Editorial 1/2013

Open Access to Scientific Information

Sami Borg

I recently participated in a seminar organised by the Data for Research project in Finland. The first half of the seminar focused mainly on open access to research publications and the second on open access to research data. The main issue was that publications and data should be publicly available for users, generally free of charge.

My own presentation covered open access to research data. The approach focusing on the different stages of the research process was already in view in the report on open access to research data in Finland (Borg & Kuula 2008).

The seminar provided an overview of the open access situation in Finland, at least as far as university research was concerned. There are many different ways to provide open access to research publications and data, and researchers are increasingly making use of these alternatives.

Yet, the open access situation in Finland is still far from ideal. Technical progress, and the Internet in particular, have fuelled and will further fuel the demand to have scientific information publicly available. This has led to a situation where the publication practices of both research results and data are undergoing a major change. The ways to do research and particularly the ways to evaluate and publish research results are changing very rapidly.

The changes in open access to publications and data are also becoming more related to how researchers gain academic merit. There was a lively discussion in the seminar on how open access could benefit researchers and research organisations more than it does at present. In Finland, the new Template for researcher's curriculum vitae already counts producing and disseminating research data as a merit but does not take a clear enough stand on open access publishing.

Therefore, we need new policy recommendations and new research infrastructures to increase open access. Researchers working in different Finnish universities are not in the same position as regards open access publishing. The support provided to researchers for publishing their results in open access publications varies between universities and university libraries. This applies both to publishing in open access journals and the so-called parallel publishing.

In the case of research data, the possibility to provide open access varies considerably between different scientific disciplines. In addition to social sciences, the Finnish Social Science Data Archive also provides services to other related fields but several fields of science in Finland lack similar infrastructures. If there are none even internationally and if there are no established documentation and open access practices in the field, providing open access to data may prove difficult.

It is therefore necessary to create appropriate research infrastructures and develop them purposefully, with a long-term view. This will increase the productivity and reliability of the national research system.

More information

Sami Borg