Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Policy on Access to Research Outputs

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has just announced their Policy on Access to Research Outputs. Français.

Under this new policy, as of January 1, 2008, grant recipients must make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed research articles are freely available as soon as possible after publication...by depositing the article in an archive, such as PubMed Central or an institutional repository, and/or by publishing results in an open access journal. A growing number of journals already meet these requirements and CIHR-funded researchers are encouraged to consider publishing in these journals...grant recipients are now required to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data, as already required by most journals, into the appropriate public database immediately upon publication of research results.. Researchers are encouraged to make use of the SHERPA RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving service to determine whether publishers policies are compliant with the policy, and the policy clarifies that article processing fees for open access publishing are an eligible expense under the Use of Grant Funds.

Notable Quotes from the Press Release:
Timely and unrestricted access to research findings is a defining feature of science, and is essential for advancing knowledge and accelerating our understanding of human health and disease," stated Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. "With the development of the internet it is now feasible to disseminate globally and easily the results of research that we fund. As a publicly-funded organization, we have a responsibility to ensure that new advances in health research are available to those who need it and can use it - researchers world-wide, the public and policy makers.

This open access policy will serve as a model for other funding agencies, said Dr. James E. Till of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto [Chair of the Task Force that developed this policy]. The policy will leverage taxpayers' investment by accelerating research and by fostering its broader application.

Strengths of this policy include strong support for immediate open access, and support for open access publishing, including economic support for article processing fees. Traditional subscription-based journals can easily comply with the policy through an enlightened self-archiving policy, as the vast majority of journals also do, and making this clear through the Sherpa Romeo list. Another area of strength is the expectation of no more than 6 months delay before open access.

Kudos to the CIHR, President Dr. Alan Bernstein and Task Force Chair Dr. Jim Till for yet another stellar example of Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement.

Update 10:30 a.m. - Peter Suber's comments, from:
Open Access News:

* This is a major policy with a major loophole: “Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies.” The exception swallows the rule. Any publisher who doesn't want OA within six months, or ever, can easily block it, and CIHR invites them to do so. But for that, the policy would be exemplary: the mandatory terms, the reasonably short embargo, the equal standing of central and distributed repositories, the willingness to pay publishing fees at fee-based OA journals, the OA data policy, and the implicit sanction for non-compliance.
* The draft policy released last October did not contain this loophole. On the contrary, it said that “A publisher-imposed embargo on open accessibility of no more than 6 months is acceptable.” BTW, it also implemented the dual deposit/release strategy (or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access), requiring immediate deposit and permitting delayed OA. But CIHR dropped that too from the final version of the policy.
* The Wellcome Trust and several of the Research Councils UK have found an elegant way to close the loophole the CIHR that left open: they require OA archiving on a certain timetable, as a condition of funding, and take advantage of the fact that researchers sign funding contracts before they sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers. In short, they require grantees to live up to their funding contracts and, therefore, to transfer copyright on their funded work, if at all, only subject to the terms of the prior funding contract. If a publisher is unwilling to let the author comply with the funding contract, the author must look for another publisher. I do hope the CIHR will move in this direction at its next policy review, and close or at least shrink the gigantic loophole in the present policy.

Update 10:54 - Michael Geist's comments - see original by clicking on Michael Geist for links:

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal government's health research granting agency, today unveiled a new open access policy for research it funds beginning in 2008. According to the new policy, researchers will be required to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher’s website or an online repository within six months of publication. Critics will rightly note that the policy is not iron-clad - publication in an online repository is conditional on the publisher's policy. Accordingly, if a publisher refuses to allow researchers to post their articles, the researcher does not violate the grant requirements by not posting. This leaves publishers with a measure of control, though a growing number of them do permit this form of archiving (database of publisher policies here).

While it is tempting to say that this does not go far enough, it is an exceptionally important development for open access in Canada.
First, even with its faults, the policy will help ensure that five percent of the world's health research scholarship - tens of thousands of articles (CIHR funds approximately 5,000 researchers annually producing as many as 30,000 articles) - are generally freely available.

Second, this is the second stage in the CIHR's move toward open access. Clinical trial data is already made available online and the granting council supports expenses related to open access publishing. As the global move toward open access accelerates, it is well positioned to do more.

Third - and perhaps most important - it places renewed pressure on SSHRC and NSERC, the other two major granting councils, to at least match CIHR. The same principles apply - taxpayer funded research should be made available to the public that pays the bills and with CIHR now on board, it is now clearly time for the other two councils to adopt open access policies.

Heather's comments:
The loophole mentioned by Peter Suber is indeed there, however I think it is important not to overlook some very strong points in this policy, even with the loophole. Grant recipients are directed to the SHERPA RoMEO list, which will need to add a category for CIHR compliance. It seems obvious to me that only publishers allowing immediate self-archiving, or within 6 months at most, will be eligible for the check mark beside CIHR compliance. Or, am I missing something?

An important contribution here is the strong emphasis on immediate open access, or no more than a six month delay at maximum; a refreshing change from recent debates, which suggest that a 12 month delay is acceptable.

My personal opinion is that NO delay is acceptable. This research is paid for by the Canadian taxpayer; in order to see that we all receive maximum impact for our research dollar, we should insist on immediate OA. This is well within our rights; the contributions from the taxpayer and other Canadians (directly through research funding, indirectly through support for universities and student tuitions) are far more substantial than those of the publishing industry, important though the latter are. The rights of the public good and the major payers for the research should prevail.

The CIHR policy does not demand immediate OA, but strongly supports it. My opinion remains that this is a strong policy, which other funders should see as a model, particularly for support for immediate OA, stating that delay should be no more than 6 months at most, and for clarifying support for OA publishing.