As a part of the Fourth International Conference on Creativity and Innovation at/for/from/with Grassroots [ICCIG 4] at IIM, Ahmedabad, Professor Arul George Scaria organized a session on ‘Fostering Open Science.’ I was fortunate to participate in the well organized panel discussion and learn from its proceedings. From my knowledge,Professor Arul is the only scholar in India researching on Open Science from the legal perspective. His emperical study driven report on Open Science will be released soon, and his insights about Open Science and its relevance in today’s context were thought provoking. The extent of progress of the Open Science Movement is dependant on many factors, but one cannot deny today that Open Science is here to stay.
I am happy to share with you a short summary of the proceedings of the Panel on Fostering Open Science contributed by Professor Arul.
Fostering Open Science – Summary of the Proceedings
The session on ‘Fostering Open Science’ began with a presentation by Dr. Arul George Scaria (Assistant Professor and Co-Director, Centre for Innovation, IP and Competition, National Law University, Delhi) on the global context of the open science movement. He also discussed in detail the current status of the open science movement in India. Using the data collected as part of the Open Science project of Centre for Innovation, IP and Competition (CIIPC) on different dimensions of practicing open science, he highlighted that India has a lot more to do in ensuring accessibility, affordability, transparency and inclusiveness in science.
This was followed by a presentation by Ms. Vinita Radhakrishnan (Senior Partner, BananaIP Counsels) who explored the extent of participation of women in science. She began her presentation by looking at the data on enrolment of women in higher education, women in research, and prominent awards/ recognition received by women for contributions in science & technology. She also shared some data on women in startups in India, by looking at the startups related data released by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). But what made her presentation really unique was the use of patent application data in India as a proxy for participation of women in science. The data she collected on women innovators in patent applications filed before the Indian Patent Office between 2015 and 2018 show that only around 14% of patent applications had women inventors! She highlighted the need for taking initiatives at different levels to make science and technology more inclusive for women. This includes research based initiatives, industry initiatives, and societal initiatives.
The talk by Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala (Founding Partner, BananaIP Counsels) that followed Ms. Vinita’s presentation illustrated with the help of many examples how we create barriers for persons with disabilities. He started his presentation by highlighting a recent Supreme Court judgment, which ruled that persons with more than 50% visual or hearing impairment are not eligible to be selected as judges. He pointed out that it is one of the many examples of the societal attitude and he could see similar attitudes when he was denied the opportunities to study biotech and medicine. Even to become a lawyer, the path wasn’t smooth for him and he had to fight against the system.
He discussed in detail the history and contents of the Marrakesh treaty as well as the current copyright exceptions for people with disabilities. According to him, India has one of the best disabled-friendly copyright exceptions in the world. In 2016, India also passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, which made access to information a right. However, despite these legal developments, even today less than 1% of the information is accessible for people with disabilities. According to him, this could be due to many issues, including the lack of a proper disability policy in most of the libraries. He also highlighted the examples of Indian patent database, TKDL, and NISCAIR scientific journals to illustrate the challenges faced by people with disabilities. According to him, we have created (and continue to create) barriers by acts or omissions, which prevent persons with disabilities from making contributions to science and technology.
The next presentation was from Mr. Madhan Muthu who began his presentation by clarifying that communication through journals is still the most efficient communication mechanism for science. According to him, the current challenges are primarily arising from the way commercial publishers gained control of journals and communication of scientific information. He highlighted in detail the evolution of the global open access movement. He discussed how the Budhapest OA initiative provided two options – green route and gold route, and how journals are constantly pushing for the gold route. He shared data on the current status of different repositories in India and according to the data, the situation is improving slowly. He also discussed one of the studies co-authored by him, which showed that India spent around US $2.4 million annually on APCs during the years 2010-14. He highlighted that gold open access approach would not be in the best interests of any developing country. He ended his presentation by highlighting that we should try to ensure that India continues to follow the green open access route, and India should try to avoid the mistakes of other countries, which is leading to a shift to author-pays model.
The final presentation of the session, which was made by Dr. Anil Kumar (Librarian, IIM Ahmedabad) took the discussion further by exploring the role librarians can play in the open knowledge movement. He began his presentation by highlighting the need for openness, particularly in terms of professional growth of scholars and economic growth of countries. He highlighted that libraries are one of the major pillars in the open knowledge movement. With the help of data, he illustrated how the price of journals in most disciplines are increasing at exorbitant rates (much higher than at CPI levels!) and according to him, librarians have to play a major role in addressing this and ensuring open dissemination of knowledge. He argued that librarians should ensure that ‘knowledge’ is open, affordable, accessible, discoverable, reliable, and interoperable. He also highlighted that libraries should actively engage in archiving and disseminating institutional information/ knowledge. He ended his presentation by highlighting some of the major steps taken by the Vikram Sarabhai Library at IIM Ahmedabad for making knowledge open and this include a robust institutional repository, formation of IIM Libraries Consortium, Makerspace (creation of space within the library for 3D printing), Human Library (a possibility to interact with individuals to learn from their experiences) and a Free Books Corner (a place where people can donate their books and take books which are donated by others).
The panel also witnessed active participation from the side of the audience and it is truly hoped that many of the questions/ suggestions from this panel will be positively addressed through legislative/ policy/ attitudinal changes.