SSHRC Policy on Open Access

Christian Sylvain, the Director, Policy, Planning, and International Affairs of Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), made a presentation, Open Access and SSHRC, at Open Access: the New World of Research Communication, in Ottawa, October 12, 2007. (My thanks to Peter Suber, Background on the OA policy at the SSHRC, Open Access News, October 18, 2007, for a news item about this presentation).

This sentence in the abstract of the presentation caught my eye: “Discusses why SSHRC policy encourages rather than requires open access”. (See Policy Focus for SSHRC’s webpage about Open Access).

In the presentation by Christian Sylvain, there are two slides (slides 6 and 7 of 12) about the Open Access Consultation made, by SSHRC with the SS&H research community, from Aug to Oct 2005 (129 submissions received). Key findings included:

• Little knowledge of OA in general

• Lack of familiarity with institutional repositories, pre-print archives, moving wall access systems, creative commons licenses, etc.

• Concerns over financial viability of journals

• Ability for researchers to publish in international journals

• Nature and interoperability of repositories

Nobody disputed the logic of OA but no support for mandatory implementation”.

Why Not a More Aggressive Approach?

> To not undermine the sustainability of a great many SSH journals (most of which, unlike NSE and Health journals, are largely published by small not-for-profit publishers).

> To ensure that in the long-term the policy would make a difference (learn from Data Archiving Policy and Final Research Report)

So, what might have been learned from experience with the SSHRC Data Archiving Policy?

The SSHRC webpage about the SSHRC Research Data Archiving Policy was last updated on 21 September, 2007. Excerpt:

All research data collected with the use of SSHRC funds must be preserved and made available for use by others within a reasonable period of time. SSHRC considers “a reasonable period” to be within two years of the completion of the research project for which the data was collected.

For information about an evaluation of the SSHRC Data Archiving Policy, see: Data Archiving of Publicly Funded Research in Canada, by Carol Perry, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario, presented at the Access & Privacy Workshop 2006, Toronto, September 14, 2006. (For a brief summary of some of the results, see: Data Archiving of Publicly Funded Research in Canada, posted by Glen Newton, August 14, 2007).

A random sample of 173 SSHRC grant recipients from the 2004-2005 fiscal year was surveyed. The response rate was 75/173 = 43.3%. The results (on slide 5/11) indicated that 54/75 = 72% were not aware of SSHRC’s mandatory data archiving policy for all grant recipients. The results (on slide 7/11) also indicated that only 24/66 = 36% agreed with mandatory data archiving.

Impediments (slide 9/11):

•Lack of knowledge of government agreements & policies

•Ethical considerations/access by others

•Ethics board rules


•Cost of preparing data for archiving – who pays

•No current national data archive or data archive program in existence in Canada

What might have been learned from experience with the SSHRC Final Research Report (FFR)?

Some information about the development, implementation and validation of SSHRC’s web-based FRR is available via: Measuring the Outcomes of Funded Research, a presentation by Courtney F. Amo (SSHRC) at the AEA Annual Conference, November 5, 2004.

Lessons Learned (slide 16/18):

> Not going to solve the problem overnight

> Organizational commitment

> Importance of pre- testing, and pilot phase

• Validation of consultations

• Enhancements

> Consultations that make a difference

• Buy- in (e. g. staff and external community)

• Managing expectations

> Implementation

• Promotion

• Culture Change

The Next Steps proposed about Open Access and the SSHRC by Christian Sylvain (slide 11/12 of his presentation):

> Mainstream OA in the Aid to Scholarly Journals program
> Release more analytical reports
> Understand better the scholarly publication system and shifting role of lib., UPs, HEIs, learned societies, etc.
> Experiment with implementation (business models, nature of “article”, moving walls, etc.) and promote best practices
> Continue to work with other agencies, here and abroad
> Determine future role for SSHRC and nature of its OA Policy

A suggestion: SSHRC, although made wary because of scars inflicted as a result of previous efforts to implement mandated policies about Data Archiving and Final Research Reports, should take further steps toward the adoption of an Open Access mandate. One such step would be the establishment of an external Advisory Committee on Access to Research Outputs, analogous to the one established by CIHR.

A related issue that merits debate is the extent to which the host institutions of grantees could, or should, take responsibility for monitoring compliance with the mandated policies of funding agencies (including Open Access policies) and for taking steps to deal with any noncompliance by grantees located at those host institutions.


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