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Stop discriminating against Open Access publications in research evaluation

“Stop discriminating against Open Access publications in research evaluation”
Name: Prof Diana Šimić
Position: University Professor
Expertise: applied statistics, research methods, biometry, information science
Institution: University of Zagreb
Country: Croatia
More info:LinkedInOther

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-6721-7250

An interview with Prof Diana Šimić on 17 January 2016

What were some of your first encounters with Open Access (OA)?

In 2002 I was an Assistant Minister for Information Technology at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Croatia. It was the anniversary of the signature of the Budapest Open Access Initiative Declaration, and I was sent to a meeting on Open Access organised at the Open University in Budapest, together with the then Deputy Minister, Dr. Zdenko Franić. The way that Open Access was discussed reflected the work I’d been doing with the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS).

When I became a member of the Croatian delegation to the Preparatory Process of the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva (and later Tunis), I naturally supported Open Access. During the preparatory meetings in Geneva, I met Prof. Francis Muguet (who deceased in 2009), who vigorously promoted Open Access in the EU’s member states. After a dramatic evening of lobbying at the last planned WSIS Preparatory Meeting, we managed to include Open Access in the text of the Genevan Declaration of Principles – Building the Information Society: a global challenge in the new millennium.


What Open Access activities are you currently involved in?

I am part of a group of people who regularly promote and initiate Open Access on various levels in Croatia. Some of the things we have done include establishing a national portal of Open Access scientific journals (http://hrcak.srce.hr/?lang=en) at the University Computing Center in Zagreb. In 2012 we drafted and signed the Croatian Open Access Declaration. This was subsequently endorsed by the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, major Croatian institutions of higher education, as well as more than 650 individual signatories. As a Professor and educator I promote Open Access for all types of scientific information (publications, research data, etc.) in my lectures on research methods for both graduates and postgraduates.

Why, in your opinion, do we need Open Access to research?

The global research community does not have the sufficient resources to meet the challenges of the contemporary world. While replication is the cornerstone of contemporary research, this should not mean unnecessary repetition of conclusive research.

Even the richest research organisations cannot afford to purchase access to all of the world’s relevant research literature. At the same time, research results from large areas of the globe are being totally ignored. These problems cannot be solved by using a traditional approach to scientific publishing.

“The free flow of research results is a necessary precondition for meeting the new global challenges of today.”

In addition, many countries are investing large sums of public money in scientific research where some results are not even available to the public due to commercial publisher copyright protection. The free flow of research results is a necessary precondition for meeting the new global challenges of today, such as climate change, population growth and aging, global criminal and terrorist organisations, clean drinking water supply … to name a few.


Can Open Access have a positive effect on research careers?

Open Access definitely increases the visibility of researchers, and thus has a positive influence on their careers.

What can scholars and/or administration do to promote openness to research?

Many institutions still do not evaluate Open Access publications on a par with their traditional publication counterparts. Scholars and administrators can work on developing employment and promotion evaluation criteria that stop discriminating against Open Access publications.

Another way that administrations can help is by setting up repositories and archives of Open Access to scientific publications and data.

Funding organisations should also require research results of publicly funded research – including data – to be made publicly available in Open Access repositories.

Who do you engage with to spread the OA message, and how?

Currently I am most focussed on working with doctoral students at the University of Zagreb. I include Open Access to scientific publications and research data in my lectures and as part of some seminars.

In 2014-2015 I was a member of the project proposal evaluation committee for social sciences at the University of Zagreb. During this period project proposals submitted by teams that published in Open Access were also awarded additional points.


What are the challenges in OA advocacy and what still needs to be done?

There are still many researchers who are not aware of Open Access alternatives, and many of them sit on research evaluation committees. If a young researcher knows that his or her research published Open Access will not be evaluated as highly as those published and referenced in some commercial databases, they will tend not to publish in Open Access. This is despite the fact that they have ironically profited from using Open Access resources themselves.

I believe that academic employment and promotion criteria should embrace Open Access. More funding agency support for Open Access is also key for global take-up. In the meantime, acceptance of Open Access is growing. It is a process, and it is important to work on advocating it amongst all stakeholders to keep it growing!

 

Copyright: Prof Diana Šimić, University of Zagreb. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence.

Tags: OA policy, Open Access, accessibility, advocacy, awareness raising, career development, copyright protection, cost efficiency, discrimination, evaluation criteria, fairness, free flow of information, funding organisations, graduates, growth, institutional repositories, international, lobbying, national, postgraduates, promotion, public funding, public responsibility, research data, research evaluation, traditional publishing, training, visibility

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