(#14) Lessons from the SPARC OA 2012 meeting, Kansas City

Recently, John Wilbanks, Fellow of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and recent Vice President of Science at Creative Commons, gave a rousing keynote address at the start of the SPARC Open Access Meeting in Kansas City (March 11-13). He made several standout points that all institutional repository managers should consider:

“We are all Veruca Salt.” We all want it NOW.

We seem to believe that scientists’ professional lives are different from their personal lives. In the age of the Kindle, it is any wonder that some scientists are frustrated with the status quo of publishing and libraries, when they can’t effortlessly sync their research across storage solutions, virtual lab benches, repositories, and journal websites as easily as they can sync their e-reader?

Wilbanks drove home the point that we need to build smarter systems immediately that are a) interoperable and b) make researchers’ work as easy as pressing a “Sync” button.

 “Data publication is not the magic answer.”

What good is data that has no context? Or raw data that has context, for that matter? Wilbanks pointed out that publishing all data, without discretion or curation, does not provide a magic answer to the problems we already have with the pace of scientific discovery (and the roadblocks that closed access publishing are thought to contribute to). We need to consider very carefully the points at which we publish data, what we choose to publish, and who edits the data that we do publish.

This has an important lesson for librarians and institutional repository managers, many of whom are currently struggling with how to create a well-formed collection development plan for their data, and how to provide services that researchers need related to data.

What is “true” Open Access?

Wilbanks and many other Open Access advocates point to the so-called “Berlin” definition of Open Access as the “true OA” standard. It is his belief that for-profit publishers have “diluted” the meaning of Open Access by applying restrictive Creative Commons licenses to papers published in their journals. Any license other than CC-BY hinders innovation, according to Wilbanks, by requiring that researchers who wish to repurpose licensed articles, data, etc, gain approval before doing so.

Wilbanks was quick to admit that “restrictive” CC licensing is often done in order to protect the commercial interests of publishers. His solution for this problem is based upon the long tail of use that research sees in its lifecycle: there’s generally a lot of interest in the first few months, but that quickly drops off. What if the license changed, based on where that research was in its life cycle (see slides 86-88)? While this is still just an idea, it is an intriguing one.

The adoption of a lifecycle approach to Open Access licensing by mainstream publishers could have a profound effect on self-archiving at IRs. No longer would we have to consult SHERPA/RoMEO to find the OA policy for an obscure journal; we could ingest items upon publication and know that after 6 months (or 1 year, etc), that embargoed item could go live. Imagine the resources and employee hours saved!

In addition to Wilbanks, there were many excellent speakers at SPARC OA 2012. For those who wish to learn more about the conference, check out these excellent Storify summaries. You can also view all presentation slide decks at SPARC’s website.