22 May 2012

Report from the IFLA/EIFL/COAR/SPARC World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2012 Workshop, Geneva, Switzerland

On Thursday 17th May 2012 IFLA, along with its organising partners Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) and Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) held a workshop on open access titled 'Rethinking the Agenda for Development: Open Access Policies and Practice'. This was the second year in a row that IFLA had organised a workshop on open access at WSIS, and the high-level discussion that took place showed that there is a knowledge of and an appetite for the issue amongst WSIS attendees.

IFLA Director of Policy and Advocacy, Stuart Hamilton, moderated the session which featured the Chair of IFLA's Open Access Taskforce Lars Bjornshauge, Silvia Nakano, Director of the Science & Technology National Directorate of Physical Resources at the Ministry of Science Technology and Productive Innovation in Argentina, and Eve Gray, an honorary research associate at the Centre for Educational Technology and the IP Law and Policy Research Unit at University of Cape Town. Around 35 people participated in an active discussion lasting more than an hour, and 8-10 further people used the remote participation facilities to view via the Internet.

Workshop Objectives and Outcomes

The main objective of the workshop was to discuss how open policies are being used in support of development in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on Africa and Latin America. To do this, case studies and best practice were discussed, along with the challenges and barriers that need to be overcome to place the item on the agenda of policymakers. Presenters gave brief presentations on this from the perspective of governments, research and academia, and libraries, before an interactive discussion took place for the remainder of the workshop.

The workshop's outcomes included a clear identification of the 'buy-in' needed to place open access policies on the agenda of governments and research institutions. Eve Gray and Silvia Nakano illustrated how this process had worked in their regions, while Lars Bjornshauge offered opinions on the current state of policy implementation in Europe and North America. All stakeholders - government departments and policymakers; academics and researchers; librarians and publishers - have a role to play in promoting and implementing open access policies that can support development. The value of providing free access to taxpayer funded research was clearly identified as a motivating factor for the uptake of open access, along with the importance of encouraging more output from researchers in the developing world to counter a northern bias in scholarly output and publishing. An important outcome of the workshop was information exchange between the panelists and audience participants from developing countries, particularly Africa and the Middle-east who wished to develop programmes and policies in their countries.

Emerging trends & possible implications for the WSIS process beyond 2015

Workshop reporters were asked to feedback to the WSIS organisers about any emerging trends identified by panellists and participants, with a view to identifying any possible implications for WSIS-post 2015. The presentations and discussed showed that open access is in a very strong phase at the moment, with many governments developing policies to open up taxpayer-funded research, research trusts promoting open access journals and universities mandating academics and researchers to publish their results in an open access format. The issue of access to taxpayer funded research, without having to pay twice (i.e. having to pay to buy back the results of the research from third-party publishers) has also been increasingly mentioned in mainstream publications and press, especially in Europe and North America, and this will have implications for the profile of the issue in the global south. As we move towards 2015 open access will continue to gain momentum, and IFLA believes it is essential that the issue, and the benefits of adopting policies that use open access to research information to support development, stays on the agenda of WSIS.

WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society), Open access, Access to information, Switzerland

List all IFLA news