I'm involved in a research project evaluating openness in the Australian Research Council's (ARC) Excellence in Research for Australian (ERA) initiative. Our project is in its early stages, where we think we have sorted out a purpose and methodology.
The ERA is the primary driver and reward process for research conducted in Australian universities, partly by putting out a list of academic journals that they recognise as 'quality', and rewarding researchers based on what research is published in which journals. Some of you may have caught the news recently that the rankings in the ERA list has been dropped, acknowledging that it was having an adverse effect on research directions in Australia. The overall thinking behind the ERA initiative, is to somehow quantify research in Australia, hold publicly funded research more accountable, and to be in a position someday to report on Australian research outputs in an international comparison (Globalism).
Of the many consequences of the ERA initiative, our research is focusing on its influence over academics at our university who might be attempting to adopt open academic practices. We are evaluating both the journal lists, as well as the ERA guideline documents, for any recognition of principles of openness, especially in the light of the obvious policy trends internationally, not to mention market trends such as major publisher's attempting to develop open publishing within existing business models like authors paying for their papers to be published as openly accessible.
We are still in the early stages of our project, but can already see that the ERA lists have next to no open journals in the discipline areas of education, health and governance, with our criteria for open journal being:
- Accessible (online)
- Reusable (copyright)
- Reusable (format)
We would have liked to have included "open governance" in our criteria, such as the reviews of articles being also accessible, but elected not to include it this time.
While we've been using older initiatives to develop that evaluation criteria (such as the Free Cultural Works Definition), this new site involving some of the same people, helps support our criteria further.
On another note, and in a new post entirely, are my questions about openness generally, and recently as they relate to Neil Postman's ideas around Technopoly and information glut...