Tag Archives: open science

Brazil G20 – Looking ahead to opportunities for library engagement

What opportunities does Brazil’s G20 Presidency offer for libraries and the issues that matter to us? We’re happy to share an overview of the priorities already set out, and what they mean for our institutions.

G20 Brazil logo - text: G20 Brazil 2024, Building a just world and a sustainable planet. design with wavy lines in green, yellow, red and blue, hinting at the shape of Brazil as a countryAlready on 1 December 2023, Brazil took over the presidency of the G20, the group of 20 of the largest economies in the world, providing a space for discussing, coordinating and launching joint initiatives.

G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union, plus others invited on an ad hoc basis.

The G20 works though two high-level tracks. One brings together the ‘sherpas’ or representatives of heads of state and government, ahead of a summit in November, and oversees a group of 15 working groups, two task forces and an Initiative. The other is the finance track, with Finance Ministers and central bank governors, who discuss key economic issues.

In his speech at the G20 Summit in India, President Lula underlined a strong focus on equality, and in particular combatting hunger worldwide, as well as accelerating sustainable development in general. He was also strong in calling for reform of international financial institutions.

But what can libraries expect in different areas of activity over the course of 2024, and how could we get involved as part of wider efforts to secure recognition, and so support? This article looks at some key areas.

Digital Economy: the Digital Economy Working Group is in its fourth year, and focuses on how to harness the potential of digital to deliver wider policy goals. The Brazilian Presidency has set out four themes – connectivity (in particular in rural and remote areas), digital government (including through high-equality eGovernment services and Digital Public Infrastructure), information integrity (focused on the action of platforms), and artificial intelligence (looking at how to take a truly global approach to AI, not just one based on the situation of a limited number of countries and actors).

There is lots for libraries in here, in particular around the role of public access in libraries as part of the wider inclusive connectivity infrastructure, and how libraries can support information integrity by building both skills to navigate the information environment, and appreciation of quality information. Libraries also have much to contribute to making eGovernment work, and to the Digital Public Infrastructure debate (see our briefing). The Ministerial meeting will be on 14 September.

Culture: this is also the fourth year of operation of the Culture Working Group, which brings together culture ministers and equivalents. The existence of the working group in itself is helpful, showing that culture has its place as an area of action in the context of efforts to deliver on a wider policy agenda. Work under the Indian Presidency led to a powerful endorsement of culture as a development goal.

Broad themes for work this year, building on the work of the Indian Presidency, include cultural diversity and inclusion; culture, digital environment and copyright; culture and sustainable economic development; and preservation, safeguarding and promotion of cultural heritage.

For libraries, it will be valuable to push for further affirmation of the role of culture in development, as well as cultural rights (including rights of access to culture), in line with the overall emphasis on inclusion in President Lula’s speech. A particular goal will be to see a broader definition of culture, including of course libraries, and not just the narrow museum and heritage sector. The Ministerial meeting will be on 18 October.

Education: work here overall is strongly focused on education professionals and how to help students realise their potential. Priorities here seem to focus on addressing the shortage of personnel, as well as their training, diversity and representation in the sector, and opportunities for cross-border exchange and learning. The Presidency also notes questions around connectivity, digital tools in the classroom and school management, online training, and adapting curricula to technology are on the agenda.

For libraries, a key priority will be to underline the fact that librarians should be considered as education professionals, with a key role in supporting literacy (and literacies), and more broadly helping students to succeed. Our field would also, doubtless, benefit from inclusion in wider discussions about ongoing learning, and can offer much on making digital education work effectively, while respecting privacy. The Ministerial meeting will be on 30-31 October.

Research and innovation: this is a new working group, set up by the Brazilian Presidency, with ‘Innovation Open to Fair and Sustainable Development’ as the key theme. This is admittedly more about technology access and transfer to developing countries, based on concerns that technology is too often linked to competition between countries, rather than collaboration to find solutions. In addition, the working group is also looking to support student and researcher mobility, and enable inter-institutional collaboration.

For libraries, it will be helpful not only to ensure understanding of the place of libraries at the heart of universities and research institutions, but also to underline that key to promoting the exchange of ideas, collaboration and capacity is the spread of open science. The lessons of the Japanese G7 work on the topic in 2023 could be a good basis. The Ministerial meeting will be on 17-18 September.

An interesting element of this work is the Bioeconomy Initiative, with a strong focus on how to bring together and disseminate relevant knowledge in order to allow for more sustainable use of biodiversity and to understand and maximise its role in promoting sustainable development.

