FRSQ policy on OA

Stevan Harnad, Heather Morrison and Peter Suber have noted the Policy regarding open access to published research outputs of the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) [version in French]. They didn’t comment on the Guiding Principles of the policy:

This Policy is based on four guiding principles that, together, underpin the concept of open access to research outputs:

-Academic freedom – The Policy recognizes the importance of academic freedom as a means of advancing knowledge. It reaffirms the complete independence of researchers in determining the relevance of distributing research outputs and the means used to do so.

-Use and development of research outputs – The Policy supports researchers in furthering the use and development of research outputs through distribution, transfer, translation or commercialization. It particularly encourages the dissemination of knowledge to the scientific community and to output users.

-Compliance with ethical standards – The Policy requires compliance with the highest standards in matters of research ethics and the protection of personal information. Beyond the relevant legal and regulatory standards, it insists on the importance of transparent and fair action with the populations participating in a study or likely to be affected by the results. Furthermore, the Policy also reiterates the importance of adherence to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) standards for research, when animals are used in experiments.

-Harmonization of rules – The Policy ensures harmonization of standards and practices among health research funding agencies. It also takes into account Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) requirements in order to prevent needless overlap and to facilitate Policy implementation by researchers.

Note this commitment, in the 4th principle, “to prevent needless overlap and to facilitate Policy implementation by researchers” by taking into account “Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) requirements“. [CIHR Policy].

A prediction: Further efforts at harmonization of the OA policies of Canadian funding agencies will be on hold until PubMed Central Canada is up and running. (For updates on PMC Canada, see the website of NRC-CISTI’s Partnership Development Office).

This prediction could, of course, be regarded as a contribution to the ongoing debate about the the locus of deposit for Green OA to peer-reviewed research publications. For a recent contribution to this debate, see: Authors: I don’t care where you deposit, just do it, Gavin Baker, A Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, February 5, 2009. (Found via: Against the primacy of IRs, Gavin Baker, Open Access News, February 6, 2009). Please note, in particular, the last sentence of the post dated February 5:

The ultimate goal is opening all research, regardless of where the authors work or who funded the research.

Another minor comment: Note that “open access” in French is “libre accès”. So, how to translate “libre OA” into French? (“Libre OA” is the kind of OA which removes price barriers and at least some permission barriers, see: Gratis and libre open access, Peter Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, August 2, 2008). My own opinion is that the “gratis OA-libre OA” nomenclature is very useful for discussions among advocates of OA, but isn’t yet widely appreciated.

For this reason, I’m currently using the term “publicly accessible” instead of “gratis OA” in posts to my other blog, Cancer Stem Cell News. My CSC News blog has a primary focus on cancer stem cells (although a secondary objective is to foster awareness of OA among those interested in cancer stem cells). I’ve used the term “open access” only in relation to “libre OA” (in accordance with the definition that was included in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, February 14, 2002).

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5 Comments »

  1. The well-meaning recommendations of Gavin Baker (GB) in “Authors: I don’t care where you deposit, just do it” are based on some basic misunderstandings and unrealistic assumptions about the status quo today (OA < 15%) and what is practically required to get us from that status quo to 100% OA, at long last.

    SUMMARY: The symmetry of IR/CR interharvestability is irrelevant today because most of the target OA content is not yet being deposited anywhere. Funder mandates converging on IR deposit will facilitate the adoption of deposit mandates by institutions (the universal research providers), whereas divergent funder mandates that require CR deposit (or are indifferent between CR and IR deposit) will needlessly handicap efforts to get institutional deposit mandates adopted and complied with. The universal, synergistic solution for both institutions and funders is: Deposit institutionally, harvest centrally.

    For details, see:
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/522-guid.html

    Prediction: If Canada PubMed Central, too, is set up as a locus of direct deposit rather than a harvester, then that too is a big waste of time, money and effort — and again misses an opportunity to greatly facilitate and accelerate the growth of OA and OA mandates in Canada.

    (You are write about the collision between the “gratis/libre OA” distinction in English and “libre accès” (LA) in French, but the solution is to say something like LA/taux LA/réutilisation. Your proposal to use “public access” in English for what Peter and I were at pains to confirm and affirm was indeed a full-blooded form of OA would undo that effort, making it seem as if it wasn’t OA after all. It would also make it seem as if the main rationale for OA were access for the general public, which is not the case. The main rationale for OA is peer-to-peer access, researcher to researcher, for research uptake, usage and impact. Public access of course comes with the territory (for both forms of OA), but it is not their raison d’être, and if it had been, then the case for OA for other fields of scientific and scholarly content — I mean other than content that has the great public interest of health — would be much weakened.)

    Stevan Harnad

    [Added by the Editor: The debate continues].

  2. The largest and most successful open access archives to date are subject or disciplinary archives. PubMedCentral is the world’s largest archive, with over a million items. arXiv is among the largest, and very heavily used by the physics community.

    Subject archives are expanding open access beyond any mandated literature, as these are the archives that are desirable from the searcher’s perspective. We see this with PMC, where hundreds of journals are voluntarily contributing all content, many for immediate free access, and a growing number for full open access. After many years of experience with arXiv, the high energy physics community is now working towards full open access publishing for their literature through SCOAP3.

    More on my blog, at:
    http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.com/2009/02/open-access-disciplinary-and.html

    I agree with Stevan that libre access is not a problem for other languages; there are many ways to translate.

