A number of discussions were developed in group sessions, from the themes which were outlined in the formal presentations.
Group sessions took the form of an interactive exchange of ideas, debate and the sharing of personal and institutional stories from within the local academic environment, the regional and international jurisdictions.
The goal of the sessions was to explore how the key themes could be advanced from an action research perspective, in other words, to frame the research questions that should form the basis for the Scholarly Communication and Access to Knowledge Project.
The following key areas were highlighted:
- The need to quantify stakeholder (partner) metrics and diversity
- Understanding policy creation and implementation at both the national and institutional level
- Exploring the concept of value and the value chain
- Looking at dissemination platforms
To understand the academic publishing environment, there is a need to map the stakeholders involved, which includes researchers, administrators and the institutions that finance the research. But stakeholders also includes librarians and publishing groups. This is a variety of role players who have divergent discourses within the scholarly academic publishing process.
A proposed example of capturing the diversity within the publishing eco system would be to establish a list of stakeholders and diagramatically indicate how they relate to one another. Added to this is the notion that certain stakeholders will often adopt more than one role within the publishing process. for example, a researcher could perform the tasks of author or editor, either of which will influence the interaction between the publisher.
Within the first step of stakeholder mapping, it would be important to explore what the benefits are for each stakeholder; how would they like to recognise value within their work; and how would they like to be recognised within the eco system. However, this raises further questions: should recognition be acknowledged as part of the eco system? Should recognition within the eco system be linked to funding?
- Map the stakeholders involved in the scholarly open access eco system; and
- Explore benefits to stakeholders and value.
When investigating the academic publishing eco system it becomes obvious that policy - both at the institutional and national levels – govern and constrain. Furthermore, there is a disjuncture between governmental policies themselves which in turn affects institutional policy.
It was agreed that when communicating with government, it is imperative to find the correct language – or terminology – and discourse in order for the message to resonate. Find the hook that will appeal to, and make sense for government.
Examples from other countries indicate that to create meaningful conversation at the national level it was also important to construct messages for constituents who were going to become advocates.
Locally, government has latched onto the idea of the commercialisation of research and this perception needs to be challenged. A way to approach this would be to look at what law makers have a vested interest in and to find alternatives to obtaining a similar result.
South-south collaboration could be leveraged to create international capacity in order for the international connection to help strengthen our own constituency.
There is a strong need to promulgate the stories of successful open access research. A cogent example would be how the outbreak and control of swine flu (H1N1 influenza) was dealt with, where it was obvious that this was not controlled through patents but rather through instant international collaboration, which involved having access to large amounts of data which could be pulled into a global database in order for scientists to share and collaborate.
Following on from this, it is compelling when the World Health Organisation states the imperative for the sharing of clinical data, databases and research.
- Understand government needs and create the right kinds of discourse which will positively influence government’s willingness to engage;
- Assist constituents – potential advocates – in crafting the right messages; and
- Promulgate the stories of successful open access research.
In order to ascertain the value of open access publishing the following questions need to be asked: why is measurement necessary, and what should be measured? What needs to be done to persuade the various stakeholders that they are getting value for their investment, whether this is a financial or time resource.
A possibility would be to either run trial projects or identifying current projects and creating case studies. This would reveal best practice statistics and information, which would illustrate value. In other words, this would be a recording and presenting of evidence.
Attached to value is the idea of cost. If open access is adopted, what is the cost of this? What are the overhead costs? If a journal management systems is used, what does it add to efficiences and equality? These would be ideal measurements.
Value can also be found in the following scenarios: if policy research is undertaken but not published, what has been lost? If the research has been published but not distributed, what has been lost? Conversely, if public and social benefit research is effectively published and distributed, what has been gained? The Australian open scholarly publishing movement has undertaken research in order to obtain government grants for publications, which involves collecting all publications and then motivating to government on those that are subsidisable.
Whilst in South Africa, the cost of publishing is relatively low, in the greater region this is not necessarily the case. An issue to be investigated would be different economic models for journals. The issue of cost benefit links to one of sustainability, which also relates to grey literature. As this literature is not peer reviewed, it deserves to be published and effectively disseminated. What is the value of disseminating effectively? And what is the cost of effective dissemination?
- Record and present evidence/ case studies to show value;
- Investigate the cost benefit with the case studies;
- Develop and record sustainable models for journals, particularly in countries that have no resources;
- Develop and record sustainable models beyond journals in order to produce no necessarily financial data but effectiveness of investment in terms of less replication and reptition of information; and
- Plan on a country-by-country basis or sub-regional basis.
The goal of dissemination should be for impact and development impact as opposed to dissemination within the scholarly community. When thinking about dissemination, it becomes necessary to consider the platforms on which to disseminate research.
Within the open knowledge idea, it is no longer simply about publications or data, but digital tools such as the inclusion of multimedia results of what is historically known as grey literature, and publishing information on blogs and wikis. The question is how to encompass these new digital opportunities in the modular, existing methodolgy? There is debate at present about how social media platforms could be used for peer review and evaluation.
There needs to be a change in the metrics for assessing the performance of academics, and the way scholarship is valued. This will be a systemic shift; a policy shift at a number of levels from administrators at universities to government policy. There will be a need for change management at an organisational level.