Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

OA mandate at the CIHR

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced its long-awaited OA mandate today.  From the policy:

5.1 Guidance on Access to Research Outputs...

  • For now, CIHR has decided to limit this policy to peer-reviewed journal publications and publication-related biomedical research data, which is typically deposited into public databases as a condition of publication. CIHR is committed to improving access to research outputs and will explore broadening the policy to include research materials and other research data in the future....

5.1.1 Peer-reviewed Journal Publications

  • Grant recipients are now required to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher's website (Option #1) or an online repository as soon as possible and in any event within six months of publication (Option #2).
  • Under the second option, grant recipients must archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts immediately upon publication in a digital archive, such as PubMed Central or the grantees institutional repository. Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies. Grant recipients may use the SHERPA/RoMEO database to locate summaries of publisher copyright policies. The SHERPA/RoMEO database will help grant recipients determine which journals allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies. However, CIHR recommends confirming with editorial staff whether archiving the postprint immediately, and making it freely accessible within six months, is permissible.
  • Grant recipients may also wish to submit their manuscripts to a journal that provides immediate open access to published articles (if a suitable journal exists). CIHR considers the cost of publishing in open access journals to be an eligible expense under the Use of Grant Funds.
  • Book chapters, reports, monographs, editorials, or conference proceedings arising from CIHR-funded research are not currently covered under this policy.
  • Grant recipients must now acknowledge CIHR contributions in all peer-reviewed publications, quoting the funding reference number.

5.1.2 Publication-related Research Data

  • Recognizing that access to research data promotes the advancement of science and further high-quality and ethical investigation, CIHR explored current best practices and standards related to the deposition of publication-related data in openly accessible databases. As a first step, CIHR will now require grant recipients to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database, as already required by most journals, immediately upon publication of research results (e.g., deposition of nucleic acid sequences into GenBank). Please refer to the Annex for examples of research outputs and the corresponding publicly accessible repository or database.
  • CIHR now requires grant recipients to retain original data sets arising from CIHR-funded research for a minimum of five years after the end of the grant. This applies to all data, whether published or not. The grant recipient's institution and research ethics board may have additional policies and practices regarding the preservation, retention, and protection of research data that must be respected.
  • 6. Monitoring and Adherence
    • Grant recipients are reminded that by accepting CIHR funds they have accepted the terms and conditions of the grant or award as set out in the Agency's policies and guideline.  In the event of an alleged breach of CIHR funding policy, CIHR may take steps outlined in the CIHR Procedure for Addressing Allegations of Non-compliance with Research Policies to deal with the allegation.

    From the press release:

    Today, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) unveiled a new policy to promote public access to the results of research it has funded. CIHR will require its researchers to ensure that their original research articles are freely available online within six months of publication. 

    “Timely and unrestricted access to research findings is a defining feature of science, and is essential for advancing knowledge and accelerating our understanding of human health and disease,” stated Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “With the development of the internet it is now feasible to disseminate globally and easily the results of research that we fund. As a publicly-funded organization, we have a responsibility to ensure that new advances in health research are available to those who need it and can use it – researchers world-wide, the public and policy makers.”

    In developing its policy, CIHR struck a broadly representative national task force of leading researchers, chaired by Dr. James Till of the Princess Margaret Hospital. CIHR consulted widely with Canadian researchers and stakeholders in government, research, publishing and the library communities. CIHR also looked to the experiences of funding agencies in other countries who have established similar policies. The consultation process was thorough and carefully planned in order to preserve academic freedom while promoting the value of public access....

    Under this new Policy, which will apply to all grants awarded after January 1, 2008 that receive funding in whole or in part from CIHR, grant recipients must make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed research articles are freely available as soon as possible after publication. This can be achieved by depositing the article in an archive, such as PubMed Central or an institutional repository, and/or by publishing results in an open access journal. A growing number of journals already meet these requirements and CIHR-funded researchers are encouraged to consider publishing in these journals.

    Additionally, grant recipients are now required to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data, as already required by most journals, into the appropriate public database immediately upon publication of research results. 


    • This is a major policy with a major loophole:  “Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies.”  The exception swallows the rule.  Any publisher who doesn't want OA within six months, or ever, can easily block it, and CIHR invites them to do so.  But for that, the policy would be exemplary:  the mandatory terms, the reasonably short embargo, the equal standing of central and distributed repositories, the willingness to pay publishing fees at fee-based OA journals, the OA data policy, and the implicit sanction for non-compliance. 
    • The draft policy released last October did not contain this loophole.  On the contrary, it said that “A publisher-imposed embargo on open accessibility of no more than 6 months is acceptable.”  BTW, it also implemented the dual deposit/release strategy (or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access), requiring immediate deposit and permitting delayed OA.  But CIHR dropped that too from the final version of the policy.
    • The Wellcome Trust and several of the Research Councils UK have found an elegant way to close the loophole the CIHR that left open:  they require OA archiving on a certain timetable, as a condition of funding, and take advantage of the fact that researchers sign funding contracts before they sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers.  In short, they require grantees to live up to their funding contracts and, therefore, to transfer copyright on their funded work, if at all, only subject to the terms of the prior funding contract.  If a publisher is unwilling to let the author comply with the funding contract, the author must look for another publisher.  I do hope the CIHR will move in this direction at its next policy review, and close or at least shrink the gigantic loophole in the present policy.