Monday, February 26, 2007

Canada, the time has come to prioritize open access!

According to Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law:

The time has come for the federal government, its funding agencies and the Canadian research community to maximize the public's investment in research by prioritizing open access.

In an article in the Toronto Star and on Michael Geist's blog, Michael Geist succinctly explains what is happening in the area of open access, and why.

Here is an excerpt (thanks to Peter Suber on Open Access News:

Last month, five leading European research institutions launched a petition that called on the European Commission to establish a new policy to require that all government-funded research be made available to the public shortly after publication....

Despite scant media attention, word of the petition spread quickly throughout the scientific and research communities. Within weeks, it garnered more than 20,000 signatures, including several Nobel prize winners and more than 750 education, research, and cultural organizations from around the world.

In response, the European Commission committed over $100 million toward facilitating greater open access through support for open access journals and for the building of the infrastructure needed to house institutional repositories that can store the millions of academic articles written each year.

The European developments demonstrate the growing global demand for open access, a trend that is forcing researchers, publishers, universities and funding agencies to reconsider their role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge....

The [current subscription] model certainly proved lucrative for large publishers, yet resulted in the public paying twice for research that it was frequently unable to access.

Cancer patients seeking information on new treatments or parents searching for the latest on childhood development issues were often denied access to the research they indirectly fund through their tax dollars....

While today this self-archiving approach is typically optional, a growing number of funding agencies are making it a mandatory requirement....

Notwithstanding the momentum toward open access, several barriers remain.

First, many conventional publishers actively oppose open access, fearful that it will cut into their profitability. Indeed, soon after the launch of the European petition, Nature reported that publishers were preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to counter open access support with a message that equates public access to government censorship.

Second, many universities and individual researchers have been slow to adopt open access, with only a limited number of universities worldwide having established institutional repositories to facilitate deposit of research by their faculty....

Third, Canadian funding agencies are increasingly at risk of falling behind their counterparts around the world by dragging their heels on the open access front.

With the notable exceptions of the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the International Development Research Agency, which last year introduced proposals to require open access for their funded research, Canada's major funding agencies have been slow to move on the issue....

The failure to lead on this issue could have long-term negative consequences for Canadian research.

Given the connection between research and economic prosperity, the time has come for the federal government, its funding agencies and the Canadian research community to maximize the public's investment in research by prioritizing open access.

This post belongs in the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement Series.

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