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AUAS ahead of UvA with open access to research output

AUAS’ open access policy is 'ambitious and pioneering'

17 Aug 2018 11:04 | Communication

Available to all, free of charge: an increasingly important requirement for all academic articles financed using public funds. But how, as a university, do you organise this? Librarians Jaroen Kuijer (AUAS) and Saskia Woutersen (UvA) at the library shared by the two organisations found that the task turned out to be considerably easier for the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences than for the University of Amsterdam.

"We don’t think about it, but this is something you find hardly anywhere else", says Jaroen Kuijper about the library shared with the UvA, a remnant from the two institutions’ administrative cooperation. He is employed by AUAS, but his colleague Saskia Woutersen works for the UvA. This unique situation gave the two librarians an opportunity to compare the 'open access' policies of the two institutions. They published their findings in the journal Liber Quarterly. Their conclusion? AUAS’ approach to 'open access' has been much more dynamic than the UvA’s. 

100% open access

In 2015, for example, AUAS drew up a new research agenda with the primary aim of making 60% of academic publications open access in 2019, and ultimately 100% by 2024. The UvA on the other hand doesn’t even have a policy for the stimulation of access to their research results. Another major difference is that early in 2017, AUAS set up a fund to cover the cost of 'open access' publication in an academic journal. These journals charge a fee to researchers as compensation for loss of income from not being able to put these articles behind a paywall. 

Unfair advantage

To be honest, Kuijper has to acknowledge that it is easier for AUAS to set ambitious goals than for the UvA. "Their problem is the so-called handicap of a headstart. As our research tradition is still relatively limited, we are able to start with a clean sheet", Kuijper says. In addition, universities of applied sciences have always been more connected to their surroundings. Their research is practically oriented, so it is much more logical that research results are made freely available to those working in the relevant field, the general public or government officials who cooperate closely in the various research projects. For example, according to Kuijper, whether open access offers added value was not even "a point of discussion" with researchers from AUAS. "At academic universities, this can be very different."


However, academic universities are now also carrying out practically oriented research more often. One reason for this is that it is increasingly a requirement for financing that the research is of relevance to society. Nevertheless, researchers at academic universities are still assessed on their publications in academic journals with peer review (assessment of the quality of the research by others in the field), while researchers at universities of applied sciences are assessed on their research output at all levels. And this means that, alongside academic literature, reports for professionals and publications in newspapers and other periodicals also count.

Summary for the layman

It is not surprising then that AUAS asks its researchers to provide their academic publications with a summary for the layman, so the results can also be understood by the general public. Because, alongside the legal and financial barriers institutes with a long tradition of research face, there is also a language barrier. Many articles are written in such specialised jargon that it is often difficult even for academics from other disciplines to understand them. According to Kuijper and Wouters, this summary for the layman is a good example of real 'open access' – as well as an example of AUAS policy other universities could learn from.