The long haul towards open research results

In June 2014 Denmark got a long-awaited Open Access (OA) Strategy. As early as in autumn 2011, a working group under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science produced 16 recommendations concerning an Open Access policy, but almost three years would pass before minister for higher education and science, Sofie Carsten Nielsen, on 24. June 2014, was able to launch a strategy for Danish OA. 

The strategy is based on the work in the National Steering Committee for Open Access and appointed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science at the beginning of 2014. The Danish strategy is green, i.e., researchers must file a copy of their manuscript in an institutional or subject-specific digital archive, the so-called parallel publishing.

In this way, publicly financed research is made available to the public. The aim of the strategy is that by 2017, there should be Open Access to 80 percent of peerreviewed articles published in 2016, and by 2022, there should be Open Access to 100 percent of the published publications published in 2021.

It is quite an ambitious strategy, destined to cause some anxiety among the people responsible for achieving the goals.

Advocating Open Access

For quite a number of years, research libraries around the world have been advocating OA. There is no doubt that a great task is facing the libraries, when the strategy is to be implemented locally at universities, university colleges and research institutions.

For one thing, the message must be communicated and mediated, for another – the libraries and/or their mother institutions must make available the services that underpin the process and which hopefully will facilitate the administrative demands facing the researchers, when they want to publish the results of their research projects. New and exciting projects lie ahead, which prompt the need for strengthening the competences in the libraries.

The OA Secretariat

In 2014 Denmark’s Electronic Research Library (DEFF) granted the means for the project Research Documentation and Communication. A two-year project, of which one of the elements is the establishment of a Danish OA Secretariat, meant to support network activities in Danish specialist, research and educational libraries.

The Secretariat’s primary task is to coordinate and support the libraries’ initiatives in relation to OA and to organize a network forum for cooperation and knowledge sharing, which will enable the network’s participants to meet the challenges and demands levelled at them in their work with implementing the OA strategy locally.

Many good intentions

Despite the good intentions in the strategy, there are undoubtedly many challenges to tackle, when the ambitious OA strategy is to be carried out. At the moment, in spite of a constant increase in the number of OA publications for Danish universities, only about 7 percent of Danish research publications are available to the public.

The OA strategy is thus a step in the right direction, but the strategy by itself does not solve the problems involved with implementing OA locally. Many researchers are often mistakenly under the impression that OA publishing is both expensive and arduous, and also that the publishers who allow OA publishing are of poor quality.

These notions are often based on insufficient knowledge and facts about what Open Access actually means. The majority of the well-known scientific publishers, including the big ones, do in fact allow the researcher to file a version of his research publication in an institutional archive, such as the OA strategy requires.

This kind of OA publishing does not in itself involve extra expenses, but it is essential that the libraries provide knowledge about the rights of the researchers in connection with OA publishing and make it perfectly clear that this form for making accessible Danish research results in no way means that one has to compromise quality.

Various challenges of the subject areas

In the future, universities will be assessed in a so-called OA barometer as to how they fulfil the demands in the OA strategy. Publishing practice varies greatly within the different subject areas, which present further challenges particularly within the humanistic and social-scientific research fields.

The scientific, technical and medical research areas primarily publish their re search results in scientific periodicals and conference publications, which to a great extent can be filed in a digital archive, open to the public. The humanistic and social-scientific research areas, on the other hand, traditionally publish their research results in monographs, anthologies and reports, where there is still a long way to go before it becomes the norm to allow parallel publishing.

The OA Network

Considering these challenges, there is no doubt that sustainable collaborations between libraries and researchers/mother institutions must be established, as the libraries cannot accomplish the implementation of the OA strategies by themselves. It requires a targeted joint effort and not least improved competences in the libraries to be able to handle the local realization of the objectives of the strategy.

The Danish OA network, which is organized by the OA Secretariat, makes sure that Danish universities, university colleges and other research institutions have a common forum, where they can share knowledge, exchange experiences, share materials, studies etc.

Competent network

As the work involved with OA is complex and involves many of the libraries’ areas of work, members of the network work on both infrastructure, licenses, economic viability and the demands levelled at OA publishing in the research grants. Contact with the researchers is also of primary importance in the network, as the ultimate challenge will undoubtedly be a major information effort in the institutions.

The combined volume of these network activities gives the members a varied overview of the OA field, a competent network and exactly the knowledge sharing that makes it possible to build on all the good initiatives and information/communication efforts, which are already taking place in the specialist, research and educational libraries, and which all contribute to the realisation of the aim of 100 percent open research publication in 2022.