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Research and teaching

Open Access Week

14th International Open Access Week will be held October 25-31, 2021. The theme of the week is “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.”

This year’s theme intentionally aligns with the recently released UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, of which Open Access is a crucial component. Circulated in draft form following discussion by representatives of UNESCO’s 193 member countries, the Recommendation powerfully articulates and centers the importance of equity in pursuing a future for scholarship that is open by default.

Open Science should embrace a diversity of knowledge, practices, workflows, languages, research outputs and research topics that support the needs and epistemic pluralism of the scientific community as a whole, diverse research communities and scholars, as well as the wider public and knowledge holders beyond the traditional scientific community, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and social actors from different countries and regions, as appropriate. (UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, Page 7)

As the first global standard-setting framework on Open Science, the UNESCO Recommendation will provide an important guide for governments around the world as they move from aspiration to the implementation of open research practices. This year’s theme of “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity” highlights the Recommendation’s call for equitable participation for all producers and consumers of knowledge.

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 regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career stage, discipline, language, religion, disability, ethnicity or migratory status or any other grounds. (UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, Page 7)

International Open Access Week is a time for the wider community to coordinate in taking action to make openness the default for research and to ensure that equity is at the center of this work. This year's Open Access Week will be held from October 25th through the 31st; however, organizers are encouraged to host discussions and take action around this year’s theme whenever is most suitable during the year and to adapt the theme and activities to their local context. This is especially true as countries around the world continue to face varying levels of disruption due to COVID-19 and increasing disruption due to climate change.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be consistently prioritized year-round and integrated into the fabric of the open community, from how our infrastructure is built to how we organize community discussions to the governance structures we use. International Open Access Week is an important opportunity to catalyze new conversations, create connections across and between communities that can facilitate this co-design, and advance progress to build more equitable foundations for opening knowledge—discussions and actions that need to be continued, year in and year out.

Participating in Open Access Week is a joint collaboration between the university libraries in Iceland as part of an international awakening on financing and publishing research.

Jack E. James, professor at the Department of Psychology, has researched open access for the past years but because of publishers demands his research is more often than not locked behind a paywall. The research did nonetheless take place within the academic community that funded it via the state budget –in order to create better and more sustainable knowledge for our communities as a whole. The state of academic publishing has caused a lot of people a lot of worry within the academic community but in general, the current state is considered unfair to say the least.

But there are people that go further than worry, they take action and demonstrate the unfairness as an act of civil disobedience. Alexandra Elbakyan is one such person who runs one of if not the most popular database online, Sci-Hub, and constitutes a good part of James‘ research article where he also considers the ethical dilemma of on the one hand to decide to use Sci-Hub in your research when open access is hard to come by but Sci-Hub‘s impact on the open access movement is more or less unaccounted for in research on research:

Assuming, then, that the centuries-old ideal of maximizing access to scientific knowledge is in the public interest, the principle of fairness provides justification for consumers of scientific knowledge to consider the current state of academic publishing and to take stock of implied moral imperatives. Only then is each individual ethically equipped to decide what action, if any, is required to challenge current barriers to access. Some, even while believing that copyright transfer and access paywalls are unethical, may conclude that use of pirate OA, with its attendant contestable legality and morality, is not justified. Others, however, may take the opposite view, concluding that use of pirate OA is not merely justifiable as a form of civil disobedience but a moral imperative. In that instance, the act of civil disobedience is not aimed at breaching cyber security law or copyright law per se. Rather, electronic civil disobedience in that instance is an act of protest against perceived unfairness in current publishing arrangements that permit (indeed, encourage) transfer of copyright of public scientific knowledge to be monetized for profit.

James, J. E. (2020). Pirate open access as electronic civil disobedience: Is it ethical to breach the paywalls of monetized academic publishing? Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 1-5. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.24351

Documentary on open access: "Paywall: The Business of Scholarship". Jason Schmitt, producer and director, is a professor at Clackson University in Potsdam, NY