Category: Education

“Prisoners of War: Australians Under Nippon” by Hank Nelson

More reading for Anzac Day …

This 1985 publication is based on an award winning ABC Radio series of the same name that was first broadcast in 1984. It was presented by Tim Bowden, AM (war correspondent, journalist, broadcaster, documentarian, author and oral historian) and Hank Nelson, AM (historian, author, mentor and ANU Professor). I listened to that series week-by-week, on Saturdays as I remember, because I was named after Dad’s older brother who was killed as a POW when the Japanese ship the Rakuyō Maru, transporting over 1,000 Australian and British POWs back to Japan, was torpedoed by the USS Sealion II in September 1944. My family would never tell me much about my uncle’s tragic experience as a POW when I asked and this radio series and book helped me to understand why. They simply did not know. Some earlier accounts had been published, such as Russell Braddon’s “The Naked Island”, but I think this broadcast and publication really helped us to understand the experience of those POWs because it was made at a time when so many ex-prisoners were finally more willing to talk about their incarceration. That the stories were brought to life is also not least down to the skill of both Tim and Hank.

The book is quite simply full of almost unimaginable memories of endurance, mateship, courage, compassion, humour and the most beastly brutality. It begins with the fall of Singapore in February 1942, and then covers life in Changi, the infamous Thai-Burma railway, the capture of Australian Army Nurses, the decimation of ‘Gull Force’ on Ambon, the atrocities committed on Borneo and the Sandakan death march, escape and evasion attempts, forced repatriation of some POWs to slave labour Japan, the severity of punishments handed out in Outram Rd prison in Singapore, survival and eventual freedom and the legacy of wounded minds.

Now that the 16 parts of the series are available for download, I think that it is best to take the opportunity to listen their voices and then read their words, perhaps chapter-by-chapter. Together, the program and the book bring to life the experiences of many memorable prisoners such as Stan Arneil, George Aspinall, Keith Botterill, Vivian Bullwinkel, Dr Kevin Fagan, Don Moore, Ray Parkin and Snow Peat.

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A George Aspinall photograph of three “fit” workers on a camp on the Burma Thai Railway: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P02569.192

Nearly all ex-POWs would have passed now, but I had the opportunity to meet and talk with some while I was working at the Australian War Memorial. It always amazed me that so many went on to lead healthy, productive and reasonably long lives knowing what they endured and also what they went without for so many years as POWs. I think it would’ve been around 2004 that several ex-prisoners tracked me down at the Memorial and asked if I was related to a mate of theirs (they had enlisted, served and been captured in 1942 with my uncle). They were all in their 80s or 90s by then and I got to know them all. They marched together every Anzac Day in Sydney and had all survived the sinking of the Rakuyō Maru in 1944. They asked me if they could meet with my father and I remember getting them all together one Saturday morning in West Ryde at one of their homes. After all those years they had managed to track me down and finally my father and I knew what had happened to his brother so many years ago. For me it was just like meeting many of those who told their stories to Tim and Hank.

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The Broken Years

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Image source: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P04604.016

Dr Bill Gammage AM, FASSA is an academic historian who wrote The Broken Years based on his PhD thesis at the ANU. First published in 1974 it tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War through the private records created by a thousand Australian soldiers in their diaries and letters home.

At that time Bill was still able to correspond with some veterans of the Great War and he also  skilfully selected records that were mostly collected by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in the 1920s and 1930s and ties them together to form a chronological story from 1914-1918, covering campaigns in Gallipoli (ANZAC), Egypt, Palestine and France.

I first read this book back in the late 1970s whilst training at RMC Duntroon and studying military history. It had an enormous impact on my attitude to war and made me fully aware of the awful realities, well beyond what I had heard from veterans, or seen in movies or on TV. I think the power of this book comes from the voices of those who served, who tell their own stories so powerfully. As the cover of the book notes, it is both a horrifying and emotionally moving account. What Bill Gammage does in The Broken Years is demonstrate the enormous importance and power of those archival collections at the AWM and he also highlights the vision of the historians, librarians, and archivists who created them so many years ago.

It is also worth noting that Bill Gammage is a highly respected historian and that he revived the tradition of Dr C.E.W. Bean, the official Australian historian of the First World War who focussed his story on the experiences of those who served rather than the battlefield strategies. Bean was also the founder of the AWM. Bill was later employed by Peter Weir as the military advisor for the film Gallipoli.

