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#opened14 - second day keynote with Heather Joseph

5 min read

Heather Joseph is the executive director of SPARC. Her background is in publishing, including (only!) 11 months with Elsevier. 

The Open Access movement has been deliberately focused on journal articles as a primary academic output. But they have been very aware that they are not operating in isolation.

This presentation focused on Heather's experiences, and the lessons that have been learned - looking at the parallels between OER and Open Access. It looked to highlight opportunities for collaboration between the two movements.

Technology has been a major driver for changes in scholarly communications. People are sharing academic work via commercial social media. And this is not just sharing work, this is doing work. Ending up with a "whole lot more digital stuff".

Heather gave the example of the human genome as a case study for means of dealing with this data deluge, and the issues that arise. Between 2005 and 2008 the amount of findings taken from the digitised human genome grew exponentially. Submissions to GeneBank also grew exponentially. This put an enormous amount of pressure on the way we share information - there is too much to sit and read articles in a linear fashion.

Enter the concept of the computer as a reader, huge implication for copyright.

A further driver has been the prohibitive cost of journals, similarly to textbooks. Leasing annual access to journals is astonishingly expensive, and a grown by 340% over the last 14 years. An outcomes is that we all run into paywalls when looking for research.

So what do we do, we ask the author for a copy, ask a colleague who can access - or go to on twitter. Or we skip the article and move on. We are operating a system that forces workarounds - we need to optimise the system so it works for scholars.

The Open Access movement is trying to do this. Heather showed the Budapest Open Access Initiative definition (2002). Shortened as "immediate availability plus full reuse".

Enabling strategies have included OA journals and repositories, and policy lobbying.

OA Journals are an alternative to the existing system - offering the same standards as traditional journal, plus free and full access and reuse. Most are available under a CC-BY license.

Repositories are a key component of the infrastructure, allowing authors to make articles accessible and to see them preserved and shared. They are digital collections, that now include things like data, and teaching and learning materials. Interoperability is essential.

Mashing up DOAR and Google Earth shows a healthy infrastructure - though interoperability still needs work. As this infrastructure has grown, so has policy maker interest.

Policy Makers are often focused on maximising social returns on public investment (OECD 2005) by making research findings more widely available. This has enabled an international policy focus based around public entitlement. NIH mandated OA publication in 2008 basted on this pressure, and now all federal agencies are now required to issue similar policies.

After 10 years we have built a lot. Use and trends are increasing. But we are realistic that there is a lot more work to do. Since 2013 only one of the federal agencies has released an OA plan. Only 45 institutions have an OA policy in the US. Less than 20% of articles are deposited in open repositories.

And, as Larry said yesterday: "They're coming for you".

The academic publishing industry is worth $9.4bn, a similar size to the NFL. And they want to preserve this revenue. Publishers like Elsevier are making funding contributions to legislature. The publishing lobby (note there are some commercial publishers that are trying to do the right thing) has a huge "war chest" for influencing policies. Money does buy influence.

The lobby has spent their money on PR (Dezenhall) engaged for a 6 month period in 2007 to run a media messaging campaign against OA. It was noted that the OA message was almost bulletproof - and that the "messages didn't have to be true" to be effective. Ridiculous messages that needed to be rebutted. Money can also buy distraction.

These things will happen, and we will be able to overcome them.

In 2007 SPARC was working with "Students for Free Culture", an organisation inspired by Larry Lessig, They successfully sued Diebold over the the 2000 election. They defended Tom Forsyth against Mattel for using Barbie images - the "Barbie in a blender" day of action.

SPARC and SFC ran a small campaign on the prices of journals. So PR called SPARC "Barbie-Blenders".

But how can we keep winning? We keep winning if we work together, if we build our communities. (wide communities, noting that early-career researchers are key.)

We win when we build better resources for our communities to work with. And these become the preferred resources. The OA campaigns work openly themselves, and this is a strength.

A closing story about Lego demonstrated the benefits of being able to take the pieces apart and put them back together. Lego now looks interoperable with MegaBloks, but they are not. The specs look close, but they are not exact, so structures can collapse. Open campaigns need to adopt the same specifications (technically and legally) to allow bigger structures to be built.