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We need to do more to fight the trend in commercialising science

“We need to do more to fight the trend in commercialising science”
Prof Ing Aleš Čepek
Name: Prof Ing Aleš Čepek
Position: Full professor
Expertise: Geodesy
Institution: Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Civil Engineering
Country: Czech Republic
More info: Home PageOther

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3159-2320

An interview with Prof Ing Aleš Čepek on 8 February 2016

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

The Czech Republic was first connected to the Internet shortly after the end of the Cold War (academic institutions were connected first, as far as I know) and I was involved in training others in how to use Internet resources. The Internet was the new phenomenon; it was entirely different to information access and dissemination practices in the time of the communist era. In an already forgotten book, The Learning Highway (by Trevor Owen et al., Key Porter Books, 1995), Josef Hnojil and I wrote a chapter entitled “First Contacts with Internet at the Czech Technical University”, where we shared our experiences and concerns regarding the Internet.
My support for Open Access stems from these early experiences. This further intensified with my consequent experience with free software, namely GNU. I still administer my “Adjustment of Geodetic Networks” as a part of GNU today.
I then later published an Open Access journal Geoinformatics, which was accepted by DOAJ in 2015.
To sum up, the road to Open Access has been a natural journey and destination for me with no need for persuasion.

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

Opinions differ. Today’s research, teaching and publishing discussions prefer to focus on the economics of Open Access. Let me start instead with a very pragmatic example. Years ago when I learned C++, my main source of information was a great monograph by Bjarne Stroustrup, the author of the C++ language. However, it is quite cumbersome to search for technical details in a monograph of more than 1,000 pages. Alternatively, many encyclopedia-style websites, e.g., provide access to the full text in such a form that printed monographs could not compete with.

“Whilst forming the basis of our civilisation, universities worked with principles that correspond to today’s Open Access goals.”

Finally, rather than focussing on the economics of OA, I would like to remind ourselves that for centuries, whilst forming the basis of our civilisation, universities worked with principles that correspond to today’s Open Access goals when we freely disseminated information. It will be interesting to see how tools like Google Scholar or ResearchGate will develop, and to see whether they will change their position accordingly in the information environment.

What Open Access activities are you currently involved in?

I am editor-in-chief of the journal Geoinformatics. I tend to promote Open Access among my colleagues and students, mainly PhDs. I above all promote Open Access in the research communities of geodesy and cartography, and geomatics. At the beginning, our journal focussed on the topics of open and free software, and it still promotes this. However, today, in addition, we publish articles related to science and technology associated with geospatial information ranging from geodesy, surveying, geographic information systems, cartography and mapping, photogrammetry, laser scanning, cadastre and other related engineering fields.

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

There is no simple answer to this question. Perhaps setting a good example to other researchers is the first step.

What are the challenges in making research more Open Access?

Some time ago I did some research into software patents. According to the Czech Industrial Property Office, documents that have not been published in the traditional “paper” form cannot be considered as a “prior work”. For example, software archives of the GNU project would not be considered relevant in this case. This might be useful for patent lawyers, but the world has moved on, with others in need of that content. Are we going to ignore certain work just because it has not been published by a traditional publisher? I think not.

“I wonder, how much longer can we stand this situation, and the competition?!”

The matter of research evaluation is also of real importance. Our Czech National R&D Evaluation Policy and Criteria (or in Czech) funding scheme only considers publications indexed by Web of Science (WoS) or Scopus. Our journal is listed on the Czech National list of peer-reviewed journals issued by the Czech Research, Development and Innovation Council. However, since 2013, articles in these journals are no longer part of the evaluation process. I wonder, how much longer can we stand this situation, and the competition?! This clearly impedes Open Access to publications.

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

We definitely still need to do more to fight the trend in commercialising science and related scientific / research activities, including publishing activities. I also believe that evaluating research based on commercial (paid, private) products /databases is unethical.
We need to persist and keep working on more Open Access day after day when “disseminating the fruits of … research and scholarship as widely as possible”, as so nicely put in MIT’s Faculty Open Access Policy.

Copyright: Lenka Nemeckova, Czech Technical University in Prague. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence.

Tags: DOAJ, Internet, OA journal, OA publishing, Open Access, PhDs, accessibility, advocacy, articles, civilisation, commercialisation, costs, dissemination, economics, editor, free, funders, good practice, information environment, monograph, papers, patents, peer review, profit, research assessment, research evaluation, software, traditional publishing, training

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