By Adrian Stagg and Emma Power, USQ
As this is the mid-way point of the Coffee Course, we’ll shift the focus slightly and examine the role of research as OER.
Open Access Research: greater impact?
Research, like learning and teaching, is one of the core activities at a university, for academic staff and an increasing number of professional staff. As national agendas and Federal educational policy emphasise the economic value of research, industry partnerships, competitive grant funding, and ‘national innovation’; the proposition for open research may seem challenging.
In Driving Innovation, Fairness and Excellence in Australian Higher Education (Australian Government, 2016) – you’ll notice the free and open licence on the report – there are key recommendations that could be aligned with OER. For advocates and researchers of open education – and open research – the most feasible approach for national traction is this type of alignment.
In particular, Driving Innovation notes in the introduction:
For these reasons it is essential that higher education policy settings drive innovation and areas of specialisation across our universities; embed fairness and equitable access to university for all Australians; ensure global excellence amongst our universities; and are financially sustainable and affordable into the long term (p. 2) And, While the Government is committed to a system that provides genuine choice and appropriate support for students, removes barriers for under-represented groups and allows institutions to excel and innovate to deliver world class education, at the same time, it recognises that this system must be affordable and provide a return on investment for both the student and the nation (p. 2).
Emphasis has been added on the sections that can be directly supported by open education. Earlier posts have discussed ‘fairness and equitable access’, as well as ‘remov[ing] barriers for under-represented groups’, but the ‘return on investment’ aspect of openness has not been articulated in this course yet.
Readership, collaboration, efficiency, and open research
Open-access research publishing is not a new idea. Most Australian universities have a research publication repository that may also include pre-publication versions of articles and report. Academic networking sites also provide an avenue for researchers to share their output with prospective readers and collaborators – although such activities may not always be legal.
Publishers have been swift to respond to open access. Some journals (such as the International Review of Research in Online and Distributed Learning – IRRODL) are not only free and openly licenced, but also ranked highly in their discipline (IRRODL is a Q1 journal). Others, like Springer Open Publishing, charge an ‘author processing fee’ (APC) for articles to be published with an open licence (the current fee is USD3,000 per article), with encouragement to authors to begin discussions at their institution about how the APC will be funded. Other journals provide opportunities for open access after embargo periods, or allow pre-publication versions of the article to appear in institutional repositories.
The core message is that there is no uniform approach to open access. This has also allowed ‘predatory publishers’ (this article from Nature explains the concept) to fraudulently charge researchers, sparking responses such as Associate Professor Jeffrey Beall’s list that has been used (and added to) by researchers since 2012. Earlier this year, Beall’s List was removed from his blog, which has led to conjecture, and very little fact.
Openness doesn’t just encompass education or research, as noted in the OER Consortium image used on Day One. There are a range of activities, that include working openly.
Nature acknowledged the value of ‘crowd-sourcing’ in 2015 after experimentation with open data sets (that is, raw data collected as part of research that is then made openly and freely available when ethically appropriate). As many researchers accessed the same set of data, more robust and appropriate tests were suggested (and implemented), additional viewpoints and multi-disciplinary interpretations occurred, and provided a space to ‘explore doubts and get a second, third or fourth opinion’ (Silberzahn & Uhlman, 2015).
Broadly, open access to research can also provide benefits such as:
- Increased readership and citations; if the article is both free and open it is easier to access, read, share, and cite
- Potential for wider collaboration
- Open access to data (where appropriate) can also decrease the cost of some research, allow for meta-analysis of aggregate data from a range of similar studies, and provide the basis for large-scale cross-study
- Increased multi-disciplinary exposure
- Faster impact, and
- Greater opportunities for engagement with industry and communities, who are able to easily access the research findings
Teaching and learning opportunities
Most university courses include ‘Selected Readings’ or a similar list of resources. Consider that when set as a reading, a research article becomes a teaching resource. Open access articles (those that are freely and openly accessible) thus fulfil the definition of OER.
University staff are often familiar with the ‘copyright conversation’ when including articles from a journal or database in readings, especially if those readings need to be provided in print (a format that is currently less often used, but there are student cohorts that need print). It often involves a lengthy process involving Copyright Officers (or librarians, or both), and sometimes results in either a required fee for use, inability to locate the copyright holder, or even a complete lack of response from said holder.
Open access publishing has benefits for learning and teaching, not only for access to information, but the potential for open access articles and data to be used to support authentic assessment.
Consider your own research. Do you see any benefit to open publishing models; or do you already publish this way? Do you think there is a tension between open and ‘closed’ publishing in terms of institutional expectations for research activities?
When selecting a journal, researchers across the sector will often consult SJR for impact, rankings, and other metrics. If you haven’t done so already, use SJR to locate an open journal. You’ll find a ‘tick-box’ underneath the top menu to limit your search (http://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php). Were you surprised at the results? Or were they as expected?
As always, Emma and I will be in the discussion; and we’ll see you for another coffee tomorrow.
Join us for a coffee in person!
Emma will be joining your coffee course facilitators Katie and Janene at ANU campus for a face-to-face coffee catchup. We welcome you to join us at 10am, Friday 31 March 2017 at Biginelli’s Cafe in the School of Music, Building 100 (note this is NOT our usual coffee location). Emma would love to hear how you have found the course, and is hoping to capture your thoughts and feedback. Please email Janene if you can attend.
Share your thoughts on social media
We are using the hashtag #OERCoffee on Twitter to keep the conversation going and open it up to a wider audience. Please join us there!
The text of this work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. All images and videos retain their respective licences.
Links to Resources
- Open access at Natureresearch: Benefits for authors
- Nature: Predatory publishers are corrupting open access
- Stop Predatory Journals
- Debunking Denialism: What happened to Jeffrey Bealls list of allegedlly predatory publishers
- Nature: Controversial website that lists predatory publishers shuts down
- Nature : Crowd sourced research: Many hands make tight work
- Open Science: Open access increases citation a brief overview of two reports
- International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning
- International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning citation metric
- Springer Open Choice
- The Open Research Repository for ANU – It also includes access to rare and special collections of national significance.
- Driving Innovation, Fairness and Excellence in Australian Higher Education