Development: issues on the agenda for the Development Working Group are social inclusion and reduction of inequalities, and in particular ensuring that everyone has access to basic sanitation. There is also a call for cooperation between groups focused on development and finance in order to boost spending on sustainable development.

The G20 agenda on development is likely to be very broad, but there is potential, in underlining the importance of information equity, and how action on this can help to combat wider inequalities. There are also possibilities, in demonstrating how libraries can help spread knowledge and change behaviours around sanitation, to make a case for including us in any plans and programming. There should, in the context of the Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, be scope to underline the need to build community institutions with the connections and understanding to help communities in the most effective way possible. The Ministerial meeting will be on 23 August.


There are potential openings in other areas. The Employment Working Group’s focus on keeping skills updated (especially for women and others at risk of marginalisation) at a time of technological change relates well to much library work in communities to build digital skills and inclusion.  While the new Task Force for the Global Mobilisation against Climate Change is more focused on economics and wider action, it will be valuable to highlight libraires’ support for climate empowerment in communities.

Similarly, the Task Force for a Global Alliance Against Hunger and Poverty is extensively about improving financial support and incentives, but the role of libraries in sharing innovation in rural communities is relevant. Meanwhile, initial proposals on health, focused on unified and resilient systems, currently focus on coordination and collaboration, but realistically could and should include a universal right of access to health information.

Furthermore, there are other areas – tourism, women’s empowerment and disaster risk where little information on plans is available, but where there is scope for libraries to engage.


Finally, we will be following work as it emerges around the different engagement groups focusing on specific topics of communities, and which for the first time will come together in a ‘Social Summit’ just before the Leaders’ Summit in November. The list of such groups includes areas relevant to libraries, not least the Urban20 meeting of mayors, and the Civil20 (for civil society) and P20 (for parliaments).


Guest Article: Connectivity and Cooperation: How RENs, Libraries and Universities Are Combining to Accelerate Open Science

We are happy to publish a guest blog, by Omo Oaiya, Chief Strategy Officer, WACREN and Pamela Abbott, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Head of the Information Systems Research Group, Global Challenges Research Fund Lead, Deputy Programme Coordinator at the Information School | The University of Sheffield.

This shares experience about an exciting collaboration which has brought together three key elements of meaningful internet access – connectivity, content and skills – demonstrating the potential of libraries in achieving the goal of giving everyone the opportunity to get the best out of the internet.

 The emergence of open access in the early 2000s was arguably made possible by the spread of the internet, removing the need for an extensive infrastructure for printing and distributing journals.

 Today, open access is well-established, and the talk is increasingly of open science – a broader term covering openness throughout the scientific process.

 But for all the progress made, we cannot and should not forget that students and researchers using libraries in many parts of the world continue to face a combined challenge. Not only is connectivity too often poor, but even when it works, it can be hard to access relevant content. 

 Resolving these issues – and so realising the potential of open science approaches to accelerate research in all parts of the world – was the challenge taken on by the LIBSENSE initiative in West and Central Africa.


Core Team and Core Beliefs

 The West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) serves to bring connectivity to educational institutions across large parts of Africa.

 Like other Research and Education Networks (RENs), WACREN aims to use a combination of economies of scale, expertise, and understanding of user needs to provide better access to the internet for universities, schools, and of course, their libraries. 

 Yet experience has demonstrated that connectivity alone was not enough to drive use. People needed a good reason to get online, and in the case of students and researchers, this meant relevant content.

 This is what lay behind the LIBSENSE project, born out of tightening relations between WACREN and with partners who could help – COAR and its experience of developing open access repositories, EIFL and its work to train librarians and form consortia, and The University of Sheffield (TUoS) information school, and its research expertise in open access and information management.

 The four organisations shared a commitment to promoting open science as the future of research in general, and in particular, as offering possibilities to allow researchers everywhere to contribute fully to scientific progress.

 They also saw the value of collaboration, with specialists in infrastructure, repository design, and of course, content providers – students and researchers themselves – working together.

 And they understood that to achieve this, it was vital to take the time to understand the attitudes, skills and priorities that different players had in order to bring them together.

 While the core team of WACREN, COAR, EIFL and TUoS led this work, they made sure to keep things open, drawing on the strengths of a wider community and allowing greater reach than would otherwise be the case.


