Highlights from #COASPASIA: OASPA’s first Asian conference on open access scholarly publishing

This week I had a chance to travel to Bangkok in Thailand to attend COASP Asia: OASPA‘s first Asian conference on open access scholarly publishing. It was OASPA’s first conference outside of Europe, and I do hope there will be more of these in the next couple of years. It was very exciting to get new insights into the landscape of open access publishing in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China. One of the conference’s main themes was building trust and transparency in academic publishing and I am sure that this will be mentioned again in the upcoming annual conference in September. To find out more about the highlights and discussion during the conference, check out the Storify feed, which I have created using the #COASPAsia hashtag. It was a pleasure being at another OASPA meeting!

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[View the story “COASP Asia” on Storify

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A new feel to QScience Mobile

If you have recently browsed through QScience.com using your mobile device, you might have noticed a new feel to the website. QScience.com uses Atypon’s Literatum™ as the publishing software for its portfolio of scholarly open access journals, and with the latest Literatum release (14.1), there have been some positive changes to the QScience.com mobile experience.

With Literatum for Mobile 3.1, you will be able to seamlessly browse QScience.com journals and content. Another nice update is the look and feel of the article landing page. You should be able to read full article text in HTML, besides easily accessing the PDF file.  Interestingly, I found myself reading the full text article on my mobile device rather than search for a way to access the full site, as I have done on many previous occasions.

QScience Mobile also offers a personalized browsing, searching, and reading experience. Users can now easily customize their own home screen by choosing items from the side panel with this new update. They should then be greeted with content from their favorite journals or book whenever they are signed in to QScience.com on a mobile device. Moreover, when signed in, users will be able to share content directly to their favorite social media channel. QScience.com is accessible for all users with Android and iOS phones and tablets. As with the previous version, you do not need to register or install an app, simply visit QScience.com via your mobile device.

We are very pleased with the latest Literatum release from Atypon, especially on how it affects the presentation of our platform on mobile devices.  We also hope that our users will be happy with these changes and will continue to use the mobile interface to receive the latest content from QScience.com.

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QScience Mobile Functionality

A pan-Arab glimmer of open access hope: Reflections from the first regional IFLA/AFLI conference in the Arab region

Qatar hosted the First Regional International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Conference in the Arab region on the 10th and 11th of June 2013. It was organized in cooperation with the Arab Federation for Libraries and Information (AFLI) and the Public Libraries Department of Qatar Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage. The conference examined the role of national libraries and associations in supporting free access to information according to the copyright laws. Both Jennifer Nicholson (IFLA General Secretary) and Professor Hassan Alsereihy (AFLI president), attended the two-day event that consisted of more than 15 talks.

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Reflections from the first regional IFLA/AFLI conference:

From a legal point view, Dr. Sulaiman AlReyaee (Al Jouf University, Saudi Arabia) presented his study, which examined Arabic copyright agreements and the application of international copyright laws in a non-Western culture. He concluded that development and enforcement of copyright law is highly dependent on the way Arab states will develop their respective constitutions with regards to common laws, civil laws, or Islamic laws.

Dr. Claudia Lux (Qatar National Library, Qatar) gave an overview of current Qatar copyright law, the Emiri Decree-Law No. 7 from 2002 on the Protection of Copyright and related rights. She compared current copyright law in Qatar with IFLA’s twelve recommendations for better copyright laws that were published in 2009. The copyright term in Qatari law is consistent with the Berne Convention and includes various provisions relating to EFLA’s recommendations such as provisions for preservation, copyright exemptions in teaching and reproduction for private use. Dr. Lux stated that even though the current Qatari copyright law protects authors and publishers, the law requires further additions as exceptions for education and teaching are more advanced than exceptions for library use. Currently, there are no general free use exceptions for libraries, which are limited to reprographic reproduction. Moreover, Dr. Lux acknowledged that current Qatari copyright law requires further developments with respect to copyright of orphan works and provisions for persons with disabilities. Finally, she recommended that librarians in Qatar need to be trained in Qatar’s copyright law and more importantly need to educate their clients.

Whereas the majority of sessions in the conference’s first day dealt with copyright issues digital content protection in libraries based in the Arab world, sessions on the second day (and to my delight) had a focus on open access.

OPEN ACCESS hope

Dr. Nozha ibn Al Khayat (Rabat University, Morocco) gave a presentation on copyright law protection and open access in the Arab world. She explained that even though initiatives in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Tunisia have established open access repositories, a large proportion of academics based in Arab countries do not have a clear understanding of open access. Dr. Ibn Al Khayat acknowledged the need for more institutional repositories and called out for developments by regional governments to include copyright provisions relating to open access. 

Likewise, Dr. Jibreel Al-Arishee (King Saud University, Saudi Arabia) spoke about the need for more institutional repositories. His presentation focused on the roles of Arab governmental agencies and legislative councils in the adoption of open access. He called for the adoption of regional public access policies for all research financed by governmental funds.

