What does the word “community” mean to you in the context of teaching and research?

We loved this Open Access Australasia blog post by Richard White, Chair of the Open Access Australasia OA Week 2023 organising group, originally published on 12 July 2023.

Richard is also a member of the International OA Week organising committee and the Manager, Copyright & Open Access at University of Otago.

I vividly remember a senior researcher telling me a few years ago, as we were talking about making versions of our work available openly in repositories, that they didn’t need to worry about that because everyone who needed to had access to their publications.* Frankly I was flabbergasted at such a statement of privilege and assumption. I am afraid I didn’t come up with a counter argument to convince that person that there was no way they could possibly know who might be interested in their work. Still, that conversation has stayed with me, and this year’s Open Access Week theme resonates with how I felt about it.

Community over Commercialization. Open Access Week

Let’s ask that question again, then: what does the word “community” mean to you in the context of teaching and research? It’s true that many of us will first think about the disciplinary or professional communities we work with. Increasingly, though, we’re broadening our thinking. It might be professionals, teachers, policy makers, businesses and innovators, non-public-sector research organisations, citizen scientists, not to mention all the institutions, researchers and students around the world that cannot afford subscription access. Could it even mean the people or local communities who have contributed to our work or the people who might benefit from our work? If we tell people – especially those we’re writing about or working for – about our work in ways that require payment we should ask ourselves the question: are we doing research for us or for them?

In broadening the communities we want to engage with, however, we have a problem; we’re hindered by the systems we have built. Checking the COKI Open Access Dashboard, we can see that only about 40% of research publications by authors from Aotearoa and Australia from the past 20 years are free to read.** I say “we” have built them because we cannot absolve ourselves of the responsibility for these systems, even though we might complain that “Big Publishing” made them for us. 

The theme for this year’s OA week, running from October 23 to 29, is community over commercialisation. This theme was chosen by SPARC’s international OA week advisory committee to encourage conversation about the approaches to open scholarship that prioritise the interests of the public and the academic community.

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, adopted by its 193 members, highlights the need to prioritise community over commercialisation. It calls on members to ensure that science does not involve the “unfair and/or inequitable extraction of profit from publicly funded scientific activities” and to support “non-commercial publishing models and collaborative publishing models with no article processing charges.”

All this should not be reduced to: commercialism = bad. Many of the institutions we work for explicitly encourage commercialism and, naturally, commercial entities are constantly developing innovative ways of doing things. The distinction to make, perhaps, is that ideally investment should serve the needs of the community in sustainable ways.

For Australasian OA week this year, we’re planning a series of topics and discussions, with a star-studded cast of speakers, panellists and experts, that we hope will provoke discussion and debate. Naturally, our focus will be on our corner of the world, examining questions like these: 

  • What would community ownership of the scholarly communication ecosystem look like? What about a research system centred on indigenous knowledge?
  • How can we ensure our knowledge is made as widely available as possible in ways that are sustainable? What about book publishing and open educational resources, which often play second-fiddle to journal publications in OA conversations?
  • What safeguards need to be in place to ensure knowledge is used appropriately?
  • What opportunities and challenges does the emergence of generative AI (controlled by huge commercial entities) pose for open knowledge? 

We’re hoping the sessions will be not just food for thought but also provide some practical opportunities to work together and meet people. We are looking forward to it!

* Having just checked this person’s publications I am sad to report that, even in 2023, only 20 percent are free-to-read, which is much lower than the average for New Zealand researchers (which is about half of publications being open).

** The COKI OA Dashboard shows OA rates for Aotearoa and Australia over the last 20 years as 38% and 42% respectively. [Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative Open Access Dashboard. https://open.coki.ac/ Accessed 4 July 2023]


Open for Climate Justice: a podcast on open access, citizen science, and science communications

UOW Library has released a new episode of the Light On podcast, focused on this years theme for Open Access Week: Open for Climate Justice.

