Research must be made accessible - this is a main task of the Research Council, and it applies to research results in general as well as to research funded by the Research Council in particular. As part of this effort, the Research Council Executive Board recently adopted a set of principles for open access to scientific publications.
Ensuring free online access, usually called open access, to published research results of publicly funded research is an increasingly important research policy objective....
The principles establish that scientific journal articles based on R&D projects funded by the Research Council must be stored in open digital archives, making them available to all interested parties. The Research Council emphasises, however, that this type of archiving must not infringe on the rights of authors or publishers.
There are two main ways to ensure access: self-archiving and open access journals.
Self-archiving usually involves saving postprint versions of peer reviewed articles in open digital archives. The archives may pertain to institutions or specific subject areas.
Open access journals are electronic journals that are freely available on the Internet. The journals are quality assured in the usual way through peer review, but the publishing costs are covered by the authors themselves rather than through subscriptions.
In the view of the Research Council, self-archiving is currently the best way to ensure public access to scientific publications.
In the coming months the Research Council will prepare a framework for implementing the principles for open access to scientific publications in R&D contracts and routines for project follow-up. The Research Council was also commissioned by the Ministry of Research and Education to carry out an assessment of measures that could be used to promote self-archiving and other open access publishing.
"The Research Council emphasises, however, that this type of archiving must not infringe on the rights of authors or publishers." So far, so good. However, there are two very different ways for a funder OA policy to avoid infringing anyone's copyrights. It could require grantees to retain a key right and use it to authorize OA. Or it could wait for the grantee-author to transfer rights to a publisher and then hope that the publisher will allow OA on the funder's terms. In this case, the NRC is taking the second approach, leaving a large loophole for resisting publishers. It's important to remember that the first method avoids infringement just as effectively but also closes the loophole and ensures OA permission for 100% of the funded research. As the policy moves toward implementation, I hope the NRC can close this loophole as the Wellcome Trust, NIH, UK MRC, and other funders have done. (For more details on the two methods of avoiding infringement, and how to close the loophole, see #10 in my article from this month's SOAN.)
I support the NRC decision to focus its OA mandate on green OA (through repositories) rather than gold OA (through journals). See #2 from the same article. However, the NRC is incorrect to say that "the publishing costs [of OA journals] are covered by the authors themselves." Some OA journals, including some of the best, use this business model. But most OA journals charge no author-side fees at all.
Peter Suber at 2/24/2009 12:47:00 PM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.