Advocating for Openness at Wageningen UR

Wageningen UR is doing well in advocating for openness. If you look at the Open Access publications from Dutch higher education you see in the left bottom corner a breakdown by Institution. Wageningen UR is on top while Wageningen is by far the smallest university in the Netherlands. We are also the first university  in our country to have a data management policy. Of course there are many things left to be desired but it seems the advocates advocated well.

Whatever it is that we did well, it is not the result of the quality of our overall plan because we never had one. We had a general idea of the direction, and there are bits and pieces in other statements and strategic plans.

With regard to Open Access to publications we moved a bit with the times. We started with electronic publishing ventures when that was the word everybody used. At a certain moment we had a limited budget to cover author’s fees for the first Gold open access journals, but later scientists agreed that it does not make sense now that the Gold route is becoming a highway and there are concerns about the cost when it becomes the dominant model for scholarly publishing  (see http://wowter.net/2014/03/05/costs-going-gold-netherlands/ ) . We collected grey literature systematically to keep it accessible, and provided links to journal articles once their embargo expired (publishers do not generally provide those links) The basis of all this was a repository that we maintain quite systematically. On the ground it certainly took advocacy, institutes committed themselves one by one. We cannot complain about the commitment from the executive board, they have always understood the need to invest in it. It is also the basis for bibliometric work for research evaluation. That is not commonly associated with open Access (but it is certainly in the business interest of Wageningen UR). So in general my lesson here is that advocacy for openness is a long-term commitment.

With regard to research data we found that the subject was in vogue with managers and policy makers. But what was in it for the PhD researchers and Post-docs who do the day-to-day research and are usually the first authors of research articles? Data curators can help archiving datasets, but the hands-on researchers have to provide most information and provide their data in an organized form. We started organizing courses for PhD researchers about data management planning. The purpose of these planning activities is to make the research process easier, archiving and sharing after completion of the research is only one of the questions that the plan should address. So our template addresses issues that templates from funders often do not address.

We also made sure that datasets are registered in the repository, wherever the datasets are archived physically (because that is quite divers for different disciplines). The growth in the number of archived datasets is still slow, and we will have to wait some years to see if improved data management accelerates that growth.

So the main lesson here is: look who the people are who have to make the change, and what motivates them.

Well, two lessons about advocating for openness. That should do.