The podcast is hosted by Sam Hutchinson, produced by (Digidex Blog member) Kristy Newton and features UOW academics Georgia Watson and Distinguished Professor Sharon Robinson, PhD candidate Teaniel Mifsud, and UOW Library’s Clare Job.

In the podcast, you’ll hear about:

  • how citizen science and science communication contribute to the accessibility of research for a wider audience
  • how the current Antarctic Futures exhibition at UOW combines scientific research, art and early learning activities to engage people of all ages with social justice and climate science.
  • how citizen science not only informed UOW research on how people encounter sharks while swimming, surfing or sailing, but also grew into a communication tool and opportunity for sharing knowledge between those involved too
  • how much people engage with the content in Research Online, because it wouldn’t be a UOW Library podcast without some Research Online statistics! (spoiler: already 2 million downloads this year).

If you’d like to discover more about our podcast guests, you can find them on Twitter. Sharon Robinson is @Antarcticmoss, Georgia Watson is @EcoloGee_, Teaniel Mifsud is @teanielmarie, podcast host Sam Hutchinson is @Saminthelibrary and podcast producer Kristy Newton is @librariano.

Click on the image to open the podcast in a new tab

Open Source and Digital Dexterity – software solutions at Auckland University of Technology Library

By Craig Murdoch, Manager, Online & Open Initiatives, Auckland University of Technology Library

What if the products we choose to work with could help us become digitally dextrous?

At the Auckland University of Technology Library we’ve made a conscious decision to prefer open source software solutions where possible. We recently completed our implementation of the Koha library management system, adding this solution on top of VuFind for search and discovery, DSpace for our institutional repository Tuwhera and Open Journal Systems for our publishing initiatives. It’s fascinating to talk to people about why we’ve gone in this direction. The over-riding assumptions are that the main driver is either saving money, or because we have a fabulous pool of skilled staff who can ‘work’ these systems.

Of course it’s true that in some cases we have saved some money by going open source, but it is far from the primary motivation for us. In fact, the reasons we prefer open source are more about what it means for us as librarians, and I believe this ties in strongly with the goals of the Digital Dexterity framework for library professionals.

So, what benefits do we get as staff from working with open source technologies?

  • We build capacity and capability in our staff. By taking ownership and control of our software solutions we can improve our own engagement and motivation. We learn new skills, we understand systems on a deeper level, we develop new abilities to communicate with those working in areas like IT, documentation, research, security, and data.
Quote from Demian Katz, Director of Library Technology Services, Villanova University, that reads "Working in open source has strengthened my belief that the true purpose of software is to empower people to solve problems"
  • We get to control our own destiny. Sounds dramatic but it’s true! We gain the flexibility to be able to decide what we want to do with our systems, what is important to us. We drive change rather than responding to it (or not seeing it at all). We get to try things, make mistakes, and most importantly, take ownership for fixing them.
  • We get to work closely with a huge global community of librarians, software developers, and vendors to improve and extend the systems we use. When it comes to the development of new features we are partners, contributors, and sometimes even funders.
  • We learn more about, and take more responsibility for, safeguarding our data and that of our institution’s members. 
  • We improve our decision-making, analysis and planning skills with respect to software development and spending (partly driven by the fact that we can no longer say “it’s the vendor’s fault”). 

Where does this fit with the Digital Dexterity framework?

In a sense the answer is “Where doesn’t it?” but these are the words that jump out for me, because working with open source fosters growth in all these areas:

To contribute meaningfully to complex discussions and broader communities.

To courageously think outside the square and build our own future.

To work with generosity in a culture of sharing.

To build and enhance the skill sets we need.

Critical thinking
To support decisions which we must take increased responsibility for.

Which I think is a long way of saying that open source has created an environment where we are enabled to become better librarians, smarter humans, and more capable digital citizens. I’d love to hear whether this resonates with others.


Katz, D. (2022, May 4). Open Perspectives: VuFind. https://communities.ebsco.com/posts/open-perspectives-vufind