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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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Nan Li, Nan Li

Open access in Asia series- An interview with Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

In the third instalment of our series to explore viewpoints on open access (OA) in Asia, we are delighted to invite Gabi Wong, Head of Research Support Services at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Library to share with us her experience of how sentiments towards OA changed throughout the years. Read on to learn more about how HKUST library supports their researchers in their OA journey and Gabi’s views on the opportunities that lay ahead for libraries in OA.

Q. How is your library supporting OA publishing currently?

At HKUST, the most prominent support for open access is our Institutional Repository (IR). It was created in 2003 and I believe it was the first IR among universities in Hong Kong. In the past couple of years, we have also been actively exploring transformative agreements using the consortium of JULAC in Hong Kong. This year (2021), we entered an agreement with Cambridge University Press that covers OA publishing. Other than these, we also provide help and information to researchers via traditional channels of web-guides and workshops.

Q. Is there growing interest from researchers in your institution in OA over the past few years?

Although I do not have direct evidence or empirical data that tell us about researchers’ interest in OA in our community, I believe our researchers are more aware of OA options these days than before. Many are willing, or even eager to make their work openly accessible. When we built the IR in 2003, I was a young librarian and I observed resistance and confusion around OA. Some researchers could not accept letting any “unofficial” version of their works circulate. Fast forward to 2015 when we conducted an ITHAKA survey; we found that over half of the respondents said they shared their journal or conference papers. In the past few years, many researchers have become familiar with institutional and funder mandates. Plan S in particular has evoked extensive discussion and brought many researchers’ attention to the issues it seeks to address.

Q. The OA movement is prominent in the West. Has that reached libraries in country, or have you seen how that impacted your library in areas of Open Access over the past few years?  

I would say, the most eventful influence on OA practice in Hong Kong universities comes through our major research funder, the Research Grant Council (RGC). RGC has always encouraged its grantees to make their research output openly accessible. In 2020, RGC initiated discussions with universities in Hong Kong, with goals to better understand OA practices and the types of support needed. Its attitudes and guidelines towards OA will definitely shape researchers’ behaviours and workflows. As a support unit in a university, the library will need to work closely with researchers and research administrators to facilitate these changes.

Q. What is your perspective on the library’s role in OA? Do you see any opportunity for the librarian’s role to change because of OA, and in what ways?

I believe there are many possible roles in which libraries can have. For example, we may advocate for making research open, we may provide information and services to help our researchers properly make their work open, or we may focus on administrative support. Depending on the culture and resources available, a library may choose to focus on one or more of these roles.

I see ample opportunities for librarians to establish our values in supporting researchers. We have knowledge and experience in working with publishers and in building repositories; these put us in a good position to support researchers making appropriate open access decisions in publishing.