In Practice: Action for Progress

 The combination of the strengths of the different parties involved in the LIBSENSE project has allowed for achievements that would have been impossible, or far slower, on their own.

 A first key area of action has been around infrastructure support, with libraries supported to develop open access repositories. Drawing heavily on articles produced by staff and students within institutions, these repositories represent a key resource for learning and research, as well as a platform for researchers themselves. Thanks to REN infrastructures, these repositories can be connected, allowing for the development of thematic hubs, facilitating collaboration and accelerating discovery in areas most relevant for Africa. 

 A second area has been around capacity building. This proved crucial both as a means of ensuring that library staff are well placed to make best use of new digital infrastructures, but also to be able to engage in global initiatives around open access and open science. 

 Finally, work on policy development has focused on ensuring that rules and practices keep up with the opportunities created by the tools the LIBSENSE initiative has provided. The focus here has been not just on Institutional policies around publication, but also the development of national open science roadmaps.


Where Next?

 In addition to successes of the growing community in creating and filling open access repositories, a key achievement of the LIBSENSE project has been to establish an incubator for further projects and collaborations. Through this, new tools and services have emerged to support the drive towards open science. 

 These collaborations do not only need to involve higher education libraries however! Public libraries are potentially key collaborators in efforts to democratise knowledge production.

 Adopting the same model of collaboration between RENs and libraries, using the pillars of infrastructure support, capacity building, and policy development backed up by research, it could be possible to develop library hubs, support community learning, or better collect and draw on traditional knowledge, in addition to the wider advantages that working with RENs can bring.

The work of LIBSENSE, we hope, will not only endure in Africa but also provide a model and inspiration for collaborations elsewhere.

You can access the full article about the LIBSENSE project by Pamela Abbott on the IFLA website.

Advoc8: Now and Next Part 2 – What Might a Library Advocacy Agenda for the Post-Pandemic World Look Like?

In our first ‘Now and Next’ blog, we explored a number of potential trends that are likely to shape the library field as it – and the communities it serves – emerge from the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just as in the first blog, it is clear that we are still in the midst of the crisis. Even as some countries are able to relax controls on people’s lives and activities, others are prolonging them. In some cases, we have seen decisions to re-impose them, as the disease has returned. It will likely be a long time until we can talk about a post-pandemic world.

Nonetheless, as calls grow for clarity about how governments plan to go about returning to normal, it will make sense to engage with governments. Indeed, this is likely to be particularly necessary in the light of the serious economic impact COVID-19 is already having.

As institutions which do depend on the financial health of the governments, institutions or other organisations that support them, it will be as important as ever to ensure libraries – and their values – are understood as having an essential role in the recovery, or even in creating better societies and economies in future.

We can only do this by reaching out and making the case. This blog therefore looks to explore potential advocacy agendas in the immediate, medium and longer-term. In this, the short-term is defined as now – with libraries in many countries physically closed. The medium-term is the situation as libraries start to re-open and restrictions are lifted. The long-term refers to the time when the pandemic can be declared over, and only minimal if any rules are in place to address the spread of the disease.

For each, the blog suggests eight key possible messages. Do you agree? Have we missed anything? We welcome your comments!


The Short-Term: Provide Relief, Support Research

  • Copyright should not become a barrier: it should not be the case that just because a library has closed its doors, its users cannot draw on its resources. Governments should make it clear that at a time that physical access is often impossible – for everything from research to storytimes – digital alternatives can take its place.
  • Licensing terms should not override the public interest: where the terms of licences under which libraries access content prevent their use, rightholders should be ready to introduce necessary flexibilities to allow libraries to carry out their missions. Where this does not happen, libraries should be able to bypass licensing terms in the course of their work where this does not cause unreasonable harm to rightholders.
  • Libraries need to be enabled to support their communities: faced with increasing demand for digital content, some governments have already been ready to increase acquisitions budgets. More broadly, other restrictions – such as on offering public access to WiFi, or on lending library equipment or materials to vulnerable groups – should be relaxed if these create problems.
  • COVID-19 must not become an excuse for bad government: many countries have adopted a state of emergency in order to allow steps to be taken against COVID-19. However, the application of these powers should not lead to decisions in other areas being taken without proper scrutiny, and all decision-making needs to be properly documented for future accountability.
  • Restrictions on free expression and access to information must be kept to a minimum: some governments have moved to limit free expression as part of their response, while social media companies are also increasing their efforts to close sites disseminating deliberately false information. Such restrictions should be avoided if other means of achieving the same goals are available, and otherwise applied carefully and proportionately. It is better to promote positive interventions such as media and information literacy.
  • The cultural sector needs support to avoid disaster: while some in the cultural field are benefitting strongly from increased demand for their work (especially digital content), others – especially those who rely on performances or physical visitors – are suffering. Faced with ongoing costs, these require support if they are to avoid having to give up and close their doors for good.
  • Greater dependence on online tools cannot come at the expense of rights: there has been an explosive rise in use of digital tools to work and communicate. However, we need to be vigilant to ensure that this does not increase the risk of cybersecurity breaches or other losses of personal data.
  • Open science should be the default: there have been welcome moves to adopt open science practices in research specifically around COVID-19, with the National Library of Medicine in the United States creating the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD). These should be expanded and supported by governments, and reach out to related disciplines in order to help ensure better informed responses to the pandemic.


