The OSIRIS centre's overall aim is to understand the process through which research has an impact on society. Under this thematical umbrella, there are several ongoing sub-projects and case studies. We have talked to Lars Wenaas, who is doing his ph.d project on Open Access.
Lars, what is the topic of your project?
The topic is Open Access and the academic literature. I am particularly interested in whether Open Access could benefit the non-academic reader, since the arguments for making the literature available for everyone include prospects of innovation in private and public sector. I am also very interested in how Open Access changes the science systems.
Why is Open Access so interesting?
Mainly because of the essential role the literature plays in the science system. That includes, for example, the incentives that come with publishing in the "right" journal. I'm also interested in Open Access because I work in the governmental body Unit, which is responsible for coordinating Open Access affairs in Norway. In Unit, we see the grip large international publishers has on academic publishing. Open Access has also become a hot political topic lately, with the debate surrounding Plan S.
How do you study this in your ph.d project?
I'm using different datasources, but the most essential one is perhaps Cristin - the database containing all publicly funded research articles in Norway. I use Cristin to identify the 'state of Open Access' in Norway, the uptake of Open Access-publishing in different disciplines and other publishing patterns. I'm also collaborating with Universitetsforlaget and have access to their journal visiting data. I plan to use this to investigate the effect of flipping journals from subscription to Open Access.
Has anything surprised you so far?
Not many surprising findings yet, but I have made some surprising observations. The way research assessment works is one. There are mechanisms in play that are far from sound, such as judging the quality of a piece of research based on where it is published. Those mechanisms work much to the disantvantage of Open Access journals.
The complexity of the processes that lead to innovation is another suprise. It's not always easy or straightforward to capitalize on research, and it may take decades before it happens. Open Access may indeed help in innovation processes, but removing access barriers is not the same as opening the floodgates. We need more knowledge on exploiting research and creating societal value.