Sunday, October 30, 2005

SSHCR Consultation on Open Access: Response

Re: Response to Consultation on Open Access (An Open Letter)

Congratulations to SSHRC on adopting open access in principle. Here is my response, as a librarian with a special interest in scholarly communications, and an open access advocate. A copy of this letter will be posted on my blog, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics.

In brief, my response is a recommendation that SSHRC policy be to require open access to the results of SSHRC funded research, as defined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, basically immediate, free, and unrestricted online availability. Specifically, my recommendation is to require deposit in an institutional repository, and to make open access a requirement for SSHRC subsidy funding for publishers. Detailed responses to specific consultation questions follows.

Policy Questions

SSHRC requests your advice on the following general policy issues:
• Should SSHRC adopt a regulation requiring that one copy of all research results be deposited in an institutional repository?


Researchers should place articles in institutional repositories even when they are making works openly available by other means, such as placing articles in subject repositories or publishing in open access journals. This is the best way for Canadian universities, individually and as a whole, to highlight the value of Canadian research, and ensure its preservation. This approach also facilitates the development of Canadian-based portals, enhancing our ability to search for Canadian-specific materials.

• Should such a regulation apply to all forms of research outputs (i.e. peer-reviewed journal articles, non-peer reviewed research reports, monographs, data sets, theses, conference proceedings, etc.)?


• Should there be exceptions for research outputs where there is an expectation of financial return to the author (i.e., monographs where royalties are accrued)?

If all of the research and writings costs are covered by SSHRC, there should be no exceptions. However, authors should be free to use a noncommercial creative commons license, e.g. an electronic, free open access copy of a monograph should not preclude sales of a print version.

Operational Questions

In general, there are two accepted routes to open access:
• Self-archiving – depositing research results and materials in institutional repositories that can be searched by anyone with Internet access; and,
• Open access electronic journals – peer-reviewed journals that provide Internet-based access for readers without subscription charges.

Both routes present SSHRC and the research community with operational challenges:

1 Institutional repositories: Building a management and service platform

Currently, not all Canadian universities provide an institutional repository service. Some 26 repositories are now in place, or are in development, but this does not yet provide the necessary services for all SSHRC-funded researchers.

General comment:
If researchers do not yet have an institutional repository available, there are several options that can be explored. For example, universities with repositories can make space available to authors from other institutions; universities can develop repositories on a collaborative rather than individual basis; SSHRC could develop a central repository, or, there is a universal depository currently under development that is expected to be available this fall.

a If required by SSHRC, would you be willing to send all outputs from SSHRC-funded research to an institutional repository?

For me, depositing work in an institutional repository is not an obligation, but rather a pleasure my IR is a much appreciated service. For details on why I just love my institutional repository – as I am sure other authors, universities and academia as a whole will in the future – please see my blogpost, “the Institutional Repository, the Author and the Academy of Aug. 7, 2005, at:

b What range of electronic publications and institutional repository services are needed to fully meet the needs of the scholarly community? See, for example É (, a Quebec-based electronic service provider. Should this model be extended across Canada?

The ideal is institutional repository services available to every researcher across Canada, and a range of Canadian-based electronic publication outlets, to assure that research of particular importance in the Canadian context is published. The Synergies group , which includes Érudit, represents one very good model for cross-country collaboration. In my view, it is particularly useful to help with the publishing software and technology needs, as with the Open Journal Systems. [Disclosure: I work for Simon Fraser University, which is a partner in Open Journal Systems and Synergies, although I am not involved with these projects].

2 Open access journals: Revising the SSHRC Aid to Research and Transfer Journals Program

Although SSHRC financially supports the majority of social science and humanities journals produced in Canada , the Aid to Research and Transfer Journals Program does not provide support for non-subscription based journals.

Comment: open access is the most effective means of disseminating results of SSHRC funded research. Picture the difference in accessibility between a journal that meets the current minimum of 200 subscribers, with an open access journal.

200 subscribers: an article published in such a journal might be readily available at every university library in Canada, a few individual researchers, and some of the major research libraries elsewhere in the world.

Open access: can be readily accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection – from the college student in Canada’s north, studying at an institution with a small library – to a researcher in another country who may take the results of research conducted in Canada and build on them, to develop ideas, solutions, and new questions that help Canadians in their research endeavors.

Therefore, my recommendation is that the 200-subscriber minimum should not only be eliminated, but that open access should be a requirement for a SSHRC publication subsidy. Other metrics designed to measure usage can replace the number of subscribers, such as downloads. While these kinds of measures are imperfect, it should be noted that the current approach (subscribers) also have limits. Another approach would be to ask scholars to review the quality and importance of the journals.

a Scholarly peer-reviewed journals play a crucial role in the certification of research knowledge. In the context of open access, institutional repositories must be able to distinguish between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed research outputs. Therefore, the continued existence, and financial viability, of journals is clearly a critical issue.

Please comment on each of the three following possible ways to tackle this challenge, taking into consideration the fact that there are limited resources for the support of research:
• A “moving wall” system where journal articles are available only by subscription for the first six months, and then made available free of charge.

This is not open access, and this does not provide the best service to the Canadian research community. As an example, if a Canadian researcher and an international researcher conduct similar research and come to similar results at the same time, what happens if the Canadian publishes in a Canadian-based journal with a subscriber base of 200, while the international researcher publishes in an open access journal or an international journal with a much wider readership base? It seems likely that the work of the international researcher will be much more likely to be read, cited, and used. Immediate open access places the Canadian researcher and publisher on a level playing field at the international level; the “moving wall’ approach does not.

• A publication fee, charged by journals to authors, to be considered an eligible expense within a SSHRC research grant. This would require researchers to have access to SSHRC or other grant funds.

Good idea, and I would suggest that this be considered in addition to SSHRC funding for publications. This is one means to facilitate the move to open access or creation of new open access journals which are not covered by SSHRC funding. This would make it easier for Canadian researchers to create new journals in emerging fields, for example. Used in combination with other approaches, such as funding of fully open access journals, this provides options to authors, whether they are SSHRC funded or not.

• A modification to the SSHRC support program for journals—which currently covers 40 to 50 per cent of journal expenditures—to allow grants to cover all peer review, administration and manuscript preparation costs, but not costs associated with distribution.

Good idea, and should be accompanied by an expectation of open access.

b As journal editors, do you allow your contributing authors to place their accepted articles in an institutional repository or on a Web site not connected with the journal? Why, or why not?


c As researchers/authors, would you be willing to comply with a SSHRC regulation that requires peer-reviewed articles to be published in an open access journal and/or placed in a publicly-accessible institutional repository?

As noted above, I happily deposit my work in an institutional repository, with no obligation. I should note that I have never received or applied for SSRHC funding.

Many thanks for the opportunity to participate in this consultation process. Questions are welcome


Heather G. Morrison, M.L.I.S.
Phone: 604-268-7001

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