Bill’s book also seems to have had a not insignificant influence on at least part of my working life. I did not spend that long in the Army after graduating from Duntroon. I had a number of career changes and then somehow managed to wind up at the AWM as Head of their Research Centre (library and archive) in 2001. I was privileged to be responsible for the collections that this book was based upon and also for managing the addition of names to our Roll of Honour as we were again at war in the Middle East.

The critical thing with archival collections is that one must not just concentrate on preserving, cataloguing and exhibiting or providing access to what is already there. Those collections need to be developed as time marches on. With my curatorial colleagues at the AWM in the early 2000s, we soon realised that we faced new challenges in order to do what the AWM had done in the 1920s and 1930s to collect contemporary records of war – in the form of both official accounts (like unit war diaries) and private records in the digital age. We soon began asking to make curatorial visits to war zones to see what was being created for ourselves and to tag or collect what the AWM would need for future exhibitions and research into the conflicts that were still being waged. This started to happen from about 2007-2008. A colleague visited Iraq to mark and collect military technology and paraphernalia and then in late 2008 I was sent to Iraq (Baghdad) and out to sea with the RAN in the Northern Arabian Gulf to collect war records before our forces withdrew from Iraq. I was able to mark or tag some items such as map collections and official records, find out how people were corresponding or keeping diaries, made many photographs and recorded oral histories for the AWM collections. I left the AWM for UTS Library in 2009, but those AWM curatorial visits to war zones have continued in places such as Afghanistan ever since.

The Broken Years will be part of our featured book display at UTS Library for ANZAC Day 2017. I am not aware of any volume like this that has been written about any conflict after the First World War, so it is still unique. As a librarian, curator and collection manager I think it reminds us of the important and continuing role of archives and collecting institutions to preserve public knowledge, even as formats change.

Talk on Battle of Coral prior to ANZAC Day 2017

Nearly 50 years ago, in May/June 1968 Australian soldiers fought their largest, most sustained and arguably most hazardous battles of the Vietnam War. Units of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) confronted regimental-sized formations of the North Vietnamese regular army in fierce actions around Fire Support Patrol Bases (FSPB) Coral and Balmoral in what was then known as Bien Hoa province. The location of FSPBs Coral and Balmoral are marked by blue symbols on this satellite map.

The first of the battles occurred at FSPB Coral when massed enemy units attacked the base in the early hours of 13 May 1968. Australian units withstood heavy enemy attacks against their hastily prepared position during which a mortar platoon and two gun positions were partly over-run.

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The Australians drove off the enemy after fierce close-quarter actions. The battle lasted over two hours. The task force suffered 11 killed in action and 28 wounded. In one mortar platoon five soldiers were killed and eight were wounded from a total strength of 18 men. One howitzer and two mortars were damaged. The enemy left 52 dead strewn throughout and around the fire support base.

On the Friday before ANZAC Day UTS Library will host a lunchtime presentation by two participants from that battle Ian “Scrubber” Ahearn  who as a young Lieutenant was the Gun Position Officer for 102 Field Battery, and Tony Jensen, also a Lieutenant at the time, who was the second-in-command of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Mortar Platoon. This is a unique chance to hear from two real participants in this battle. They will use sound (music from the time) and visual imagery to tell their story. Both men have now retired from active duty in the Australian Army and are great raconteurs. Tony and Scrubber did some oral history interviews with some of those involved in this battle, such as this one with Lieutenant General Sir Donald Beaumont Dunstan (from 2007) who was in 1968 the Deputy Commander, 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF), South Vietnam.

Tony and Scrubber were classmates from RMC Duntroon, graduating only 16 months before this battle in 1966, so at the time they were not much older than many of our undergraduate students at UTS. The youngest soldier on the gun position that night was Bombardier Andy Forsdike (pictured below) who was just 19 years old.

andy forsdike

If you’d like to attend this talk, but you are not a member of the UTS community, just let me know.

My thoughts on revolutionising scholarly publishing in the digital age

On 14 February I was on a panel talking about the future of academic publishing for ALIA Information Online 2017. As there was no time for me to explain all of this I thought I’d post it all here with all the relevant links.

Essentially, I’m exploring the following key issues that need to be dealt with if we are ever to substantially improve, let alone revolutionise, academic publishing: speed (to access); improved reach (wider audience, not just the privileged); transparency of process; openness (for access); an expectation to use multi-media (sound, video, images); appropriate metrics; better facility and recognition for collaboration across disciplines; and interactivity.

