Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

NCIC adopts an OA mandate

The National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) has adopted an OA mandate.  (Thanks to Jim Till.)  Excerpt:

Effective July 2009, all researchers supported in whole or in part through the NCIC are required to make their published results of NCIC supported work publicly available. Researchers are encouraged to make their work publicly available as soon as possible, but must do so no later than six months after the final publication date.

Archives such as PubMed Central, researchersí host institution websites, and/or open access journals are all acceptable ways to make research findings publicly available....

NCIC believes strongly, however, that unrestricted public access to research findings is a crucial part of upholding the values and responsibilities of the NCIC as a granting agency and of the NCICís funders, the Canadian Cancer Society and The Terry Fox Foundation, both of whom are supported in turn by donations from the public. Major funding bodies around the world have progressively adopted open access as a means of increasing the public availability and transparency of the research they fund. Open access allows for broader dissemination of knowledge and ultimately promotes research advancement, crucial to the NCICís mission to reduce the incidence, morbidity and mortality of cancer.

As part of this policy, the NCIC will provide support for any charges levied by publishers that are required to comply with this open access process. Such charges may be included as legitimate research expenses (fully justified as with all other expenses) in the budget of a research grant submission....

Also see the NCIC's Open Access FAQs.  Excerpt:

8. Will I need to make my previously published, NCIC-supported papers available?

This policy comes into effect in July 2009, for all new grants and awards commencing July 1, 2009. However, the NCIC encourages all continuing grantees to find ways to make their research findings publicly accessible. Any NCIC supported publications over 12-months-old have likely been made fully accessible by publishers.

9. What if a journal is compliant with open access, but does not allow the paper to be made freely available until 12 months after publication?

Researchers are able to submit their work to a journal that does not support public availability within six months of the publication date. The NCIC does not wish to compromise the ability of researchers to publish in high-impact journals. However, researchers must inform the NCIC of this limitation and the paper must be made freely available as soon as possible. Please email when this issue arises for monitoring purposes. Like other agencies, the NCIC is applying pressure to non-compliant journals to allow for public availability within six months.


  • I applaud the mandatory language, the six month cap on embargoes (with some exceptions), and the flexibility to use different OA repositories or even OA journals to satisfy the policy. 
  • The policy doesn't distinguish the timing of deposit from the timing of OA release, though it should.  I hope that the NCIC require immediate deposit even if it allows delayed release.  For details, see what I call the dual/deposit strategy or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access.
  • The policy leaves a loophole for resisting publishers.  When a given publisher does not allow OA on the funder's terms, the NCIC does not require grantees to look for another publisher, as the Wellcome Trust and NIH (and a handful of others) do.  But it does want to use its policy to apply "pressure to non-compliant journals to allow for public availability within six months."  I'm not sure it can work both ways.  Publishers will not feel the intended pressure if they have an easy opt-out.  If experience confirms this suspicion, I hope NCIC will adopt the WT-NIH model and close the loophole.
  • The NCIC should say more about the scope of its willingness to pay fees to make OA possible.  If it's willing to pay for gold OA, I applaud that.  If it's willing to pay publishers to permit or provide green OA, then I don't, and I hope the NCIC will reconsider.
  • Both the policy and FAQ pages are dated August 1, 2008.