On Thursday April 16, the European University Association (EUA) will renew its Board. Five positions (reserved for current or former university rectors/presidents) are open for election and a first and second runs of selection in the fall of 2014 have restricted the number of candidates to 10. Why, as a former rector, do I apply for one of these 5 positions?
Today and in the coming years, European (and actually all) universities are facing many challenges and the mission of EUA is to support and advise them. Among these challenges are the issues of « openness ».
Open Access (OA) is one of them, nowadays almost universally adopted in principle, but still facing many difficulties and possible options.
Open Data (OD) is a very different matter but it is challenging universities very strongly, creating the same anxiety (or perhaps even more) as OA did 5-10 years ago. The European Commission has launched an OD pilot in its Horizon 2020 Research Programme (FP8) just as it has done for OA in the FP7 Programme in 2007. It is important to note that, after this pilot phase, OA has now become mandatory for all research project publications in H2020… Although very different in scope, responsibilities and level of difficulty, OA and OD are now grouped in one single challenge called Open Science. Universities need information and guidance in these new avenues.
Finally, Open Learning is now appearing clearly, with MOOCs, electronic teaching and distance learning as main issues for our universities.
All these « openings » are considerable worries adding to the many concerns universities may have these days. I believe that advice, guidance and support in these areas should be constantly provided by the EUA to its members at a time which is clearly a turning point for most universities and it is essential that at least one of the Board members specialises in these topics.
Having myself been deeply involved in the OA evolution during my rectorate years (2005-2014) and before that, as Vice-rector (1997-2005), setting up in Liège one of the most efficient Institutional Repositories (since 2007), writing blogposts in French for my local community, in English for a wider audience, having remained active in this area since my retirement last October, keeping a close watch on the evolution of these matters, participating in the EUA task force on Open Science (with JP Finance and S. Nordaa) in charge of setting up informations and recommendations on OA and OD, chairing EOS (Enabling Open Scholarship, an international organisation promoting OA worldwide), I believe I have all the credentials to fill this role.
I am deeply convinced that these new « open » fields demand strong scrutiny and wise counseling and that these missions should be at the core of EUA’s preoccupations today.