from the results of scientific research. But what often happens is that no sooner do you start browsing in a publication than you slam up against a paywall.' The logic of it escapes her: 'Science is about doing experiments. Apparently, however, reading publications about them is a privilege reserved for academics.'
If you ask Hertzberger, open science is where we should be setting our sights. 'With weekly updates in which we promote ourselves and our experiments.' Open kitchen science, predicts Hertzberger, will generate a higher knowledge return for every tax euro invested. 'Besides', she says, 'the education gap between academics and the general population is shrinking, so they can certainly grasp the science.' In the months ahead, she will be recruiting supporters. 'My goal is to launch an open science community – a science Wikipedia, if you will. A large number of people are on board already. More and more scientists are turning to channels like Facebook and Twitter, and I expect our ranks will only grow as we continue.'
In September 2012 Gerard Meijer accepted a post as the new Executive Board president at Radboud University Nijmegen. There, one of the first issues he found himself dealing with was open access. ‘Straight away, I thought, here's an area where I can really contribute something. I believe in it and it fits my purview. Moreover, having both published work myself and sat on editorial boards, I could offer concrete experience and expertise.’
Political interest in open access was also increasing in the Netherlands. ‘It was clear, when State Secretary Dekker singled out this issue in 2013, that he was enthusiastic about it and wanted to have a hand in it. He wrote that our country would go for “100% OA in 10 years”. That was no trifling commitment.’
‘We discussed this within the VSNU and there was a clear consensus that “This means business”.’ For Meijer and everyone else, it was furthermore evident that ‘It was up to us as university board presidents to hammer out a deal with the publishers’.
‘We decided to start with the major players in order to prepare the ground. Going into the meetings, the universities' premise was that they wanted to partner with well-established publishers. As a partner, we were willing to help preserve their infrastructure, but based on conditions that we stipulated. If you think about it, it's a bit mad that as scientists we allow publishers to get paid to lock away our knowledge for commercial gain.’
The strength of the results is borne out in this e-Zine. Good deals have been made, marking large strides towards open access, made possible thanks in part to concerted political backing. ‘What was invaluable is that European bodies stood four-square behind the universities. It's a real achievement of the Dutch Presidency of the EU that Europe has really gotten behind open access and open science.’
When it comes to the lessons he has learned from the experience, Gerard Meijer is short and to the point. ‘First of all, when all of the Dutch universities work together, they can really make an impact. Second, it's absolutely vital to have political backing for such a major and innovative endeavour. It's crucial that the universities are able to get political decision-makers on board.’
A third lesson pertains to universities' own internal organisations. ‘You have to be willing to commit the time. In many cases there are still a lot of people to whom you've got to explain why we're doing this and why it's so important. You have to put aside that time, there's no other way.’
With Meijer now heading home to Berlin, he will be back in the setting that made him an advocate for open access in the first place. But that's not all. ‘I'll soon be representing the German institutions in negotiations, so I'll be sitting down opposite the same publishers all over again...’
‘Whatever happens, our country has to keep hold of this momentum and synchronise efforts with European neighbours. We've proved that when we work together, we have real clout. It's marvellous to show how effective and fast Europe can be to act when you're all fighting for a good cause together.’
In open access publishing, there are two routes: the ‘green’ and the ‘gold’ route. Green is already possible in many places: the article can be offered to the digital archive of scientific publications of the university library, the so-called ‘repository’. All universities have such a repository. Publishers do often set conditions on when the article can be freely accessed in the repository.
In the gold route, the publisher of the open access journal itself publishes the article in an open access format. The Directory of Open Access Journals lists more than 11,000 high-quality open access scientific publications.
Most universities have already offered support for open access publishing since 2005. For example, there are support centres that can advise on negotiations with publishers, criteria for open access, choosing open
access journals, the use of social media in publications, and copyright issues.
‘The objective is to make open access publishing as easy as possible for Dutch researchers and to minimise the hassle they encounter in connection with the underlying administrative process,’ according to Radboud University’s Els Peters, member of the UKB working group tasked with implementing the achieved open access Big Deals. ‘This has been a matter of trial and error in the recent period, and still requires a great deal of attention today. We are pleased, however, to be able to offer researchers effective support in this regard.’
Should you, as a researcher, have questions about how this works at your own institution, the contact information can be found here.
The unveiling of the Gaia celestial map on 14 September 2016 represented an historic moment for open science. For the first time, detailed information about the stars in our universe was made available not only to scientists, but to people all around the world. In addition to the stars’ locations, Gaia also makes it possible to see how bright a particular star is, and how distant. While this kind of information was previously available, it was limited to a small percentage of stars. ‘Think of it like this: we were used to kind of knowing our way around the house, and now suddenly we’re able to map the entire globe,’ Gijs Nelemans said in an interview with Radio1. Nelemans is a senior lecturer in the Astronomy department at Radboud University. He points out how remarkable it is that this information is being shared: a new, ‘Post-Gaia’ era has dawned. Nelemans also says he’s eager to see the clever ideas that people from all corners of the globe will be able to come up with, based on this new knowledge. To his mind, the future looks very exciting indeed – thanks to the possibilities created by sharing this new knowledge.
Openaccess.nl has posted an extensive overview of the current status of open access and the specific agreements in place with various publishers.
How many results of scientific experiments are relegated to collect dust on some shelf for the sole reason that they cannot make it into the pages of Nature or Science? How many ground-breaking studies are published for only a small cluster of knowledge consumers? And how much research can only be accessed after scaling a paywall?
Hertzberger is fed up. 'I'm calling for open kitchen science. For a science in which we as scientists continually and unreservedly share our work with society, making it freely accessible to everyone. We are paid from public funds. It's not like we're commercial vendors. We have a duty to improve communication about our work, both in quality and in quantity.'
Open access in the form advocated by VSNU is a key intermediate step to Hertzberger's ultimate goal. 'Without open access, there can be no open science.' Open access is furthermore an essential ingredient for societal innovation, in her view. 'Nurses, small hospitals, dieticians, schools – all stand to gain so much more