Listening to the likes of Dr. Ibn Al Khayat and Dr. Al-Arishee speak about open access and sensing their passionate advocacy resonating in the Nashira Ballroom, I left the Doha Hilton that day feeling reassured. With his current role in the in Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia (Majlis as-Shura or Shura Council), Dr. Al-Arishee gave a pan-Arab glimmer of open access hope as he announced that he is working on a public access policy adoption in Saudi Arabia.

Realistically, an adoption of a public access policy, or even open access,  in the Arab world will take some time. However, after witnessing a strong advocacy in this conference, I am hopeful that change will happen.

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Open access in the Arab world: Sulieman AlShuhri and the Arab Initiatives of Open Access

While searching for Arabic content on open access, I found the Arab Initiatives in Open Access blog, which is moderated by Dr. Sulieman AlShuhri, Amal AlSalem, Dr. Abdel-Rahman Farrag, and Dr. Ramadan Elaiess. The blog not only covers recent developments in the open access field, but also delivers its content in Arabic.

The Arab world definitely needs more open access advocates like Sulieman AlShuhri and his colleagues.

In collaboration with the Arab initiatives of Open Access blog ( aioa.blogspot.com), QScience presents Sulieman AlShuhri, AIOA founder, Asst. Professor at Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia and e-DocsLab research fellow. Sulieman speaks about the AIOA blog, about open access, and about the benefits of publishing in open access. The video transcripts (English and Arabic Transcript) can be found below. Note that the video is in Arabic with English subtitles.

“Your ideas will be easily quoted as long as they are easily reached” 

Video transcript (Sulieman AlShuhri, Arab Initiatives of Open Access)

What is the Arab Initiatives of Open Access blog?
The Arab Initiatives of Open Access was established in the 4th quarter of 2007 as a response to worldwide dynamics that called for the adoption of open access as a publishing approach and the use of available technologies to achieve it. Whereas many developed and developing countries took significant strides in the open access domain and left their own landmarks on the open access map during the time this blog was established, no significant Arab presence was perceived. We decided to provide Arab readers and researchers with a blog that introduces concepts of open access, practices, approaches with some relevant examples. We also intended to follow up on the world’s open access activities including efforts, initiatives, as well as institutions and universities that made efforts to implement and adopt open access all over the world.

What is open access?
Open access simply means that intellectual property including periodicals, articles, conference proceedings, theses, books, and other electronic material, are available on the Internet at no costs to the end-user, whether they are researchers, readers, or students. They can read, download, and print material for free. Concurrently, such availability would be free of most copyright and licensing restrictions while respecting laws and traditions of author copyrights, as well as providing proper attribution and referencing by the end-user.

The concept of open access is mirrored in Arab and Islamic culture through Waqf (endowment), in which  students and researchers were granted free access to books and libraries. This may represent the first manifestation of open access concept in Arab culture. In western culture, the open access concept can be traced back to the Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin open access initiatives, which came to existence in the third millennium. As for the practice of open access, some researchers maintain that it dates back to 1970’s and to individuals such as Peter Suber.

Forms or approaches of open access were categorized by into two routes and given two colors, the gold and the green. The gold open access route means that academic work is directly provided through publishing channels such as journals, electronic periodicals or e-books. As I have mentioned, such material is free to use via the Internet. The second way or the green route involves providing academic material through means of archiving channels such as digital repositories or digital archives. As I have mentioned, these archives would be accessed for free online. Providing or archiving academic literature from articles to editorials, theses, conference proceedings and other type of work for free to the end-user, whether they are researchers, readers, or scholars, and facilitating the swift access through the Internet as an easy accessible channel of communication, those are all key tools for open access.

What are the benefits of publishing in open access?
Thus we discern that open access is a developmental tool in the field of communication and scientific publishing. Unfortunately, information has been used for many centuries as a commodity that is supplied in return for continued monetary compensations. This matter exhausted recipients or information providers like libraries and information centers. We have witnessed numerous problems such as the inability to pay subscriptions for scientific journals and databases, or the inability of libraries and information centers to continue operating due to limited budgets and resources, especially if we took into consideration that the developed countries invest billions in scientific production and try to restore their payout through publishing revenues.