And as a university librarian (i.e. not a scholar), I can’t stop myself from thinking that maybe we also need to decide whether scholarly publishing is really about the sharing of knowledge or just a competitive game where points are scored for individual and institutional reputations.

I must also thank some of my colleagues at UTS for their advice and suggestions, but what is written here is my personal view and it is not necessarily reflective of our institution.

Speed

Traffic on Harris St., Ultimo

I am aware of the frustration (particularly) of younger researchers with the time-lag in traditional publishing, especially when their research relates to topical issues – I’ve heard US academics talking about it in relation to issues like Black Lives Matter, and medical research, but climate change is another case in point. It really points to the need for changes around how we measure the quality of journals, especially accepting new types of peer review and editorial control.  F1000Research videos are good on this – scientists say that every day the research is delayed somebody dies. A further example is Aggregate – an online platform to support the production, peer review, publication and discussion of innovative scholarship in architectural history. Places Journal seeks to combine serious journalism and open scholarship in their online free platform. They focus on the environment, social inequity, climate change, resource scarcity, human migration, technology innovation and the erosion of the public sphere. They have many academic partners across North America, Europe and now at UTS.

Transparency of process 

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Some researchers are very frustrated by the agonising process of peer review (and know that could be addressed more easily in the digital age with ongoing peer review).  They also know that currently most peer review is NOT transparent (i.e. anonymous). See F1000 again – science should be transparent and open. In most cases, the effort put into peer review or editing is not currently recognised. This is not to suggest that we should throw the (quality) baby out with the bathwater, so an alternative is something like Publons which helps to link peer reviewers to publishers/editors and track/verify/showcase their efforts, leading to recognition for reviewing and editing.

F1000Research also say that in traditional publishing a lot of science remains unpublished, wasting the time and funding of those researchers, so they say publish everything, including dead ends – it stops other wasting years on the same nonsense.

Interactivity

DT Drinks crowd

The frustration of younger researchers with the lack of interactivity is something that could be solved by adding things like hypothesis.is – which we are now adding to our UTS ePRESS journals. Some of the examples cited above like Aggregate, F100Research and Places also seek to include more open debate, discussion and feedback well beyond the initial date of publication.

Better facility and recognition for collaboration across disciplines

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Some researchers are frustrated that traditional publishing is more “siloed” in an age when most people think that complex problems need to be solved by collaborative work across several disciplines. It is also useful to have the insights of people from different fields and from actual practitioners. So, they seem to be approaching Open Access publishers to start new trans/cross disciplinary journals and the like.

This often becomes a bit of a problem because journals and research publications are still measured by traditional bibliometrics and impact factors and they are classified by fields of research which tend to categorise journals via single subject areas or disciplines. Some close-to-home examples include our Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement and the relatively new journal Project Management and Research Practice.

Openness (for access)

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There are genuine frustrations surrounding scholarly publishing NOT being able to reach the objective of the research (e.g. the poor, the sick, the less privileged, the third world, etc.).  Around the time of the Zika virus, there was some discussion about this which basically demonstrated that open and immediate access to information is critical to public health: eg. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v533/n7604/full/533469b.html 

In Australia, almost all of the research done in universities is funded by the tax payer. I think the community deserves to have access to that research when published. Traditional scholarly publishers were not built to do this and now to meet funders’ mandates for open access they are levying fees on the authors. I think we need to dramatically rethink that model and to encourage more open access publishers within universities because it is now more feasible than ever in the digital age. Perhaps initiatives like the Open Library of Humanities (@OpenLibHums), UTS ePRESS, ANU Press, University of Adelaide Press, and Monash University Publishing,  are better indicators of more open publishing platforms.

Improved reach

Sydney Harbour Bridge 6

I think we could increase the impact and reach of the research by thinking outside current scholarly publishing methods and formats (e.g. articles and monographs), particularly for the humanities and social sciences. This was recently brought home to me thru my obsession with podcasts … I was listening to James Weirick on Military Justice and in introducing his new podcast in December he said he had been inspired by the three “pod-mothers” who have shown what podcasts can achieve. Here he was referring to the work of Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig and Rabia Chaudry who did so much to bring the plights of Adnan Syed (Serial S1), Bowe Bergdahl (Serial S2) and Joey Watkins (Undisclosed S2) to many MILLIONS of podcast subscribers all over the world. Weirick (that’s what he likes to be called) said that if those three women had just written newspaper or journal articles, not so much would have happened, but now much has happened and a lot of people have donated funds or written letters of support for those three people. So, I think the mediums of knowledge exchange and storytelling need to be re-examined, especially in the digital age.  

