The Open Access 2008 conference held in Brisbane, Australia, in October/2008, was a splash of fresh air and encouragement. The Conference is hosted by Open Access to Knowledge (OAK) Law Project
– that represents Creative Commons in Australia
- a Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR
) funded project, the QUT Division of Technology, Information and Learning Support
and the QUT Faculty of Law.
Australia is a leader in the open access movement and now is assuming a leading position in innovation policy adopting open approaches. A clear and central example is the National Innovation Review
that has recommended that Australian Government should release material under Creative Commons licenses - in a speech
at the Committee for Melbourne, Senator Kim Carr (Minister for Innovation) has given a strong endorsement of this recommendation, saying:
"We are and will remain a net importer of knowledge, so it is in our interest to promote the freest possible flow of information domestically and globally. The arguments for stepping out first on open access are the same as the arguments for stepping out first on emissions trading – the more willing we are to show leadership on this; we more chance we have of persuading other countries to reciprocate. And if we want the rest of the world to act, we have to do our bit at home."
This discourse was reaffirmed in the opening ceremony of the Open Access 2008 where the audience present watched a video delivery by the same Senator Carr. As a Brazilian and an advocate for Open Access and Open Educational Resources, I was proud of the Australians.
After the opening message, we were cheered by John Wilbanks, VP for Science at Creative Commons and Executive Director of Science Commons
, who received the hard task of talking about the Future of Knowledge. His core message was that ideas want to be connected and this connection is what can bring revolution in terms of innovation and rates of discovery. John also called the audience's attention to the fact that there is not just one future of knowledge, but, at least two (one controlled by a small set of powerful players, and one open to all) and that we are responsible to choose the one we want to see realized. We are in the phase that the information is presented in a human scale, but actually generated at machine scale. Thus, it is important to make the web work for science as it has been working for culture or commerce by adding features to the network that allow machines to make more sense of information, and also to draw in many more minds into the sciences than are currently there. For this to happen a four layer need to be added to the ones Yochai Benkler suggested. Physical-Code-Content and John adds "Knowledge". [disclosure though, John is my husband, so I am perhaps biased…]
The second session was presented by Dr. Alma Swan from Key Perspectives
and was titled the "Next Five Years of the Open Access Movement". After an overview of the OA movement during the – at least – past 5 years, Swan put her hopes in the Universities as the centers responsible for dissemination of knowledge and in mandates by universities, Governments and Funders. She pointed out to the audience that not all is good, since only 20% of research outputs are freely available and that 20% is not evenly distributed across disciplines. She also asks OA leaders to give attention to a subset of the movement – open access to data. Since the output of public funded research is taking new formats such as databases, and not just papers, mandates should clearly address this issue. In her words: "Data have yet to be recognized as a research output".
After a lunch with some fresh seafood, Richard Jefferson from CAMBIA described his new project PATENT LENS
that is currently being developed under a partnership with QUT and how they are providing open access to patents databases and crossing governmental databases in order to review patents. Richard added to Wilbanks' fourth layer of knowledge a fifth layer of "capacity to act" and talked at length about the thickets of patents that can encase an innovation to the point it cannot be made available to the world, such as Golden Rice. The Patent Lens is already available to help users figure out patent landscapes, and CAMBIA promotes a vision of open society and science in which scientists should select to use technologies that are not encumbered by lots of patents if they want to have their innovations dispersed for the greater good. Jefferson and QUT also announced a new Institute for Open Innovation, based around the freedom to innovate, in his talk.
During the second day of the conference, two of the main foci were the legal framework supporting open access. I missed some of the morning sessions, which focused a lot on quality assessment, and featured Alma Swan again talking with a presentation on new metrics for assessing impact, and rejoined the conference before lunch with a session on legal frameworks for open access. There was a presentation on the CERN approach in which the "gold road" of taking all the journals in high energy physics to open licensing frameworks was presented, and we heard Prof. Brian Fitzgerald talking about copyright licensing for OA in Australia, the Government Information Licensing Framework, CC licenses in Australia, and open access to data. He also described the technology strategy the Australian government is investing to support this initiative. Regarding open access to data, Dr. Andrew Treloar, head of the Australian National Data Service Establishment Project, presented to the audience the project ANDS – Towards the Australian Data Commons
, which implements many of the technical and policy elements to create a meaningful Australian Data Commons.
The conference was recorded and will be available online on the QUT - OAK Law Project page and the Open Access Brisbane Declaration is on the way.