Last week the WMF announced the release of its long-awaited open-access policy. In a statement on the Foundation's blog, executive director Lila Tretikov wrote that "Wikimedia is committed to nurturing open knowledge for all, unrestrained by cost barriers ... the Wikimedia movement has a longstanding commitment to open access practices. Today, we are excited to formalize that commitment with this policy."
Daniel Mietchen, an active researcher in data science and member of WikiProject Open Access, told the Signpost that while many researchers welcome open access in principle, the incentive structures in universities and other research institutions do not always make this an easy choice for their own publications. In response, research institutions, funding bodies, governments and other organizations have begun to modify the incentive landscape through open-access mandates. These mandates require that research findings from specific institutions or funded through specific programs be made available open access.
The Foundation has meanwhile continued to take increasingly strong stances on the issue. In 2011, the research committee put together a response to an EU public consultation on the nature of scientific information in the digital age. In 2012, it responded to a similar consultation by the White House. A few months later, the WMF moved to endorse a petition made to the White House by the public-access group Access2Research, asking for “free access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research” (Signpost coverage). In 2013, the White House responded with a directive that moves in this direction by requiring the largest public research funders in the US to develop taxpayer access policies similar to the NIH Public Access Policy that has been in effect since 2008. This policy development is still ongoing.
Open-access policies are particularly important in the context of the Wikimedia movement. Not only do members of the Wikimedia movement work to provide "open access to knowledge" for all of our readers—a goal complementary to that of the scholarly open-access movement—they directly benefit from the increasing transparency of journal publications for studying, sourcing and illustrating knowledge available through Wikimedia projects.
Mietchen says that in this context, "the WMF’s open-access policy shows interesting deviations from standard features of its academic siblings:
It covers not just publications, but associated data, software and multimedia;
It stresses the importance of open licensing, which facilitates and broadens the scope of reuse;
It is itself available under an open license, so it can easily be adapted (e.g. translated);
It avoids embargo periods (which most other policies allow for), and instead allows for limited exceptions;
The exceptions are to be documented in public, which helps to collect data on the necessity for exceptions and can inform later refinements of the policy."
By establishing its own open-access policy, the Foundation has put its cards on the table and strengthened the alignment of its own research initiatives with the open-access movement. Further details on what the new policy means for researchers interested in the Wikimedia projects are in the open-access policy FAQ.
Since that Wikimania session in 2011, there have been multiple meetings in the movement on open access (while one specifically on the new policy has been proposed for Wikimania 2015) as well as dozens of talks (e.g. here or here) and blog posts (e.g. here or here) on the interaction between Wikimedia and open access (further Signpost coverage is linked in the sidebar).
Providing access to research is not always straightforward, highlighted by the long history of the proposal for an open-access policy for research coordinated with the support of an organization as committed to open access as the WMF. This is illustrated by the annual discussions about the open-access status of the research presented at WikiSym, a conference that spurred important contributions to Wikipedia research (2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012).
The new WMF policy on access to WMF-supported research—with its emphasis on open licensing and the option of publicly justified exceptions—could act as a catalyst for bringing the research and Wikimedia communities closer together. It is likely to lead to greater accessibility to research findings for contributors and other users of Wikimedia platforms.
New WMF board member announced
The Wikimedia Foundation this week announced the on-boarding of Guy Kawasaki to the Board of Trustees. Kawasaki replaces Bishakha Datta, who served from March 2010 to December 2014, in one of the four board seats reserved for "necessary expertise". In his introduction in the Foundation blog Kawasaki stated that "There are few projects in the history of the world that can have the long-term impact of Wikimedia ... the democratization of knowledge that Wikimedia stands for has been a long time in the coming, and I relish applying my passion and experience to this amazing mission." Executive director Lila Tretikov states that "Guy grasps what really moves people. His passion for extraordinary experiences is a perfect fit for Wikipedia’s remarkable mission."
The Board of Trustees is the WMF's "ultimate corporate authority"; as a new trustee, Kawasaki is now one of the ten people tasked with stewardship of the Wikimedia Foundation (and, through it, of the overall movement). Before his appointment to the Board, Kawasaki was chief evangelist for Canva, an online graphic design tool; he has formerly served as an adviser to Motorola and as a chief evangelist at Apple, where he "developed and popularized the concept of 'secular evangelism' for Apple’s brand, culture, and products". He has written ten books on the topics of business technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship, the first of which, The Macintosh Way, was published in 1989, and the most recent, The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users, late last year. Although the blog post provides little detail about why the Board chose Kawasaki, specifically, it is not hard to see what expertise Kawasaki, an extremely active social-media influencer (see, for instance, his LinkedIn roll or his Twitter), is meant to bring to the board: a recent Forbesstory went so far as to call The Art of the Start 2.0, a refresh of a 2004 Kawasaki publication, "The New Entrepreneur's Bible". R
Wikimedia for children?: French Wikimedian User:Astirmays has organized an excerpt of last month's strategic planning community consultation, re-igniting a discussion as to the possibility and practicability of a Wikimedia project "for kids". Such a wiki has been proposed on and off for some time: the record of the most recent efforts, including the 2013 nomination and subsequent withdrawal of independently organized Vikidia, is preserved at Wikikids on the meta-wiki, indicating a proposal history stretching back all the way to 2003 (Signpostcoverage of the strategic planning consultation). R
SUL notifications trigger project milestones: A number of projects passed milestones on March 18 this week, mostly as a function of the mass-messaging of users affected by the upcoming SUL finalization process (coverage in last week's report). The Finnish Wikipedia has reached 1,000,000 total pages, the Finnish Wikibooks has reached 10,000 total pages, the Spanish Wikiversity has reached 10,000 total pages and 100,000 page edits, and—perhaps most impressively—the Moldovan Wikipedia has reached 10,000 page edits, despite having been closed to regular editing since 2006. The Armenian Wikipedia reached 150,000 articles this week in a metric uninflated by SUL, and the French Wikivoyage hit 5,000. R