Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

CBCRA formally requests OA to the research it funds

CBCRA Introduces Policy on Open Access, Breast Cancer Research Bulletin, the Spring/Summer 2007 (scroll to p. 7).  The CBCRA is the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance, a public-private partnership.  Thanks to Jim Till for the alert and for presenting the new policy alongside my coverage of the old policy.  From the new announcement: 

CBCRA launched its Open Access Archive, hosted by University of Toronto Libraries, in May 2006....

CBCRA supports the underlying principle of Open Access....CBCRA expects this initiative to amplify the impact of the research on the generation of new knowledge, and on its practical applications....

This initiative clearly addresses two of CBCRA’s strategic goals: to publicize findings of research funded by CBCRA and to develop CBCRA’s presence on the international stage, by making breast cancer research results available to anyone who has access to the Internet.

CBCRA’s policy on Open Access was adopted in April 2007....

CBCRA Open Access Policy

CBCRA requests that grant holders supply an electronic copy of final, accepted manuscripts funded in whole or in part by CBCRA grants. These articles will be posted on the CBCRA Open Access Archive as soon as possible after publication. A publisher’s embargo period of up to six months will be permitted. The document must be either a publisher-generated PDF or the author’s final, accepted version, including changes introduced by the peer review process.

CBCRA encourages authors to retain copyright of their works whenever possible. Authors are encouraged to specify in the publisher’s copyright transfer agreement that they retain the right to make the article available in CBCRA’s Open Access Archive. Suggested wording: The Journal acknowledges that the Author retains the right to provide a copy of the Publisher’s final version (preferred) OR the Author’s final version of the paper to CBCRA upon acceptance for publication or thereafter, for public archiving in the CBCRA Open Access Archive as soon as possible after publication....

If authors are unable to negotiate an amendment to the copyright agreement, CBCRA will work with the Author and the publisher to license back specific rights to facilitate posting the article on the CBCRA Open Access Archive....

CBCRA has provisions in the grant application process to cover the cost of any article processing fees that may be charged for open access to publications in online journals.

From my newsletter coverage of CBCRA's previous policy (August 2006):

The CBCRA doesn't mandate OA to its research, although it's thinking about a mandate for the future.  It simply tries to provide OA to all the CBCRA-funded research that it can.  Instead of doing this by contract, at the time of funding, it does it by painstaking requests for permission sent to grantee-authors and their publishers after they have published research based on CBCRA funding.  First it tracks down authors and asks them to sign a license.  Then it contacts their publisher and asks for permission to post an OA copy of the article to the CBCRA repository.  It doesn't send its queries until at least 12 months after publication, when publishers are more likely to agree.  When it gets no replies, it sends out its letters again.

Using this arduous method since February of this year, CBCRA has been able to provide OA to about 25% of its research.  About 62% of authors and 70% of publishers have agreed to the OA proposition.  It's considering a mandate in part to enlarge its OA coverage to 100% and in part to reduce or eliminate the large administrative burden of permission-seeking.


  • I commend CBCRA for going beyond its informal practice to a formal policy, but I wish it had also gone beyond a request to a requirement, as it originally thought of doing.  The NIH has proved that requesting compliance from busy researchers, without requiring it, results in a dismally low rate of compliance.  CBCRA should understand that funders are upstream from publishers and create enforceable funding contracts with researchers long before researchers sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers.  Funders needn't defer to publishers, and can assure OA to the results of their own research they fund if they want to.  But if CBCRA doesn't want to assert its rights in this strong sense, it could mandate deposit of the author's manuscript upon acceptance by a journal, immediate OA release of metadata, and permit delayed release of the OA full-text (the dual deposit / release or  immediate deposit / optional access strategy).
  • Beyond the request, the policy has several strong elements:  the reasonable embargo period, the suggested language for use with publishers, its willingness to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals, and its willingness to take extra steps to capture papers for its archive when authors fail in their own negotiations with publishers.  (Note, however, that if CBCRA were willing to make OA a simple and enforceable condition of funding, then authors needn't negotiate with publishers and CBCRA needn't mop up unsuccessful negotiations.)