Posts Tagged OA policy

Open access – is the UK leading the way?

Novel scientific findings are disseminated via scientific journals. Currently, the scholarly publishing system has become dysfunctional and is in turmoil. The main reason is that the system was designed for the era of paper and print, not for the digital era.

For those involved in scientific publishing, the ‘ancient Chinese curse’ (more likely recent and Western) comes to mind: “May you live in interesting times“. The purpose of this post is to outline some relevant aspects of these ‘interesting times’, and to highlight some recent contributions made by the UK to the ‘Open Access Movement’. This OA Movement is increasingly seen as a solution to the currently-dysfunctional publishing system.

Some History

Scientific journals have a long history. The first scientific journal in English was the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Phil Trans), published in March of 1665 by the Royal Society of London. It was the first journal in the world exclusively devoted to science. It is still being published today, making it also the world’s longest-running scientific journal.

Thus, it was in London that scientific journals began. There was another academic journal that began publication, in January of 1665, in Paris. Later renamed Journal des Savants, it was more news-oriented than Phil Trans, was not restricted to scientific news, and subsequently became more of a literary journal.

The purpose of Phil Trans was to inform the Fellows of the Society and other interested readers of the latest scientific discoveries. But it accomplished much more, as described by Jean-Claude Guédon in an article, In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow, published in 2007. Phil Trans not only permitted scientists to communicate their discoveries and share knowledge. It also served as a public record of original contributions to scientific knowledge. In this way, it served as a public registry of intellectual property.

Such a registry meant that it was no longer necessary to use other (sometimes unorthodox) methods to ensure intellectual priority to the discoveries or insights of scientists. For example, J-C Guédon comments that Galileo had sent an anagram of the phrase describing his discovery of Jupiter’s satellites to Kepler (and to many others) in order to establish his priority. Phil Trans made such ingenious strategies unnecessary.

The founding editor of Phil Trans was the first secretary of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg. Oldenburg began the practice of peer review – sending submitted manuscripts to experts who could judge their quality before publication. Pre-publication peer review continues to be a feature of scholarly journals. Thus, a key feature of scholarly publications also originated in London.

Transition Toward Open Access

Now, after almost 350 years of existence, scientific journals are in the process of undergoing a major transition. The transition is away from journals being subscription-based, where the reader must pay a toll in order to have access, toward Open Access (OA), where no toll needs to be paid.

OA is the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. It’s the existence of the Internet that’s made OA feasible. Scholarly publishing is being reconstructed to adapt it to the Internet age, where the costs of distribution of electronic versions of articles are much less than the costs of distributing paper versions.

OA comes in two degrees. A distinction needs to be made between Gratis and Libre OA. Some OA literature is already digital, online and free of charge (Gratis OA). Some is not only free of charge, but also free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (Libre OA). A long-term goal of the open access movement is to foster the transition of as much as possible of the scholarly literature from toll access (TA) to Libre OA.

At present, there is an ongoing debate about how best to achieve this goal. The main debate is about the best balance between ‘Green’ OA and ‘Gold’ OA. Green OA is based on OA repositories. OA repositories do not perform peer review. Instead, they provide a venue for articles that have been peer-reviewed elsewhere. Gold OA is based on OA journals that do perform peer review. Peter Suber (in 2008)  emphasized that the Gratis/Libre distinction (see above) is not synonymous with the Green/Gold distinction.

A recurring criticism of OA is that it will lead to the traditional peer review process being abandoned. However, this criticism is factually inaccurate.

Gold OA Journals

The UK-based BMJ (formerly, the British Medical Journal) became, in 1998, the first major general medical journal to provide OA to its research articles. It also began to deposit the full text in the PubMed Central (PMC) repository, and to allow authors to retain the copyright of their articles. BMJ pioneered OA medical research articles. Non-research articles in BMJ ceased to be OA in 2005 (see Comments section here).