The Medium-Term: Returning to Not-Quite-Normal, Safely

  • Official approaches to re-opening need to take safety into account: the news of libraries being able to reopen will be both a source of encouragement and worry for many. Often small, not necessarily set out to allow people to maintain social distance, and offering a lot of direct personal support, it should be clear that libraries are high social-interaction spaces. Where reopening does happen, it should be based on a sound understanding of how libraries really work.
  • Exceptional measures on access to content should not be lifted until the need for them is over: many of the special measures put in place, for example, by publishers to offer remote access to books and articles, or online story-times, are time-limited. While some have noted that their application can be extended, it will be important to keep up the pressure to maintain them until all library users are able to make use of library services again as before.
  • There needs to be meaningful investment in helping learners to catch up: the internet has allowed far more teaching and learning to take place during the pandemic than could have been imagined even a few years ago. However, many have underlined that it is still not the same as being in class, and it will be necessary to help learners catch up, especially those in more vulnerable situations. Governments need to have a plan for this.
  • Insofar as they affect access to government information, states of emergency should be lifted as soon as possible: states of emergency should never be indefinite, given the threat they pose to fundamental rights. In particular, it is important for information about government responses to the virus to be made open, in order to inform researchers as well as journalists.
  • Ensure that efforts continue to help those who will need to be subject to restrictions for longer: the loosening of restrictions is likely to move at a different pace for different groups, with already marginalised populations – older persons, those with disabilities, or prison populations to name just a few – likely to need to wait longer. As the rest of society moves back as close to normality as possible, we cannot forget those for whom this isn’t the case.
  • Ensure that libraries are supported to take on the upcoming rise in demand: it seems likely that not only will libraries welcome back people who have missed their resources, services and spaces, but also those needing to use them to get their lives back on track after losing jobs and even homes. Libraries have a proven track record here, but scaling this up will require continued support.
  • Ensuring that lifting restrictions on movement doesn’t mean new restrictions on privacy: the potential use of tracking apps to contribute to the safe lifting of limitations has received a lot of limitations. If these are introduced, it will be important to protect privacy, ensure that users consciously opt in, and to ensure that no more information is collected and retained than strictly necessary.
  • Continue to promote open science, and invest in discoverability and interoperability: managing the lifting of restrictions is going to require extensive use of research, drawing on a variety of disciplines. We will need to strengthen the infrastructures and resources for open science, allowing researchers to work globally, and across different areas of study, with meaningful tools for discovery and analysis.


