Chief Scientist eyes a distant open access prize

Open science is the ultimate aspiration

Critics of Chief Scientist Cathy Foley’s idea for an Australian Model of research access make obvious but way too often ignored points. Dr Foley suggests a model that rolls open access and article processing charges into subscription fees (CMM yesterday). But this does not address the foundation of for-profit publishing – not paying authors and reviewers of articles based on publicly funded research.

Such criticism is correct  – but it is not going to create green open access. The models to create such free to read, free to publish research exist but the academic will can be lacking. The National Health and Medical Research Council has delayed (no word until when) its proposal to extend OA for publication of research it funds, (CMM April 16, November 2). It was supposed to start in January but while the NHMRC is not expansive on reasons for the delay, there appears ambivalence among researchers.

But the problem of publisher power is way-bigger than research articles and that may explain Dr Foley’s thinking.  The new big thing for research publishers is monetising access and analysis of the science data in their files. As UNESCO’s new Open Science Recommendation puts it, “some major publishers are evolving into monopolistic technology companies with the potential to privatise access to knowledge.”

The Chief Scientist points to, “the bigger and more transformative shift, including open access to research data, open code, open research infrastructure and other resources. This has a great deal to offer science … It will speed research, and it will provide the data stream to enable the full benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning.” But she acknowledges “open science” is a “bigger and more complex step” than OA for published papers which can come first.  And if it does, it means publishers are engaging in a process towards expanding access.