Berlin 11 – Future challenges and the final debate

Elena Giglia, our guest editor and head of Torino University’s open access programme, gives a round-up of final talks at the Berlin 11 conference.

John Willinsky talking at Berlin 11. Photo by Elena Giglia.

John Willinsky talking at Berlin 11. Photo by Elena Giglia.

The future challenges that emerged from the session that saw the presentations of John Willinsky, Nicholas Canny, Manfred Laubichler, and Nick Shockey, can be clustered into four threads.

Key aspects – fixed points

  • “Inclusion” is the core: excellence is not about whom we are able to exclude or reject, but whom we are able to include.
  • Responsibility is the keyword: we have a big responsibility in educating people that openness is a right.
  • OA has played and still plays a transformative role in the changing framework of research and education.
  • OA can allow and foster interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity, breaking down disciplinary silos in order to tackle key planetary issues like climate change.
  • New core competences for young researchers should be taken into account: how to navigate, authenticate what they find, integrate different kind of information, innovate.
  • There is an imperative need to empower the next generation of researchers.

How to reach OA

  • The new perspective should be: paying for services, not for content.
  • “One size fits all” is not a suitable approach to attain effective OA, especially in the humanities and social Sciences. There is still the need to find viable solutions fitting each scientific community and its communication habits, with particular attention to books.
  • Silos must be opened and content spread and linked.
  • Open access should keep pace with open data.
  • From an economic point of view: the money (too much money, actually) is already on the table in the scholarly communication system right now. Let’s move it and reallocate according to different criteria and models. There’s no need for further funding.

Concerns

  • There are increasing concerns about long-term preservation and its adequate funding.
  • Outdated infrastructure, wrong incentive structure, misleading expectations.
  • How to manage the increasing demand for change coming from young researchers in the humanities and social sciences, who are not satisfied with the current criteria in tenure and an unsatisfactory incentive framework.

It’s important at this point to add a quotation by Erin McKinnon, cited by Nick Shockey:

“If publishing in open access journals costs me my career, then this is not the career I want. Period.”

Proposals

  • New metrics: find out the extent to which an author is central in his/her discipline, by visualizing co-authoring, downloads and citations.
  • Put Open Access and openness itself at the centre of education: teach children that access is a right.
  • Train teachers to use and re-use open educational resources.
  • Let’s define Intellectual Property associated with scientific works as a distinct class of IP, as scholarly communication has different underlying logics, and sharing is imperative.
  • signal Open Access resources in Wikipedia, to be freely accessed by readers.

The Open Access Button initiative (https://www.openaccessbutton.org/), a new tool developed by young researchers, deserves particular attention.  In their words:

“People are denied access to research hidden behind paywalls every day. This problem is invisible, but it slows innovation, kills curiosity and harms patients. Open Access Button is a safe, easy to use browser bookmarklet that you can use to show the global effects of research paywalls – and to help get access to the research you need. Every time you hit a paywall blocking your research, click the button. Fill out a short form, add your experience to the map along with thousands of others. Then use our tools to search for access to papers, and spread the word with social media. Every person who uses the Open Access Button brings us closer to changing the system.”

Important open access players Cameron Neylon and Robert Schlögl spoke at Berlin 11’s final talk.

It was a pleasant way to summarise and point out many themes that had emerged during the two days of debate.

  • Knowledge as a common good is the principle.
  • The main assumption is that Open Access is feasible and can make a better world.
  • The aim is for researchers to regain possession of and control over their works.

The suggestion is to find new paths and models – including business models – which do not exactly replicate or do what we were doing in the paper-based 19th century, and bear in mind that Open Access is about knowledge dissemination and not revenues, and that research is about discovering and communicating, sharing discoveries, and not about citations and evaluation.

There are still open issues such as quality assurance, standards, funding, and awareness-raising about the benefits of Open Access. There are also positive signs like the increasing number of open access policies, both at institutional and national level, and the increasing number of people involved in the open access debate, all with new expertise and fresh ideas. There is an effective tool, the web, to be fully exploited in order to communicate and provide unprecedented services and tools to boost research and discovery.

On the path towards openness, scientific communities must be assured that the greatest freedom comes from choosing their channels of communication.

In order to achieve the final goal, the top-down approach – in terms of mandatory policies and institutional support – needs to keep apace with a bottom-up one, in terms of authors’ involvement and awareness, all the more so among young generations of researchers.

There is a technical must: interoperability.

Then there is a political must: consistency.

And finally a strategic must: harmonization of efforts and cooperation.

Peter Gruss, president of the Max Planck Society, in his closing remarks, urged us to fulfill the revolution started ten years ago with the Berlin Declaration, which has changed the scholarly communication landscape. He ensured the support of the Max Planck Society to the movement and to the Berlin conference series, to be held each other year starting from now. So, the appointment is made for the next Berlin, in 2015.


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