Open research policy and advocacy

Since the first scientific journals were established in the 17th century, academic researchers have published their methods and results without direct payment. There have always been barriers to accessing research outputs however - both for those within and those outside the scientific community.

Examples of barriers are the cost of buying journals, language or formats that hamper understanding and lack of awareness of the research. Before the advent of the internet there were efforts to broaden access to academic research but from the 1990s, digital files, the internet and the world wide web have offered new possibilities for how this can happen.

Open access to scholarly publications

Several major declarations on Open Access were made in the 2000s:

Open access to research data

This usually means non-textual data such as maps, chemical formulae, medical data or DNA sequences. There can be resistance to making data open because of its potential commercial value.

The concept of open access to scientific data was formally established with the formation of the World Data Centers in 1958 but modern computing power and networking has made the processes much quicker and cheaper. Numerous governments and organisations have set out their position on open data (either in general or in relation to academic research in particular). For example:

Organisational policies

Researchers should become familiar with the policies and expectations of both their funding body and employer in areas replated to open research including:

  • Open access
  • Research data management
  • Licencing of research outputs
  • Intellectual Property (IP) and commercialisation
  • Working with collaborators from outside the organisation
  • Public engagement activity and use of social media.

Some examples from funding bodies:

There may also be relevant national or regional policies. For example, in the UK, researchers may need to comply with open access policies relating to the REF (Research Excellence Framework). Find more via the links on the right hand bar.

In addition to policies and requirements there might also be relevant guidelines or codes of practice. There may be over-arching guidance on ‘good research practice’ or ‘professional practice’ that incorporate some or all of the above. Being familiar with all policies and guidance relevant to research is a core responsibility for the professional researcher and may save time and mistakes in the long-run. There may also be services, funds and guidance available to help researchers, e.g. data management templates or software, advisors on ethics or IP or funds for article processing charges.

Advocacy organisations

There are many different types of bodies working in areas related to open research. Here are just a few examples:

  • SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of more than 800 academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. Related organisations:
  • SHERPA investigates issues in the future of scholarly communication. Based in the UK. Services, events, projects, guidance
  • OpenAIRE has started out as a policy support mechanism for the European Commission (FP7 pilot and H2020 OA policies), with the aim to be the European scholarly communication hub providing its services to many European funders
  • The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations promotes the adoption, creation, use, dissemination, and preservation of electronic theses and dissertations and lists national and international repositories
  • PLOS (Public Library of Science) is a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization founded to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication
  • GEANT – a European collaboration on e-infrastructure and services for research and education
  • The Open Data Institute catalyses the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental and social value
  • Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a US body working to ensure that publicly-funded research results are available to the American public for free and as soon as possible
  • Creative commons develops, supports, and stewards copyright licenses and tools to maximize digital creativity, sharing, and innovation
  • Jisc is a UK-based organisation providing shared services, sector deals for accessing services and digital resources plus expert advice and assistance
  • National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) supports UK universities to increase the quality and impact of their public engagement activity
  • Science Media Centres in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan help bridge the gap between science and the news media.