Last October, I wrote a short article titled “Open Access in Indonesia?” for the Networked Researcher Open Access Week 2012 Blogging Unconference. My article was borne out of my unawareness and perplexity, since back then, although we could find Indonesian journals listed under DOAJ, and many green standard self-archiving initiatives, I could not find any comprehensive information on Open Access initiative in Indonesia, other than the directory of 44 Indonesia Open Access journals. Sarah Wiley has helped pointing out that LIPI has its own Institutional Repository, but it also seems to follow the green standard of self-archiving instead of the gold standard.
Last January, 28, however, we had a national seminar, titled “Open Access: The Future of Repositories and Scholarly Publishing”, held in three universities across Indonesia—Petra Christian University in Surabaya, University of Indonesia in Jakarta, and University of North Sumatra in Medan. I had the chance to attend the one in Surabaya, organised by Petra Christian University, Goethe Institute and the East Java branch of University Library Forum in Indonesia.
The first speaker, Urs Schoepflin from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science gave us a brief and succinct overview of the evolution of Open Access ideas and declarations, the milestones, the summary of motivations, and the Open Access process and declaration in Berlin.
The second speaker, Putu Laxman Pendit, is perhaps better known among Indonesian librarians for his sharp and critical observations and writings on librarianship, particularly in the ICS (the Indonesian CyberLibrary Society) mailing list, as well as his strong advocates for Indonesian librarians to take a more active role in knowledge production and dissemination.
Pendit acknowledges that Open Access, due to its interoperability, has a lot of potentials to make the research in Indonesia more visible and accessible to anyone from around the world, and vice versa. Open Access, with its similar metadata system, makes data exchanges attainable and integrated within one global communication system.
However, Pendit also underlined how the radical structural and infrastructural changes propelled by Open Access pose some salient challenges in Indonesia, considering the current condition of its academic institutions. Open Access implicitly assumes that researchers all over the world are playing in the same level field, within stable academic/economic structure and established research standard, that does not address the North-South imbalance. Indonesia, like most countries in the South, has dismal infrastructure for (standardized) information access. The critical academic mass as a whole is questionable, and there is a strong tendency for users to be either “active consumers”—actively downloading from available international resources—or “passive producer”, passively putting his/her works on the international repositories (since local ones are lacking).
If this situation remains unaddressed, on a global dimension, it might lead to a wider discrepancy between the North and the South, with higher involvement and publication by the local researchers in international academic research, but eroded engagement at national level. On a national dimension, the lack of stable political structures and policies across different period and space has resulted in irregular economic and social planning, greatly impairing national academic research capacities. On institutional dimension, most academic institutions in Indonesia tend to heavily rely on international funding, which for the last two decades have been decreasing. Additionally, most of the time, reliance on funding has encouraged the neglect of human capacity and skill development at the local level, as well as failure to build good and lasting relationships with local policy makers, NGOs and local populations in general.
Pendit therefore advocates academic librarians to take a more active role in evaluating academic research impacts and efficiency and to understand the situation and interaction of the researchers. Librarians need to position themselves not as just passive assistants providing information, but as partners to the researchers, and to understand the facts that form their conditions and behaviours. Most people know—or think they know—that Indonesian lecturers and researchers are reluctant to conduct research, or to upload their publications to the Internet, let alone institutional repositories, but do not take further steps beyond informal complaints. Librarians need to take a more active role in researching this phenomenon, to find out the underlying factors and conditions, and take this further formally to a higher institutional level: the university rector, an academic librarian forum, the General Directorate of Higher Education (DIKTI), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), or to a global forum.
Pendit emphasizes how Open Access gives us the chance to be more actively involved in influencing research policy. The great potentials of Open Access will not be fully realised without changes in institutional, national and international policies. Pendit advocates the need to have a synchronised movement from universities, government, and scholars, to have a formal declaration, to provide the legal frameworks to publicly mandate scholars to make their research available on public servers, and to connect this to the more international movement to strengthen the impact. This needs to be preceded with regular attempts to raise awareness, as well as research in organisational policy and infrastructures to mitigate downsides and barriers.
Note: Photographs of the events, as well as papers by Schoepflin (in English) and Pendit (in Indonesian), can be downloaded from the Library of Petra Christian University. This has also been presented in the University of Indonesia, and materials are available for download from their library website.