I’ve noticed that quite a lot of law academics are now getting involved in those legal/justice podcasts, or being interviewed on them. There was a little bit of that here in Australia too with Dan Box’s Bowraville podcast, which probably had a good deal to do with the retrial of a suspect that is happening right now. Podcasts can go much deeper than just an article or even a segment on 60 Minutes and I think that element of weekly story telling in sound is a really powerful thing that academic publishing could benefit from.

Improved metrics

Growing Knowledge exhibition

Within improved reach we will need improved metrics that show the impact of the research. I think we need to start using services like Kudos to help research get read more widely and for the research to be applied where it is most relevant. Some large publishers are already using Kudos to extend their audiences. It can also help track the networks and improve metrics for impact, showing the reach of the research publications in the community and industry. It can help reveal what is essentially hidden research.

(See also collaboration across disciplines, above.)

An expectation to use multi-media

From Extended Stage by Ian Burns

I recently attended a Sydney Festival Big Thinking event at UTS in which a panel of Australian Indigenous people spoke about different ways of knowing, preserving and exchanging knowledge (customs, dance, art, storytelling, languages, objects, places designed to encourage this, etc). I think the contemporary academic publishing world is still stuck in the age of the printing press (via what are essentially still pretty strictly limited textual documents in monograph or article form – on the bloody internet!).

It is now so much easier and there is an expectation for better story telling and different media to be used. For me, it is almost like we are re-learning lessons lost from the age before Gutenberg when illuminated manuscripts contained, preserved (very well) and shared songs, art, music, traditions, laws, dance, science, knowledge, commentary and stories. Is this not what we are currently struggling with in the form of “new” scholarly multi-media formats? I think a lot of social sciences and humanities “knowledge” needs non-textual forms for it to be shared and preserved, yet scholarly publishers seem not very interested in this kind of thing. Do we have something or maybe a lot to learn from the traditional owners of this land? 

Kapi Warku

The panel of elders and others at the Sydney Festival event also mentioned that since Australia was first settled and claimed by the British a little over 200 years ago, we’ve managed to create major problems with the soil, the forests, the waters and the general civilisation of the continent.  Indigenous Australians seemed to have managed quite well for about 50,000 years before we arrived – so they must have had ways of sharing that knowledge and known how to live more gently and cooperatively in this environment, yet this was all done without books and journals.  So, are traditional monograph and journal models such a great way of sharing and publishing knowledge or just more convenient forms we can point to, measure and count?

Open data

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I guess someone should at least raise the issue of open data. Major publishers are now “buying” this up and major researcher funders have been slower to react, partly because it is harder for us to meet such a mandate for open data and partly because the necessary infrastructure isn’t there yet. The longer we leave it, however, the harder it will be to catch up. There must be some initiative to start attaching open data to research outputs. The data is really important. Data is not less valuable than conclusions and discussions. It should be available to others. Falsification of open data would be easier to detect.

A somewhat related matter is the question of data and text mining: yet another issue we need to look at. Most publishers have strict controls over text mining their published content and the mechanisms to get permission to do so are clunky. The Right to Read is the Right to Mine campaign that grew out of EU copyright reviews and reform is a useful reference here: http://www.leru.org/index.php/public/news/the-right-to-read-is-the-right-to-mine/ 

Conclusion

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this question and I will not even try to put a timeline on it nor estimate a rate of success against any of these issues. I do think, however, that attitudes towards and expectations of academic research publishing are changing. People are now more aware of new possibilities in the digital age, they expect immediate access to everything, everywhere and they will not want to pay for it if it is publicly funded. Many other industries have been dramatically changed or completely reinvented because of similar attitudes and expectations. Eventually scholarly publishing will change too.

Note: All images used above are mine except the Open Access diagram and they are all covered by CC licenses.

Why Open Access and What Is It?

More slides from a talk that I gave to UTS Information and Knowledge Management students before Open Access Week 2015. I was on a panel of people talking on a range of related subjects and answering student questions.

