Saturday, February 21, 2009

Open access policy development: some thoughts on process

If your university or funding agency is one of the many working on developing on open access policy, here are some thoughts on process to complement Peter Suber's excellent synopsis of elements of good OA policy in the February 2009 SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

As tempting as it is to implement and announce that new OA policy quickly, it is more important, from my perspective, to have a strong policy, one with no loopholes, and a sound plan for implementation.

IF your organization is ready to take the leap on a strong policy, absolutely go for it! If however, there is a sentiment that OA policy needs to be approached slowly and stepwise, there are advantages to taking longer to develop a strong policy, than it is to jump in with a weak policy and revise it later.

A good interim step is to start with a declaration of support for open access, such as signing the Berlin or Budapest declarations, and an intention to develop a green OA policy. Set up an organizational task force to study OA policies and implementation procedures, oversee a consultation process, and make recommendations. Does your institution have an institutional repository, or does this need to be developed? Is the approach of relying on contents in the open access archive for tenure and promotion decisions or grant applications a good fit for your organization? If not, what other procedures will be used to ensures compliance?

This is a good way to get researchers actively involved in policy development, and provides an opportunity for education about open access and scholarly communication. It may be the best way to encourage researchers to develop OA policy themselves, as the faculty at Harvard did.