Thursday, November 11, 2021 News

2021 Open Access Week Highlights Individual and Collective Action Needed to Achieve Equity

Open Access

From blog posts to podcasts and panel discussions, people around the world were inspired during International Open Access Week 2021 to reflect on efforts to build structural equity into the knowledge production process. There were notable announcements and reports released that signal a deepening commitment to open and understanding of the need for practices to be designed with diverse community voices.


The International Science Council (ISC) voted to endorse eight fundamental principles for efficient and effective scientific publishing systems with focus on equity, inclusion, transparency, and reuse of research. The principles include universal open access to the record of science and its preservation for future generations, better exploitation of the tools of the digital revolution, reform of peer review systems, and accountability of publishing systems to the scientific community and its institutions. The endorsement  indicates growing support from the international disciplinary unions and associations, national academies and regional scientific bodies that make up the ISC’s membership.

The European Federation of Academics of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) released a Statement on Equity in Open Access that addresses how APC-based open access publishing actually contributes to establishing inequitable structures within academic research. The authors suggest alternative models and emphasize the need for resources and infrastructure to provide a global solution to open access across all disciplines. In its release, the federation cites this year’s theme of OA Week and UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.

SPARC’s own Heather Joseph and Nick Shockey contributed to a report released by the United Nations on the need to apply open practices to address environmental threats. “Open Science for Climate Action,” takes lessons from transparent communication of science during the COVID-19 pandemic and underscores the value of better communication of science to accelerate solutions.

The University of Cape Town revised its Open Access Policy adding an explicit commitment to social justice, diamond OA and library publishing.

Harvard University expanded its recognition of OA Week to establish OA Month from Oct. 25 through November 19. The campus will offer live and virtual events that encourage community engagement with an emphasis on equity at the foundation of its work.

In an effort to build systemic equity and include traditionally marginalized voices, the Open Research Funders Group (ORFG) reached out for feedback on its new Open & Equitable Model Funding Program. In its OA Week Reflection & Call for Participation, ORFG invited people to fill out an open and public survey about the intersection of open and equity to inform its work moving forward. (The survey remains open for those who wish to participate.)

In related news, PREreview announced it will partner with ORFG and Health Research Alliance (HRA) to develop Open Grant Reviewers, a mentoring and training program for early career grant reviewers founded on principles of equity, openness, and social justice. For more, see Beyond manuscript peer review.


The Unsettling Knowledge Podcast produced by the Knowledge Equity Lab Podcast and SPARC aired an episode tied to the theme of OA Week. Indigenous Epistemologies and Open Science: Learning from the Land features Lorna Wanósts’a7 Williams, Greg Cajete, Manulani Aluli Meyer, and Sonajharia Minz sharing their personal journeys in science and academia.

The Research Talk podcast interviewed Kathleen Shearer, executive director of the Coalition of Open Access Repositories to discuss the role of repositories in advancing open research. Listen here.

Among the many panels hosted around the world, LIBSENSE, a collaborative initiative in Africa around open science at institutional, regional and national levels, gathered OA experts from Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania to share the lastest on effort to expand OA with a lens toward equity. To view the event, go to It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.

The Training Center in Communication (TCC-Africa) in collaboration with PLOS and the Lesotho Library Consortium (LELICO sponsored a workshop on using open access to improve Lesotho’s research output. Presenters included Buhle Mbambo Thata (LELICO); Roheena Anand (PLOS) and Joy Owango (TCC Africa). A recording of the webinar is available here.

Open Access Australasia posted a recording of its webinar held during OA Week. Kim Tairi chaired the discussion, Indigenous Voices: research practice through a First Nations lens, with guest panelists Maui Hudson, Dr. Levon Ellen Blue, and Spencer Lilley.

In honor of Professor Subbiah Arunachalem, whose advocacy efforts have been important in advancing Open Access in India, the DST-Centre for Policy Research at the Indian Institute for Science organized a series of events. Recordings of the lectures and tributes are available here.


If you didn’t catch them as they were posted, here are some samples of must-read news stories and perspectives from OA champions:

 Why I’m optimistic about the Open Access movement by Ashley Farley with the Gates Foundation.

 Inequitable Access: An Anti-Competitive Scheme by Textbook Publishers by Rory Mir posted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

 Now is the time to work together toward open infrastructures for scholarly metadata by Ginny Hendricks, Bianca Kramer, Catriona J. Maccallum, Paolo Manghi, Cameron Neylon, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton, Aaron Tay, and Ludo Waltman, posted on the LSE Impact Blog. 

 World-class chemistry: The challenges and opportunities of conducting research in developing countries by David Harding in Chemistry World.

 Why it’s time to retire equality, diversity, and inclusion by Pathik Pathak posted by UK-based Wonkhe.

 Equity is at Heart of Subscribe to Open Model by Caralee Adams posted on SPARC website.

It really does matter how we open knowledge.  Although it was a rich week of conversation, it’s critical to continue to work for structural equity as a foundational priority beyond OA Week.

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