OA week for IKM (slides in pdf format)

I posted this in advance of Open Access Week 2015 (19-25 October) but together with my colleague Scott Abbott from UTS ePress, I will add some relevant information about Open Access each day over the course of the week.

Daily Update #1

So you want to find more Open Access content and you’re not sure where to look? Well, here are a few options:

Firstly Google Scholar which indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an many publishing formats and disciplines, but it will deliver results that are not all Open Access.

CORE aggregates all open access research outputs from repositories and journals worldwide. And to quote from CORE’s mission, it “supports the right of citizens and general public to access the results of research towards which they contributed by paying taxes”.

JURN is a search engine that primarily was aimed at indexing free and Open Access ejournals in the arts and humanities. In 2014 the scope of JURN was widened to include other open scholarly publications, such as theses and also ejournals in science, biomedical, business, law and ecology/nature related topics.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.

Daily Update #2

In his pre-OA Week Google+ post, Peter Suber urges us to use OA week to talk to everyone we know about Open Access, making the case for it in face-to-face conversations. He is one of the wisest and strongest global advocates for Open Access and he urges us not to lead with “readings”. Nevertheless, he provides a really useful list of references so you can get the story correct and I think they are well worth listing here. Thanks Peter!

Daily Update #3 (thanks Scott!) When You Work in the Open, Everyone Can Be a Collaborator

Open Science, Open Government, Open Data, Open Software are a part of the broader Open Movement of which Open Access is a central part. As this article by Elliot Harmon, of Electronic Frontier Foundation sets out, open access to the research enables collaboration across an incredibly broad range of areas.

Example 1. By using open software and open data/open science practices (such as open lab books), scientists can pool their research online and collaborate more effectively – as has been done by Sydney University’s Matthew Todd and colleagues. Todd, and his fellow researchers speed up the process of sharing their results and finding a cure for Malaria.

Example 2. The free Open Journal Systems software provided by the Public Knowledge Project allows scholars across the globe to publish any kind of scholarly peer reviewed journal. Indeed, UTS ePRESS uses a customised version of OJS to publish its 14 open access journals and Open Conference Systems to publish its conference series.

Example 3. To finish with, a wonderfully direct and incredibly inspiring example of open collaboration between a citizen scientist and more established researchers is the case of then 16 year old Jack Andraka (mentioned in the EFF piece above). Andraka, while a sophomore in high school was devastated by the loss of an uncle to pancreatic cancer. As a result, he researched open access articles from Pub Med Central and over time developed a possible, cheap and effective early test for that cancer. His inspiring TED talk is here. And here is a blog post Jack wrote for PLOS about Open Access way back in 2013: http://blogs.plos.org/thestudentblog/2013/09/27/7665/ 

These are just three brief but concrete examples of what collaboration can achieve across the open movements. What other “open” success stories can you discover?

Daily Update #4 : Featuring the latest MediaObject from UTS ePRESS: Lace Narratives

Later today we have a talk for Open Access Week by our new Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor for Education, Professor Peter Scott. He comes to us fresh from the The Open University (UK) and will discuss his experince in developing Open Educational Resources. Right after that and following that theme and also the OA Week theme of “Open for Collaboration” we will launch our latest MediaObject and monograph Lace Narratives on the work of Cecilia Heffer. The publication is composed of an Open Access digital edition of the book along with a seven-minute video documenting Cecilia creating the lace-work Drawn Threads. A print-on-demand edition of the book will be available to purchase shortly. Additionally, a limited edition artist’s book with lace samples bound into the pages will be publicly available through selected libraries and museums, including the UTS Library. This is an experimental publication model conceived by Zoë Sadokierski for the MediaObject book series and produced with support from the UTS Library. See more at: http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/books/lace-narratives

Daily Update #5 (Yes, I’m afraid this is a Monday-Friday thing. Besides I cannot brain anymore for OA this week.)

Open Access, Human Rights and the Future

In a blog post critiquing the ongoing use of the  #icanhazpdf – or “secret codeword” for sharing paywall-restricted scholarly content online via twitter – EFF author Elliot Harmon, makes an important point. He argues that use of this sharing technique is only effective for some and, in fact, does little to change the status quo of traditional academic publisher practice: limiting access to only the wealthy/lucky few. This point feeds in to the post’s main theme that “Open Access is a human rights issue”.

Harmon goes on to cite two cases where a researcher and OA activist ran afoul of the law for downloading/sharing pay-walled scholarly content. The first case cited is the ongoing saga being endured by researcher Diego Gomez who ignored the “rigidity of copyright law” and shared pay-walled scholarly content with other researchers. His legal trial continues.

