Contribution to the OSTP Policy Forum

Today (December 20) is the last day for contributions to the first phase of the Public Access Forum, sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Implementation.

The next phase, to begin on Dec. 21, is described at: Public Access Policy Phase One Wrap-Up: Implementation. Phase Two of this forum will focus on “Features and Technology”. It’s scheduled to run from Dec. 21 to Dec. 31. Phase Three, focused on “Management”, is expected to run from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7. (Initially, this Policy Forum was scheduled to end on Jan. 7, but the timeline has been extended by two weeks. The current plan is to “use those last two weeks to revisit, on a more detailed level, all three focus areas that will have been addressed by then“).

My own contribution to the first phase, posted today, was:

Thanks for the opportunity to post a comment. OSTP has provided innovative leadership in it’s initiation of this Policy Forum.

Who should enact public access policies?:
• Agencies that fund a significant amount of research should enact mandatory policies. Some differences in policies across agencies may be necessary at this time, but researchers (and their institutions) should not be overburdened by too many differing implementation requirements.

Version and Timing:
• The author’s final version, after peer review, of papers stemming from all publicly-funded research should be required to be deposited into an open, central repository immediately upon acceptance for publication. The author(s) should retain copyright to this version.

• Deposit should be mandatory, by funders and also by each sponsoring institution. Persistent failure by authors to comply with such a policy should lead to appropriate penalties (such as ineligibility for further funding).
• Deposit should be in a central repository. There are already two successful central repositories, arXiv and PMC. (What’s missing is a successful one for all of the social sciences and humanities). Harvesting from the central repository into the sponsoring institution’s repository should be feasible, if desired by the sponsoring institution (to reduce the burden on researchers and their sponsoring institutions).

• From an international perspective, there should be harmonization of policies by those agencies in different countries that support similar kinds of research. For example, the requirements for deposition in PMC, UKPMC and PMC Canada should not differ.
• The value-added services offered by these repositories could differ. For example, an ideal value-added service would be the provision, for each article in a repository, of credible article-level metrics (ALMs). The Public Library of Science (PLoS) has already done pioneering developmental work on such ALMs ( The repositories of sponsoring institutions could also provide value-added services not already available via the central repositories.

Comment: These comments are, of course, my own. They do not represent the views of any of the institutions or organizations with which I’m associated.

The only aspect of my comments that’s at all novel is probably the suggestion that deposition in both central repositories and the repositories of sponsoring institutions would permit each type of repository to offer different value-added services to authors and users. My current view is that such value-added services are needed to establish (or enhance) differences in “brand” across different repositories, and to increase the appeal of repositories to authors and users.

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  1. Jim Till said

    Phase 2 of the OSTP Policy Forum was launched on Dec. 21. OSTP will end it at midnight of Dec. 31.

    Added January 3, 2010: Phase 3 of the OSTP Policy Forum will run through Thursday, January 7. According to the Phase 2 Wrap-Up, after Phase 3, a two-week extension will be used “to revisit, on a more detailed level, all three focus areas“.

    Added January 8, 2010: Phase 3 Wrap-up, posted January 7, 2010, launched the final session of the OSTP public access policy forum.

    Added January 25, 2010: Public Access Forum Closes, posted January 22, 2010, ended the OSTP’s forum on enhancing public access to published results of federally funded research, and outlined the next steps that will be taken.

  2. Jim Till said

    The recommendation that: “The author’s final version, after peer review, of papers stemming from all publicly-funded research should be required to be deposited into an open, central repository immediately upon acceptance for publication” may seem idealistic.

    However, that’s almost what’s happening now, when articles are submitted to PLoS Currents: Influenza. Excerpt from the PLoS Currents FAQs: “Submissions are screened by a group of leading researchers in the field, and those deemed appropriate are posted immediately and publicly archived at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). All content is open access, available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License“. The only difference is that the screening process involves moderation, rather than conventional peer review.

    A comparison of the date of acceptance into PLoS Currents: Influenza and the date of appearance in PMC indicates that the articles are usually publicly archived within a week after acceptance.

    The most controversial aspect of the above recommendation may be the assumption that it would be feasible to extend the approach currently being used by PLoS Currents: Influenza to “papers stemming from all publicly-funded research“. Perhaps the existence of the arXiv moderation system provides evidence that this assumption may also not be overly idealistic?

    It should be noted that PLoS Currents: Influenza also provides article-level metrics (ALMs) for articles, including numbers of pageviews and comments, plus ratings. See, for example: Molecular modeling of swine influenza A/H1N1, Spanish H1N1, and avian H5N1 flu N1 neuraminidases bound to Tamiflu and Relenza by Ly Le, Eric Lee, Klaus Schulten and Thanh N Truong, PLoS Curr Influenza 2009(August 27) [revised 2009 September 2 ]: RRN1015. (This particular article has also already been translated into Spanish).

  3. Jim Till said

    See also: Harvard response to White House RFI on public access policies, Stuart Shieber, The Occasional Pamphlet, January 22, 2010. [FriendFeed entry]. I added a comment to this blog post: “I hope that this very well-prepared set of recommendations receives the attention that it merits.”

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