Naturally, accumulation of funds on end users or libraries led to a barrier of information and its prevention from reaching the end-user. Access to this information may otherwise lead to significant changes on regional, international, and even personal levels. No doubt, placing barriers to information and dealing with it as a commodity subject to fiscal bargaining, affects not only the scholarship and scientific exchange but also communication amongst the human race. We may call this “knowledge capitalism” that depends on nothing but fiscal opportunism. Therefore, open access comes to provide real chances for discovering research and applying information in different contexts and elevating knowledge to new levels and domains of research that facilitate solving problems, which is the main purpose of all efforts exerted by scientists and researchers. It is a more efficient, cost-effective, fair, and equitable means of scientific exchange. What we actually need to change is to help the researcher, scientist, reader and the decision makers to realize that information is not mere commodity subject to fiscal bargaining, but a human right, especially if such information relates to lives or to the way of living. As a researcher, author or writer, you should keep in mind that when publishing scientific work as a research paper, thesis or a book, always remember that you have been facing challenges, obstacles and the inability to access information, so please help others who follow you to avoid such challenges. Share your work with others via open access channels: gold and green routes, and increase the number of your readers. This is the best way to increase readability and disseminate your ideas. Your ideas will be easily quoted as long as they are easily reached. “Just say it once and it will be said a thousand times”.

In conclusion, I call on every one, listening or watching us, to visit the blog of Arab Initiative of Open Access to know more about the concept of open access. I also call on researchers to make use of services provided by Qatar Foundation to Arab readers and researchers. It is a true and leading open access service in the Arab world as it a wonderful example of the gold open access publishing model. I extend due thanks to the editorial staff of the Arab Initiative of Open Access’s blog, Ms. Amal AlSalem, Dr. Abdel-Rahman Farrag, Dr. Ramadan Elaiess and everyone who took part in this blog along with our visitors, readers and followers on Twitter, and Facebook.

Thank you,
Dr. Sulieman AlShuhri

 نص فيديو د. سليمان الشهري من المبادرات العربية للوصول الحر

(Alwaleed Alkhaja 27/05/13)

Partnerships

As we are on the finishing day for COP18/CMP8 the science around climate change is yet again taking centre stage. The evidence from the science community is compelling and clear, and partnership between countries will probably be able to advance the agenda even further.

As an observer with Qatar Sustainability Network, I was allowed into an informal ministerial session on Wednesday. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon in his keynote made clear again that to fight the global climate crisis, partnerships are needed. They are multidimensional and expected to address the full spectrum of agendas climate change prompts. “Climate change is not an environmental issue for ministers only; it poses a challenge for all policy makers including [those overseeing issues like] transport and finance,” he said.

There are clear country-wide challenges to take care of. The French co-chair of the session mentioned the Philippines who are again tackled by another typhoon and spend around 5% of their GDP to repair damages. Later that night, the negotiator from the Philippines made a powerful statement on behalf of his country which is widely covered.

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We really need to “abandon silos” (Ki-moon)

There is interesting and exciting work going on between China and the USA with the Centre of Climate Strategies, but I was really exited to learn about the latest research links forming between the developed and the developing world.

Qatar Foundation earlier that day singed with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and will provide a research bridge between the east and west, the north and south, and the developing and the developed world. The institute was founded with great foresight in 1991.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, people shared in the enthusiasm and joined hands in believing the east-west conflict might be over and free resources to tackle climate change. “In 1992, people thought about the entire planet, not the east-west conflict,” Professor Schellnhuber, founder of the PIK, said at the signing press conference today.

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(l-r)H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Mr. Faisal Al-Suwaidi, H.H. Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Ban Ki-moon, Professor Chellnhuber and Christiana Figueres

The centre aims to take a 360 degree view, focusing on science, technology and policy, dealing with all aspects of climate change, from eteorology to policy (and I would guess that this would include finance as well since it underscored virtually every issue at the conference).

Qatar is located in an arid region, and the centre aims to internationalise the research and bring PIK’s renowned analytical capacity to contribute to global solutions.

Professor Schellnhuber is firmly rooted in fundamental sciences, and the centre shall be set up with the principles of best scientific practices and could lead to the creation of other thinktanks. If the evidence is there, he believes they will be transformed into action. And in applying these principles, I believe that both regions can learn from each other.

This new centre–which has the support of Ban Ki-moon, Christiana Figueres and, last but not least, the leadership of Qatar Foundation, represented in the meeting by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and QF president of research, Faisal Al Suwaidi–could contribute substantially to the challenges we are facing. Al Suwaidi believes that they are transforming research in bringing the cooperation together.

Communication and the integration of leading climate change research into the global research community will be as important as bringing the best science. We have to act quickly, and the entire Qscience Team is hoping to work together with the new research centre to help advise on scholarly communication strategies and ensure that the research world will connect quickly and transparently into the development in this region.

Innovative partnerships are needed to advance us all on the global stage. On Friday speaking on behalf of the Qatar Sustainability Network, Noor Jassim al-Thani summed it up perfectly in her closing statement of the high level segment:

Noor Jassim al-Thani speaking at the High Level segment

Noor Jassim al-Thani

“We need partnerships between east and west, north and south, developed and developing world, arid and and non-arid regions–partnerships involving governments, industry, financial institutions, education, research and science. Partnerships which help us here to bridge the knowledge gap.”

