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Open Access to Scholarly Information

The final speakers in this EDEM 2010 session are Noella Edelmann and Peter Parycek, who begin by highlighting the importance of open access journals, and the mindshift amongst users who now expect to have open access to information.

Open access has caused a stir in the academic community by providing a different model for publication; it is still poorly understood, however: it does not necessarily change peer review processes, for example, though some open access projects do substantially change the approach to scholarly publication. It operationalises the advantages of publishing online by minimising costs and maximising distribution; in doing so, it also creates substantial benefits especially for disavantaged scholars (e.g. from developing countries).

Open access approaches have now been widely accepted by universities around the world, and many of them have developed open access (ePrints) platforms and have instituted open access mandates requiring their researchers to provide open access version of their publications. Open access also encourages participation, cooperation, and innovation, by making content more widely available and more immediately usable for others.

This enables scholarly content to be used more readily for societal innovation, and thus allows scholars to have a greater impact on societal debates. Scholarly material now shows up more readily in user-generated initiatives - especially also where it is released under alternative copyright models (like Creative Commons) that enable reuse and modification. This is highly confronting for commercial publishers whose business models rely on copyright control, however.

If further policy changes towards encouraging open access are required, however, then the best opportunity is for governments which are major research funders to require open access publication (this may work better in Europe than in the US, however, where more private funding is available for scholarly research). A further step beyond open access publication is also to require open access to the source data, then, which creates yet further opportunities for innovative reuse.

Ultimately, this creates a space for a repositioning of universities within society, then, and leads to greater potential for innovation. In turn, such innovation also enables a wider range of initiatives for e-democracy.

And that's it - many thanks to the EDEM 2010 conference organisers for another fine conference, and roll on 2011!

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