Opening Access to Information

Opening Access to Information

Mr David Palmer (second left) and members of the Hub Team

Researcher pages at the HKU Scholars Hub

The government is looking for an expert to do a study on green buildings. A company is looking for a biotechnology specialist to advise on its new project. A researcher in the U.S. wants to find an expert who can team up for a project on domestic violence in China. How can they find the right people?

The traditional route has been through personal contacts and painstaking research. But the Internet has enabled new tools to be developed to connect people better – one of which is the HKU Scholars Hub.

The Scholars Hub contains centralized information on about 1,500 professorial staff at the University including their contact details, research interests, publications, patents, community service, research postgraduate student supervision and grants received. There is also a section on media contact indicating the topics and languages that the academic is proficient in.

"All of these details make our scholars highly discoverable. It's such that for most everybody, when you Google them, the top of the hit list will show their entry in the HKU Scholars Hub," says David Palmer, head of digital strategies and technical services in the Libraries.

"People in government, industry, the community, anywhere can find this information and work with it. We expect that the number of contract researches and collaborative researches will increase because we have provided this data freely on the web."

The initiative is part of a wider effort in the University towards open access and knowledge exchange, a development that is also taking place in other universities around the world. The impetus comes from the fact that universities pay academics to do research work and also pay for subscriptions to the journals in which the research is published.

"The University is paying everybody including the publisher to maintain access to this research," Mr Palmer says.

"We think we can do better. If we put it in open access, it means everyone, even those who cannot afford journal subscriptions, including those in the developing world or secondary schools or libraries, can discover and freely use this research." More importantly, the Hong Kong taxpayers who ultimately funded this research will now have access to it.

Discovery of the research happens much faster in open access. It also increases the likelihood that it will be cited by others, and cited faster – two common measures of research success.

HKU now has a policy asserting a non-exclusive right to repost in the HKU Scholars Hub the research produced by its academics. In this transition stage from print subscriptions to open access publishing, this usually means that the version of article made after peer review, but before publication, is the one deposited into the Hub. "We're the only one in Hong Kong now with this proactive policy on open access," Mr Palmer added.

Mr David Palmer and his team received the Knowledge Exchange Award (Non-Faculty Unit) 2012 for "The HKU Scholars Hub" project. The list of team members can be found here.