Another of the first OA journals in medicine, the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), published its first issue in 1999. JMIR is based in Canada. It’s a Gold OA journal that’s now the leading journal in Medical Informatics.

Some examples of early OA publishers are listed here and here.

The first of the large for-profit STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) OA publishers was BioMed Central (BMC), founded in the UK in 2000. Hence, a UK-based publisher was a pioneer in the establishment of Gold OA as a viable publishing option for a commercial publisher. In October of 2008, BMC was acquired by Springer, the 2nd largest STM publisher. BMC currently publishes over 200 peer-reviewed OA journals.

Another pioneering OA publisher is Public Library of Science (PLoS), which launched it’s first journal in 2003. It currently publishes seven peer-reviewed journals.

An increasing number of toll-access journals offer a hybrid OA option. Upon payment of a publication fee, individual articles are made OA. This provides two revenue streams to the publishers of hybrid OA journals, one from subscriptions, and one from publication fees.

The hybrid OA model has led to concerns that publishers may be “double-dipping”, because they receive the Article Processing Charges (APCs) but do not reduce subscription fees.  Royal Society Publishing provides one recent example of a publisher of hybrid OA journals that has promised to implement a transparent pricing policy. As has been pointed out by Stuart Shieber, it’s difficult to determine whether or not double-dipping is happening.

Costs of Gold OA

Of course, the publication of articles involves costs. Gold OA does away with the use of subscriptions to cover these costs. Instead, there are a variety of other ways to cover the costs of publication. The description of each journal listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) includes information about whether or not a publication fee is charged. Many of the journals listed in the DOAJ do not have APCs.

Also, OA journals that do have APCs commonly offer a fee waiver for authors with limited financial resources. Examples are the waivers offered by PLoS  and by Frontiers.

However, within the biomedical sciences, the prevalent approach of publishers is to require the authors (or their funding agencies or institutions) to pay an upfront APC for Gold OA. For example, in 2002, BioMed Central’s business model evolved to include APCs, and these have been BMC’s primary source of revenue since then,

A major advantage of Gold OA is that articles are publicly accessible immediately upon publication. A major disadvantage is that the APCs can be costly. At the high end is Cell Reports (Cell Press), where the APC is US$5000.

The APC for Open Biology (Royal Society Publishing) is much lower, at US$1932, and is currently being waived. The APC for the very popular journal PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science) is even lower, at US$1350.  A recently-launched (2011) journal that’s analogous to PLoS ONE is Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Its APC is also US$1350. A comparison of APCs has been provided by the OA publisher BioMed Central. The APCs of BMC itself are in the £1075-£1230 (approx. US$1665-$1905) range.

A list of Publishers with Paid Options for Open Access (publishers that provide hybrid OA) is available via the SHERPA/RoMEO website, but the list and the information about APCs may not be up-to-date. Nature Communications (Nature Publishing Group) is at the high end (US$5000 per article). The hybrid OA option of Royal Society Publishing (US$2380) is less expensive.

A novel approach to OA publishing is the new journal eLife. It is supported by three influential research funders, the Wellcome Trust in the UK, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the USA, and the Max Planck Society in Germany. It will begin publication in the winter of 2012-13. The APC for eLife has not yet been announced, but will be waived while the journal is being established.

An even more novel approach is being used by PeerJ, a new OA publication that will be open for submissions in the last quarter of 2012. PeerJ will not depend on either subscriptions or APCs as sources of funding. Instead, every author must have a membership plan in order to publish in PeerJ. The plan is good for the life of the author, so long as the author meets a requirement to submit a review at least once per year.

One could regard the PeerJ membership payment as a one-time-only submission fee. Pricing of the membership  ranges from US$99 (one publication per year) to US$299 (unlimited publications per year). If a manuscript has more than 12 authors, then only 12 authors need to have a paid membership plan.

All of the journals mentioned above provide Gratis OA. Not all provide Libre OA. One needs to look at whether or not a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) is being used. CC-BY is the most accommodating of the Creative Commons copyright licenses and provides Libre OA.