  3. Jim Till said

    For another perspective on OA, see: Open access in Canada.

    Section 2: What is open access?

    Section 3: What is an OA publication?

    Section 5: Other definitions.

  4. Jim Till said

    It’s of interest to compare assertions made by Stevan Harnad (SH) in his comment (see above) with excerpts from a document entitled: Analysis of Comments and Implementation of the NIH Public Access Policy, Raynard Kington (RK), Federal Register, February 18, 2009. (See also: Strong support for the NIH policy, Peter Suber, Open Access News, February 18, 2009):

    SH: “The universal, synergistic solution for both institutions and funders is: Deposit institutionally, harvest centrally“.

    RK: “As a way to relieve compliance burdens on their faculty, a few institutions requested direct feeds from their repositories to PubMed Central or the NIH Manuscript Submission system. The NIH believes that these are worthwhile suggestions, but it is concerned that they raise important technical and logistical challenges regarding author approval, copyright permissions, quality control, and formats for electronic transfer. The NIH remains open to closer collaboration with institutional archives and will consider this issue as the Policy matures“.

    SH: “The main rationale for OA is peer-to-peer access, researcher to researcher, for research uptake, usage and impact. Public access of course comes with the territory (for both forms of OA), but it is not their raison d’être, and if it had been, then the case for OA for other fields of scientific and scholarly content — I mean other than content that has the great public interest of health — would be much weakened.)“.

    RK: “When reasons for support [for the NIH Policy] were offered, the most common were as follows: (1) The perceived benefit to patients and their families, (2) the belief that the American public has a right to access papers arising from NIH funds, and (3) the expected potential of the policy to advance scientific discovery“.

    Comment: As SH points out, there is a stronger rationale for public access to the outputs of health-related research than for some “other fields of scientific and scholarly content“.

  5. Dr. Raynard Kington (RK), interim director of NIH, writes that “direct feeds from [institutional repositories (IRs) are]… worthwhile… but… raise important technical and logistical challenges regarding author approval, copyright permissions, quality control, and formats for electronic transfer. The NIH remains open to closer collaboration with institutional archives and will consider this issue as the Policy matures.”

    I am certain that all technical and logistical challenges can be successfully met; the benefits of institutional collaboration on direct feeds will be enormous, and will far exceed the current reach of the NIH mandate (which is now the 80,000 articles a year resulting from NIH funding, no more, no less).

    The NIH mandate touches the institutions of every one of NIH’s fundees. If the NIH mandate preferentially encourages its fundees to deposit their NIH-funded output in their own IRs, it will also motivate them to deposit — and motivate their institutions to mandate the deposit of — the rest of their institutional output too, not just the NIH-funded fraction. Not so if the 80,000 articles must be directly deposited institution-externally (in PubMed Central [PMC]); that has the exact opposite effect on motivating institutional deposits and mandates. (And we must not forget that the institutions are the universal providers of all research output: funded and unfunded, across all disciplines.)

    The “technical and logistical challenges” for “direct feeds” from IRs to PMC have already been largely met:

    (1) The SWORD transfer protocol has already solved this problem.
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/484-guid.html

    (2) “Author approval” is not a problem at all: Authors are mandated by NIH to deposit, and NIH specifies the locus of deposit. Currently that designated locus is PMC. The recommendation here is that the preferred locus of deposit should be the author’s IR, with the deposit then automatically ported by “direct feed” (via SWORD) to PMC. (Institutional deposit will in fact simplify deposit for authors, increasing their motivation to comply with the NIH mandate.)

    (3) “Copyright permissions” are not a problem either: Authors are mandated by NIH to deposit and NIH specifies the locus of deposit. If copyright is not an issue with PMC deposit, it is even less of an issue with direct institutional deposit in the fundee’s own IR. (Embargoes are implemented by IRs just as they are by PMC.)

    (4) “Quality control” is not a problem either. Authors are mandated by NIH to deposit their final, refereed, revised draft, and NIH specifies the locus of deposit. The IR deposit can be exported by “direct feed” (via SWORD) to PMC, where exactly the same quality controls can be performed as are now being performed by PMC. (The IR direct-deposit protocol can easily be made to conform to the PMC direct-deposit protocol: they are almost identical already.)

    (4) “Formats for electronic transfer” is not a problem either. The SWORD protocol does the electronic transfer, and the format for deposit of the author’s final, refereed, revised draft is exactly the same.

    It is very good news that NIH’ interim Director is “open to closer collaboration with institutional archives.” The sooner a collaborative deposit policy, with IR deposit and direct feed to PMC can be adopted and announced, the sooner its potentially enormous knock-on effects will begin to make themselves felt in the form of waking the “slumbering giant” — the US and global network of universities and research institutes, not only the NIH-funded ones, but all of them, the universal providers of research, worldwide — to create their own IRs (if they don’t have them already) and to mandate the deposit of all of their research output into them, not just NIH-funded research.

    This global enabling effect of the NIH mandate for accelerating and facilitating universal OA should also be cited in the defense of this historically invaluable policy against the Conyers Bill’s attempt to overturn it.

    (And the Canadian research funding councils, too, should be encouraged to consider the enormous potential OA gains — at no loss — from stipulating IR deposit rather than institution-external deposit in their OA policies as well.)

    Stevan Harnad

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