Open Access in Practice – Interview with Paola Gargiulo
LIBER’s Open Access Working Group wants to help libraries to share their experiences with Open Access.
By exchanging information we can better understand what works, what the challenges are and find ways of speeding up the transition from subscription-based systems to Open Access (OA).
One of the ways we are contributing to the information exchange is through a series of interviews focusing on OA initiatives, including this conversation with Italian Open Access advocate Paola Gargiulo.
Paola’s experience with Open Access is wide ranging. For 15 years, she conducted consortium acquisitions and licensing negotiations with international publishers on behalf of over 20 Italian universities. In 2004 she began advocating for and supporting the implementation of OA institutional repositories in Italian universities. She was involved in the drafting and adopting of institutional OA policies.
In addition, Paola was active in many OpenAIRE projects. She has spoken at many conferences, served on various working groups for organisations such as the European University Association and SPARC Europe. Currently she serves on the board of AISA, the Italian Association for the promotion of Open Science, and is coordinator of IOSSG, an informal Italian Open Science Support Group.
What does transparency in Open Access mean to you?
I would like to place OA in the larger picture of Open Science (OS).
Transparency means making publications and data open: documenting openly all the activities carried out during the research, as well making accessible the methodology, software and tools necessary to verify, reproduce and reuse the results.
Dissemination of research results (publications and underpinning data) is the essential end part of a research process. Transparency means making publications and data open: documenting openly all the activities carried out during the research, as well making accessible the methodology, software and tools necessary to verify, reproduce and reuse the results. Transparency is vital to assure research integrity and to overcome the current retraction and reproducibility crises.
Transparency is also important in the research evaluation process. I refer to the opacity of the closed peer reviewing process, with reference to publications, as well to the research assessment exercises whose reviews are very often not accessible. In both cases, the closeness and opacity of these activities — also for open access journals — are detrimental to the advancement of science and the sharing of knowledge.
The assigning of persistent identifiers, curation of the quality of metadata, attribution of open licenses to publications and data, and the implementation of preservation policies are further factors important to transparency. A lack of identifiers, good metadata, licenses and preservation policies makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to find, access and reuse information.
Furthermore, transparency is about collecting and making openly available the Article Processing Charges (APCs) paid by institutions to fund OA articles, in order to track the shift from toll journals to OA journals (as the Intact Open- APC project does). So far, in Italy, only the University of Milan has joined this initiative. I do hope that more institutions will join soon.
Transparency means also disclosing information about subscription journals licenses.
Why should the library community care about the development of Open Access?
Circulation, dissemination and the sharing of information and knowledge are pillars of the library profession. Librarians have therefore always been supportive of OA. They have been at the forefront of the movement from the very beginning and should continue to actively take part in its development.
Librarians should consider themselves as invaluable partners in implementing OA and OS policies, and in helping to outline the future of science in university and research performing organizations.
Librarians should consider themselves as invaluable partners in implementing OA and OS policies, and in helping to outline the future of science in university and research performing organizations. They contribute in managing OA publications and research data repositories, as experts in metadata/ standards, scholarly communication and copyright, digital curation and preservation.
More recently, librarians have also acquired competence to give support in writing data management plans. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and confusion on OA and OS among students as well researchers and professors. This is caused by the different positions within the OA community. It is also very common to identify OA with high APCs required by hybrid publishers or, even worse, with the aggressive and dishonest policy of predatory publishers.
Librarians should continue to advocate and to reach out to graduate and doctoral students, as well as junior and senior researchers and professors and train them on various issues related to OA and OS (e.g., different routes to implement OA, different journals business models, distinction between good quality of OA journals and predatory ones). These activities are carried out in Italian universities by several librarians but unfortunately they are not always strongly supported by university top management.
How transparent is Open Access at the moment, in your opinion?
There is still a lot to do. Often institutional OA and OS policies, and in some cases also the copyright policies of publishers, are not well disseminated. This lack of communication hinders the full implementation of OA. Researchers ignore the OA requirements of their institution or their self-archiving rights with reference to publisher’s copyright policy. In some cases, institutions do not enforce or do not monitor the effective implementation of a policy and publishers are not always transparent about self-archiving policies for authors.
Furthermore, the lack of disclosure of subscriptions journals licenses, which now often also include OA articles (so called offset agreements), is a critical issue.
In Italy AISA, the Association for the promotion of Open Science is engaged in advocating for more transparency in licenses for electronic resources and on the risk of double dipping (link in Italian) when an OA option is poorly set out in a contract with a publisher.
We still lack transparency with regard to peer reviewing and the research evaluation process. Especially the latter should change radically in order to remove obstacles which affect the shift to full OA publishing.
How are you working to become more transparent, and what further steps need to be taken?
I think it is important to communicate the right message and act accordingly. Through my work, I participated in several events, ran classes and grasped all situations in which I could explain OA to students and researchers: dispelling doubts and misunderstandings, promoting and advocating. I also practiced OA by depositing and sharing all the presentations and materials on which I worked.
I recently retired. I am still voluntarily involved in coordinating a group of Italian technical experts from universities known as IOSSG (Italian Open Science Support Group). The group members have many different backgrounds and training, from libraries to legal and research offices and IT. Together we support Italian researchers in writing and implementing a data management plan, organizing training sessions, preparing support material and checklists. We also advocate for OS by producing a draft policy on data management as well as guidelines on how to implement OS at local institutions in the broader context of EOSC.
Further steps should focus on building a sharing culture.
In order to do so, it is fundamental to change research rewards, advancement in careers and funds distributions criteria, as well as to incentivize OS practice, and to introduce new metrics. Above all we need to rely on qualitative, broader and transparent criteria to evaluate researchers.
AISA and IOSSG are both engaged in putting pressure on ANVUR, the Italian Agency for Research Assessment to make this change and have the Ministry of Education , University and Research (MIUR) take a stand on OS. If the Agency adopts an OA policy, changes evaluation criteria — moving from quantitative to more qualitative measurements — and incentivizes OS, and the Ministry develops a strategy to effectively implement OS in Italy, transparency and OS would take a big step forward.
Interview by Sofie Wennström, Stockholm University Library, Secretary of the Open Access Working Group. Learn more about LIBER’s Open Access Working Group.
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