Sunday, 17 April 2011
While we greatly welcome UNESCO’s acknowledgement of the value of Open Access, and are interested to hear about its plans for a global open access portal (see http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=31316&URL_DO=DO_PRINTPAGE&URL_SECTION=201.html), we have concerns about the aims of this initiative. The announcement says GOAP “is supposed to be the first destination for users seeking information on OA. OA experts will collect, analyse and filter information related to the subject from different countries.” It also states “GOAP aims to assist UNESCO Member States in understanding the current state of Open Access and in taking appropriate decisions.”
These aims are admirable, but our concern is that they are already underway through a number of well-established initiatives, such as the OSI-supported Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook (OASIS), see www.openoasis.org, or Peter Suber’s authoritative monthly report on the status of OA, see http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/archive.htm, to name but two. There are many other OA developments of which UNESCO must be aware and will not want to duplicate.
As a platform for OA, OASIS is led by foremost OA experts, Dr Alma Swan (Key Perspectives) and Professor Leslie Chan (University of Toronto), with input from many academic authorities around the world. Peter Suber’s SPARC-supported reports are unmatchable in authority. We would like to know what is different about the GOAP concept and how does it complement and support existing initiatives? Perhaps there are real differences planned. Perhaps UNESCO has identified gaps that could be filled?
Funding is limited in today’s environment and it would surely be wise to avoid duplication and complement existing efforts? ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ is the oft-quoted concept that underpins progress in research. We can think of very many open access initiatives (such as the EIFL network in developing and emerging countries, the global network of OA institutional repositories, the established consortia of OA journals - SciELO, Bioline International, MedKnow Publications), the progress of which would be significantly accelerated with UNESCO providing support and global outreach.
All OA advocates and experts will welcome UNESCO’s wish to strengthen OA in its member countries and we hope it is not too late to consider further and take advice from the international network of open access communities before finalizing plans for GOAP. UNESCO is a ‘new boy on the OA block’ and if it can reach out to existing developments and experts, it can make a real difference to the free exchange of essential research knowledge.