Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Open Access Workshop in Bioversity – a summary

On July 7th, 2010, Antonella and I had the opportunity to participate in the one-day workshop titled: ‘Open Access- Maximising Research Impact”, hosted at Bioversity International; organized by Maria Garruccio (Bioversity) and the CGIAR’s Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property (CAS-IP) group. The objectives of this workshop (which had ~34 participants) was to explore open access for Bioversity International and show scientists its economic, social and educational benefits to make research outputs as available and widely distributed as possible without financial, legal and technical restraints.

Victoria Henson-Apollonio (Manager, CAS-IP) opened the workshop and stated:

Open access seems to do with behavior change, almost more than everything else

‘Behavior change’ is indeed very important when thinking of making open access a reality in the CGIAR.  The ICT-KM program has been working on this topic in the past years through the Knowledge Sharing in Research project and Nadia Manning recently wrote a post about ‘How to motivate more knowledge sharing in research: using the carrot or the stick inviting people to an open discussion.

Using the carrot or the stick?…Interesting, because Francesca Re Manning, from CAS-IP used that same question throughout this workshop to encourage discussion among the participants and towards the end of this post, I will share some great examples provided by the invited guests about using the carrot or the stick.

Francesca, Tania and Antonella

Francesca gave a presentation on ‘Open Access’ how to make research outputs more effective’ where she introduced the Open Access concept and also presented ‘Open Acccess- managing Copyright‘ in which she made some recommendations about copyright issues when thinking about opening access.

Antonella and I presented ‘ What is happening in the CGIAR to make its research more Available, Accessible and Applicable (AAA) for greater impact‘ in which we talked about the ‘AAA’ framework exercise, the CIARD Pathways, examples of Open Access in the CGIAR and presented the Knowledge Sharing in Research cycle as a way to improve how researchers share their knowledge from the project start, all the way to the dissemination of outputs.

Knowledge Sharing in Research Process cycle

Actually, Elizabeth Goldberg (Bioversity International) suggested:

This Knowledge Sharing in Research cycle diagram should be shared with those that are writing the Mega Program proposals in the CGIAR at the moment, so open access and knowledge sharing can be considered and budgeted in the new Mega Programs.

Can this be an opportunity?

The next topics discussed in the workshop were about Strategic Planning on adapting Open Access and repositories. Maria Garruccio made a presentation about ‘How to build and maintain Institutional repositories‘ and then Francesca continued with the strategic planning for repositories session in which, once again, it was said that having support from management with an initiative like this was very important.

Francesca Re Manning (CAS-IP) stated:

If  management doesn’t believe in Open Access, there is not much to discuss here…

and Maria Garruccio (Bioversity International) added:

At the moment each of the centers are doing their own Open Access activities; we should have a much more coordinated Open Access unified voice across the 15 centers’

and I think they are right.  Actually Enrica Porcari recently posted an open response to Dr. Arun’s letter sent to the CGIAR Leadership titled ‘Please make all CGIAR research Open Access”, in which he advocated for the adoption of a global open access policy at the CGIAR-System level.

Considering the CGIAR is going through a change management process at the moment, I  can’t think of  a better moment to start thinking about a coordinated Open Access policy for the CGIAR.

And continuing with open access examples from the workshop; Dr. Melanie Dulong de Rosnay from the Institute of Information Law, University of Amsterdam, which is also working on an Open Access Data Protocol with Science Commons (a project of Creative Commons) presented ‘Open Access for Biodiversity and Agricultural Research Databases’ and cited the example of the Universite’ de Liege in Belgium of which she said: ‘without making deposit mandatory in the Universite’ de Liege, what they noticed was that given the choice, the majority (90%) of scientists went the Open Access way instead of the closed journal one’.

Alma Swan from the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK made an excellent virtual presentation about Open Access repositories and showed the capabilities of EPrints – an online open source tool for repositories that has a very interesting traffic analysis component that highlights the metrics closer to use, like University Visitors based on referrers, so I really liked this session because she demonstrated the advantages of having an open access repository and the benefits this brought to the University.

Alma told us the wonderful story about what Professor Bernard Rentier, rector of the Universite’ de Liege (where EPrints was implemented) said to the scientists when the new repository was in place:

I’m going to look only at the repository for your work from now on, so if you’re interested in a work promotion, don’t walk into my office with a pile of reprints…

Interesting, eh? this was both a stick and a carrot.

Another carrot example shared by Alma was from the University Migno where the rector implemented financial rewards for those departments who would add more information to the repositories, so with this ‘carrot’, researchers were definitely encouraged to use the repository. Clearly, after some time, this reward system was removed given that the scientists ‘sharing’ culture and behavior had already changed and the benefits of increased access to the university research was enough already to compensate the researchers.

As summary for those that are starting Open Access repositories: you cannot just tell your managers that open access is a nice thing to do. For an initiative like this to be supported, you should help them understand and demonstrate effectiveness of the repository in terms of promotion, visibility and reputation, which are key motivating factors. There should be ‘champions’ in the institution that present cost/benefits and examples of what others are doing to management, including a vision of how open access repositories can actually be a Management Information Tool (MIT) for them to know what is going on with their center since this will empower them to see who is viewing the information produced.

As Alma Swan pointed out:

Lately in the University, we are being pressured and we must demonstrate that we have a real impact , so showing our work in open repositories is a way to go

and this applies to the CGIAR as well. We also need to improve the ways in which we demonstrate our impact, so it may be interesting to work on an open access business case for the CGIAR as a whole and present it to the CGIAR consortium board and CEO (when selected)…just food for thought! what do you think?

Practicing what we preach – the Open Access Workshop presentations and documentation are ‘open access’ and can be found at:  http://bioversity-oa-workshop.cgxchange.org.

Thanks a lot to Maria Garruccio and CAS-IP for organizing this great workshop! We look forward to any follow-up sessions and actions that may arise from this workshop.