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Open Access: Removing the Barriers to Information Sharing

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Never was information sharing so relevant as at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early 2020, before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, scientists were already studying the daunting new virus. Thanks to open access (OA) publishing, a model that allows for free, easy access to research, data was widely available. This helped inform government decisions on border shutdowns and public health measures, while hastening vaccine development.

But what will happen to global open access post-pandemic? Professor Evelyn Rita Micelotta has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant to study trends in adopting OA in three scientific disciplines: biomedical sciences, physics and chemistry.

Challenging the information status quo

For Micelotta, “Open access is an excellent case of an extremely complex issue, where multiple interests are at stake and the status quo is deeply challenged. Our collaborative effort (with Professors Mike Lounsbury and Frank Wijen) will explain why progress has been slow and how to productively address the concerns of key stakeholders.”

During the pandemic, everyone has had free access to new information in a heartbeat. Record-breaking timelines for vaccine approval and responsible vaccination programs have been possible due to collective knowledge sharing.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) endorsed open access in 2017. This year, it’s adopting a recommendation on “open science,” “to bring citizens closer to science and … facilitate the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge around the world.”

Canada lagging behind

Despite these recommendations, Canadian institutions have not yet changed their knowledge production and dissemination practices. Better understanding the barriers to implementing open access in Canada can help determine what’s needed to achieve it.

Professor Micelotta’s project, “Open Access in higher education publishing: A theory of institutional accommodation,” will use a comparative approach to examine drivers of or barriers to open access in higher education publishing in Canada and the Netherlands. The latter has a clear open access mandate and best practice guidelines.

Implementing open access

Micelotta’s work can help show how a new practice like open access can be gradually implemented, rather than ignored or opposed. The work will also help inform future OA policy in Canadian stakeholder institutions like libraries and funding agencies.

And, of course, society at large will benefit from a change in knowledge production practices and structures that ensures widespread access to information.

Evelyn Micelotta

Evelyn Micelotta is an Associate Professor in Management at Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. She received a PhD in Strategic Management and Organization from Alberta School of Business and a PhD in Management Engineering from Milan Polytechnic.  Read more about her work.

About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

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