5 June 2015

Open Access in Estonia: the Information Society

Estonia is very advanced in e-government infrastructure compared to the UK. You can't fail to be impressed by its e-Resident initiative.  In 2007 it introduced a Mobile-ID for mobile phones that permits secure authentication and digital signatures. With a population of only about 1.5M the effects of government initiatives are seen quickly and data privacy is legally protected, including access to medical records which are owned by patients. It's fair to say that in this context Open Access and Open Data could be seen as a natural progression. The University of Tartu is leading in open scholarship - sixty-percent of Estonia's successfully defended doctoral theses are generated at Tartu annually. It also has six Centres of Research Excellence of which two are European Commission Centres of Excellence.

"In Estonia, anyone can go to a state forest and extract birch sap from a birch tree. "
Slide 12 from Estonian ICT Demo Center (2014) Estonian information society presentation slideshow
In 2012 it began participating in an 8-month project under the auspices of the EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) Open Access and Open Data in Estonia Project. The project lead was the University of Tartu Library (UTL).  Its main outcomes were:

  • Introducing policy change to the Estonian Research Council and the possibility of a national Open Access policy.
  • Minting digital object identifers (DOs). UTL has joined DataCite and is now minting its own digital object identifiers (DOIs) for research data sets.  St Andrews has been able to do this since April this year.
  • Training researchers in self-archiving resulting in a significant increase in deposit of accepted manuscripts into UTL's repository.
  • Publishing journals Open Access using the open journal system (OJS) platform.
  • Publishing monographs Open Access.  Tartu currently has 17 Open Access monographs on OAPEN.
  • A network of credible champions has been established to advocate Open Access among their peers.
These outcomes broadly reflect institutional experience in the UK although the UK seems much more advanced in metadata and standards.

Unlike the UK, there is no downward pressure from government on Open Access. Instead, UTL engaged with the Estonian Research Council to introduce its Open Access requirement for publicly-funded research.  However, there is no national Open Access mandate at this stage. Gold route publication is preferred. Deposit into institutional repositories is a precondition of research evaluation which is similar to Hefce's Open Access requirement commencing 1 April 2016. Researchers are permitted to use their research grants to pay publication costs which mirrors the position in Canada, China and the USA. But there are no supporting central funds such as the Research Councils UK block grant.

The Estonian government is committed to supporting the infrastructure of a modern information society. It will be interesting to see how it meets the socio-technical challenges imposed by copyright and publisher policies to give its citizens free access to its publicly-funded research - not just having the internet but seeing the content.

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