Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wellcome Trust OA Mandate in Effect! (SSHRC Consultation)

The Wellcome Trust's Open and Unrestricted Access to the Outputs of Published Research is in effect as of October 2005.

This is the best model for an open access policy to date, in my opinion, particularly because open access is mandatory. A detailed, thoughtful analysis about why this is a model policy can be found in Peter Suber's October 2005 SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

One aspect that might not be optimum in the SSRHC context is the allowance for a delay of 6 months for open access. This is a very generous concession to the worried publishing community, which may not be necessary or desirable in the Canadian context.

Open access will make it possible to greatly expand and enhance the impact of the Canadian researcher. Instead of articles being readily accessible to subscribers only - likely a few individuals, Canada's research libraries, and some of the larger libraries abroad - open access means that Canadian research will be readily accessible to all researchers, everywhere.

Here is a scenario to illustrate how immediate open access can enhance the impact and prestige of the Canadian researcher. While pre-publication open access may be the optimum, for the sake of simplicity of comparison, this scenario assumes a SSHRC policy of mandatory OA immediately on publication, while another country, similar to Canada (X) permits a 6-month delay, which has become general practice.

Let's imagine that a Canadian researcher, and a researcher from X, have both completed similar studies, which resulted in similar findings. Everyone in this research area is very excited when they read the results of either study. Other researchers read and cite the studies, begin new studies based on the results, and some suggest that the author might be a good conference presenter,invite the author to participate in an international research team, or nominate the author for an award. For the researcher from X, this is primarily other researchers in X, and a few outsiders, while for the Canadian, this is this worldwide research community.

It is the work of the Canadian researcher which is more likely to be read and cited, and recognised in a number of ways. The Canadian researcher is looking good - and so is SSHRC, as the funder, and Canada as a whole.

For details on the many research studies illustrating the OA Impact Advantage, see Steve Hitchcock's The effect of open access and downloads ('hits') on citation impact: a bibliography of studies

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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