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    Review of 'AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific research'

    AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific researchCrossref
    An approach to teaching and understanding the impact of Open Access for researchers and citizens
    Average rating:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 4 of 5.
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    AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific research

    AccessLabs are workshops with two simultaneous motivations, achieved through direct citizen-scientist pairings: (1) to decentralise research skills so that a broader range of people are able to access/use scientific research, and (2) to expose science researchers to the difficulties of using their research as an outsider, creating new open access advocates. Five trial AccessLabs have taken place for policy makers, media/journalists, marine sector participants, community groups, and artists. The act of pairing science academics with local community members helps build understanding and trust between groups at a time when this relationship appears to be under increasing threat from different political and economic currents in society. Here, we outline the workshop motivations, format, and evaluation, with the aim that others can build on the methods developed.

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      Life sciences

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      The article “AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific research” by Amber Griffiths et al. describes an interesting approach to both teaching and understanding the impact of Open Access for researchers and citizens. The paper is well written and of general interest to all academics and engaged members of the public. The collaborative model described, which pairs academic researchers with citizens attempting to answer a particular question, encourages a local, personal dialogue that seems very timely in our age of information overload and social fragmentation.  Focusing on transmitting tools and skills for discovery and assessing reliability, rather than putting academics in the position of “expert” and the citizen in the role of “information consumer”, is one of the most powerful features of these workshops. It distinguishes these workshops from other community science outreach projects with more traditional pedagogical structures that can leave the curious citizen in a passive role. I would very much like to see this project expanded to other regions and topics.

      The data in Supplement S2 suggest that it could be useful to think through the differences between discovery and access more thoroughly as participants seemed to have misunderstood this question. A number of discovery tools are given as answers for the question “how can you access scientific information”: Web of Knowledge, Scopus, PubMed, search engine, for example. Discovery tools specifically for scientific research such as Web of Science or Scopus are generally not accessible to non-academics but some freely accessible services such as PubMed, Semantic Scholar, Dimensions and ScienceOpen are available. Many of the sources that non-academics might use such as Wikipedia or Google Scholar favor open access articles or link to free versions of pdfs which may not highlight the access problem in the first step of the workshop to the extent desired. My sense is that discovery using academic discovery tools will likely lead to a higher percentage of paywalled articles. I would have been interested in the actual number/percentage of papers “discovered” in “Information Task 2” came back as paywalled.

      Overall a well-thought out series of workshops that I would like to see expanded upon in a wider-context.


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