Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, January 19, 2007

Improving the CIHR draft OA mandate

Stevan Harnad, CIHR's proposal to mandate self-archiving, University Affairs, January 2007.  A letter to the editor.  Excerpt:

If research is freely accessible online, it is read and used more, thereby increasing research productivity and progress. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research have accordingly proposed an Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate (viewable on CIHR’s website):

1. CIHR grant recipients must deposit all final peer-reviewed manuscripts (called “eprints”) in PubMed Central or their own institutional repository immediately on publication; a publisher-imposed embargo of no more than six months on setting Open Access to the deposit is allowed.

2. Alternatively, recipients may submit their manuscripts either to a journal (if a suitable one exists) that provides immediate open access to published articles or to a journal that allows authors to retain copyright and/or to archive in an Open Access repository within six months of publication. (Note that the second part, in my italics, is completely redundant with 1.)

A few small but critical changes would make this policy much more coherent and would also provide a best-practice model for all fields, whether or not funded by CIHR:

Grant recipients (i) must deposit their final peer-reviewed eprint (ii) in their own institutional repository, (iii) immediately upon (acceptance for) publication; (iv) access to the eprint must be set as Open Access within six months at the latest; (v) also, where possible, authors should try to publish in a suitable Open Access journal.  This way, everything gets deposited immediately and access is Open Access within six months....

During any closed-access embargo interval, Institutional Repositories will have an “email eprint request” button; all would-be users immediately see the deposit’s openly accessible metadata and can send the author an individual eprint request semi-automatically.

Unlike the Wellcome Trust’s self-archiving mandate in the United Kingdom, CIHR’s does not offer to fund publishing in an Open Access journal. Apparently CIHR did not feel it had the spare cash for this. This is quite understandable: all potential publication funds are currently tied up in institutional journal subscriptions, worldwide. If and when self-archiving should ever lead to institutional cancellations that make the subscription model unsustainable, then those same institutional windfall savings will be the natural source for the cash to pay for Open Access publishing....

Open Access is the immediate and urgent – and long-overdue – priority today.  Five U.K. research councils have already mandated what CIHR is proposing to mandate; it’s time for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to get off the fence, and for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to come up with a proposal. Let’s not wait to see whether the United States adopts its own proposed mandate. For more on this, click here.