‘Open Science’ represents a new approach to the scientific process which is based on new ways of disseminating and diffusing knowledge. It is key to the transition from standard practices of publishing research outputs, towards a research system which embraces active sharing, and the utilization of all available knowledge and publicly funded research outputs. ‘Open Access’ is a key part of this, entailing the practice of providing online access to peer-reviewed, scholarly research papers and scientific/academic information for reading, distribution, and productive re-use, not impeded by any financial, organizational, legal, or technical barriers.
The development of a National Open Access Policy for Malta is a response to the present conservative publication culture and lack of structured research data sharing of the Maltese Research and Innovation system. The Policy aims at improving the circulation of knowledge within the Maltese scientific system, fostering broader dissemination of research results, enhancement in the quality of scientific research, and engagement of society.
The National Open Access Policy presents a roadmap targeted at local Research Performing Organizations (RPOs), and Research Funding Organizations (RFOs). It focuses on different subject areas, namely, open access to scientific publications, open research data under the principle of “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”, and related actions on awareness raising, skills, training, and support, as well as research and researcher assessment. The Policy defines concrete phases for each subject area, with actions at each phase develop experience, skills, and competences, and establish infrastructure which becomes permanent and is exploited in successive phases. The fact that phases of each subject area build on previous ones facilitates the process towards achieving the projected goals. This approach renders this policy as operational as possible and strikes a balance between an over-ambitious policy, which would not find the support of local stakeholders, and an unambitious and uncontroversial policy which would not significantly improve the state of ‘Open Access’ in Malta.
The Policy envisages the implementation of specific actions to be completed by the end of the year 2025. More specifically, by that time it seeks to support Malta in transitioning to a state of immediate ‘Open Access’ in terms of scientific publications, together with significant progress in upgrading existing and/or developing new policies, infrastructure, and synergies necessary for FAIR research data management. Moreover, the Policy encourages and provides guidance for local RPOs and RFOs to adjust their respective, institutional research/researcher assessment practices in a way that these adequately reward and incentivize ‘Open Access’ practices. The Policy calls for, a systematic upgrade of existing ‘Open Access’ training activities and the development of well-coordinated support mechanisms fostering upskilling and increase in competences across all relevant Maltese institutions. It also calls for a strong Governance Structure, that will ensure a well-coordinated effort, based on inclusiveness, trust and commitment which ultimately ensures the long-term success of the policy.