Green OA Via OA Repositories

Green OA requires that the authors deposit their works in OA repositories. A pioneering OA repository for electronic prepublications of scientific articles was ArXiv, established at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA in 1991 (it moved to Cornell University in 2001). ArXiv provides public access to e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics. The e-prints are not peer reviewed, but moderators review submissions and may reject or recategorize any that are deemed inappropriate or off-topic.

In 2000, PubMed Central (PMC) began operation. An examination of it’s history shows that the ArXiv was the primary conceptual model for what became PubMed Central. PMC is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. It’s sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PMC International currently supports UKPMC (operational in 2007; will become Europe PMC in November 2012) and PMC Canada (operational in 2009). UKPMC was the first participant in PMC International, and the change in name of UKPMC is in recognition that the European Research Council (ERC) will be the third European funder to join UKPMC.

PMC is, in part, a national repository that captures the output of publicly funded research (especially, research supported by the NIH). The Public Access Policy of the NIH, implemented in 2008, requires that final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds be accessible to the public on PMC no later than 12 months after publication.

There are other kinds of repositories, including many institutional repositories. The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) and the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) list over 2000 research institutional or departmental OA repositories worldwide.

A major advantage of Green OA is that it costs authors nothing to self-archive an article in an OA repository, if a suitable one is available. There are no submission fees. A disadvantage is that there is much variation across different journals in their restrictions on Green OA. A useful database of the policies of various journals is available at the SHERPA/RoMEO website. For example, Nature permits the author’s version of an accepted paper (the unedited manuscript) to be archived in PMC and/or in the author’s institutional repository, for public release six months after publication. Such embargoes on public access are a major drawback of Green OA.

Although there is an ongoing debate about the optimal balance between Gold and Green OA, policy decisions are being made about how best to foster the transition from TA to OA (see below).

Political Appeal of OA

Various observers describe today’s global economy as one in transition to a “knowledge economy,” as an extension of an “information society.” In the UK, David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, has articulated a vision of a knowledge economy supported by OA – to provide public access to publicly funded research results. In a speech made on 2 May 2012 to the Publishers Association annual general meeting in London, he said:

The evidence underpinning our ambition for public access is compelling. For example, publicly funded and freely available information from the Human Genome Project led to greater take up of knowledge and commercialisation than from earlier protected data. To date, in fact, every dollar of federal investment in the Human Genome Project has helped generate $141 for the US economy. Separately, a report this year from the US Committee for Economic Development has concluded that the US National Institute of Health’s policy of open access after one year has accelerated scientific progress and the transition from basic research to commercialisation; generated more follow-on research and more citations; and reduced duplicate or dead-end lines of inquiry – so increasing the US government’s return on its investment in research. The researcher Philip Davis, meanwhile, has found that when publishers randomly made certain articles open access on journal websites, readership increased by up to 250% compared to protected articles.

Thus, David Willetts emphasized the economic impact of the Human Genome Project,  highlighted information provided in a 2012 report [PDF] about the Public Access Policy of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) , and referred to the relevant work of Philip Davis.

The Finch Report

In October of 2011, David Willetts had already set up the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings (‘Finch Group’). It was chaired by Dame Janet Finch DBE, Professor of Sociology at Manchester University and independent co-Chair of the Council for Science and Technology. The Group’s role was to examine how UK-funded research findings could be made more accessible.

The membership of the Group, 16 in all, included OA advocates and other interested  parties. The latter included representatives of large commercial for-profit publishers (Springer, Wiley Blackwell). The presence of these representatives took into account the fact that the UK is home to a vigorous academic and scholarly publishing industry. Did these representatives drive the policy direction taken by the Group? It seems more likely that the publishing industry is in ferment, and that the representatives of publishers were not in a position of strength.

