Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Industry Committee on Canada's Science and Technology Strategy

Michael Geist has posted his reply to the Industry Committee on Canada's Science and Technology Strategy, along with links to the replies of others posted online.

Here is my response to the consultation:

April 18, 2008

Dear Mr. James Rajotte and Committee Members,

Re: Study on Canadian Science and Technology

It is wonderful to see this all-party committee working together on a matter that will make such a great difference to the future of Canada. Thank you for the opportunity to provide input. The comments that I am making are as an individual professional librarian and adjunct faculty member with expertise in the areas of open access and scholarly communications.

Science, research and development are indeed essential for positioning Canada for the knowledge economy, as pointed out in your News Release. Furthering our knowledge through research is important for other reasons as well. There is an urgent need for humankind to figure out how to live in harmony with our environment, and with each other. For example, research is needed to identify ecologically sound agricultural practices and business opportunities.

The results of federally funded research performed in government and higher education should be made openly accessible to all. The taxpayers (individuals or businesses) who have funded this research have a right to read the results, without having to pay again. This concept applies to all peer-reviewed publications arising from federally funded research, as well as all research data with the exception of limitations necessary to protect individual privacy.

Open access refers to literature that is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and permissions barriers.

According to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, open access is:

By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited

Open Access is the best way to achieve maximum benefit from Canadian research dollars. While researchers at Canada’s largest universities enjoy substantial access to the research literature, other Canadians are largely without access. An entrepreneur in a rural area, for example, is likely to have access to only a tiny portion of the world’s scholarly literature through their local public library. The same is true of the rural doctor, nurse. college or high school teacher, librarian, engineer, journalist, lawyer, politician and civil servant, to name a few examples.

Making the knowledge created through federal funding readily available to all these people benefits us all. For example, if our doctors and nurses have an easy means to keep up with the latest developments and look up the latest research on our conditions, everyone benefits. Many patients, too, nowadays are taking charge of learning about their own conditions, and want to be able to access the research literature.

Governments and universities around the world have developed, or are developing, policies requiring open access to the results of research that they fund.

Here in Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has a Policy on Access to Research Outputs requiring open access to results of CIHR-funded research, within 6 months of publication. Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council adopted a policy in favor of open access in 2004, and currently has a pilot Aid to Open Access Journals program. The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance and Genome Canada have open access policies, and other research funders in Canada are considering such policies.

Internationally, l’Agence Nationale de la Recherche has a strong open access policy. All of the Research Councils UK either have, or are developing, open access policies. The US National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest medical research funder, implemented a Public Access Policy in 2004. Effective April 7, 2008, the NIH voluntary Public Access Policy becomes a requirement for Public Access within 12 months of publication. About 400 publishers are voluntarily cooperating with NIH to make all of their journals openly accessible, not just the work funded by NIH.

The European University Association recently unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for open access mandates to be developed in every university in Europe. At Harvard, an open access policy came from the faculty themselves; the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences have extended to Harvard a non-exclusive license to make their work available to everyone through the Harvard institutional repository.