Making Open Access the norm?

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A report by Carsten Elsner, Matthias Fuchs, Linda Martin, Eric Retzlaff, Sebastian Schaarschmidt, Katja Wermbter

On 3 May 2022, the Fachinformationsdienste Move and BAUdigital, Fraunhofer IRB and invited researchers and Open Access professionals from the technical and engineering sciences to discuss the state of Open Access in their disciplines. The online workshop gave the opportunity to exchange views on experiences and challenges around publishing open access.

What do you associate with Open Access?

In the morning, the discussants Dr Antje Witting (Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung), Prof. Dr Constantinos Antoniou (TU Munich) and Dipl.-Ing. Martin Scheidt (TU Braunschweig) started into a discussion about experiences, reputation mechanisms, quality criteria and their own role within the system of scientific communication. By taking a seat on a virtual chair, the guests were able to actively participate in the discussion.

Top down or bottom up?

The recommendations of the Wissenschaftsrat and the European Union's requirement for immediate Open Access within the framework of the Horizon Europe funding programme evoked divided opinions. Where Open Access is demanded, there must be a funding for it. However, guidelines and recommendations for action aimed at more Open Access publications were welcomed in principle by scientific organizations and research funders. Martin Scheidt attributed the discussion to the role of each individual author: "For me, the question is rather whether participation in "knowledge" will change. [...] I am trying to break up my “echo chamber” with good scientific practice." (Editor's note: Open Access takes a prominent position with regard to guideline 13 of the Code of Conduct “Safeguarding Good Research Practice”).

Open Access, Science and Reputation

Where the path to a career always depends on an impact factor, "the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment offers the possibility of breaking down the constraints of the reputation system", says Constantinos Antoniou and continues: "[...] it is important to consider the different ways of publishing and the various career stages."
All agreed that the way to ensure quality is through review processes. Furthermore, Antje Witting emphasized: "Doing research feels sometimes like working lonely and the exchange between researchers takes place too little and is lost in the current review process". Open Peer Review, as a quality assurance procedure for Open Access publications, could solve this problem.
Open Access is important for one's own research - free access to scientific information benefits scientists in their own research. But industry partners can also benefit from this and are increasingly entering the discourse on Open Access and Open Data – furthermore an Open Innovation process could be beneficial here in order to close information gaps.

Open Access means diversity - publication formats, review process, participation

Following the discussion, workspaces for groups invited participants to exchange ideas about publication formats for the community, target group-oriented publishing and the ideas behind conventional publication formats.

Important take-aways from the sessions:

  • Review procedures are a form of quality assurance but also an additional task performed by scientists. In addition to the classic peer review process, they are highly relevant for the library's own research. Libraries can bring reviewers and researchers together. A redirection of the flow of funds from the financing of APC costs to the expansion of internal structures can be helpful for fulfilling the own role of a library here.
  • Community-based adaptations of the publication system represent sustainable changes: New publication formats need to be in the hands of scholars. They recognize the challenges posed by different formats (text, code, data, etc.) within their own discipline. There is a fundamental openness in the community to participate in new publication formats.
  • Open Access is always a good option to increase the visibility of one's own research. If the costs of publishing make immediate open access difficult, it is worthwhile to publish the texts a second time in an institutional or discipline-specific repository, as the long-term discoverability of one's own research results is ensured there. The choice of a publication venue is usually based on the recommendation of colleagues.
  • The struggle between a  top-down approach and academic freedom can be broken up through active discourse and the involvement of professional societies, review boards, funding and others. In order to stimulate discussion, good practice examples and incentives (e.g. in the form of lectures) are considered necessary.

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