The Long-Term: Build Back Better

  • Ensure copyright and competition laws are truly fit for the digital age: the crisis has brought into very stark relief the difference between what copyright laws permit as concerns digital and non-digital uses, and the degree to which libraries have had to rely on rightholder goodwill – rather than the law – in order to continue to fulfil their missions. This should not continue. Moreover, the fact that access to and use of digital content tends to be shaped by the choices of rightholders, rather than the law, has also helped underline the need to look at these markets from a competition angle.
  • Mobilise libraries in the wider effort to rebuild lives, societies and economies: over recent years, libraries globally have worked to realise their potential as a key part of the social infrastructure of their communities. In addition to all they do to promote wellbeing as cultural spaces and centres, they can also act as platforms and partners for efforts to support employment, entrepreneurship and education. As such, they need to be part of relevant government strategies at all levels.
  • Ensure proper scrutiny of decision-making during the crisis: governments at the moment are taking crucial decisions about societies and economies, which may have significant and long-lasting effects. In order to be able to hold them to account, we will need to ensure that researchers, the press, and the public have the access they need to information to allow them to participate fully in a healthy democratic life.
  • Learn from the experience to promote inclusion and well-being for all: the pandemic has helped underline the vulnerability of many groups, whose living conditions, livelihoods or other characteristics have made them more susceptible to the pandemic and/or harder hit by its consequences. These should lead us to design policies and programmes in general that are truly inclusive and pro-equity in future.
  • Achieve universal meaningful connectivity: having access to the internet made it possible to continue with more aspects of life during the crisis that previously could not have been imagined. However, this has only been the case for the half of the world which enjoy connectivity. Even those who are online do not necessarily have the skills and confidence necessary to make the most if it. We need to invest in helping everyone become active and capable internet users.
  • Invest in effective public (health) information systems: one key lesson from the crisis has been the importance of developing a meaningful infrastructure for providing access to information to people. This is not just a case of transmitting information, but rather being able to listen and adapt messages to ensure they have most impact, as well as to build literacy skills for all. Libraries can be part of this.
  • Move to a new level in open science and collaborative research: the potential of open science to inform better policymaking has been clear in the current crisis. It should become the norm, with meaningful investment in platforms, reforms to assessment and recognition frameworks, and careful efforts to ensure that researchers and readers do not risk being locked into any individual providers’ products. Cross-border research should be enabled by appropriate international action on copyright reform.
  • Don’t forget other challenges!: clearly COVID-19 is the focus of attention at the moment. Nonetheless, there are other challenges facing the world at the moment, not least climate change, and the rest of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Clearly, the way we address these may change, but the underlying priorities remain if we are to ensure that we don’t just return to normal, but to better.


Knowledge for Development: Libraries and the Global Sustainable Development Report

Image: hourglass shape with image of the sky and earth. Text: Why knowledge is critical for sustainable developmentThe Global Sustainable Development Report was released last week in time for discussions around progress on the United Nations 2030 Agenda at the UN’s General Assembly. The result of a collaboration between experts from different disciplines, from different parts of the world, is arguably the most complete knowledge contribution to work on the SDGs.

It is an effort to make the most of ideas and insights in order to build an understanding of where we stand in the effort to promote sustainable development. Crucially, and in coherence with the SDGs themselves, it aims to look across the board, and identify cross-cutting actions that are necessary to accelerate success.

As the prologue by Gro Harlem Brundtland underlines, it was by bringing together knowledge that it was possible to develop the concept of sustainability in the first place, and put the world on the way to the SDGs. And, as this blog sets out, the new report stresses that the role of knowledge is as great as ever.


Sustainability Insights

Thanks to the variety of perspectives brought by its authors, the report offers insights into the threats and opportunities which will determine whether we achieve the SDGs. Alongside climate change – the subject of the summit that ends today – loss of biodiversity, and increase in both waster and inequalities are particular concerns.

In response, coordinated policies focusing on human capacities and well-being, sustainable and just economies, food systems and nutrition, energy access and decarbonisation, urban and peri-urban development and the global environmental commons.

In all of these areas, as highlighted by IFLA’s Library Map of the World and Development and Access to Information report, libraries have much to contribute.

The Report stresses that underpinning the success of work in these areas will four levers –governance, economic and financial policies, individual and collective action, and science and technology. If used effectively, these can accelerate progress. The key to effectiveness, the authors argue, is having the knowledge and understanding of how our societies are working at all levels:

‘Decision makers need to act based on current knowledge and understanding of the linked human-social-environmental systems at all levels. That knowledge also needs to be more widely available to all countries and actors, motivating innovative coalitions and partnerships for success’.


Knowledge Matters

This emphasis on the importance of knowledge serves to underline the contributions that libraries can make. The need to gather, organise, give access to and apply information is as great as ever.

This is true, first of all, in the research context, where the report underlines concern that academics in developing countries too often cannot access the same range of materials as those in richer countries. This makes them less able to support local development, risking deepening global inequalities.

It also makes it harder to take the findings of research and apply them to real-world situations. As the report suggests, there is a need to intensify the science-policy interface, but this is made more complicated when paywalls stand in the way.

The authors therefore make a clear call on libraries, alongside governments, universities and research consortia, to take additional steps in order to provide open access not only to research, but also to underlying data (Recommendation A15). This, it argues, is a key way of addressing inequalities.

Linked to this, it also calls for efforts to promote cross-border research collaboration between countries in order to support knowledge flows, and suggests that development agencies should invest more in building science and research capacity in beneficiary countries. Libraries, inevitably, are a key part of this.


