Open access for scholarly publications, part 15 – FAIR and Swepub

The National Library of Sweden has held the appropriation directive from the Swedish Government to produce recommendations for the change to an open access scholarly publication system. These recommendations are presented by Henrik Schmidt, librarian here at KIB, in a series of blog posts.

The Swedish government’s position regarding an open science system is clear. It has also been expressed by various public authorities and research funding agencies. As stated in the government’s latest budget bill (only in Swedish), “all research products must fulfill FAIR-principles, as far as it is possible to do so,” and “by 2020 at the latest, any scientific publication produced via public funding must be accessible to all as soon as it is published.” The Swedish government’s position is shared by many other European governments, and is also in alignment with the research policies of the EU. 

FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. When the FAIR-principles were first introduced, they were primarily intended for the reusability of research data, but the principles can also be said to apply to other research results, including the scientific publications. The reason for and the need for FAIR has been clearly identified and formulated (only in Swedish). We need innovative, user-friendly and open research infrastructures in order to make the most out of and the best use of scientific data and knowledge. We also need to agree on technical solutions, as well as standardised formats and routines, in order to ensure that the infrastructure will be as resource-effective as possible.

Every publication should be described with a persistent identifier in order to be identified and matched against records in other data sources. This could include a DOI for articles (DOI is an identifier for a digital object), ISBN for books, or ORCID for authors. Similarly persistent identifiers are also needed for research funding agencies (for e.g. via Funder Registry), research projects and research affiliations. Metadata-standards, data sources and communication protocols should also be developed with long-term sustainability in mind.

In the fifth of its investigations into open access scholarly publication system, the National Library of Sweden identifies Swepub as the data source to use for Swedish publications. Swepub was launched in 2009 and contains references from approximately forty Swedish institutions of higher education (including Karolinska Institutet), as well as from other authorities’ publication databases. All records already contain metadata, but additional development is necessary in order to ensure that the databases are in accordance with the FAIR principles. (For more, see a separate FAIR-investigation (only in Swedish) conducted by the National Library).

One example of an urgent development is making it obvious in the metadata of a record which copyright license is relevant for the publication in question. Anyone using a publication needs to know where it came from and how it can be reused. This is crucial for the R-aspect of FAIR, that is, reusability.

A report written by the EU Commission’s group of experts, Turning FAIR into reality, states that this highly desirable ecosystem of scientific activities and products will not appear by itself, even if a technical infrastructure is in place. Routines need to be determined, services developed and perhaps, new professions established. “Building a cohort of data scientists and data stewards that work closely with, or are embedded in, research groups has been identified as a significant need."

The same report also suggests that the degree of FAIR shall be followed up continuously, and be at the basis of merit quality and resource allocations. The recommendation from the National Library is that Swepub should be the source in which to register publications produced by the higher education institutions and other authorities in Sweden, and that degrees of openness and FAIR will be measured. Today, this kind of all-encompassing, national follow-up of open access to scientific publications does not exist.

Recommendation 15 reads as follows: That the follow-up model should use Swepub as the data source and measure all kinds of publications, divided by peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed publications. […] The model can also be developed so that the FAIR principles can be followed up.

Find out more about the description of and argument in favour of this recommendation in the report: Uppföljning av krav på öppen tillgång till publikationer samt rekommendationer för Creative Commons-licenser (only in Swedish). Here you can also find the final report where the transition to open access is contextualized.

All blog posts in this series

Henrik Schmidt

Librarian engaged in research support in various forms. Teaches doctoral students and researchers in areas related to literature search, publishing strategies and publication analysis.