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Brian McCaul
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Open Access Publishing and Innovation...

On the train on the way down to Stefan Lindergaards British Library gig, I was re-reading “Reinventing Discovery - The New Era of Networked Science” by Michael Nielsen (which I highly recommend).  And something stood out that was never this clear to me.  There is a massive - but less often talked of - impediment to the open flow of knowledge and consequent innovation. It’s one that’s often overlooked when analysing the bottle-necks in the open sharing of knowledge that helps advance and  facilitate new discovery.  

As an advocate of open and practitioner of ‘technology transfer’, I’m often trying to square the circle of ‘open’ with IP protection.  From an Open Innovation perspective, that’s easy:  more collaboration does not necessarily negate protection, it just places the business model and the connection to the market ahead of IP.  In fact Open Innovation often relies on protection to facilitate collaboration. (And to be clear where I’m coming from: I run an open innovation community that that helps universities optimise commercialisation using greater collaboration and openness).

From an Open Science [not the same as Open Innovation] perspective, it is more tricky. There is a debate to be had in terms of the role of IP protection as an impediment to the flow - and development - of ideas and scientific knowledge.  That’s accepted.  But then there’s also a debate to be had in terms of the impediments that IP can create in innovation and commercial activity too! Just ask Google or the a VC like Fred Wilson about software patents [or look at the myriad of research papers on this subject].  It’s a complicated space. 

But what about the culture and practice around academic publication? This is what Nielsen has to say:

“people [who] assumed that the commercially driven secrecy is the single biggest obstacle to open science.  That is incorrect. In large parts of basic science, scientists’ concerns about commercialisation are decidedly secondary compared to their relentless focus on conventional publication. Commercialisation and patent rights are welcome if the come, but careers success comes by earning the esteem of peers through publication.  This is most evident in job applications: scientist often list a few patents or spinouts resulting from their work, but the emphasis is on papers, paper, papers, papers and grants, grants grants.  This is true in large parts of physics and astronomy, in mathematics, in substantial parts of chemistry, biology and many other fields of science.  In these fields the immediate obstacles to open science isn’t commercialisation, its a culture that only values and rewards the sharing of scientific knowledge in the form of papers” 

So, currently, the only form of publication that currently counts, or which is explicitly rewarded, is that made via a limited pool of peer-reviewed paid for journals.  The potential that the Web, and newly emerging forms of collaborative and sharing infrastructure, has to offer in terms of publication - under current incentives -  is not captured or counted as valuable. These new, more collaborative, formats have no, or limited, bearing on academic reputation, not matter how impactful.  This is major constraint on the free flow of knowledge. To put it mildly, as the Finch Review does: “there is a widespread perception, in the UK and across the world, that the full benefits of advances in technologies and services in the online environment have yet to be realised”. 

Moving Beyond the ‘Half-Invented’...
Naturally I don’t accept that ‘commercialisation’ is inherently an obstacle to open science. Or at least I’m taken with Taleb Nassim’s concept of uncommercialised inventions being “half-invented” and that  “taking the half-invented into the invented is often the real breakthrough.”  This is where the full impact - socially and economic - of an innovation is felt: when its turned from idea to practice. And this seems to me the real goal of technology transfer as a process or profession. Open access to research results could provide the connection that overcomes the half invented. 

And its clear that those outside of HE and large research-intensive companies many businesses that could commercialise publicly funded IP  “have yet to see the benefits that the online environment could bring in providing access to research and its results”. (Finch).  This is even before we touch on the potential and the rise of citizen science, and more general public access. 

In this light it’s perhaps more than possible to square commercialisation with the ‘open’ agenda of advancing the pace of innovation via multiplying connections. This would draw on whichever paradigm is useful, irrespective of where it lies along the ‘connection versus protection’ continuum: be that open eco-systems or IP protection. [Protection versus Connection: An Open Innovation Mindset ow.ly/ppydf ]

As Steven Johnson sums it up: “We are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them... Environments that build walls around good ideas tend to be less innovative in the long run than more open-ended environments. Good ideas may not want to be free, but they want to connect, fuse, recombine.... They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete.”  [Where Good Ideas Come From] [My emphasis].

‘Connection, Fusion, and Recombination’ & Open Publication...
So innovation need not be free: a commercial dynamic often helps move an emerging technology out of the ‘half-invented’ space, into a fully useful innovation.  But the barriers to ‘connection, fusion, and recombination’ of ideas do tend to stifle innovation.  And the most significant of those barriers presently exist at the publication stage. The exclusive value placed on certain limited circulation, printed, peer reviewed*, and end-user paid for journals - in the age of the internet - is a fundamental constraint on open science and innovation.  So the rear-guard lobbying of organisations such as PRISM need to be seen for what they are: the last defence of an old and constraining business model - constraining both the advance of science and the advance of innovation.