Among the many reports and papers released around the SDGs – and in particular the discussions at the General Assembly – the Global Sustainable Development Report is to be welcomed for its clear advocacy for the role of knowledge, and those who produce and give access to it.

Latest trends in open access: looking back at OpenCon

The Open Access movement is not standing still. Alongside the successes, there are also major questions and even concerns about inclusion, sustainability and whether it is achieving its original goals. OpenCon may not provide the answers, but provides an excellent opportunity to share ideas and hear new ones, and explore potential ways forwards.

The conference is held annually, organised by SPARC, and looks at open access, open science and open education. It is the only conference of its kind, gathering a small number of selected early career researchers, NGOs and government officials, as well as other actors involved from all over the world. This year’s OpenCon took place in Toronto from 2 to 4 November, and once again, it was an unforgettable experience.

Everything is set up in a way that makes every participant chat at least once with every one of the other participants. Panels take place in between story circles, do-a-thons, unconferences and regional workshops in which the audience takes over. This is what makes it so unique: a conference made, to a large extent, by its participants.

Given that it is difficult to summarise what happened at OpenCon altogether, here is a recap of some projects and topics that were discussed during the conference:

The panel on diversity, equity and inclusion in open research and education

This is one of the most-favoured panels in OpenCon, which goes back to its very essence. It is based on the fact that “while the Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education movements often lean on rhetoric around social justice, equity, and the democratization of knowledge, in many ways, the movements continue to marginalize underrepresented scholars and students. Mainstream efforts to advance Open centre digital solutions and dominant (often Western) ways of knowing”.

Panellists Jasmeen Patheja (Founder/ Director of Blank Noise), Leslie Chan (Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough), Denisse Alboronoz (The Knowledge GAP, University of Toronto Scarboorugh) and Alexis C. (Pineapple Laboratories) introduced different perspectives and projects, that are all impacted by a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion or that could benefit from it. All panellists underlined the opportunity that the open access movement has to make change happen through knowledge sharing.

Denisse for instance talked about what it could mean to re-imagine open science from a feminist perspective, which she has been exploring at OCSD.net. Leslie looked into the global north and how institutions there could ensure that the open access movement fosters inclusion, diversity and equity.

Presentations are available online (see this video, starting on minute 48).

IFLA’s research on International Governmental Organisations

IFLA used this opportunity to share its recent research on the topic of open access in intergovernmental organisations. As already presented at the Creative Commons summit, while much of the discussion around open access focuses on scientific research, free and meaningful access to reports and data produced by public bodies is an important part of the picture. In the case of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) in particular, there are four main benefits from open access to the works they produce: greater transparency around decision-making; support for research, jobs and growth; the moral justice of the public being able to access works for which they have paid; and the example set to national governments.

Some IGOs, such as UNESCO or the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), have been leading the way with open policies. However, there are still many IGOs whose policies are far from being open.

IFLA will soon release a statement on the topic and make the background research available on a user-friendly platform.

The OpenAccess button and copyright librarians

OpenCon was attended by many “copyright librarians”, or librarians whose position within the university involves dealing and giving advice on copyright to library users, faculty staff and researchers. They all insisted on the importance that copyright plays in the library, the amount of request for advice they receive, and the lack of trained staff on the matter.

One of the key things in their role is to guide researchers throughout the publication process, and encouraging the deposit of a pre- or post-print on the library’s repository for it to be available to other researchers. Natalia Norori and Joe McArthur have been working on a project in the framework of the open access button that seeks to make this easier for researchers. The discussion started through a do-a-thon that tried to answer the question “self-archiving and copyright: How might we help researchers be more conscious of what versions of their work they can/can’t share online?”. More information is available on the github page.

OpenCon satellite events

Every year, SPARC also offers support to people who wish to organise meetings on open access, open science and open education in their regions. Previous editions of OpenCon have gathered people willing to do so from Latin America, a group that has successfully organised two OpenCon “Latam” satellites both in Mexico (2017) and in Argentina (2018).

Another successful OpenCon satellite was celebrated in the United Nations Headquarters in New York on October 2018. The UN Headquarters library brought the discussion on open access, open science, open data and open educational resources to the UN. The event was co-hosted by SPARC, and was attended mainly by librarians and higher UN officials. Panellists highlighted on the contribution that open access can bring to the achievement to the Sustainable Development Goals. Part 1, part 2 and part 3 of the session can be watched on the UN Web TV webpage.

