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Educate all participants of the scholarly communication system on Open Access

“Educate all participants of the scholarly communication system on Open Access”
Name: Ivana Hebrang Grgić
Position: Assistant Professor
Expertise: scholarly communication, library history, library collections
Institution: University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Information and Communication Sciences
Country: Croatia
More info: Home Page LinkedIn Other

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-6709-9939

An interview with Ivana Hebrang Grgić on 17 January 2016

What got you interested in Open Access (OA) originally?

Originally, I got interested in Open Access during my work on my M.A. thesis in 2002/2003. My thesis was about scholarly communication through journals in Croatia. It was also the time when Croatia saw its first OA journals. In peripheral scientific communities, such as Croatian ones, scholars have restricted access to subscription-based journals (more restricted than in more developed countries). The idea of using new technologies to make research results available to everyone, without restrictions, seemed to be a good solution to this access crisis.
It was in 2007 when, working on my PhD thesis, I decided to investigate the state of OA in Croatia, comparing it to the global OA movement.

What Open Access activities are you currently involved in?

I am a member of the Commission for Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression of the Croatian Library Association. This Commission organises a Round Table every year on Free Access to Information. For info on 2015’s event, see here. One of the topics of 2016’s Round Table will be Open Access and Open Data.

I am also a member of the programme committee of the PubMet conference (for 2015’s programme, see here), a conference on scholarly publishing that includes Open Access-related topics. Furthermore, the University of Zagreb organises various events, workshops and round tables on Open Access (not only during OA week) and I am usually involved, either in programme committees or as an invited speaker.
I also publish on the topic of Open Access. Most recently I edited a book about Croatian scientific journals that includes chapters on Open Access.

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

Open Access is part of the essence of scholarly communication. I like to compare the first scholarly journals published in the 17th century to OA journals. The idea of publishing those first journals was very similar to the idea of OA, although the technology was different. The main purpose of the journals in the 17th century was to make research results visible. Publishers were non-commercial scholarly societies and their main interest was in the dissemination of information, not profit. Editors of the first journals were volunteers, as were the editors of the first OA journals.

“Preventing access to scientific information opposes the world we believe we live in – a world of tolerance and human rights.”

Today, in my opinion, OA is the only fair model, especially for publishing results of publicly-funded research.
When I explain Open Access to a non-scientist, I use an example from the field of health and medicine. If a patient in an undeveloped country is suffering from a curable disease, he/she could die if the given doctor does not have access to the newest research results … all due to the unavailability of scientific information. Preventing access to scientific information opposes the world we believe we live in – a world of tolerance and human rights.

Can Open Access have a positive effect on research careers?

Yes, Open Access can positively affect careers as it makes research results more visible. The OA citation advantage has been proven and it also has a positive impact on assessment. It is important for OA journals and repositories to be recognised as high-quality information sources on both national and international levels. However, it is also important to educate scientists on how to evaluate OA sources. So if OA sources are used properly, they should have a positive effect on research and research careers. The main challenge here is to ensure an adequate level of information literacy in scholars as well as in policy makers and administrators.

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

Scholars should publish in OA journals and repositories in order to support OA. Administration, e.g. at universities or research institutes, should encourage the implementation of Institutional Repositories and the adoption of OA mandates. Libraries can have an important role to play in the promotion of openness to research. They should help their institutions to publish OA journals on the one hand and to evaluate OA sources correctly on the other. Libraries should help implement and maintain OA repositories. Libraries should also organise education programmes for their users (scholars, administration and students) to explain the advantages of OA.

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

My best partners are librarians and editors of scholarly journals, as they understand the value of high-quality OA information as well as the challenges of scholarly communication. Librarians are information specialists and they were the first to notice the access crisis, as they were not able to acquire all the necessary resources for their readers. All the librarians I have worked with are strong and engaged OA advocates. Almost all Croatian scholarly journals are OA journals, so their editors are also excellent partners in promoting OA. They are experts in their scientific fields and they understand the process (and the problems) of scholarly communication.

What are the challenges with OA advocacy?

There are many challenges in spreading the OA concept. The biggest problem that the OA movement is facing today is it acquiring a negative reputation caused by questionable publishers. Questionable journals, publishers and conferences often act as cyber criminals, thereby endangering the future of OA and the future of science. The APC model is very often, but incorrectly, associated with OA. The biggest challenge is therefore to educate the participants of the scholarly communication system to know how to find, evaluate and use OA information. Developing information literacy skills can ensure the proper use of reliable OA information.

Another challenge is openness in the peer-review process. New ways of peer-review, especially open peer-review, are increasingly being experimented with. Some editors and some peer-reviewers and authors still meet with this with some scepticism.
I would conclude by saying that the main challenges involve carrying out strong quality control of OA publications, as evaluated, high-quality information should be the essence of scholarly communication.

What still needs to be done to get more Open Access to research?

It is important to raise awareness about the advantages of OA, but also to remove the negative connotations. National and international legislation should encourage Open Access through journals and/or repositories. Institutions should be more involved in making research results available in OA, focussing not only on scholars, librarians and students, but also on administrators and the wider public (perhaps even teachers and children before entering universities).

As the OA movement is relatively new, it constantly meets with new problems that have to be solved. The biggest problem at the moment is the group of questionable publishers, and we need new mechanisms to detect them. …Open Data is a very important topic. Scholars and the wider public still do not know enough about the importance of sharing data. Open Data could be very beneficial to researchers and their careers, but also for the advancement of science and, thus, society in general.


Copyright: Ivana Hebrang Grgić, University of Zagreb. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence

Tags: OA journals, Open Access, accessibility, advocacy, awareness, benefits, career development, citations, commercial publishing, developing countries, education, institutional repository, international, journals, legislation, literacy, national, open data, openness, peer review, public funding, public responsibility, quality, repositories, research assessment, research evaluation, rights, scholarly communication, sharing, society, subscriptions, thesis, traditional publishing, value, visibility, work process

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