Monday, November 20, 2006

Productivity Commission Suggests Open Access to Research Results

The Productivity Commission released the draft research report "Public Support for Science and Innovation", 2 November 2006. The report suggests that those receiving government research funding be required to make their results freely available:
"There is scope for the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to play a more active role than they currently do in promoting access to the results of research they fund. They could require as a condition of funding that research papers, data and other information produced as a result of their funding are made publicly available such as in an 'open access' repository."

From "Overview", Public Support for Science and Innovation, Productivity Commission, 2 November 2006
Unfortunately (and ironically), many will not be able to navigate their way through the complex way the report has been published on-line. The Commission has obviously tried to make the information available, but has tried too hard providing too many documents to have to choose from. There are:

* State and Territory based assessment of Australian research, a technical paper issued with the report.
* Media Release
* Key Points
* Science and Innovation Study
* Report Overview
* Preliminaries
* Chapters
* Appendices

The Preliminaries, Chapters and Appendices are provided in both PDF and Zipped RTF.
The table of contents of the report is then provided.

This is a bewildering set of choices. My first reaction was to click on the table of contents, but there is no web (HTML) version of the report linked to it. You have to decide what in the table of contents you want then work out which of the eight files you need to download to read it.

The Productivity Commission is not alone in this problem. It is an area where Australian researchers receiving funding for open access and repository work could make a useful contribution to the nation. Otherwise we might end up with government and university repositories full of information which in theory is freely accessible but which no one can find their way around.

So far the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) work has not shown any solutions to the problem. The APSR itself is producing large hard to read reports which will clog up the electronic repositories. Unusable repositories will not be sustainable.

Neither the Productivity Commission, nor APSR work, appears to have addressed the business models for Open Access. The emphasis seems to be on providing repositories which are electronic recycling bins for other people's publications. The assumption is that someone in the USA or Europe will publish Australian research reports and we
should be grateful if they let us have a copy for our repository.

The result is that the companies in the USA and Europe will make money from publishing Australian research and will receive the kudos from its publication. It is assumed that no one wants to publish in an Australian based publication, as it would be low status. However, as the ACS has shown with JRPIT and CRPIT, there is a role for Australian publishing in leading our region, promoting our research and providing Australian jobs.

Of course I could be biased as I am the Chair of Scholarly publishing for the ACS. ;-)

No comments: