Open access to research highlighted at CIES conference

Education International and its affiliates’ work on open science and the publishing industry was showcased at this year’s Comparative International Education Society (CIES) conference.

The privatisation of higher education and, specifically, how to increase access to research and make science more open was the focus of events organised by Education International (EI) at the Comparative International Education Society (CIES) annual meeting in Mexico City from 25-29 March.

EI took the opportunity of the gathering of many researchers and civil society actors to showcase its work under the theme “Re-mapping Global Education: South-North Dialogue”.

As stated in EI’s Policy Statement on Open Access in Further and Higher Education and Research, the public good is served by the widest and most accessible dissemination of scholarly work and educational research. Unfortunately, large, commercial publishers operate on high-profit margins, based on locking research behind paywalls, asking researchers to sign off their copyrights, and profiting from scholarly output largely paid by taxpayers.

Concerns over Elsevier

The practices of Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher, are a concern. In a recent membership survey of the further and higher education and research sector, EI affiliates expressed concern at Elsevier’s high prices and practices of limiting open access. However, its profit-driven interests are increasingly being challenged by universities, civil society actors, and libraries through boycotts and other measures.

Equitable access

In a workshop and panel on How to unlock equitable access to research, EI brought this important topic to CIES where researchers, education unions, and other civil society actors engaged in a critical discussion on these issues. All presenters agreed that the commercial imperatives need to be challenged in favour of a wider and more equitable access to research – for the benefit of research and society at large.

In his presentation, Jon Tennant, independent researcher and open science activist, provided an overview of the Elsevier/RELX Group's business practices. He warned that they “are monopolising not just research outputs, but the entire process and infrastructure of research and its evaluation”.  He encouraged participants to be “brave and support research institutions in their struggle to collectively regain ownership of research infrastructure”.

The Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, David Robinson, gave a trade union perspective on what open science means for academic researchers. He also outlined how unions “can play an important role in advancing open access policies through negotiating collective agreement language protecting academic freedom, intellectual property rights, and the right to publish”.

Latin America

Gustavo Fishman, University of Arizona, also shared his insights on the extensive use of open access in scholarly communication in Latin America. This is based on “a strong traditional sense of the public mission of universities, a weak presence of commercial publishers and the accelerated expansion of the research capacities in the region”, he said.

Rosario Rogel-Salazar, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, explained that, in Mexico, an Open Access Law was adopted in 2014. It encourages researchers to share research and commits institutions to develop policies implementing open access and fostering a culture of openness and sharing. While stressing that Mexico is very much advanced in this regard, however, “the implementation of the law is not always happening and researchers in Mexico are also suffering from not having equal access to English language research”, she added.

Collective action

The panelists all agreed that collective action is essential and encouraged participants to publish only in open access journals and critically reflect on their role as potential editors for journals that do not support open access.

To find out more about additional workshops, panels and roundtables EI was involved in, please click here

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