Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, October 12, 2006

CIHR drafts an OA mandate

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has written a Draft Policy on Access to CIHR-funded Research Outputs, October 10, 2006. Excerpt:

[The] CIHR has a fundamental interest in ensuring that research outputs are available to the widest possible audience....CIHR's policy promoting access to research outputs rests on the foundation of the CIHR Act [2000] and reflects the core values articulated in CIHR's Blueprint for Health Research and Innovation [2004], the organization's strategic plan, which states that:

"the primary purpose of all research in the public domain is the creation of new knowledge in an environment that embodies the principles of freedom of inquiry and unrestricted dissemination of research results." ...

This policy applies to all research outputs that have been financially supported in whole or in part by CIHR....Research outputs covered under this policy are the following:  [1] peer-reviewed journal publications; [2] research materials; and [3] final research data.

New and renewal applications for CIHR funding must now include a Research Output Access Plan. This plan must list anticipated research outputs, state how the applicant, grant holder, or award holder intends to make their research outputs accessible to others, or provide reasons for any restrictions on access to research outputs. Furthermore, grant and award holders have new responsibilities under the following outputs of CIHR-funded research projects:

1. Peer-reviewed Journal Publications

  • CIHR requires grant and award holders to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed journal publications are freely available. CIHR recognizes that there are several vehicles for delivering free access to research publications. And as such, we are providing two options for grant and award holders. Under the first option, grant and award holders must archive either final peer-reviewed published articles, or final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts, immediately upon publication. Archiving must involve deposition in an appropriate open archives initiative-compliant digital archive, such as PubMed Central, or an institutional repository. A publisher-imposed embargo on open accessibility of no more than 6 months is acceptable.
  • The second option allows grant and award holders to submit their manuscripts either to a journal that provides immediate open access to published articles (if a suitable journal exists), or to a journal that allows authors to retain copyright and/or allows authors to archive journal publications in an open access archive within the six-month period following publication.
  • Book chapters, research monographs, editorials, reviews, or conference proceedings arising from CIHR-funded research are not covered under this policy. However, CIHR encourages grant and award holders to provide access to these and other forms of research publications where possible.
  • CIHR recommends (but does not require) that grant and award holders consider retroactively archiving their most important articles subject to the copyright arrangements that apply to these articles....

2. Research Materials

  • ...Grant and award holders are required to comply with reasonable requests for research materials arising from CIHR funding made by researchers, students, and trainees working within the not-for-profit research community once the specific research material has been cited in a journal publication. Furthermore, research materials should be provided to recipients of not-for-profit research institutions at cost and with as few restrictions as possible....

3. Research Data

  • Final research data refers to the factual information that is necessary to replicate and verify research results. Data can include original data sets, data sets that are too large to be included in the peer-reviewed publication, and any other data sets supporting the research publication. Research data is typically an electronic data set, and may include interview transcripts and survey results provided confidential data and subject privacy is protected. Research data does not include lab books and unpublished research protocols, or physical objects like tissue samples.
  • Grant and award holders should strive to make final data sets, generally in electronic form, available upon request after the publication date of a peer-reviewed publication....
  • CIHR requires grant and award holders to deposit bioinformatics, atomic and molecular coordinate data, experimental data, as already required by most journals, into the appropriate public database immediately upon publication of research results....
  • ...In the future, CIHR will consider a researcher's track record of providing access to research outputs when considering applications for funding, and will take into consideration legitimate reasons for restricting access.

Comment.  Kudos to the CIHR for this exemplary policy. 

  1. The policy is an unambiguous mandate.  It applies to all research funded in whole or in part by CIHR.  It applies to both peer-reviewed journal articles and data files.  (Although it requires some kinds of data-sharing and merely encourages others, it may be the strongest data-sharing policy by any funder to date.)  It makes reasonable exceptions for royalty-producing publications like monographs.  It lets grantees choose between OA journals and OA repositories, and in the latter case, between institutional and disciplinary repositories.  The only condition on eligible repositories is that they be OAI-compliant.  The policy uses the dual deposit/release strategy (requiring immediate deposit and permitting delayed OA release, in this case limiting embargoes to six months).   And it takes a grantee's past compliance into account when evaluating new funding proposals.  With one exception the policy embodies all the most important lessons from the funding agency open access policies.  The exception is that CIHR doesn't offer to pay article processing fees for grantees who choose to publish in fee-based OA journals.  
  2. The CIHR has called for comments on its new draft.  Responses are due by November 24, 2006.
  3. For background, the CIHR announced that it was considering an OA policy and called for public comments back in April 2006.  In June it released an update on where it stood in the process and in August (in a document dated June) it released a summary of the public comments.
  4. If the CIHR draft counts as a policy, and the new OA policy in Austria counts as a mandate (it deliberately positions itself between a request and a requirement), then the CIHR policy is the seventh OA mandate to be adopted this month.  There are the four new mandates from the RCUK, the expansion of the existing mandate at the Wellcome Trust, the Austrian policy, and now the CIHR.  This is unprecedented momentum.