Towards an Open Access Italian network
The free circulation of knowledge is, more than ever, an up-to-date topic, as demonstrated by a number of events currently dedicated to Open Access (OA): a culture promoting free access to scientific information.
The European Union addressed this issue in a Recommendation and a Communication, both dated July 17, 2012, aimed at promoting a wider dissemination of results from research.
In Italy, the Decree No. 91 dated August 8, 2013, stated that the publication of results from researches with public funds accounting for at least 50% should be stored electronically in free-access and free-of-charge repositories. At the same time, the Conference of Italian University Rectors (CRUI) and a number of public research bodies have signed a Position statement to encourage the creation of repositories allowing free access to researchers and to spur them to make their results available.
Within this framework, the meeting “E-science: towards an Open Access Italian network” was held in Rome on October 25, 2013 at the National Research Council (CNR) headquarters. The aim of the day was to share the results obtained under the MedOANet (Mediterranean Open Access Network), an European project aimed at improving strategies, policies and infrastructures to open access in six Mediterranean countries: Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal and Turkey. The meeting allowed to discuss the project state of the art in Europe, governance methods as well as to share ongoing national projects.
Great European projects
Among the main European initiatives presented during the seminar there is OpenAIRE, a project started in 2009 aimed at three objectives: “to build an infrastructure to provide a repository and access to publications under the Seventh Framework Program; to develop a virtual place for archiving scientific publications; to create a helpdesk network to support researchers”, reminded Donatella Castelli, from the CNR Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell’Informazione “Alessandro Faedo”. This heritage led to OpenAIREplus, set up at the end of 2011, that expanded OpenAIRE providing a link between scientific publications uploaded in the infrastructure and related information, including scientific data.
Open Data, in particular, seems to be a sensitive and strategic topic, since free sharing of research data while encouraging scientific progress, may also have implications in terms of privacy, security and intellectual property rights. With regard to this, the European project Recode (RECommendations for Open Access to Research Data in Europe), aimed at analyzing benefits and issues of open access to data has been implemented; Italy was represented in this project by CNR Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research (IIA). “While it is easy to define open data, it is not similarly easy to decide how to implement open access to data”, Stefano Nativi of CNR-IIA commented, reminding a few key challenges that open access policies should address.
Open issue and challenges
Despite the increasing awareness on this topic, open access publications currently are less than 20% of the entire scientific publication production worldwide. This is partially due to the fact that “the open access movement shares the objectives, but not the policies”, suggested Roberto Caso, from the University of Trento. There is a number of possible ways to reach the objective and they fall under two main models:
- “green road”, which allows to include articles previously published with fee in journals, in open access repositories with permission by publishers;
- “gold road”, based on which researchers publish their results directly in open access journals, with support to publishing expenses, usually paid by the research body.
However, both ways, especially the second one, raise the question of the business model to be adopted to make the publication activity sustainable, without forcing the reader to pay the costs. With regard to this, it is crucial to promote solutions bringing advantages to the different actors involved, including financing bodies, publishers and researchers. “It is important that part of the business resulting from open access data goes back to researchers”, commented on this Gabriele Gattiglia from the University of Pisa, one of the main actors of MOD (Mappa Open Data): the first Italian repository for open access publication of archeological data. A tangible example of how open access is possible in any research field.
Work in progress in Italy
In Italy, several internationally important repositories engage the scientific community, including the previously mentioned MOD and the following:
- DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities), the infrastructure for free access to humanistic research data, involving CNR;
- SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics), where the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) for the implementation of an alternative business model of subscription to journals is engaged;
- The PID (Persistent IDentifier) working group, aimed at creating a data tracking system based on codes identifying data univocally and persistently, also involving the Italian Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV);
- Several projects on Big Data storage and processing, also involving the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF);
- BRIF (Bioresource Research Impact Factor), for the identification and archiving of biological samples and related data, with the strong involvement of Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS);
- Opening Science to Society, an initiative for data sharing within the scientific field involving the University of Rome Sapienza.
Some clear examples show that Italy plays an active role on the international way towards free scientific knowledge open to everybody.