Next Generation Leadership Award

The next generation leadership award is given each year to a person who helped advance significantly open access, open science or open education in its country, region or internationally. This year’s award went to Diego Gómez, a biologist who faced criminal charges for sharing an article. Fundación Karisma, who offered him support throughout the trial and spread the word internationally, collected the award. More information is available in Karisma Foundation’s webpage.

Several other projects: the Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Educators

OpenCon is also a gold mine of information on local initiatives with great impact. One good example is the Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Educators, a project initiated by Jamshid Hashimi that aims at using OER to foster education in Afghanistan. It “is a repository of open educational resources for teachers, teacher trainers, school administrators, literacy workers and others involved in furthering education in Afghanistan. These open source resources include lesson plans, pedagogical tools, exercises, experiments, reading texts, work books, curricula and other resources for use in Afghan classrooms”.


OpenCon means going back home with more questions than answers, which is also a sign of a healthy movement that questions its own foundations. Participants want to ensure that the open movement does not end up creating the same burdens that triggered it, that it benefits every region in the world equally, and that it is sustainable in the long-term.

And if you weren’t there, you haven’t necessarily missed it – the main sessions are available on their YouTube page (see for day 1, day 2 and day 3).

Here, but Not Evenly Distributed: Libraries, Innovation and the Right to Science

Every innovation with global impact nonetheless starts somewhere. The World Wide Web was conceived of at CERN in Geneva. Radio in Bologna, Italy, block printing in China.

Between the moment of invention – or discovery – and worldwide uptake, there is a more or less rapid spread, through communication, trade, and imitation.

Who is able to benefit from the results of scientific research and innovation (and when) has a major impact on development. A key example today is still the internet, to which only half of the world’s population currently have access.

This situation provides a reminder (if one was needed) of William Gibson’s quote about the future, which he described as ‘here, but not evenly distributed’.

It also provides a reminder (much more necessary, most likely) of Article 27a of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which underlines that ‘everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits’.

What was written in 1948 is as relevant as ever today. The need to support the spread of new technologies to developing countries features in the UN’s 2030 Agenda (SDG 17). In line with the overall objective of the Agenda, no-one should be left behind for want to access to existing ideas.

This is not just a question of luck or economics, but of fundamental rights. We need to make the road from invention and discovery to global application as short as possible.

What stands in the way?

A key issue highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights in her 2012 report is excessive privatisation of knowledge. There always needs to be means of giving access to science, of finding a balance between incentivising creation and giving everyone a chance to benefit. When the cost of articles, books or other materials is too high, people are excluded.

Libraries provide a key response to this. Through their own collections – and collaboration across borders – they have a major role in the spread of innovation and research. At the same time, they access content legally, and make a major contribution to the creation and publishing of knowledge.

In this same spirit, libraries have also been at the heart of the Open Access movement – trying to find a model of sharing knowledge without any financial barriers. Open Access also features among the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur.

The broader Open Science movement offers further possibilities, ensuring that it is not just the results of innovation, but the process itself that is as inclusive and effective as possible.


A focus on sharing not just technology, but all forms of knowledge, is arguably missing from the UN 2030 Agenda. And there are questions – around expanding internet access, and finding sustainable models for Open Access. Yet the key elements of any future drive in this area are in place in the shape of libraries.

Clearly we are still some way from delivering the right to science, but the Universal Declaration reminds us that the effort is worth it.

El acceso abierto como primer paso para la ciencia abierta

Acceso Abierto y Ciencia Abierta

Por David Ramírez-Ordóñez

[la versión inglesa del post está disponible aquí]

Tener acceso a los resultados de investigación es un muy buen primer paso de un camino mucho más largo. Enmarcando al acceso abierto en su contexto general, se encuentra casi como el final de una cadena que deriva en la ruta verde (el auto archivo) y la ruta dorada (la publicación), pero vale la pena empezar a recorrer la cadena hacia atrás.

El panorama general

En este gráfico se puede entender la taxonomía de la ciencia abierta.

Junto con el acceso abierto se encuentran:

  • Datos abiertos
  • Ciencia abierta reproducible
  • Evaluación abiertas
  • Políticas abiertas
  • Herramientas abiertas

Ofrecer acceso al “código fuente”

Una forma sencilla de interpretar este panorama general es la idea de ofrecer el código fuente. Entre los desarrolladores de software, un programa tiene dos partes: 1) su código fuente, que permite modificaciones y a su vez es el que genera 2) el ejecutable, que es el programa funcionando.

