Open Education, here we come!

By | July 18, 2012
This announcement is an accelerator launching us towards the changing education paradigm that is worth mentioning – and worth adopting across the board. I welcome the move towards free access to research. That levels the playing field between the academic caste and the DIY caste in terms of access to ideas – one big step forward.

Next big steps:

1. Level the playing field in access to publishing, such that academics can benefit from the DIYs without being penalized.

2. Clean up the patent minefield to offer reasonable protection to innovators without hampering innovation by fears of litigation.

Reshared post from +EuroTech

Boosting Europe's Innovation Capacity with Free Access to All Research
U.K. to be one of the first EU countries to implement this Horizon 2020 mandate in 2014.
by +Kellya Clanzig, +EuroTech; France

The European Commission today outlined measures to improve access to scientific information produced in Europe. Broader and more rapid access to scientific papers and data will make it easier for researchers and businesses to build on the findings of public-funded research to give Europe a better return on its €87 billion annual investment in R&D. The measures complement the Commission’s Communication to achieve a European Research Area (ERA), also adopted today. As a first step, the Commission will make open access to scientific publications a general principle of Horizon 2020, the EU’s Research & Innovation funding programme for 2014-2020.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, said: “We must give taxpayers more bang for their buck. Open access to scientific papers and data will speed up important breakthroughs by our researchers and businesses, boosting knowledge and competitiveness in Europe.”

Meanwhile, the U.K. adopted a similar policy, which follows the EU open access model.

“It is our well-established policy that outputs from all research supported through HEFCE funding should be as widely and freely accessible as the available channels for dissemination permit.” With this sentence, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) introduces its declaration supporting the U.K. government plans to make publicly funded scientific research immediately available for anyone to read for free by 2014. 

The decision is an initial success of the growing protests against scientific publishers. It reflects the support for “open access” publishing among academics – opposed to the actual system, where publishers make large profits by locking research behind online paywalls. So far, more than 12,000 academics have boycotted the Dutch publisher Elsevier, as part of a broader campaign against the industry that has been called the “academic spring.”

“If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that work shouldn’t be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can read it,” says David Willetts, the universities and science minister, in an interview with the Guardian.

The government decision is outlined in a formal response to recommendations made in a major report into open access publishing led by Professor Dame Janet Finch, a sociologist at Manchester University. The Finch report strongly recommends “gold” open access publishing, which ensures the financial security of the journal publishers by essentially swapping their revenue from library budgets to science budgets, and that would be supported by the HEFCE. This comes as a viable alternative to “green” open access (self-archiving), that allows researchers to make their papers freely available online after they have been accepted by journals. If this latter solution is favored by the researchers, it is not acceptable for many publishers who live by selling subscriptions.

The four UK Higher Education funding bodies already announced that they will develop proposals for implementing a requirement that research outputs submitted to a REF or similar exercise after 2014 shall be as widely accessible as may be reasonably achievable at the time.

But some scientists are worried because the cost of the transition (that could reach £50m a year), must be covered by the existing science budget, which could lead to less research and fewer valuable papers being published.

To give you an idea, British universities now pay around £200m a year in subscription fees to journal publishers, but under the new scheme, authors will pay “article processing charges” of around  £2,000 per article to have it peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online.

“We accept that some of this cost will fall on the ring-fenced science budget, which is £4.6bn. In Finch’s highest estimation that will be 1% of the science budget going to pay for gold open access, at least before we get to a new steady state, when we hope competition will bring down author charges and universities will make savings as they don’t have to pay so much in journal subscriptions,” answers Willetts.

Willetts follows the path of the EU when it announces the next tranche of Horizon 2020 grants, which are available for projects that run from 2014.  “If the EU and the US go in for open access in a big way, then we’ll move into this open access world with no doubt at all, and I strongly  believe that in a decade, that’s where we’ll be. But it’s the period of transition that’s the worry. The UK publishes only 6% of global research, and the rest will remain behind a paywall, so we’ll still have to pay for a subscription,” Professor Adam Tickell, pro-vice chancellor of research and knowledge transfer at Birmingham University says.

The challenge now, is for publishers to react smarter and quicker than the music industry did to its own digital challenges over the last decade.

Further reading:
The original report by the Finch team:
+EuroTech on Horizon 2020:
The video shows Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President, talking to scientific experts about openness in science – and the great results that can be achieved with open access.
Tags: #ScienceEveryday

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3 thoughts on “Open Education, here we come!

  1. John Poteet

    Good to know. Accreditation is one of those things I imagine Google might do well since at some level it's a database matching problem. Is X person hitting enough points of congruence that we can say they're fully-somewhat-training competency level in Y skill. 

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +John Poteet at the same time, github resumes are gaining traction. It's a small step and not industry-rampant, but suggests a possible trend in value in what you can do instead of what degree you have.

  3. John Poteet

    The bottleneck is not access to materials but access to respected evaluation and accreditation. Nobody cares what clases a college dropout took or what those grades were. They want the degree. 


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