On “Comprehensive Brief to Open Access to Publications and Research Data for the Federal Granting Agencies,” by Kathleen Shearer

On “Comprehensive Brief to Open Access to Publications and Research Data for the Federal Granting Agencies,” by Kathleen Shearer

In this 2011 document, “Comprehensive Brief to Open Access to Publications and Research Data for the Federal Granting Agencies,” Kathleen Shearer reviews the research dissemination landscape in Canada, especially within the context of open access. She divides her report into two sections: publications and data.

Although the general premise behind open access and open data is the same (that is, free and universal access to research materials), the implementation considerations are actually rather different. There remain challenges to Canadian researchers’ widespread adoption of open access publishing, but the resistance seems to lessen every year as more and more authors develop an understanding of what open access actually is, and why it is so crucial. The misconceptions about open access publications lacking rigour or peer review are fading. Even with a marked increased in predatory journals, resources like Jeffrey Beall’s list of potential predatory journals are useful for sorting the chaff from the whey. (FYI, in writing this post I realized that Beall’s list has recently been taken down off of his website. Definitely something to keep an eye on, and more on that here.) In Canada, the “Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications” guides all funded research, and there are similar policies the world over. And of course, the increase of OA or hybrid journals has done wonders for educating authors and would-be authors about the joys of open access publication.

As of Shearer’s time of writing, 2011, there was not the same amount of resources or support for open data and individual researchers’ data management practices. Thanks to the Canadian Association for Research Libraries’ coordinated Portage initiative and the diligence of librarians at post-secondary institutions across the country, there are now many more viable options for researchers to do effective data management, and even to archive or publish their data openly. But I would hazard a guess that many of the issues Shearer cites in her report remain today: confusion about what open data means, uncertainty about what should and should not be made public, ethical issues with data release, and the lack of a coordinated national strategy for data management.

Shearer writes that “Improving the linkages between research and society is a key strategic aim” (40). She does not necessarily present the same line as seen in much OA literature, that is, that access to knowledge  is a public good. Rather, she cites the economic possibilities of OA, the progressive policies and supportive activities of other countries, and the importance of informed consumers alongside informed citizens. Although I’m rather more prone to evangelizing about OA myself, I do appreciate this pragmatic and measured approach. No doubt it had much influence when it was shared with the Canadian government, and the public, and continues to when it is read today.

 

Works cited

Government of Canada. 2015. “Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.” Science.gc.ca. http://www.science.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=F6765465-1

Shearer, Kathleen. 2011. Comprehensive Brief to Open Access to Publications and Research Data for the Federal Granting Agencies. Tri-Council Report. http://www.science.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=2360F10C-1

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