Si llevamos la idea de código fuente a los procesadores de texto, podría decirse que un documento en pdf es el ejecutable, el resultado de la escritura y su código fuente es el archivo en Word que lo generó. Quienes han intentado modificar un pdf sabrán que es mucho más sencillo modificarlo si tienes acceso al archivo en Word que lo produjo.

Es por esto que me gusta pensar que quien además de abrir el resultado de una investigación mediante el acceso abierto ofrece acceso al “código fuente” de su investigación es como el vecino que pone flores en su balcón: ayuda a embellecer su vecindario. Ayudará a que los investigadores de su campo del conocimiento tengan más para avanzar en sus investigaciones.

Otras formas de código fuente: los datos

Si la investigación tiene datos, es muy común ver artículos o libros con gráficos. Siguiendo la metáfora de abrir el código fuente para los datos, habría que dar acceso no sólo al gráfico bajo licencias abiertas, que serían los “ejecutables” en nuestro ejemplo del software. Las tablas con los datos, por ejemplo un archivo en Excel, sería el equivalente al código fuente.

Con ese archivo de datos no sólo podríamos generar el mismo gráfico que se encuentra en el artículo o libro publicado en acceso abierto. También tenemos la posibilidad de hacer otros gráficos basados en esos mismos datos, hacer análisis diferentes o incluso mezclar diferentes tipos de datos para obtener nuevos resultados.

Publicar los datos es un camino para empezar con los datos abiertos, otro componente de la ciencia abierta.

Las herramientas y la ciencia reproducible

En mis dos ejemplos pasados, en del archivo en pdf y su documento en Word y en el de un gráfico y los datos en Excel usé como ejemplo dos herramientas muy populares, pero que no son libres. Si bien nos hemos acostumbrado a usarlas por su popularidad, para emplearlas debemos pagar una licencia por su uso. La verdad es que hay múltiples opciones en el software libre.

Libre Office por ejemplo tiene Writer, que es el equivalente a Word y Calc que es el equivalente a Excel. Si aplicamos la metáfora de dar acceso al código fuente, pero esta vez sobre las herramientas el resultado es no sólo mencionar con qué herramienta se construyó el artículo publicado en abierto, sino permitir que cualquier persona pueda descargarse estas herramientas y usarlas.

De esta forma se está abarcando las herramientas abiertas y además la ciencia reproducible. Dar todas las condiciones para que otros repliquen tus experimentos y mediciones y que estos a su vez publiquen los resultados de sus investigaciones de la misma forma hace que la ciencia avance más rápido.

El papel de los bibliotecarios en la ciencia abierta

Uno de los principios del acceso abierto es el acceso a las publicaciones científicas sin barreras tecnológicas, legales o económicas. Si empezamos a expandir este principio a la ciencia abierta estamos promoviendo no sólo el acceso a la información, sino el desarrollo de capacidades informacionales. Si lo expandimos un poco más realmente lo que estamos defendiendo es el Derecho humano de acceso a la información y a la libertad de pensamiento sin barreras tecnológicas, legales o económicas.

Adicionalmente el apoyar la ciencia abierta asegura más y mejores oportunidades para garantizar la preservación digital: ¿Cuántos de nosotros podemos acceder a archivos digitales producidos en software que ya no está disponible en el mercado? Si apenas hace 20 años usábamos disquetes ¿Cómo podremos acceder en 20 años a la información producida hoy? ¿Tendremos la capacidad de acceder y reproducir estos documentos sin las barreras legales y económicas?

Este texto fue escrito en Ghostwriter usando markdown para exportarlo a html, el formato en el que seguramente estarás leyendo este artículo. El código fuente puede descargarse en este enlace y está obra está en dominio público desde su creación. Si bien no es un artículo científico, creo que los principios del acceso abierto y la ciencia abierta pueden aplicarse a otro tipo de información. Es mi manera de poner flores en mi balcón.

Extra: Mientras tanto, en Latinoamerica

En Panama (Octubre 22 a 24 – 2018), muchas personas de la sociedad civil estuvieron trabajando en la Declaración de Panamá sobre Ciencia Abierta y bibliotecarios de Colombia, Argentina y El Salvador estuvieron involucrados para promover no sólo el Acceso Abierto, sino la Ciencia Abierta. De pronto podrías replicar esto con tu asociación bibliotecaria.