Sunday, September 25, 2005

Open Access, Funding Agencies, and Incentives

In addition to the obvious and necessary step of requiring that results of funded research be made openly accessible immediately on publication, if not before, here is another step that funding agencies might wish to consider.

Assuming that a very good indicator of future behavior is past behavior, why not recognize researchers with a history of open access publishing when awarding grants? For example, if a weighting criteria approach is used in evaluation, why not assign a few points based on researchers' prior open access history?

In addition to increasing the likelihood of open sharing of the research under consideration for funding, there will be conveniences for the evaluators as well. That is, if prior studies are presented as clickable URLs, this will make it easier for any investigator to evaluate the researchers' history.

Here are two examples of how this might be implemented:

Weighting criteria: rewarding open access history approach
Allot 3 points (assuming 100 totals) to open access publishing history, as follows:

  • 3 points: full open access history
    all works of all researcher applicants are fully open access (published in OA journals, or self-archived on or before publication)
  • 2 points: substantial open access history
    recent research of all researcher applicants is openly accessible
  • 1 point: some open access history
    some research results of researcher applicants is openly accessible

Recognising administrative efficiency approach
This approach would work well with an electronic approach to applying for funding. Fast-track applications where examples of prior research are fully openly accessible, as evaluators will have immediate, cost-free access to this research for evaluation purposes.

Perhaps information about this aspect of evaluation could be accompanied by information on how to make one's works openly accessible. One easey way would be to point to Peter Suber's Open Access Overview. Or, depending on the funding agency, it might make sense to provide pointers to lists of open access publishers, disciplinary archives, or lists of institutional repositories or general repositories (such as the one run by Bioline International for authors in developing countries) that may be available.

To accomodate researchers who have lesser opportunities for making their work openly accessible, perhaps alternatives could be considered. For example, a researcher might supply a copies of letters to their universities, learned societies, and/or publishers in their field explaining their need for open access. Funding agencies could make sample letters available for the convenience of these applicants.

This approach is meant to supplement the more direct approach of requiring immediate open access to the results of research actually funded by the agency, of course.

See Stevan Harnad's Maximising the on the UK's Public Investment in Research for a well-thought-out, if conservative, analysis of the economic benefits of open access for the research funder.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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