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Open Access Week 2015: 'Open for Collaboration'
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Posted On October 27, 2015
The eighth annual Open Access Week, designed to raise awareness of open access (OA) and related issues, was held Oct. 19–25, 2015. Libraries, universities, research institutes, publishers, research funding agencies, and individual OA advocates used the opportunity to talk, tweet, and share thoughts, success stories, and lessons learned about OA, open data, and open education. This year’s theme, Open for Collaboration, highlighted the new opportunities for working together that OA can offer researchers. While OA Week has become a truly community-based initiative, SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) continues to serve as the lead organizer of and driving force behind the international event.

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

In past years, the week was launched with a big kickoff event. This year’s focus was on more localized events and was complemented by a virtual Open Access Week Edit-a-thon, organized by Wikipedia and SPARC. As described by Nick Shockey, SPARC’s director of programs and engagement, the “edit-a-thon will aim to accomplish three goals during the week: to improve already existing Open Access-related pages, to create new content where it needs to be added, and to translate Open Access-related pages into languages where they don’t yet exist.” While OA Week has concluded for the year, the push to update, expand, and translate relevant content continues.

Open Access Spectrum Evaluation Tool

Early in the week, SPARC announced the launch of the Open Access Spectrum (OAS) Evaluation Tool to help authors and readers understand the nuances in journals’ OA policies. “Many journals claim to be ‘open’ while actually placing moderate or severe restrictions on what an author or reader can do with an article,” says Heather Joseph, SPARC’s executive director. Over the past few years, as we’ve seen an increased push for openness, this challenge has become a real thorn in the side of authors trying to decipher journals’ policies and for the OA community in general. The OAS Evaluation Tool uses a 100-point scale from HowOpenIsIt? to assign a quantitative score to journals to indicate their “degrees of openness.” The score is calculated for six categories: Reader Rights, Reuse Rights, Copyrights, Author Posting Rights, Automatic Posting, and Machine Readability. Full details about how the scores are calculated are available from the site’s FAQ page.

Launch of SPARC Africa

To bolster the growing interest in—and need for increased capacity to support—OA in Africa, SPARC recently established an additional chapter. The University of Cape Town announced the launch of SPARC Africa during OA Week. The chapter will be supported in large part by the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) during its formative years.

Publishers’ Announcements

As is becoming the norm during OA week, several publishers offered temporary discounts or temporarily waived their article-processing charges (APCs) during the week. Other publishers such as PeerJ used the opportunity to announce a new APC option, and Nature Publishing Group (NPG) announced the launch of a new OA journal, npj Pollution Control.

OA Week LogoIn the same press release, NPG shares some noteworthy statistics related to the shifting OA landscape. For instance, “The percentage of [NPG] authors choosing CC BY across all of NPG’s open access journals has risen dramatically—from 26% in 2014 to 96% in September 2015.” In addition, the press release includes an interesting tidbit nearly buried in a footnote:

Research published in the journal Scientometrics found Nature Communications articles published open access received higher citations than non-open access content. It also found that open access papers not only have higher total downloads, but experience a more sustained number of downloads over a longer period, where non-open access articles have a shorter period of attention. This supports a study carried out by the Research Information Network of articles published in Nature Communications which found that open access articles are viewed three times more than non-open access content.

In other publisher-related news, Brill and DANS announced the launch of a new OA data journal, the Research Data Journal for the Humanities and Social Sciences (RDJ). It will follow the path forged by data journals covering other scientific subject areas. As noted in the press release, the journal “contains short publications (data papers) in which researchers describe their dataset, the context of their research, ask key questions, and explain the methods used. In addition, data papers include a broad profile of the dataset, listing, for example, common characteristics or remarkable results. Conclusions such as those found in a regular academic article are not included, but space is provided for some closing remarks.”

Library- and University-Sponsored Celebrations

Many libraries, academic and otherwise, hosted their own OA week celebrations. Standard fare included workshops, presentations, Q&A sessions for students or faculty, and poster sessions. However, one unusual approach, taken by the University of Alberta Libraries in Canada, was to work with students through a course in the art and design department. Sarah Polkinghorne, a librarian at the university, detailed her approach and experience in a blog post, “Getting Design Students Involved for an Invigorated Open Access Week.”

As part of their coursework, students were challenged to create a community campaign—everything from pitches to concepts—and they ultimately developed several full installations based on the clients’ (librarians’) requirements and budget. The end result was successful for the library, and, more importantly, for the students. As Polkinghorne notes:

Design students sometimes do more hypothetical work, so it was significant for them to work in real time on a real campaign. Also, we gave them an even rarer request, which was to design and build interactive, three-dimensional installations. We gave the class an $800 materials budget to cover all of the installations. Students had to work together to manage expenses. This required researching materials, communicating with classmates and providers, and adjusting plans as necessary. One group of students priced out their desired materials and discovered a price tag of several thousand dollars. They returned to their research and eventually brought their costs down to fit within the shared budget. Other groups borrowed and reused materials; Drama Department colleagues loaned a wheeled mirror they could spare for the duration. These complex, and eventually public, circumstances gave design students a realistic installation experience.

By the end of the project, students created installations that reflected nine different concepts. Photos and more details are available in Polkinghorne’s post.  

Details about and links to these and many other events are available through the OA Week website or via Twitter using #oaweek.


Abby Clobridge is the founder of and principal consultant at FireOak Strategies (formerly Clobridge Consulting), a boutique firm specializing in knowledge management, information management, and open knowledge (open access, open data, open education). Abby has worked with a wide range of organizations throughout the world, including various United Nations agencies; private sector companies; colleges and research universities; nonprofit, intergovernmental, and multi-stakeholder organizations; and the news media. She can be found on Twitter (@aclobridge).

Email Abby Clobridge

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