Blacklist journals that keep research locked up, says Schmidt

Covid is no reason to ease off on demands for open knowledge, Australian forum hears

十一月 9, 2020
Brian Schmidt

Research funding bodies should take a leaf from astronomy’s book and blacklist journals with prohibitive access policies, says Australian National University vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt.

Professor Schmidt told an online forum that funders should impose “very clear” open access requirements, with researchers barred from publishing in any journal that charged for views – even if the journal was the “bee’s knees”.

“I say, don’t publish in that journal – go somewhere else,” he told the Remaking HE conference. “I have very strong views on this. Sometimes you’ve just got to do what’s right, even if it hurts.”

Professor Schmidt said that his field of astronomy was an “outlier” in the open knowledge debate, having made research freely available for decades. Astronomers had been posting their papers in a preprint archive since 1992.

Almost 20 years ago, a large publisher had told researchers that they must wait until it had printed their papers before posting them in the archive. “The astronomy community basically said, ‘Then we’re not going to publish with you’,” he said. “They backed down. They let us continue to use the archive.”

Professor Schmidt, who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, said institutions should not allow the pandemic-induced economic crisis to derail open access aspirations. He said that even cashed-up funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had good reason to be “bolshie” about access, when they were trying cure malaria or increase rice field productivity.

“They’re not getting the value for money they want,” he said. “If we don’t share [research] we are literally slowing down the whole process.”

The foundation’s head of knowledge and research services, Ashley Farley, said that it had spent more than $20 million (£15 million) in article processing charges since 2015. “I’m sure many people could come up with a better way to use $20 million,” she told the forum.

Ms Farley, who leads the Gates Open Research publishing platform, said that the foundation was shifting its policy to align with Europe’s Plan S movement. Articles submitted from next year will be published “on open access terms”, it has announced, with papers and underlying data made available immediately and the foundation paying “necessary” fees.

Lucy Montgomery, co-leader of Curtin University’s Open Knowledge Initiative, criticised Australia’s major funding bodies for failing to impose “robust” open access mandates. “If we look at national performance in other places it’s possible to see...the effects of open access policy and infrastructure investments,” she told the forum.

Professor Schmidt said one of the objections to the open dissemination of research – that it could fall into enemy hands – was “just nuts”. While there was good reason not to share research on plutonium bombs or the weaponisation of anthrax, very few topics fell into such a category.

“People don’t understand how knowledge moves around,” he said. “Gross movement of intellectual property doesn’t happen in cyber espionage out of university – it happens [when people] steal the final product from companies.

“There [are] huge amounts of basic [and] applied research where everyone benefits – even when your strategic enemy has knowledge that you have created. It’s better than a zero-sum game. If you can get the entire world to work on something that’s absolutely imperative to you, that’s a good thing.”



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