The report from the Finch Group (the Finch Report) was published on June 18, 2012. On July 16, 2012, there were three major announcements that signaled a transformation of OA policy in the UK. Firstly, the UK government announced that it had accepted the recommendations included in the Finch Report, and plans to have better access to British scientific research and academic papers by 2014. Secondly, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced a new OA policy, applicable to all qualifying publications being submitted for publication from April 1, 2013. Thirdly, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced plans to make publicly-funded research more freely available after 2014.

As Peter Suber has pointed out in an editorial in BMJ, “These announcements signal a massive shift towards open access for publicly funded research in the UK…“. In a much longer essay, Tectonic movements toward OA in the UK and Europe, he has analyzed this “massive shift” in a very thorough way.

Gold OA Preferred Over Green OA

The Finch Group expressed a strong preference for Gold OA over Green OA. According to a clarification of the RCUK policy, in comparison with the Finch Report, RCUK also prefers Gold OA, but, if a suitable Gold OA option isn’t available, will accept Green OA, with an embargo of no more than 6 months for science papers (12 months for papers in the humanities and social sciences).

The main concern about the preference for Gold OA expressed by the Finch Group and the RCUK is that a transition to Gold OA, without taking full advantage of Green OA, is needlessly expensive (see, for example, Open Access Evangelism and Key Questions for Open Access Policy in the UK).

On September 7, 2012, the UK government announced that it will provide an extra £10 million to help to cover these transitional costs. A sentence from the announcement: “The investment will be made to 30 institutions receiving funding through Research Councils and UK higher education funding councils“.

The extra £10 million will apparently be a one-off transfer of money from elsewhere in the science budget. The RCUK announcement includes plans to provide block grants to support payment of APCs. Any additional funds that may be needed must come out of the already-stretched budgets of funding agencies and universities.

One of the key benefits of OA, from the perspective of the RCUK, is “the potential it offers to the research community (and beyond) to mash, mine and mix information and knowledge.  This provides real opportunities to substantially further the progress of research and innovation“. Libre OA is required if this potential is to be fully realized. This is a reason why the Finch Group and the RCUK have endorsed Gold OA and a CC-BY copyright license.

What’s Next?

Will other countries join the UK in its efforts to implement a transition to Gold OA? An answer came quickly. On July 17, 2012 – only one day after the announcements in the UK – the European Commission announced that, as of 2014, all scientific publications produced with funding from Horizon 2020 will have to be OA. Horizon 2020 is the EU’s Research & Innovation funding program for 2014-2020. Apparently, equal weight will be given to Gold and Green OA.

The Reputation Issue

Studies of authors’ views about factors that influence their choice of a journal as a venue for publication have identified journal reputation as a major factor (see, for example, here and here). A very widely used indicator of a journal’s reputation is it’s Impact Factor, which is the average number of citations received per paper published in that journal during the two preceding years. There have been many criticisms of the Journal Impact Factor (see: Sick of Impact Factors and Impact Factors: Use and Abuse). A problem for Gold OA journals is that few are more than a decade old. Time is required for a journal to develop a very favorable reputation.

In the age of blogs and social networks, it’s the impact of the article itself, not its venue, that needs to be assessed. Alternative metrics (‘altmetrics‘) are under development.


Will the ‘Reputation Issue’ pose problems about compliance with these new policies in the UK and Europe? The Wellcome Trust (a charitable foundation in the UK that supports biomedical research) has had concerns about compliance with its own OA policy. On June 28, 2012, it announced that it will be tightening up enforcement of the OA policy.

One of the three steps included in the strengthened policy is that Wellcome-funded researchers must be compliant with the Trust’s OA policy before any funding renewals or new grant awards will be activated. Again, it seems likely that a policy initiative that has originated in the UK may serve as a model for other funding agencies, beyond the UK as well as within it.

Sir Mark Walport, director of Wellcome Trust and a champion of OA, has been appointed to take over as UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser in April 2013.

What About the USA?

As noted above, the NIH already has a Public Access Policy. The rate of compliance with this policy currently stands at a respectable 75%. However, a lengthy embargo period of up to 12 months is permitted.