So if there’s a call to action here its: check out Open Access Week http://www.openaccessweek.org/ and the HEFCE Consultation. 
Hefce review: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/rsrch/rinfrastruct/oa/

And if there is a specific plea, its to the AURILs, PraxisUnicos and similar bodies to engage with this from a knowledge transfer hat to ensure that the agenda is squared with commercialisation and takes into account the correct sequencing of disclosure and protection. 

* NB For the avoidance of doubt: this is not an argument against Peer-review. Far from it. Just a call for more open sharing of knowledge, data and science infrastructure. 

Brian McCaul 
@Brianamc


PS 31 reasons why you should blog about your research cgd.to/18L9VfJ


PPS @Jisc is sponsoring the @PLOS ASAP awards - and the finalists have just been announced bit.ly/16G1eXS #openaccess #edtech
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Brian McCaul

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Open Access Publishing and Innovation...

On the train on the way down to Stefan Lindergaards British Library gig, I was re-reading “Reinventing Discovery - The New Era of Networked Science” by Michael Nielsen (which I highly recommend).  And something stood out that was never this clear to me.  There is a massive - but less often talked of - impediment to the open flow of knowledge and consequent innovation. It’s one that’s often overlooked when analysing the bottle-necks in the open sharing of knowledge that helps advance and  facilitate new discovery.  

As an advocate of open and practitioner of ‘technology transfer’, I’m often trying to square the circle of ‘open’ with IP protection.  From an Open Innovation perspective, that’s easy:  more collaboration does not necessarily negate protection, it just places the business model and the connection to the market ahead of IP.  In fact Open Innovation often relies on protection to facilitate collaboration. (And to be clear where I’m coming from: I run an open innovation community that that helps universities optimise commercialisation using greater collaboration and openness).

From an Open Science [not the same as Open Innovation] perspective, it is more tricky. There is a debate to be had in terms of the role of IP protection as an impediment to the flow - and development - of ideas and scientific knowledge.  That’s accepted.  But then there’s also a debate to be had in terms of the impediments that IP can create in innovation and commercial activity too! Just ask Google or the a VC like Fred Wilson about software patents [or look at the myriad of research papers on this subject].  It’s a complicated space. 

But what about the culture and practice around academic publication? This is what Nielsen has to say:

“people [who] assumed that the commercially driven secrecy is the single biggest obstacle to open science.  That is incorrect. In large parts of basic science, scientists’ concerns about commercialisation are decidedly secondary compared to their relentless focus on conventional publication. Commercialisation and patent rights are welcome if the come, but careers success comes by earning the esteem of peers through publication.  This is most evident in job applications: scientist often list a few patents or spinouts resulting from their work, but the emphasis is on papers, paper, papers, papers and grants, grants grants.  This is true in large parts of physics and astronomy, in mathematics, in substantial parts of chemistry, biology and many other fields of science.  In these fields the immediate obstacles to open science isn’t commercialisation, its a culture that only values and rewards the sharing of scientific knowledge in the form of papers” 

So, currently, the only form of publication that currently counts, or which is explicitly rewarded, is that made via a limited pool of peer-reviewed paid for journals.  The potential that the Web, and newly emerging forms of collaborative and sharing infrastructure, has to offer in terms of publication - under current incentives -  is not captured or counted as valuable. These new, more collaborative, formats have no, or limited, bearing on academic reputation, not matter how impactful.  This is major constraint on the free flow of knowledge. To put it mildly, as the Finch Review does: “there is a widespread perception, in the UK and across the world, that the full benefits of advances in technologies and services in the online environment have yet to be realised”. 

Moving Beyond the ‘Half-Invented’...
Naturally I don’t accept that ‘commercialisation’ is inherently an obstacle to open science. Or at least I’m taken with Taleb Nassim’s concept of uncommercialised inventions being “half-invented” and that  “taking the half-invented into the invented is often the real breakthrough.”  This is where the full impact - socially and economic - of an innovation is felt: when its turned from idea to practice. And this seems to me the real goal of technology transfer as a process or profession. Open access to research results could provide the connection that overcomes the half invented. 

And its clear that those outside of HE and large research-intensive companies many businesses that could commercialise publicly funded IP  “have yet to see the benefits that the online environment could bring in providing access to research and its results”. (Finch).  This is even before we touch on the potential and the rise of citizen science, and more general public access. 

In this light it’s perhaps more than possible to square commercialisation with the ‘open’ agenda of advancing the pace of innovation via multiplying connections. This would draw on whichever paradigm is useful, irrespective of where it lies along the ‘connection versus protection’ continuum: be that open eco-systems or IP protection. [Protection versus Connection: An Open Innovation Mindset ow.ly/ppydf ]

As Steven Johnson sums it up: “We are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them... Environments that build walls around good ideas tend to be less innovative in the long run than more open-ended environments. Good ideas may not want to be free, but they want to connect, fuse, recombine.... They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete.”  [Where Good Ideas Come From] [My emphasis].

