20 January

Open Access to Research: trying to throw light on a chain of misunderstandings

OpenEd & OER

Open AccessOpen Access to research outcomes is a well  known and discussed issue, but there is still much misunderstanding and many questions remain unanswered. To illustrate that, The Guardian recently published an article about some OA myths that have not been undermined yet. For instance, the article points out that many scholars still think that the only way to provide OA to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in O.A. journals, overlooking institutional repositories; or that many still believe that publishing in a conventional journals closes the door to “liberating” the same work later – thoroughly false.

To throw light on such arguments, UNESCO recently published Policy Guidelines for the Development and the Promotion of Open Access. The Guidelines distinguish the so-called Green Route to O.A., which refers to repositories, from the Golden Route, relative to OA journals. Both are common ways to openly publish research outcomes. UNESCO recommends making research immediately available or after a short period of embargo, as well as warns authors to retain enough rights to be able to decide whether or not make publications freely available – even though Institutions or funders can also retain these rights if they are more effective in ensuring open access. The Guidelines also stress to promote OA rather than imposing it,  by drawing a range of incentives –such as future promotions.

Also, researchers, publishers and librarians usually clash over Open Access dimension as it happened at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting early this year. One of the strong arguments was that gold OA would minimize cost while protecting against inflated acceptance rates and decline in quality standards. Some see OA as a durable feature of the landscape of scholarly communication, maybe replacing current dissemination models; whereas others state it would only complement the traditional publication patterns or some even consider it “a passing fad”.

UNESCO Guidelines aim at settling that debate as well, by not dismissing the current publication systems but pointing out some traditional fee-based business models which are often abusive and unsustainable.  As repositories do not require any money to be spent –or very little of it, the Guidelines focus on cost of  peer-reviews and possible sources of funding: an institution, the community (donations or other support), sponsors, users (via subscription) or advertisers). OA books also may somewhat gain their momentum as they can be backed by sponsors, subsidizers as well as hard copies might be sold to offset the costs.

No consensus has been reached so far and maybe controversy came to stay. However, with governments increasingly pushing universities into making research freely available, steps towards open access are unlikely to stop here.


30 September

The European Commission launches "Opening Up Education" to challenge the lack of digitalization of Education

OpenEd & OER

OpenEducationEuropa3

According to the European Commission’s data, education throughout the European Union is far from reaching the digital penetration which is needed to guarantee that students acquire the digital skills that are increasingly indispensable. The Commission states that by 2020, 90% of the jobs will require wide digital knowledge from job seekers. These skills need to be gained since a very early education stage and consolidated later on.

To face all these challenges, the European Commission launched the “Opening Up Education” project on September 25th. There are three objectives set:

  • To promote Innovation for organizations, teachers and students by granting support in developing new business and educational models and ensuring that open online resources are available.
  • Access to Open Education Resources (OER) in order to strengthen its centrality by ensuring that all educational materials supported by Erasmus + program are available under open licenses; encouraging partnerships between content to increase the supply of OER; and launching the Open Education Europa portal, which will be introduced below.
  • Fostering Connectivity and Innovation by promoting research on cutting-edge learning technologies, applications, services and resources.

Although there is public interest and even enthusiasm about such an initiative towards a digital revolution, it still has a long way to walk. Actually, no budget has been allocated yet to the project, except that it will be funded by the Erasmus + and Horizon 2020 programs. The Erasmus + program (2014-2020) has been set aside €19 billion, whereas the Horizon 2020 budget is still under consideration.

In the meanwhile, the Open Education Europa portal has been launched. There are many resources available to organizations, teachers and students such as Massive Open Online Courses and platforms to exchange good practices and experiences. So far, that might give just a taste of what is yet to come: the will to undertake the modernization and digitalization of education in the European Union.

For more information:

EC Staff Working Document

EC Press Release

EC Communication Opening Up Education