How to make open the default? – Takeaways from Liber 2017

A core question discussed at the LIBER Annual Conference 2017 in Patras, Greece – Libraries Powering Sustainable Knowledge in the Digital Age – was how libraries can achieve an open and sustainable research and information lifecycle in order to ensure the accessibility, usability and long-term preservation of research outputs. The popular conference attracted more than 300 delegates offering workshops, keynotes, and presentations on a broad spectrum of open science issues, as open access, open research data, text and data mining, copyright, metrics, infrastructural issues, and management.


The following post will focus on the SPARC/LIBER joint workshop on Open Access and Open Data and a selection of presentations with particular relevance regarding an open and sustainable scholarly publishing system. The National Library of Sweden was represented by Britt-Marie Wideberg and Camilla Smith, National Coordination of Libraries Division. All in all, there were around twenty delegates from Sweden who attended the conference.

Photo: Camilla Smith CC-BY

The first day started with a joint workshop by Sparc Europe and the Liber Working Group on Open Access entitled “Bridging the Gap between Policy and Practice: How do we make Open the default?” We joined the first group discussion lead by Vanessa Proudman, Director of Sparc Europe on how institutions can engage more with its researchers to enable OA and OD sharing. The workshop resulted in a mind map with concrete examples on how institutions across Europe engage with researchers offering ideas on how to support increased exchange in the future.

The entire workshop focused on four key challenges to overcome in order to reach the goal of institutions across Europe sharing and collecting best practices on how to:

•  Engage with researchers to enable more open access (OA) and open data (OD) sharing
•  Simplify the process of OA/OD publishing for researchers and administrators
•  Reward researchers for contributing to OA/OD
•  Lead the dissemination of their own research information

Vanessa Proudman, Director of Sparc Europe. Photo: Camilla Smith CC-BY
“Humanities Values” by CC-BY

Simone Sacchi, Open Science Officer at LIBER, gave a short presentation of the HuMetricsHSS initiative to rethink indicators of excellence in the humanities and social sciences based on humane values: Equity, Openness, Collegiality, Quality, and Community.

Saskia de Vries who headed a seminar by way of a link managed to purvey the ideas behind FAIR Open Access Conditions and flipping subscription journals to open access in her talk “A Transition to Fair Open Access with Return on Investment.”

Saskia de Vries at Liber 2017 on the Conditions of Fair Open Access. Photo: Camilla Smith CC-BY

De Vries also presented the newly launched  MathOA journal, following in the footsteps of its sister journal LingOA. The latter was created after the whole editorial board of the journal Glossa resigned and left its publisher to start up a new journal based on FAIR OA.

In her keynote “Scholarly Communications for the 21st Century”, Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director of COAR – Confederation of Open Access Repositories – addressed some of the challenges facing today’s scholarly communication system from a global perspective and outlined her vision of a future, more sustainable and inclusive system. The current publishing system, dating back around 400 years, is no longer sustainable, says Shearer, which is supported by the fact that:

• Library big deals are costing society enormous amounts of tax money whilst containing a large amount of material never used or needed
• Subscription costs are increasing rapidly
• Researchers from North America and Western Europe dominate the publishing system, making it very difficult for researchers from other parts of the world to get published
•  Impact factors are overinflated and unrelated to the quality of individual research, creating ‘perverse incentives’ and an inflated publishing system – publish or perish
• Studies with negative results rarely get published

Slides illustrating the flaws of the current system. Photo: Britt-Marie Wideberg
”But it’s not just problem of access…” Photo: Britt-Marie Wideberg CC-BY







A recent article in the Guardian argues that the current system is indeed bad for science. In her talk, Kathleen Shearer underlined the important role of repositories in a sustainable scholarly system for the 21st century and that libraries need to focus on providing access rather than building collections. It is urgent, therefore, that libraries, organisations, and countries work collectively, finding a balance between building local collections and partaking in a global network. Libraries also need to start collecting research data as well as publications. The best way to achieve the goal of a sustainable system would be to decentralize the work in order to avoid being bought up by big publishers.

“It’s time to act or we will be left behind.” Parting advice to libraries by Kathleen Shearer. Photo: Camilla Smith CC-BY

The closing and eye opening keynote on the EU Copyright Reform: Delivering on Sustainable Knowledge? was held by Julia Reda, member of the European Parliament. Reda pinpointed the stop lights with the reform which could hinder an Open Science agenda and also libraries in performing their role as keepers and providers of free knowledge. A reform she claims has been heavily influenced by lobbyists representing commercial interests in the publishing economy at the expense of the free flow of information. 

”10 everyday things that would become illegal.” Photo: Camilla Smith CC-BY

Anyone interested in knowing more about copyright and data protection issues should view Julia Reda’s keynote. There is also an upcoming open conference in Stockholm on the subject which could be of interest, co-arranged by the National Library of Sweden together with the European Commission on September 6: “Research in the era of digitization – data protection, research and access to libraries”

Britt-Marie Wideberg, Head of Licensing, National Library of Sweden & Marco Castellan, Science. Photo: LIBER Europe CC-BY

Apart from workshops and presentations, there were vendor displays and a poster exhibition. A few of the vendors and open access publishers which have current agreements in place with the Bibsam Consortium, as the Royal Society of Chemistry, Emerald and Clarivate Analytics, were among those present. There were twenty-two contributions at the poster exhibition and Sweden was represented by Maria Johnson from Lund University Library with a poster on research data.

All participants received a warm welcome and offered a full social agenda from the local organizing committee: The Library & Information Centre at the University of Patras. The official dinner took place during a lovely evening by the sea in a fantastic garden, accompanied by a live orchestra at “Villa tou Gallou” (the French Villa), an architectural masterpiece of Patras. There were also visits offered to ancient Greek historical places of interest, museums and a reception held at the Old Municipal Hospital.

Villa tou Gallou. Photo: Liber Europe CC-BY
Conference dinner at Villa tou Gallou. Photo: Liber Europe CC-BY


We warmly recommend anyone interested in the outcome of the conference planned by the LIBER Conference Programme Committee, to view the conference videos, presentations, partake of the conversations on social media #liber2017 or flicker through the photo albums on the LIBER web site. We also recommend reading a related post on LIBER 2017 recently published by Sofie Wennström and Jonas Holm from Stockholm University Library, in which they focus on complementary aspects of Open Science as research data, copyright issues, and TDM.

Collage from Patras, Greece. Photos: Britt-Marie Wideberg and Camilla Smith CC-BY