The second case cited is the tragic death of OA and human rights activist Aaron Swartz who was threatened by the US Justice Department with 30 years of jail time and a million dollar fine for “accessing millions of articles via MIT’s computer network without “authorization.”” As a result of this immense pressure, Aaron, at age 26, hung himself in his apartment. A really moving and insightful documentary about Aaron’s short but incredible life – “The Internet’s Own Boy” – was released in 2014 and is well worth a look.

The second article, which we will finish the OA Week blog with, is a look to the future:

In her LSE blog Opening Up Open Access: Moving beyond business models and towards cooperative, scholar-organized, open networks Kathleen Fitzpatrick asks “What will be required in order to motivate scholars to take the lead in forming collective, cooperative, scholar-organized and -governed publications on open networks?”

While acknowledging the continued exciting and innovative development in “OA land”, Fitzpatrick suggests that the OA movement may have recently focused too much on the business models of making research free and open at the expense of ensuring that researchers themselves take charge of their own futures in regard to publishing. She questions whether two problems are the cause of the slow movement in this area:

  1. The problem of whether scholars having to get involved with the publishing process is too much for most of them – who were not trained for that work – and the resulting lack of credit they get at the institutional/funding level even if they do happen to launch/run/edit a scholarly journal.
  2. Second problem: “Scholars continue to publish in venues that have established imprimaturs, and in venues that they have no editorial hand in, because those two factors continue to be privileged by the various review mechanisms up the chain.” Fitzpatrick answers herself stating that scholar-led publishing collectives can be just as, and even more rigorous in peer review. They can give the imprimatur needed to be well rated further “up the chain”.

Fitzpatrick’s insightful conclusions (also recently and eloquently advocated by Lars Bjørnshauge here) are best presented in her own words:

But I think, in the coming years, we need to pay as much attention to shifting the requirements of those review mechanisms up the chain, whether institution- or funder-based, in order to persuade them that impact and prestige might not necessarily correlate, that rigor need not necessarily require distance, and that all publications — from the individual scholarly blog to the most carefully edited monograph — demand to be evaluated on their own terms, with an understanding of the possibilities each presents for the increase in knowledge we all seek.

On that note, we’d like to wish you a happy and successful conclusion to OA Week 2015 and all the best for your future endeavours!

 

My thoughts on #OpenAccess and libraries

Recently I posted about the plight of Diego Gomez who is facing trial for the crime of sharing knowledge. Gomez, of course, is not the first victim of heavy-handed attempts to stifle the sharing of knowledge through the misuse of copyright law and licence agreements, as the case of Aaron Swartz tragically illustrated. The Open Access movement, at heart, is an attempt to find new ways to share knowledge – ways which remove the current legal and economic barriers which make information a commodity affordable only by the privileged.

Earlier this week, Ginny Barbour the Executive officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG), noted in some tweets (and if you’ve read this far you should follow her), that we are in a bit of a rut with Open Access advances and we need to start thinking about what is needed next. I agree. She went on to suggest that we need to develop Open Access as an ecosystem, with different models for different specialities and countries and then agree some priorities. I also agree with most of that but global agreement and ecosystems take time to develop; it will only come slowly and with lots of compromise. Facing large challenges can sometimes lead to entropy, but we should not be daunted by the task ahead, and the size of the challenge should not prevent us trying some new approaches, learning and moving on. I think that initiatives like OpenAIRE are very good (almost) global scale examples of this.

With that in mind I’d like to map out what I think we can do now and locally to support OA and build the ecosystems needed to make it sustainable, at least as far as I can tell from my perspective in an academic library. I do not think all of these elements are that well understood, but I do think that they all depend very much on each other and I am trying to make these things a focus for all of my colleagues at UTS Library:

  • advocating, shepherding, implementing and managing University Open Access policy. We have an OA policy at UTS, like many institutional OA mandates, it was originated and sponsored by the Library who now have the responsibility to implement it.
  • improving and managing our Open Access research repository. Ours is now called OPUS. With an OA policy in place we hope to significantly increase the proportion of works in the IR which are open and we’ve set in place some work flow process improvements that link to our research publications management systems that will help us regarding the OA policy implementation by making it easier for academics to deposit copies of their publications. We’re also busy making it all more findable.
  • providing and managing an Open Access press. UTS ePRESS is mostly a journal publisher, but we have started experimenting with monographs of late. We’re learning heaps by doing, improving its quality, meeting various standards (DOAJ, COPE, etc.) and promoting it widely. We are keeping an open mind on publishing and how we do it. I read an article just this week that questioned the need for journals and even articles in the age of the internet. It may not be feasible within the current academic system, but who knows in the future?
  • we’re involved in related system and infrastructure projects. Libraries have a role to play in creating the infrastructure which will support changes in scholarly publishing. For UTS Library these have included our recent Symplectic implementation, a move to ORCID identity management for our researchers, and a pilot project for the payment of certain article processing charges (APC).
  • education. We help to educate researchers in things like rights management (e.g. how to use the SPARC author’s addendum), data management, where to publish, Copyright, etc. There’s no better way to understand something than to teach it. We’re also learning more about the complex OA ecosystem ourselves through involvement in things like SPARC and COAR programs and a newly launched PKP project, The Open Access Publishing Cooperative Study that is looking towards a sustainable global OA model for research and scholarship (I’m on their advisory board).
  • advocacy. Here we do what we can with limited resources, by promoting the OA elements listed above, through regular events during OA week and by trying to model our belief in OA however we can.

The last point above brings brings me to my final point about librarians as researchers and advocates. As researchers ourselves, librarians, at least in Australia, continue to publish in journals behind pay-per-view walls (and I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past). Our flagship professional journals are published by commercial publishers. I’ve heard the many complex reasons for this, but I disagree with those reasons. When we choose to publish somewhere behind an expensive paywall, or after paying a massive APC for Gold OA, or after signing a publishing agreement which will allow Green OA only after lengthy embargo periods we are acting directly in opposition to our role as advocates for freedom of access to information and knowledge.

I think that I have learned over time that one size is not going to fit all for OA, but we still need to work towards a global ecosystem that is inclusive of those who need our help. I don’t have all the answers and I’m sure we could improve and continue to learn more. What are you doing in your library?

PS: I must add my thanks to my colleagues at work who make all of this happen and who also encouraged me to post this and provided advice on how to make it much better than my early draft! MMB

The awful case of Diego Gomez and barriers to #OpenAccess

This week I was quite upset by reading about the case of Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student who is standing trial, and possibly facing years in prison, for sharing an academic paper on Scribd, with his graduate school peers, some years ago. You can read more about his case and support him via EFF: Diego Gomez trial – EFF support.

This really got me quite angry thinking about how low on the totem pole the sharing of knowledge actually is in academia. The reality is that, because of the system we have, it falls well below the pursuit of individual careers and institutional reputations in a pretty bizarre, competitive and largely unfair game of rankings, ratings and impact factors that all works to reinforce an unsustainable market for academic publishing. (Remember here, that these are just my personal views, not those of my institution and also that I am actually part of that system, so I’m at least partially at fault.)

Governments and funding institutions need some metrics for research performance and output but the current measures for impact seem quite inadequate from a number of perspectives. Currently, they do not, and maybe they cannot, measure effectively and fairly “societal benefit”. As a vendor said to me earlier this week, sometimes the benefit from published research comes to fruition years down the track, so how can we account for that? The economic benefit of research to industry and the commercial sector can take ages to be realised and the links back to the original research may not be clear or comprehensive, so how much of this kind of impact should be directly attributable? The real impact of research is even harder to measure with less tangible outcomes like policy improvements or advances in areas such as public health.

Academics too need some agreed measures for career progression, but many are now openly questioning the value of the current publish or perish driver. It is especially debatable when it encourages and leads to situations in which the published research is locked away from those who might desperately need it by licenses that are unaffordable to all but elite and wealthy Western institutions that can afford the ridiculous fees charged by academic publishers; publishers who rely on academia for their content and then sell it back to them at prices that, as someone once noted, make Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist. Of course, this is news to nobody, but it does make Diego Gomez’ plight seem grossly unfair and unjust. It is an opportunity for us all, researchers, librarians, policy makers, to consider the limitations and inequities of the current system, and how we as individuals and institutions will address them.

As I was busy writing this post I noted with some interest that in an effort to make all publications by Dutch scientists available through Open Access by 2024, Dutch universities plan to boycott one of the big four academic publishers, Elsevier (from 2 July 2015). Apparently they were not able to even come close to an agreement with Elsevier.