The theme of this year’s International Open Access week from October 24th – 30th is “Open for Climate Justice”. Each year, Open Access Week has a theme and this feels especially relevant in this region, given the almost continuous rolling climate disasters across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand that are now the new normal.

The importance of openness in climate research is also one that has gained attention from Creative Commons, which, in association with two open access policy groups,  EIFL and SPARC, have launched a campaign to increase open access to research on climate science and biodiversity, with backing from the Arcadia Fund. In addition to publications, resources like the IPCC Data Distribution Centre and the Biodiversity Heritage Library show the value of open access to a range of outputs from current datasets to historical images.

The sharing of research openly during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how innovation and solutions, such as the CORD-19 dataset of COVID-19 and coronavirus publications, could be developed collaboratively and equitably to make progress on a global problem. As the world faces the ongoing impacts of climate change, the same case can be argued for openly sharing research findings in order to drive rapid responses and solutions to the climate crisis.

2022 has seen a number of policy initiatives in open access in Australia and internationally including

* NHMRC’s updated Open Access Policy which requires all NHMRC funded research to be made immediately open access at the time of first on-line publication

* US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) memorandum to all Federal agencies that publish research requiring them to put in place, by the end of 2025, policies and processes whereby all the research they fund, and associated data, will be made immediately and freely available for all

* Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist discussing the need for a national approach to open access

* UNESCO has now moved into the implementation phase of its Open Science Recommendation

The climate theme is also closely aligned with another important principle increasingly discussed in relation to open access – that of equity. Careful planning is essential to ensure a genuine transition to sustainable, diverse, open access publishing models, and to avoid creating new inequities.

Initially, the hope of advocates was that by switching the payment model, i.e. from institutions paying subscription costs to institutions supporting open access through article processing charges (with fee waivers as needed), those institutions that were already able to afford subscriptions would ensure that future research that was published was available universally. However, the move to APCs has instead meant that new inequalities are being created. Rather than researchers being unable to read research, they may now also be unable to publish.

The UNESCO Open Science Recommendation states,  “open science  should  play  a  significant  role  in  ensuring equity among researchers from developed and developing countries, enabling fair and reciprocal sharing of scientific inputs and outputs and equal access to scientific knowledge to both producers and consumers of knowledge”  Furthermore, it recognises the potential for open science in “reducing the existing inequalities in science, technology and innovation, and accelerating progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”

It is well recognised that there is a massive inequity in where the effects of climate change are being felt, with those least likely to be consulted on policy – and who are least able to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change – being most affected. At the same time, many sustainable, innovative solutions to global challenges will likely come from our neighbouring small island developing states. Ensuring they, and all researchers, have access to research publications and data that underpins their work, and the opportunity to publish openly and affordably are essential contributors to solving global challenges.

Open Access Week activities globally are listed at the International Open Access Week site. Events in Australia and New Zealand are listed here including those coordinated by Open Access Australasia, which advocates for a diverse ecosystem of open access approaches and equity in scholarly communications.

Ginny Barbour is Director, Open Access Australasia

Fiona Bradley is Director, Research & Infrastructure (Library), UNSW Sydney

Clare Thorpe is Director, Library Services at Southern Cross University.



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