Hikma Hours Highlight Qatar’s Response to Climate Change

(L to R) Chris Silva, Sheikha Athba Al Thani, Nasser Al Khori, Arend Kuster, Rudiger Tscherning, and Nadia Aboul Hosn

Members of various organizations around Qatar* have formed an NGO alliance around climate change initiatives known as Qatar Sustainability Network (QSN). Today saw QSN executives leading a discussion about Qatar’s specific responses to climate change in terms of adaptation, mitigation and capacity building. The discussion was the first of what will be daily side events at COP 18, called Hikma Hours (Hikma translating most closely to the English word wisdom). 

Today’s discussion, moderated by Arend Kuster, Managing Director at QScience.com and board member of QSN, presented a general overview of proactive capacity-building efforts underway across a range of sectors in Qatar. In introducing the panel of QSN representatives, Kuster added that sustainability is at the heart of the agenda and the Qatar National Vision 2030 and that “Qatar Foundation and QSN are working together to build capacity and raise standards on how we use food and water resources while being mindful and aware of impacts on the environment.”

Panelist, Sheikha Athba Al Thani, Chief Services Support Officer and Sustainable Development Manager at Qatar Diar Vinci Construction (QDVC) spoke about outreach initiatives throughout Qatar schools and how these are carefully monitored to ensure that the information is impacting youth and their approach to the environment. She also spoke of collaborations with QTel (Qatar’s main telecommunications company) to enhance recycling initiatives and broaden the scope of these over time.

Nasser Al Khori, Programs Associate for Qatar Foundation International, spoke about  programs aimed at raising awareness and creating global citizens. He spoke specifically about an initiative called Mapping the Mangroves, which is dedicated to heightening awareness and fostering conversations and protective action around the important ecosystems found in Mangrove forests around the world. At the heart of this project is scientific investigation, as it depends on a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, which supplied technology to remotely monitor factors like temperature and use these figures for research. Al Khori describes the project here:

Nadia Aboul Hosn, the Science and Outreach Expert at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) spoke about initiatives QEERI has undertaken to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Qatar’s response to climate-change-related issues. She said that while many exciting and highly-sophisticated projects are underway, especially given the great capacity-building effort around research in Qatar, there is a gap between organizations, causing efforts to be made in silos when collaboration would be favorable. She said that QEERI is actively looking into ways to bridge this gap and bring together various proactive organizations so that initiatives based on shared expertise and experience can be formed.

Christopher Silva, Sustainability Education Coordinator at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (part of Qatar Foundation), spoke about how Qatar is employing knowledge from various sectors–including social sciences–to ensure that green building technology is not only a part of people’s lives but a factor in raising awareness and changing behavior. For one example, green buildings can be equipped with monitors that inform residents when the temperature outside is favorable to that indoors so that they switch off the air conditioner and open windows. For another, residents use a key card to activate electricity, but bearing a likeness to a hotel room key, he said this card also stores information about how much electricity was used so that the resident understands their impact immediately and in relation to the time spent with lights or devices on. The immediacy of this information, he said, is what makes it effective.

Director of the Energy and Environmental Law Forum at Qatar University, Rudiger Tscherning spoke about how Qatar is working to establish laws and regulations around environmental initiatives. He said that in terms of capacity building for the nation, Qatar University’s environmental law program is focused on both research and education: “We work with lawyers at all levels and government employees and the issue is ‘where are the environmental laws; where are we at?'”

This idea builds into the vision of the country. The vision document itself “shows what the country of Qatar wants to be, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there,” he said.

The message from the environmental field in Qatar is that of a sustainable and diversified economy as part of social development, he continued. “We embrace the industry and engage them,” he said. “We are strong on lobbying and finding ways of alternative energy her in Qatar–water consumption, hydrocarbon use for desalination and energy generation, themes we are highly aware of.”

Tscherning emphasized the concept of transmission, i.e., sharing expertise as a form of capacity building. “This is something that is at the heart of what we are doing … we can get expertise from overseas, yet there is a lot of expertise hidden in Qatar, that’s why QSN is brilliant–get the expertise that is already here and spread it through collaboration.”

Kuster tied the discussion together with a look forward: “We need to validate what we are doing here against the future generations. We know what went wrong in the past—it’s the future we need to look at to know what we are to do here.”

*Members of QSN: Averda, Doha Oasis, Eco-Q, Friends of the Environment Center, Msheireb Properties, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar Energy and Environment Research Institute, Qatar Green Building Council, Qatar National Research Fund, Qatar Natural History Group, Qatar Science and Technology Park, Qatar Foundation, Qatar Solar Technologies, QScience, Qur’anic Gardens, Sprout, Sustainable Qatar, TCE QSTP-LLC. Government agencies participate as observers.