Summary and Reflections from the Berlin 11 Open Access Conference

This November, I had the pleasure of attending the Berlin 11 Open Access Conference.  This year’s conference marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Berlin Open Access Declaration. The goal of this declaration states:

“in order to realize the vision of a global and accessible representation of knowledge, the future Web has to be sustainable, interactive, and transparent. Content and software tools must be openly accessible and compatible.”

To date, over 450 institutions have signed the declaration and are actively working towards open access policies.

This year’s conference included, for the first time, a satellite conference for students and early career researchers, highlighting the importance of the youth perspective (as digital natives). A report from the satellite conference showed just how dedicated some of today’s youth are to Open Access, highlighting Jack Andraka’s use of open access material to create a faster, more efficient test for pancreatic cancer as well as the creation and launch of the Open Access Button

The morning of day one of the conference focused on OA policies that are being established in Germany, France, the European Commission, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The primary messages coming from this session were:

  • Information gained through public funding should be returned to the public.
  • The language used in policy must be carefully written to increase the specificity of its interpretation.
  • More open science today will lead to better science tomorrow.
  • The government needs public backing for OA policies to be put in place.

The afternoon of day one took a break from government policy and energized the crowd with a “where are we now” session. Delegates from Germany, the United Kingdom, and Belgium talked about bold ideas and made bold statements which included:

  • The idea of ZEN (Zero Embargo Now) and that publishers should add value in order to charge fees.
  • Cutting subscription budgets by 20-30% to allocate resources to OA in order to push the OA movement forward.
  • Implementing policies so all institutional promotions are based off of articles published in the institutional repository.

We returned on day two to hear about the global perspective of open access. We heard from Brazil, France, USA, Kenya and China on efforts occurring in their counties to promote open access.

While it was interesting to hear from the developed counties, Daniel Mutonga from the Medical Student Association of Kenya drew our attention to the issues experienced by low-income countries such as: budgets, literacy and infrastructure.  His examples showed the audience that the struggles we have implementing OA are twofold in less developed countries and that perhaps there are ways that we can assist these countries in their efforts.

Future challenges for open access were discussed in the second session of the day. Items discussed included open access for the social sciences and humanities and how these groups have not been heavily consulted or involved in open access decision making. Also discussed was the importance of open access to data, with a prediction that the 20th anniversary of the conference will focus on open data.

The general feeling of the conference was that we’ve come a long way since the first Berlin Open Access Conference but that a lot more has to happen to keep the momentum moving. 

From my perspective, I was encouraged by the presentations at the event and the amount of enthusiasm from those involved. I think the one point that concerns me more than just open access to articles, is the preservation and longevity of these articles. While it is important to make sure articles are published openly, it is also important to know that these articles are being preserved and held securely. I think too that the ability to store more than just articles in an institutional repository is important. An institution can add context and increase site traffic by including images and other multimedia that links to the articles published by faculty. 

The discussion on open data is one that resonates with us at discoverygarden. We have had several clients and interested parties ask about our ability to handle data. While Islandora is able to store data in any format in Fedora, I would encourage groups to come together to discuss a consistent way to store and display data. Open data will only be successful if all of the stakeholders involved are consulted.