Keeping It Global with Open Access
As I tell anyone who asks me why I want to do oncology, I love (yes, LOVE) working in a multidisciplinary team. Lucky me, because interdisciplinary student collaboration was exactly the name of the game at the Right to Research Coalition’s (RtRC) first General Assembly in Budapest (July 19th-20th). Apart from learning about ROARMAPS, SPARCs and other excellent acronyms, it was extremely exciting to make plans about where we can go next in promoting Open Access (OA) with our international student colleagues. So here’s a brief blurb about OA, who the RtRC are, and what went on at the GA that we can take forward.
We’ve all been there – doing an assignment for medical school, and you can’t read the articles you need because your library doesn’t have a subscription. Do you pay the fee? Do you just read the abstract? Or do you move on and imagine the article doesn’t exist? None of these are ideal options, and why should they be? The public probably paid for that research, and you, as a member of the public, should be able to read it! More information about the issues regarding open access for students, doctors, and the developing world, is available here: www.righttoresearch.org.
To set the scene: The Right to Research Coalition is a student movement promoting Open Access to research. From North American beginnings, the RtRC is now developing into an international student movement, with 57 signatories from all over the world to its Student Statement on Open Access (including Medsin-UK and the BMA). It is supported under the umbrella of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an organisation acting as the voice of and for research libraries.
Attendees at the GA included SPARC and SPARC Europe, The European Federation of Psychology Students Associations (EFPSA), the International Federation of Medical Student Associations IFMSA), European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM), as well as individual national organisations (including Medsin-UK, AMSA and IFMSA-NL) and single universities who had particular experiences to share. This was a discussion-based GA that BT would have been proud of – it was indeed good to talk.
In the UK, we’ve been focusing on establishing and developing a blog with PLoS, gaining support on a national policy level from the BMA and planning for Open Access week (more on that later). Local advocacy is what we desperately need to move forward – many of the UK’s universities have OA policies, but implementation and detail vary hugely (another area we’re collecting information on) and we need to put pressure on universities to prioritise rather than simply tolerate OA. Hearing Brandon Locke from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln speak about how they’ve worked with library staff to change the departmental culture, and ideas about making number of OA publications per researcher more visible, was real food for thought. The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) also have twice annual ‘legislative action days’ and encourage students to take federal, and soon local, advocacy. It was exciting also to hear, particularly from SPARC, about successful high level lobbying, most recently with the European Commission coming out in support of OA.
So can we do now?
- Open Access Week (www.openaccessweek.org) is October 22nd-28th – apart from organizing events in the UK that you can get involved with, we’re also going to be joining in with webcasts and events all over the world. Keep your eyes peeled!
- Develop local advocacy strategies – from working with our libraries to lobbying for local OA initiatives such as effective repositories, we need to develop a userfriendly advocacy toolkit.
- National and International Advocacy – to develop the links with SPARC and our international colleagues.
It’s a very exciting time to be in the UK where OA is concerned, and it was exciting to leave the GA with many more ideas, email addresses and action points than I came with. It’s difficult to tackle a whole issue with one blog post, but if this sounds exciting to you, I really want (and need?!) more people to get involved from Medsin-UK; please send me an email if you’re keen!