‘Connection, Fusion, and Recombination’ & Open Publication...
So innovation need not be free: a commercial dynamic often helps move an emerging technology out of the ‘half-invented’ space, into a fully useful innovation.  But the barriers to ‘connection, fusion, and recombination’ of ideas do tend to stifle innovation.  And the most significant of those barriers presently exist at the publication stage. The exclusive value placed on certain limited circulation, printed, peer reviewed*, and end-user paid for journals - in the age of the internet - is a fundamental constraint on open science and innovation.  So the rear-guard lobbying of organisations such as PRISM need to be seen for what they are: the last defence of an old and constraining business model - constraining both the advance of science and the advance of innovation.

So if there’s a call to action here its: check out Open Access Week http://www.openaccessweek.org/ and the HEFCE Consultation. 
Hefce review: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/rsrch/rinfrastruct/oa/

And if there is a specific plea, its to the AURILs, PraxisUnicos and similar bodies to engage with this from a knowledge transfer hat to ensure that the agenda is squared with commercialisation and takes into account the correct sequencing of disclosure and protection. 

* NB For the avoidance of doubt: this is not an argument against Peer-review. Far from it. Just a call for more open sharing of knowledge, data and science infrastructure. 

Brian McCaul 
@Brianamc


PS 31 reasons why you should blog about your research cgd.to/18L9VfJ


PPS @Jisc is sponsoring the @PLOS ASAP awards - and the finalists have just been announced bit.ly/16G1eXS #openaccess #edtech
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Bank of England official calls for radical overhaul of bankers' pay
Bank of England official calls for radical overhaul of bankers' pay

http://gu.com/p/32pfm
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go reached, well before time. now overfunding ...
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Higher Education @GdnHigherEd
Open access publishing hoax: what @sciencemagazine got wrong by @curtrice gu.com/p/3ja42/tw #openaccess #highered #research
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It’s Open Access week, celebrating Open Access in scholarship and published research as opposed to closed, paid access. If you’re in science the Open Access thing is probably old hat to you and you don’t want to hear anymore or think about it. But you need to. That’s why I want to share a story.

My lab has a major paper in production. We’re really excited about it - I’ll post about it here when it’s out - and the Open Access journal where we are publishing was nice enough to coincidentally offer us space for a short “opinion” piece where we can really speculate and have fun discussing the implications.

Our paper is more enlightening if you have context, and for us some of the most interesting context is over 40 years old. In practice, papers that old often end up “lost” to modern digital-only audiences, and many scientists do not know the old data or have easy access to it. So I had an idea.

I wanted to reprint data from two papers: one 53 years old and one 43 years old, to provide the context for our story. No sweat, right? Who could complain? Plus, it’s for the good of scientific inquiry. 

Well, one journal ignored my request entirely, at least so far. Big publishing company, so no surprise. But the other one is a society journal! It’s ASM! I love ASM! They’re a paragon of scientific enlightenment. How could they say no?

They said no.

They shunted me to a company called Rightslink, which told me that there was no way I could reprint ASM journal data in an Open Access journal with a Creative Commons Attribution License because that license is too open.

Too open for a reprint of a 43-year-old electron micrograph.

The scientists of ASM, I am sure, would be appalled. But scientists do not make these decisions. Publishing lawyers do.

Ridiculous copyright-defending garbage is going to eliminate an opportunity to provide a clear scientific story. I’m going to replace it with references, drawings, and links. Links to closed, paid-access articles.

Should I be lucky enough to publish something that anyone wants to reprint 40 or more years from now, I hope it’s available for reprint, to represent my tiny contribution to the scientific literature. I know that the works I’ve published in Open Access journals will be.

I’ve published in traditional journals in the past. With a relatively new lab scrapping for publications, I can’t pick and choose where I want to publish every time. But this experience, this missed opportunity brought to us by closed licensing, makes me want to do everything I can to support Open Access. 

That’s it. Soapbox closed. Thanks for reading this far, and happy Open Access week.
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What remains of the Twisted Wheel... so much for all the Northern Nostalgia!
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People
Have him in circles
94 people
Pamela Cozens's profile photo
Ernout van der Waard's profile photo
Toni Harrison's profile photo
Stuart Allcock's profile photo
Liz Pattison's profile photo
Peter Wareley's profile photo
Tom Smith's profile photo
Anna Tatton's profile photo
Neil Twist's profile photo
Work
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  • Knowledge Transfer2.0
    Founder, present
  • University of Manchester
  • Sheffield Hallam University
    Head of Research Support
  • University of Liverpool
    Director of Business Development
  • University of Leeds
    Director of Commercialisation
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Knowledge Transfer and Innovation specialist. Manchester based
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manchester - sheffield - derby
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