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Open Access and research institutions in Poland

Open Access and research institutions in Poland
Blogpost by Michał Starczewski and Lidia Stępińska-Ustasiak
Report by  Wojciech Fenrich, Tomasz Lewandowski, Krzysztof Siewicz, Michał Starczewski, Lidia Stępińska-Ustasiak, and Jakub Szprot (editor).

The Open Science Platform (ICM, University of Warsaw) has recently published a report “Open Access and research institutions”. The focus of the report is on the basic issues related to open access from the perspective of research institutions. Some more sophisticated and technical aspects are included as well. The purpose of the report is to provide Polish research institutions – universities and research institutes - with a set of most important information and best practices that would help them in the implementation of openness in the Polish context. Every institution can find helpful guidance, whatever route of open access (OA) they choose.
The report is divided into two parts. The first part outlines the international and Polish context and includes four case studies of institutional OA policies (from the USA, France, Hungary and Switzerland) and the results of original Focus Group Interview (FGI) research. The FGI participants were Polish researchers and academic librarians and publishers. They discussed the Polish academic culture of gaining access to publications and of publishing and disseminating research results.
The FGI demonstrated that the customs and habits of the scientific community are an important factor which affects the choice of the place of publication. Depending on the field, these can take many forms. They can for example manifest as an inclination towards paper versions of journals or books, considered to be more valuable and prestigious. Journal prestige may in turn be seen through the prism of the people who form their scientific editorial boards. Therefore, open access policies should also take into account informal factors, including domain specificity.
The second important conclusion of the research concerns the knowledge of Open Access – according to the FGI participants, the issues associated with this subject are poorly understood in the scientific community. In particular, this lack of understanding concerns legal issues, such as publishing contracts and Creative Commons licenses. Here also significant differences can be seen between those research areas in which Open Access to scientific knowledge has a long tradition and those in which it is still a relative novelty. Information activities should therefore be an integral element of any policy of open access. Their omission could hinder the implementation of Open Access or even make it impossible in many areas.
The FGI study has also shown that it is necessary to strengthen the negotiating position of scientists against the publishers of journals and scientific books who are reluctant towards Open Access. In the current situation – with the exception of a few areas where scientific communication is already today based on large international open repositories – the position of a single author or a small group remains very weak. The pressure to publish pushes authors to simply accept the terms and conditions set by the publishers. In the absence of open mandates (which would strengthen the negotiating positions of authors against publishers who are averse to open access), as well as of "soft" incentives to publish in an open model, authors are neither directly motivated to strive for open access to their works nor do they receive the institutional support that could enhance the effectiveness of such efforts.
The second part of the report draws from the performed research and formulates practical recommendations for Polish institutions. It covers four main topics:
  • Open mandates and legal issues. How to implement openness according to the hierarchy of legal norms, especially internal legal acts? How can the institution use it’s statute to impose this kind of obligation on their employees?
  • Publishing. Why open access is the best tool to realize the priorities and aims of scholarly publishing? Legal, technical and financial aspects are covered.
  • Repositories and their visibility. This is the most technical part of the report. Visibility in search engines is one of the crucial problems that repository staff is facing. Adequate software, high quality of metadata, and search engine optimization (SEO) are needed for good visibility.
  • Communication. Comprehensive communication inside as well as outside of the institution is a condition sine qua non of efficiency and good reception. There are two stages to be considered: the moment of implementation of an OA policy by an institution and the OA policy in action. In the second stage, external communication becomes more important.
The full report is available in Polish, under a CC BY 3.0 PL license, at http://pon.edu.pl/index.php/nasze-publikacje?pubid=17.

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