Development of a framework for F.A.I.R access to Australia’s research outputs

Prof. Virginia Barbour1

On behalf of AOASG and the F.A.I.R. steering group

1Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, Brisbane, Australia,


Lack of access to interlinked and interoperable evidence in research publications and research data currently inhibits national and international research and scholarship, collaboration, and public debate. “Open access” (“OA”), the current term used to denote work that is not behind a paywall means different things to different people. The term is rarely used correctly – i.e. as defined in the Budapest Open Access Statement [1]. For example, OA may be used to mean just free to read in a format that is not interoperable (such as a PDF) and with no indication of associated reuse rights.

Lack of clarity on terminology has become a major impediment to progress in implementation in improving access to research outputs. A different approach is needed.

There is a global movement—including in the USA, Canada, China and in the UK and European Union—of policy, funding and legislative changes to improve the discoverability and impact of their research publications and data. The time is right for Australia to develop a framework for its research outputs that builds on work elsewhere, and which is tailored to the local context.

Furthermore, a new terminology for data has recently emerged – the concept of “Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable” [2]. This terminology could be applied to all research outputs, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Characteristics of a F.A.I.R. research output

The advantages of a F.A.I.R. approach and the differences between free, open and F.A.I.R. are illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The difference between free, open and F.A.I.R.


In July 2016, under the auspices of the Universities Australia Deputy Vice Chancellors (Research) Committee a working group with a membership that represented universities, funders, government departments, NGOs and industry was convened to develop a statement on access to research outputs. The working group met several times between July 2016 and October 2016. The F.A.I.R. statement was developed following discussions at these meetings.

The F.A.I.R. Access Policy Statement is as follows [3]:

All Australian publicly funded research outputs will be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. Access to research outputs will accord with international practices that are well defined, secure and trusted, and delivered through sustainable, fair, and efficient dissemination models. Publicly funded researchers will be expected, supported and rewarded to disseminate their work in such a way that anyone can find and re-use research publications and research data for further research, policy development, innovation, education and public benefit.

The following principles inform the application of this statement:

  • A commitment to the highest standards of excellence, impact and engagement in research practice, including the provision of support for effective and appropriate review processes and reproducibility.
  • Support for a diversity of financially sustainable, transparent and trusted dissemination models in recognition of disciplinary differences.
  • Support for approaches that encourage collaboration and the transfer of knowledge between researchers and users of research in industry, government and the general community.
  • A commitment to disseminate research outputs arising from public funding in a timely and easily accessible way that fosters social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits and promotes the development of human capacities.


From October 2016 to January 2017 the statement was sent for consultation to a range of organisations, both within Australia and globally. The final statement reflects the feedback provided during that consultation process and further discussion among the working group.

The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) is undertaking coordination of the statement. A steering group has been formed and the focus for that group from July to December 2017 will be to advise on next steps for the statement, specifically

  1. targeted outreach nationally and internationally and via the F.A.I.R. website [3] and social media;
  • development of plans for implementation

We will report on the progress of dissemination and the plans for implementation of the statement.


  1. The Budapest Open Access Initiative
  2. Force 11. The FAIR data Principles.
  3. F.A.I.R. Access Policy Statement


Dr Virginia Barbour is the Director of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group She is based in Brisbane, Australia. She has a long history of working in open access publishing, having joined PLOS in 2004 as one of the three founding editors of PLOS Medicine, finally becoming Medicine and Biology Editorial Director of PLOS in 2014. Her training in publishing was at The Lancet where she worked before joining PLOS.

She studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, then medicine at UCL and Middlesex Hospitals, London, specializing in haematology. Her DPhil was on alpha globin gene regulation at the University of Oxford. She undertook post-doctoral work at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

She was Chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) from 2012-May 2017. She has been involved in a number of reporting guidelines including CONSORT, PRISMA and TIDieR statements. She is an advisor to a number of publishing and ethics initiatives.

She has a part time joint appointment as Professor between the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity, and the Library, Division of Technology and Learning Services at Queensland University of Technology.

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