In May, 2012 a petition was created, on a White House website, to advocate implementation of OA policies for all US federal agencies that fund scientific research. The petition has obtained over 30,000 signatures, more than the threshold of 25,000 required to evoke an official response. So far, there’s been no response. The response, Heather Joseph has said, “could be as weak as a simple acknowledgement, or as strong as a policy statement or directive“.

The timing of the petition was no accident. The bipartisan Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was reintroduced into the Senate (S 2096) and the House (HR 4004) in 2012. FRPAA proposes to extend the NIH policy to other federal agencies, and to shorten the permitted embargo from twelve months to six. A FAQ about FRPAA has been provided by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

There has been strong opposition to FRPAA from journal publishers. A main point of opposition is the proposed reduction of the duration of the permitted embargo from 12 months to 6 months.

The House and Senate bills have been referred to committee, and no prompt action seems likely.

Is the UK leading the way during the transition from TA to OA?

The short answer to this question is, I think, “At present, yes”. The announcements in July (see the section on the “Finch Report”, above) have been identified by Bernstein Research, in a very substantial report (PDF) dated September 10, 2012 as “the revival of OA“. I agree.

Will this initiative be successful? Stevan Harnad is a long-time advocate of emphasizing Green over Gold OA during the transition period. He has predicted that, if the RCUK policy isn’t modified, “the UK will lose its historic leadership of the global open access movement along with a good deal of public money that could have been spent on supporting more research…”.

The policy leadership provided by the July announcements was a surprise. It’s a bold attempt to achieve Libre OA  within a very few years. In Stephen Curry on Open Access, post-Finch, dated August 20, 2012, Stephen Curry is quoted as saying (in part):

I have the sense that things are less up in the air now, because the UK has nailed its colors to the mast, but it depends if their policy will win the heart and mind of the scientific community.

In Conclusion

The only prediction that I’m willing to make is that there will be further surprises.

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Important contributions to OA in Europe

There have been some noteworthy contributions to the Open Access (OA) movement in Europe over the past week.

1) In the UK, the government announced that all UK-funded research will be OA within two years. An interesting commentary about this announcement has been provided by Mike Taylor, accessible via the link in his tweet:

2) The Research Councils UK (RCUK) has strengthened its OA policy, summarized here. The announcement is available via the link in this tweet:

3) The the European Commission (EC) has backed calls for OA. See:


4) The European Research Council (ERC) has announced that it will participate in the UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) OA repository service, and that the repository will be rebranded as “Europe PMC” by 1 November 2012. A link to information about this announcement is included in this tweet:

Comment: Will these important contributions to the OA movement give rise to analogous contributions in other nations? I hope so.

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Political theater about public access to federally funded research

On July 29, 2010, the Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled: “Public Access to Federally-Funded Research”. The hearing was chaired by Subcommittee Chairman Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO).

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has posted a news item about the hearings, entitled: Summary: Hearing on Public Access to Federally Funded Research, dated August 12, 2010.  Excerpt from the last paragraph of this summary: “Next steps: Congress will be in recess until September 9, so any further action on this issue or related legislation will happen after that point.”

There was a webcast of the hearings (2 hr 14 min) and a video is available. Copies of the Opening Statement of Chairman Clay and of the Prepared Testimony of the ten panel members are available here.

Some information about the video (the total duration of the hearing was 2:14:00):

