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KU contingent takes part in global discussion on open access at Berlin 10 Conference

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, KU Libraries and its Center for Digital Scholarship were represented at the Berlin 10 Conference this November at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. The conference meets yearly to report on global efforts for open access policies.

The KU representatives in attendance were Lorraine Haricombe, dean of KU Libraries; Ada Emmett, scholarly communications librarian at the Center for Digital Scholarship; and Marc L. Greenberg, professor of Slavic languages and literatures and chair of Germanic languages and literatures.

The annual conference is an opportunity for research, scientific and cultural institutions to discuss how they are fulfilling the intentions of the Berlin Declaration of 2003, which calls for the use of the Internet as a vehicle for “open access as a comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community. In order to realize the vision of a global and accessible representation of knowledge, the future Web has to be sustainable, interactive and transparent.”

The University of Kansas has been at the forefront of the open access movement, beginning with the pioneering work of then-Provost David Shulenburger in the 1990s. KU was the first public university to adopt a faculty open-access policy (2009) and in 2011, the university launched the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little signed the Berlin Declaration for KU in October 2011.

The conference had previously met in North America and Europe, making this meeting the first on the African continent. The KU contingent met scholars from institutions around the world.

“The conference was an eye-opening experience,” Greenberg said. “I am more familiar with the East-West dialogue and so this was a chance for me to observe and participate in the North-South dialogue. Regardless of one’s geoposition, open-access is the key to opening up a truly global knowledge-culture.”

The meeting permitted a wide-ranging conversation on the benefits and challenges for global scholarly communication with a focus on north-south dialogue. Haricombe moderated a panel, “Benefits of Open Access for Scholarship and Wider Society,” featuring speakers from e-Maxwell and Associates, USA; The World Bank; and University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Many fresh ideas were brought to the fore, from a Nigerian colleague who suggested that all human knowledge must be shared by uploading —even juju— to a Dutch colleague who demonstrated the meaninglessness of commercial citation indexes for measuring ‘impact,’ ” Greenberg said. “Berlin 10 is the venue to watch for what is coming next in academic publishing.”

Among other news from the conference were reports on improved means of measuring research impact through open access, which will obviate hitherto established practices that are limited to citation indexes; declarations of increased cooperation among American, European, and African scientific organizations and universities; and presentation of a major global astronomy project, based in Africa, which will entail the open sharing of unprecedentedly large quantities of data, the Square Kilometer Array.