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The Future is Open - Changing the way scholarship and science is shared in NZ

Mandy Henk, Guest Post. 11 November 2019, 6:33 am
The Future is Open - Changing the way scholarship and science is shared in NZ

Taxpayer funded research that could be improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders is being locked behind paywalls due to a profit-focused approach to academic publishing, says open access advocacy group Tohatoha NZ. CEO Mandy Henk outlines why we should care and what can be done about it.

This month, Tohatoha released a new report titled Centring Our Values: Open Access for Aotearoa

This report is at the heart of a campaign we have launched advocating for greater openness, sharing, and equity in the digital world, including open access and open reuse of government, scholarly, and scientific knowledge.

Why do this? Because the research work done in our universities, Crown Research Institutes, and other publicly funded institutions benefits from taxpayer funding. However, unlike journalists or novelists, these thinkers, researchers, and writers have funded positions, so the public should benefit from this work.

Consider health research. New Zealand invests billions of dollars each year in research like this, and yet it is locked behind the paywalls of large academic publishers. Most New Zealanders who could benefit from it cannot afford to access it through current systems.

We believe there is a better way.  

At Tohatoha, we want to see a New Zealand where the work of our scholars, scientists and researchers is open and available for everyone to read, share, and reuse. Open access, open data, open scholarship all offer a better path to sharing and creating new knowledge with other researchers and with communities. 

What we need is nothing short of a transformation of New Zealand's scholarly communication system into one focused around open access and equity.

New Zealand needs a national strategy to open the work of our publicly funded scholars, scientists, and researchers. Done well, this strategy will contribute to improved policy making, help to educate the electorate, and support practitioners in a wide range of professions, while also strengthening New Zealand's economy by providing access to R&D to the private sector.

We also believe that the Crown should fulfil its commitment to New Zealand as a Treaty partner by living up to the diversity and equity statements made by its universities. There is ample evidence that the system as it stands now creates specific harms for Māori scholars and scientists. 

Reimagining our scholarly communications system offers us the opportunity to develop a system where these inequities are rectified and remedied. Open access offers a path forward--one based in innovation, care, excellence, and honouring Tiriti.

The core positions of Tohatoha's campaign are captured in the 'Open Access Declaration'

We encourage anyone who is interested in seeing this taxpayer funded research made available at no cost to the public to read our Open Access report, sign the Declaration and share this campaign with others. 

For more information on Tohatoha's work in New Zealand, visit http://tohatoha.nz 

Mandy Henk is the CEO of Tohatoha Aotearoa Commons, with a background as a librarian, writer, and advocate for a healthy and vibrant Commons. She was named a 2012 Library Journal Mover and Shaker for her work as a founding member of the People's Library at Occupy Wall Street, and is the author of Economy, Ecology, Equity: The Path to a Carbon Neutral Library (ALA Editions 2014).


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