By Lucien Wilkinson

A new alliance of researchers led by Curtin University will work together to improve the way research is shared, charting new pathways for the future of universities around the world.

Fresh strategies to reform the role of universities and build them into information-sharing Open Knowledge Institutions will be developed through the coalition of like-minded universities, in a $540,000 project led by Professor Cameron Neylon and Associate Professor Lucy Montgomery, both from Curtin’s Centre for Culture and Technology within the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry.

The project has been funded by UK-based Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, recognising the success of the Curtin research team in leading research and practice on Open Knowledge universities.

Professor Neylon said universities faced a broad range of challenges – from technology giants preparing to offer work-focused credentials, to anti-immigration trends that threaten international student mobility.

“This project provides an opportunity to build the foundation for a strong coalition of universities to demonstrate the value of sharing their research widely and effectively – and setting new goals that will enable universities to again be highly prized by communities,” Professor Neylon said.

Over the next two years, the Curtin research team will partner with a US community-building organisation, Educopia, to initiate the alliance. The Curtin team has already cultivated a global network of research leaders who are leading advocates for expanding access to knowledge, which will help kick-start the new university partnership.

Associate Professor Montgomery said European universities were required by many funders to increase the access to the research they created most recently through funder initiative Plan S, while US-based universities were pushing back against fees journals charged for access to research – which tallied up to tens of millions of dollars per year for many.

“Grants that fund university research frequently require the results to be shared publicly – but research isn’t shared with the public often enough,” Associate Professor Montgomery said.

“Universities often feel trapped – compelled to build their prestige by publishing research in expensive, closed-access journals. These journals enable the universities to build prestige, but lock research behind expensive paywalls, meaning that too little research is being read, shared and used.

“Opening up more research findings to the community will be an important way for universities to demonstrate their value and relevance in the future.”

Educopia CEO Katherine Skinner said the new alliance would provide insights into best practice and a more powerful voice for change.

“Universities that are already thriving as Open Knowledge institutions will be able to demonstrate the value of opening the doors to labs and offices across universities,” Mrs Skinner said.

“Sharing knowledge and insights openly with collaborators and communities provides a clear purpose and undeniable value for universities in the 21st century.”