BY MATT MCGREGOR
On 4 March 2014, the University of Waikato announced the passage of an Open Access (OA) mandate, becoming the first university to adopt a direct deposit mandate in New Zealand, and the second university, after Lincoln, to adopt an institutional OA policy.
The primary principle driving the adoption of the policy, as stated on its opening line, is that “Freedom to exchange ideas and to publish acquired knowledge are fundamental to the purposes of a university.”
The policy represents the University of Waikato’s commitment “to the concept of open access to knowledge through the deposit of full text, academic publications into the University’s digital repository, the Research Commons, wherever possible.”
The momentum for the policy was established during Open Access Week 2012, when OA advocates Fabiana Kubke and Alex Holcombe spoke at a panel entitled, ‘An Open Access Mandate for the University of Waikato?’ The panel generated interest in OA from the university community, and led to David Nichols, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, and Ross Hallett, University Librarian, developing a detailed paper outlining the benefits, risks and options for an OA policy at the University of Waikato.
In that paper, David and Ross gave the university many different ideas as to how an OA policy might look. As David says, “We deliberately provided the university with a range of options and wording for the policy. We also made sure that we explicitly laid out the costs and benefits.”
In presenting the policy to groups within the university, David emphasised the importance of the digital visibility of the institution and noted the successful deposit mandate in place for student theses since 2006.
In terms of benefits, David and Ross pointed to increased download rates and potential citation advantages. They also noted the broader importance of making the university’s research available to society in general, including industry, university alumni, and professional groups, such as teachers and journalists.
David notes that higher ideals, such as the need for the public to have access to publicly funded research, were also emphasised during the consultation process. This ties in nicely with the motto of the university “Ko Te Tangata – For the People” — which, in the context of OA, is expressed as the university’s “commitment to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible.”
After releasing the paper, it travelled for several months — with David and Ross — through the various committees of the university, a process which enabled staff from every school and faculty to provide comment and raise potential concerns.
One such concern was the question of what happens if infringing material is uploaded to the institutional repository (IR). Some academics were concerned about possible liability, should they mistakenly upload material for which they do not have the rights. They were reassured when told that Library repository staff would continue to offer a mediated deposit service, checking publisher copyright agreements for potential infringement before adding items to the repository.
The consultation process also provided the opportunity to clarify confusion around green and gold OA, as well as the names publishers give to document versions at different stages of the review process, such as ‘preprint’, ‘postprint’ and ‘published’.
David noted that it was also important for Waikato to include a waiver in their policy, for those publications that may not be appropriate for deposit in the IR. “It was important that the policy wasn’t seen as entirely black and white.”
According to the widely accepted OA colour scheme, Waikato’s policy is green, with no references to gold (or publisher-implemented) OA or Creative Commons licensing.
As David points out, “We’ve restricted the definition of OA for this policy to ‘read-only.’ The policy doesn’t engage with reuse rights at all. These are issues that we may be able to address in future revisions, though it was important that this policy took the simplest first step.
“A general notion of incrementalism was essential to the whole process, especially given the fact that scholarly publishing is a changing landscape, with many moving parts, including requirements from external funders.”
This incremental approach followed those taken by comparable institutions overseas, such as Queensland University of Technology, which has had a deposit mandate since 2004. David and Ross consulted with QUT during the development of the policy.
“QUT has also made public useful information about the progress of its policy over time, including graphs of the effects on deposit rates. Its model suggested that we needed to take a long-term approach to implementing the policy — there was never going to be an instant change. Progress will be gradual.”
This is one of the reasons why Waikato didn’t follow the example of another leading OA institution, the University of Liège, which mandates that only works deposited in the Institutional Repository will be considered during internal promotion and review. While this is a good model for increasing the number of works in the IR, it is potentially less helpful for gaining support from researchers.
David is now working with the Library, Research Office and Information Technology Services to implement a new research information system — called Symplectic Elements — to help reduce the transaction costs of depositing research into the university’s repository.
As David pointed out, while the policy is important, the means of technically implementing the policy must be as smooth as possible. With the new system, the time commitment required by the academic to deposit an article should be no more than the time required to respond to an email request.
The new system will also help Waikato determine the baseline number of OA articles currently published by university staff, which will make it easier to chart progress in the years to come.
Ultimately, David underlines the importance of basing the OA efforts at the library. He also advises other institutions looking at OA to factor in a lot of consultation and listening to staff. As different disciplines have their own norms and terminology, it’s also important to find advocates across the university’s various schools and faculties.
David also reiterates the importance of not trying to solve all the problems with scholarly publishing in one fell swoop. “The policy is just the first step.”