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"It will be good to have a ‘one-stop-shop’ or a single place for agricultural information"

Lars Bjørnshauge is currently the SPARC Europe Director of European Library Relations. He is also the founder of the Directory of Open Access Journals, co-founder of OpenDOAR (the Directory of Open Access Repositories), and co-founder of the Directory of Open Access Books. Lars is also currently the chair of IFLAs Open Access Task Force, which has the mandate of advocate for the adoption and promotion of open access policies as set out in IFLA’s Statement on Open Access within the framework of the United Nations institutions (UN, UNESCO, WHO, FAO), and develop case studies and best practices to support advocacy for open access.

The AIMS editorial team took the opportunity to interview him during his attendance at the UN-LINKS 2012 (United Nations Library and Information Network for Knowledge Sharing) meeting in Rome (Italy). Kindly Lars accepted to share his ideas on Open Access with the agricultural information management community.

Could you briefly describe the work carried by SPARC Europe on Open Access?
I have been on the board for SPARC Europe for about a year now l do a lot of advocacy work and presentations on Open Access. In this way, you don’t necessary see specific tangible results immediately the day after such advocacy or presentations. However, looking at the Open Access development in Europe and elsewhere we have contributed to that development, of course in some places we have done more than in other places. For instance, we are trying to focus in areas where Open Access has not matured that much, i.e. in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Republics, in this context, we work with organizations like UNESCO, just to give an example.

In light of the recent European Commission announcement on implementing measures to improve access to scientific information produced in Europe, what opportunities do you see for SPARC Europe and other organizations working in the area of Open Access?
The way Open Access has matured in Europe has much to do with the work that SPARC and other organizations have done earlier in regard to advocacy, such as producing recommendations for policies and Open Access mandates. When the decisions of European Commission will be implemented in the future, probably we will be engaged in a lot of advice or consultations with various stakeholders. If the European Commission recommend what each member state should do in support of Open Access, we have another wave of activities in Open Access where we could be of much help.
What suggestions and recommendations would you have about the idea of implementing a centralized aggregator in the agricultural domain?
I am not so much familiar with the infrastructure in the agricultural diverse environment, but l definitely think it will be good to have a ‘one-stop-shop’ or a single place for agricultural information, open access articles as well as other kinds of research outputs, at least to expose these centrally. That might include articles already not available in local repositories together with many other kinds of digital objects.

The idea of a central repository is an important one as it makes research outputs easy to discover and find. The question of aggregation is also a very important aspect. However, this does not mean that local repositories should not have a role, the advantage with digital information is that it could be anywhere. When it comes to Open Access publishing, journals or monographs, that could be an excellent idea.

What are the activities that SPARC is carrying out related to Open Data?
The mission of SPARC is to change or improve the scholarly communication system, so far we have been much focused on articles, journals and monographs. Increasingly, research data, open educational resources, and other kinds of objects are increasingly available.

We already do advocate for Open Access to research data, what we can readily do at the moment is suggest that Open Access mandates include research data. How various organisations having that responsibility should curate research data and make it available is totally a different issue, and the differences in various disciplines are vast. SPARC as an organisation cannot manage the data, but we can try to highlight that it has to be done - to link research data to publications and vice-versa.