Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, April 11, 2008

Revision to OA mandate at MRC

If you recall, in October 2007 a group of funders and a group of publishers agreed that when the one of the funders pays one of the publishers a fee to make an article OA, then the publisher would remove important permission barriers, not just price barriers.  

The funders who struck this deal were the UKPMC Funders Group, a group of eight UK funding agencies, some public and some private, each of which had already adopted an OA mandate.  One member of the UKPMC Funders Group is the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).

So it should be no surprise that the MRC finally updated the web page on its OA mandate to include the following paragraph:

If an open access fee has been paid MRC requires authors and publishers to licence research papers such that they may be freely copied and re-used for purposes such as text and data mining, provided that such uses are fully attributed. This is also encouraged where no fee had been paid.

Still, it took me by surprise until I connected the revision to last October's agreement.  Only the six month lag time is really unexpected.  The MRC updated its OA policy page in February 2008, but didn't include this paragraph until the April update.

The MRC OA mandate was announced in June 2006 and took effect in October 2006. 

Comment.  I praised the agreement at the time and I stand by my assessment:  "When a funder pays a publisher to make an article OA, the publisher should remove permission barriers as well as price barriers.  But too often publishers have only removed price barriers.  This agreement to remove a key set of permission barriers is an important step forward that will help users get their work done (both human and machine users), help funders get full value for their investment, and help all players live up to the full BBB definition of OA."  Kudos to the MRC for finally reflecting the terms of the agreement on its own web site.