CBCRA Policy on Open Access

Peter Suber’s SPARC Open Access Newsletter (Issue #100, August 2, 2006) includes a section entitled: The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA) provides OA to the research it funds. Excerpts:

The CBCRA doesn’t mandate OA to its research, although it’s thinking about a mandate for the future. It simply tries to provide OA to all the CBCRA-funded research that it can. Instead of doing this by contract, at the time of funding, it does it by painstaking requests for permission sent to grantee-authors and their publishers after they have published research based on CBCRA funding. First it tracks down authors and asks them to sign a license. Then it contacts their publisher and asks for permission to post an OA copy of the article to the CBCRA repository. It doesn’t send its queries until at least 12 months after publication, when publishers are more likely to agree. When it gets no replies, it sends out its letters again.

Using this arduous method since February of this year, CBCRA has been able to provide OA to about 25% of its research. About 62% of authors and 70% of publishers have agreed to the OA proposition. It’s considering a mandate in part to enlarge its OA coverage to 100% and in part to reduce or eliminate the large administrative burden of permission-seeking


The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA)

The CBRCA’s OA repository, hosted by the University of Toronto

The Spring/Summer 2007 edition [PDF] of CBCRA’s Breast Cancer Research Bulletin contains (on page 7/12), an item entitled: CBCRA Introduces Policy on Open Access. The text, in full:

CBCRA launched its Open Access Archive, hosted by University of Toronto Libraries, in May 2006. There are now more than 400 articles arising from CBCRA-funded research projects available on the site, which is linked to the Research Program page of the CBCRA website. The articles are grouped in the same six thematic categories that are used in our Research Portfolio.

CBCRA supports the underlying principle of Open Access: that the outputs of publicly funded research should be made available as widely and rapidly as possible. CBCRA expects this initiative to amplify the impact of the research on the generation of new knowledge, and on its practical applications. In addition, by providing unrestricted access to research outputs, the Alliance is supplying tangible evidence of the accountability of researchers to those who have sponsored the research and to the public.

This initiative clearly addresses two of CBCRA’s strategic goals: to publicize fi ndings of research funded by CBCRA and to develop CBCRA’s presence on the international stage, by making breast cancer research results available to anyone who has access to the Internet. The Archive also strives to ensure permanent preservation of the published research findings supported by CBCRA grants, organized in one location.

CBCRA’s policy on Open Access was adopted in April 2007 (see text box below).

The full text in the text box (note that the key word in the first sentence of the current policy is “requests”, not “requires”):

CBCRA Open Access Policy

CBCRA requests that grant holders supply an electronic copy of final, accepted manuscripts funded in whole or in part by CBCRA grants. These articles will be posted on the CBCRA Open Access Archive as soon as possible after publication. A publisher’s embargo period of up to six months will be permitted. The document must be either a publisher-generated PDF or the author’s final, accepted version, including changes introduced by the peer review process.

CBCRA encourages authors to retain copyright of their works whenever possible. Authors are encouraged to specify in the publisher’s copyright transfer agreement that they retain the right to make the article available in CBCRA’s Open Access Archive. Suggested wording:

The Journal acknowledges that the Author retains the right to provide a copy of the Publisher’s final version (preferred) OR the Author’s final version of the paper to CBCRA upon acceptance for publication or thereafter, for public archiving in the CBCRA Open Access Archive as soon as possible after publication.

CBCRA grant holders are asked to notify CBCRA by sending a copy of the signed agreement to e-archive@cbcra.ca.

If authors are unable to negotiate an amendment to the copyright agreement, CBCRA will work with the Author and the publisher to license back specific rights to facilitate posting the article on the CBCRA Open Access Archive. Authors may download the CBCRA licence agreement form from the Research Program section of the CBCRA website.

This policy relates only to the CBCRA Open Access Archive. If an Author also deposits her/his article in another open access archive (such as PubMed Central or an institutional repository), it is expected that s/he will notify CBCRA via e-mail (e-archive@cbcra.ca).

CBCRA has provisions in the grant application process to cover the cost of any article processing fees that may be charged for open access to publications in online journals.

Although it’s stated it the text of the policy that: “Authors may download the CBCRA licence agreement form from the Research Program section of the CBCRA website“, the licence agreement form hasn’t been posted yet at the CBCRA Research Program section. Janet Patterson, Communications Manager at CBCRA [Staff], kindly provided the information that the CBCRA website is under redevelopment, and when re-launched this fall (after the end of October) it will incorporate the licence agreement as a downloadable PDF. At that time, both the policy and the licence agreement will be prominently displayed.

The decision-making process of the CBCRA involves two stages: Firstly, the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) prepares recommendations. Secondly, these recommendations are submitted to the Board of Directors for approval. The Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the agencies that support the CBCRA: Avon Flame Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Network, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and the National Cancer Institute of Canada.

The membership of the Research Advisory Committee 2006/2007 includes 11 researchers and 4 breast cancer survivors. It’s the RAC that recommended adoption of the CBCRA Open Access Policy.

A well-known advocate of mandated Open Access Policies is Stevan Harnad. He has argued that policies that involve “requests” (as contrasted with “requirements”) have little impact on researchers’ compliance with such policies. See, for example, Success Rate of the First of the Self-Archiving Mandates: Southampton ECS, Stevan Harnad, Open Access Archivangelism, September 30, 2007. Excerpt:

In the US, the proposed NIH self-archiving “public access” policy was downgraded from a mandate to a mere request; adopted in 2004, it has failed, miserably (deposit rate <5%).

Will the current CBCRA Open Access Policy have little success in persuading CBCRA-supported researchers to include their publications in the CBCRA Open Access Archive? Some time must pass before this question can be answered.



  1. […] continues at tillje brought to you by cancer.medtrials.info and […]

  2. tillje said

    The membership of the CBCRA Research Advisory Committee 2006/2007 includes 11 researchers and 4 breast cancer survivors. It’s the RAC that recommended adoption of the CBCRA Open Access Policy.

    I’ve looked at the previous publications of the 11 researchers on the RAC, with a focus on the 10 publications (in the time interval 1996 to 2007) that have been highly-ranked by Google Scholar. The results that I obtained are available via Google Docs, here.

    The overall results for 11 RAC members indicated that the free full text was accessible for 63 of the 110 highly-ranked publications (57%). There was a great deal of variation in the results for individual RAC members. RAC members are selected to provide appropriate expertise in a range of disciplines or subdisciplines that are relevant to research on breast cancer. So, the variation in results for different RAC members is a reflection of the access policies for journals in different disciplines or subdisciplines. For example, this article, J Natl Cancer Inst, 1997 Apr 2;89(7):488-96, is freely accessible, while this article, Psychooncology, 2000 May-Jun;9(3):243-52, isn’t.

    Only a minority (32%) of the 63 freely-accessible articles had been archived in an OA repository. Twelve are in the PMC archive (19%) and 16 in the CBCRA archive (25%). Eight are in both repositories. It should be noted that many of these articles were not based on research that had been supported by the CBCRA (the exact number couldn’t be determined).

    It should also be noted that the 63 freely-accessible articles were published in the interval 1996 to 2007. So, access to the free full text often became available only after an embargo period of 6 months or more.

  3. Jim Till said

    A message posted on the CBCRA website states (in part) that: “… we will be concluding CBCRA in its present form at the end of Phase III. As of April 1, 2010, no new CBCRA research programs will be launched and the secretariat will be closed “.

    It’s not stated anywhere in the message whether or not the Open Access Archive of the CBCRA (currently hosted by the University of Toronto Libraries) will continue to be available online.

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