5 Questions with Ashley Farley, Open Access Program Associate at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Q&A series with ECS OpenCon 2017 speakers

Ashley Farley

Ashley Farley, open access program associate at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

ECS will be hosting its first ever OpenCon event on October 1 in National Harbor, MD. OpenCon will be ECS’s first, large community event aimed at creating a culture of change in how research is designed, shared, discussed, and disseminated, with the ultimate goal of making scientific progress faster.

During ECS’s OpenCon, Ashley Farley, open access program associate at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will deliver the keynote talk, “The Importance of Open Science in a Changing Scholarly Communictions Paradigm.”

The following conversation is part of a series with speakers from the upcoming ECS OpenCon. Read the rest of the series.

ECS: Why are you interested in OpenCon?

Ashley Farley: I have greatly admired OpenCon, since I first learned about open access of scholarly communications. A critical part of any movement is a strong community and OpenCon has done an excellent job at forming and supporting a community that strives to achieve goals in the open science environment. OpenCon is particularly important to early career researchers or open access advocates starting their career and I have definitely benefited from this network. I appreciate the fact that I can give back to the OpenCon community, while still learning, engaging and partnering with others.

ECS: Can you summarize the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s commitment to open access and explain how the foundation got to this point?

AF: The foundation believes strongly that all lives have equal value. And we believe that our research saves lives. Thus, our research outputs must be openly available to all in order for us to successfully achieve our mission. We want to support the reuse and reproducibility of research and have formed our open access policy to facilitate this. Some of the most important scientific knowledge is inaccessible to many around the world. Whether it is published behind a paywall or with restrictions on reuse of underlying data, barriers to accessing information limit the speed and quality of innovation. The foundation believes that the published research it supports should be immediately available to everyone, everywhere, without restrictions.

ECS: What have been the biggest challenges in implementing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s open access policy?

AF: One of the biggest challenges in the implementation of our open access policy is communication. As a foundation, this is one of the first instances of needing to communicate policy change to all grantees. As the policy applies to sub-grantees, as well, we have worked to help ensure research teams understand the policy and how to publish in compliant terms. This meant we needed to communicate which journals are not compliant with our policy. This led to the creation of Chronos, our new publishing service, which manages the whole publishing process, including invoice payment. During our two-year policy transition period, we worked hard with non-compliant publishers to negotiate terms, so that grantees could continue to publish in a wide range of journals.

ECS: You have a background in library science. With so much focus on open access, what will the role of the library be in the future when they will not be required to curate information through subscriptions? Will open access threaten the role of the library?

AF: Librarians will always have an important role to serve in knowledge dissemination and management. I believe this role will become even more critical as the corpus of research materials continues to grow and the skills to evaluate resource credibility remain important. As more researchers embrace open science practices, librarians will be stewards of best practices and educate users on access and use of open materials. In a time where misinformation is rampant the critical thinking skills taught by librarians are very valuable.

ECS: There has been a lot of progress in “open” to date, but what do you think it will take to make a transformation to a more open future? Will it be policy, an increase in independent publishers, more open source technology, etc.?

AF: This is a great question. I think it will take a mixture of technology, policy, and business models to truly adapt to an open environment. Open practices need to be better supported and incentivized within research institutions. The current tenure track and career advancement criteria need to be reevaluated to ensure that they are properly supporting scientific inquiry. Collaboration and sharing, which could lead to more robust solutions, should be the main metric to measure impact. I think it will take a certain amount of risk for those who believe in and want to benefit from openness to lead in this space, to invite others to follow. Technological advances have ushered in an era of tools that aid researchers in being able to quickly and easily share research. If the scientific process were built from scratch today, it would barely resemble the current state of how research is conducted, shared, and evaluated.


There’s still time to register for OpenCon! If you’re already registered for the 232nd ECS Meeting, click here to register for OpenCon. The event is also open to the public. If you’re not attending the 232nd ECS Meeting but would like to attend OpenCon, click here to register.

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