Data Focus: Equity in Open Access
The world observed Open Access week 2019 from 21 to 27 October. The theme, “Open for whom? Equity in Open Access” raised important considerations about the various users of open access data and publications as well as the usage of such open access materials or data.
According to Opensource.com, Open Access means making your work accessible without any form of restrictions for public use. Therefore, if you have a database that requires authentication before you can access the resources in that database, such a database is not fully open access compliant. This also applies to publications.
Open access is good for research or academia. Knowledge from previous research could be reused to bring out a new output. It encourages innovation and promotes knowledge management provided necessary credit the author receives necessary credit and the knowledge from the open access is used to improve society. Academia and researchers build on past works when developing new theories or ideas.
In a world where many data lakes are not open access, data in a data warehouse with well annotated ontology and metadata may attract not just researchers but the private sector for commercial use. When a researcher has worked for years to warehouse datasets, they may be concerned who accesses the data and the purpose for which the data is being used. When the business community makes use of data that is completely open, for instance with CC BY, the author of such data may not have any additional gain from the new product that may be developed from the accessed data.
Many businesses make huge sums of money from open access, whether from data or publications, without recourse to the source of the data or publication. Such situations cheat researchers or data owners in many cases. So, when we talk about open access, we need to know who this data is open for and how this will be used. This leads to type of open access license. The Creative Commons Licenses, sets the standard for open access usage. These licenses are supposed to be respected when open access information or data is reused for other purposes apart from academic or research purposes.
There should be equity in open access when it is being used for commercial purposes. Researchers should be able to have some incentives from the secondary result of the initial effort of the data owner or first author. This kind of incentive will boost the morale of researchers, knowing fully well that when they open their data, they also stand to gain beyond the immediate value of the information that is made open.
As donors keep requesting for open access for all publicly funded research, the interest of the researchers should also be protected, or a guaranteed incentive be provided to the research community to ensure credits are given to authors as well as financial incentives to such author(s) when the work leads to another innovation.