A comment about the IRCSET OA policy

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) has released a Statement of Policy Relating to: the Open Access Repository of Published Research Papers. See: IRCSET adopts an OA mandate, Peter Suber, Open Access News, May 1, 2008.

Comment:

The first “key principle” in the IRCSET policy is this one:

1. This publication policy confirms the freedom of researchers to publish first wherever they feel is the most appropriate.

However, the first of the “Conditions to which IRCSET funded Award Recipients should adhere” specifies a maximum embargo of 6 months:

1. All researchers must lodge their publications resulting in whole or in part from IRCSET-funded research in an open access repository as soon as is practical, but within six calendar months at the latest.

The first condition cannot be met for some journals, so the first principle and the first condition are clearly incompatible. Might the “should adhere” (rather than “must adhere“, in the wording of the heading “Conditions to which IRCSET funded Award Recipients should adhere“) provide the necessary loophole?

It seems to me that this incompatibility will either: 1) force researchers who support the first principle to ignore (sometimes) the first condition; or, 2) require the IRCSET to (sometimes) ignore the first principle in order to enforce compliance with the first condition; or, 3) challenge the publishers of those journals that either do not permit self-archiving, or require an embargo of longer than 6 months, to decide whether or not to attempt to enforce compliance with their current policies.

How will the IRCSET policy be implemented? Should be interesting.

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3 Comments »

  1. tillje said

    In the draft policy of Science Foundation Ireland, the first principle and the first condition are again incompatible, as they are in the IRCSET policy. The first principle is:

    This publication policy confirms the freedom of researchers to publish first wherever they feel is the most appropriate.

    The first condition is:

    All researchers should lodge their publications resulting in whole or in part from SFI-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, and to be made openly accessible within 6 calendar months at the latest.

    Note the wording “should lodge“, rather than “must lodge“. A possible loophole?

    The draft policy is available via: Consultation Process on Open Access for SFI-Supported Published Research. Responses to the draft policy are being invited, until 19th June 2008.

    See also: Another OA mandate for a public funding agency in Ireland, Peter Suber, Open Access News, May 13, 2008.

  2. tillje said

    The source of the conflicting recommendations is this European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) report: Scientific Publication: Policy on Open Access, December 2006.

    From Page 11/14:

    1. The publication policy should not compromise the freedom of scientists to publish wherever they feel is most appropriate.

    2. The effect of the policy should be to increase the visibility of and improve access to the research funded by the Commission.

    3. The policy should be based on recognised best practice,

    4. EURAB recommends that the Commission should consider mandating all researchers funded under FP7 to lodge their publications resulting from EC-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made openly accessible within 6 months at the latest.

    a. The repository may be a local institutional and/or a subject repository.

    b. Authors should deposit post-prints (or publisher’s version if permitted) plus metadata of articles accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and international conference proceedings.

    c. Deposit should be made upon acceptance by the journal/conference. Repositories should release the metadata immediately, with access restrictions to full text article to be applied as required. Open access should be made available as soon as practicable after the author-requested embargo, or six months, whichever comes first.

    d. Suitable repositories should make provision for long-term preservation of, and free public access to, published research findings.

    Recommendation #1 supports “the freedom of scientists to publish wherever they feel is most appropriate“.

    Because some major scientific journals will not accept an embargo that’s as short as 6 months, Recommendation #4c is incompatible with Recommendation #1.

  3. tillje said

    A message, Ireland’s Higher Education Authority Mandates Green OA Self-Archiving, from Naomi Brennan (SPARC-OAForum, August 22, 2008), provides the text [PDF available here] of an OA mandate that’s based on the recommendations of the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) policy in relation to scientific publication. Again, there’s incompatibility between the first “key principle” and the first “condition to which which HEA funded award recipients should adhere“. However, unlike the EURAB recommendations, the IRCSET policy, and the draft policy of Science Foundation Ireland, the first condition in the HEA mandate includes an explicit loophole which permits resolution of the incompatibility. The loophole is provided by addition of the words “subject to copyright agreement” to the first condition. The HEA’s first condition:

    1. All researchers must lodge their publications resulting in whole or in part from HEA-funded research in an open access repository as soon as is practical after publication and to be made openly accessible within 6 calendar months at the latest, subject to copyright agreement.

    The first “key principle” is:

    1. This publication policy confirms the freedom of researchers to publish first wherever they feel is the most appropriate.

    This principle, which might be called the “academic freedom” principle, apparently trumps the first condition in the HEA mandate, while in the EURAB recommendations, it apparently does not.

    However, it should be noted that “academic freedom” is not absolute. For example, the freedom to carry on research is often dependent on support from funding agencies and/or universities. A definition of academic freedom (The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2008):

    Academic Freedom commonly means the freedom of professors to teach, research and publish, to criticize and help determine the policies of their institutions, and to address public issues as citizens without fear of institutional penalties. Other meanings include the autonomy of the university in running its internal affairs, and the freedom of students to function within the academic programs they have chosen.

    In none of its meanings is academic freedom absolute. The freedom to teach, for example, is normally subject to approval of courses by academic bodies; the freedom to carry on research is often dependent on funding by universities or other groups. Hence academic freedom is generally linked to the idea of academic self-government, in the hope that limits will not be imposed arbitrarily and improperly.

    Note the words “in the hope that limits will not be imposed arbitrarily and improperly“. Is an OA mandate that precludes publication in some journals “arbitrary and improper“? Unyielding defenders of “academic freedom” will probably answer “yes”. Defenders of the freedom of funding agencies to put in place policies that foster achievement of their goals and objectives would probably answer “no”.

    For Peter Suber’s comments about the HEA mandate, see: Ireland’s Higher Education Authority adopts an OA mandate, Open Access News, August 24, 2008. Excerpt:

    However, there is one difference [from the IRCSET policy] which significantly weakens the HEA policy. While IRCSET requires OA within six months of publication, without qualification, HEA requires OA within six months “subject to copyright agreement.” This is precisely the loophole for resisting publishers that I praised IRCSET for omitting. The HEA policy defers to any publisher policy which prohibits OA archiving or requires a longer embargo period. It gives publishers a simple opt-out.

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