Access. This wasn’t something I’d really thought about before, but Kevin explained it all in an accessible way, arguing the case for the release of research data to (e.g.) avoid duplication of work and to expose ‘bad’ research. He argued that even if research didn’t achieve what it set out to do, the data from that research can still be useful to other researchers in the field, so even data from ‘failed’ projects should be published. I also found his talk interesting because of the fact that it was about data, and a lot of my job involves dealing with data in one form or another. The talk reminded me of the importance of good data and that my hours spent cataloguing and entering metadata into the repository are not in vain!

Although a lot of what was said in the talks was new to me, the speakers were engaging enough to make the information accessible, and I came away from the day knowing much more about OA than I did when I went in, and feeling more confident in my understanding of where my own role fits in to the Open Access environment.

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