  • 3:10 End of Chairman’s Opening Statement.
  • 7:30 End of statement from Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
  • 7:35 Introduction of Panel I.
  • 9:40 Beginning of reading of Prepared Testimony by each of three members of the first panel. Each member was given 5 minutes to present their testimony. (All had concerns about government-mandated public access to the outputs of federally funded research).
  • 26:10 End of Panel I presentations and beginning of first question period. Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Judy Chu (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Chairman Clay asked questions.
  • 1:07:25 End of first panel.
  • 1:09:00 Introduction of Panel II.
  • 1:13:35 Beginning of reading of Prepared Testimony by each of six members of the second panel. (All were supporters of public access to the outputs of federally funded research).
  • 1:43:15 End of Panel II presentations and beginning of second question period. Chairman Clay was the only Representative still present, and he asked several questions.
  • 1:59:10 End of second panel.
  • 2:00:15 Introduction of Panel III.
  • 2:01:30 Beginning of reading of Prepared Testimony by the single member of the third panel, Dr. David Lipman (Director, NCBI, NLM, National Institutes of Health).
  • 2:05:50 End of Panel III presentation and beginning of third question period. Again, Chairman Clay was the only Representative still present, and he asked several questions.
  • 2:14:00 End of hearing.

Summaries of Twitter messages (tweets) about the webcast have been posted here and here. The emphasis is on the Panel II session.

Another commentary about the hearings is: House Holds Hearing on Status of Open Access, FASEB Washington Update, August 6, 2010. The emphasis is on the Panel I session.

Comments: How to review this video, as an example of political theater? First impression: it was based on three one-act plays. Each one was nicely staged. Second impression: the model for these plays was one of the “Judge So-and-So” programs that can be seen on television. In such programs, the judge listens while various people present their different versions of a dispute, and tries to decide who is being deceitful and who isn’t. Representative Clay played the role of “Judge Clay” very well. Most of the supporting cast were also excellent (although perhaps Representative Maloney spent more time in the spotlight than was really necessary). There were even some humorous moments.

What was the purpose of this particular example of political theater? It served well as a tutorial about the OA movement. However, Representative Clay was the only member of the House to benefit from the full tutorial. The other three Representatives were present and asked questions only during the first act. Then, they left.

Were these hearings simply a prelude to further legislative action or an executive pronouncement? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

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UCLA survey of knowledge about the NIH Public Access Policy

Measuring Capacity and Effectiveness of NIH Public Access Policy Programming as a Model for Open Access by Tania Bardyn and 4 co-authors, UCLA Louis M Darling Biomedical Library. Dated July 24, 2010 in the University of New Mexico DSpace repository.

Abstract: This file contains the presentation slides from Ms. Bardyn’s presentation at the Evidence Based Scholarly Communication Conference, March 11-12, 2010, in Albuquerque, NM. [PDF of 44 presentation slides].

This was a “Survey of Translational and Other Researchers’ Knowledge of the NIH Public Access Policy at UCLA“.

  • From Slides 3, 9 & 10: Translational researchers at UCLA (N=?) and attendees at 8 NIH Workshops (N=103) were surveyed. The survey took place between Nov. 30, 2009 and Dec. 15, 2009.
  • From Slide 13: 72.5% of responses (50/69) were from the David Geffen School of Medicine.
  • From Slides 15 & 17: Of 69 respondents, 51% did not attend an NIH Workshop at UCLA. And, 51% were Translational Researchers.
  • From Slide 16: 74% (51/69 respondents) answered “Yes” to the question: “Are you currently involved in any NIH funded research?
  • From Slide 26: 50% (32/64 respondents) did not know the stated intention of the NIH Public Access Policy.
  • From Slide 36: Of 65 respondents, 43% had successfully submitted an article to PubMed Central.
  • From Slide 37: Of 65 respondents, 95.4% answered “No” to the question; “Have you made any attempts to retain your copyrights when publishing in an academic journal?“.
  • From Slide 38: Knowledge Sharing: 89% (24 respondents) of NIH Workshop Attendees answered “Yes“; 49% (17 respondents) of Translational Researchers answered “Yes“.
  • From Slide 42: Quote from survey respondent at UCLA, December 2009 (about future training on the NIH Public Access Policy): “I think it is more efficient for the NIH website or other external website to provide such training. The issues are the same at all universities and it is not clear why each institution should provide this information. Since the NIH requires IDs on papers in biosketches and progress reports, that affects investigators competitiveness on grants which is much stronger motivation to comply with the policy than mandated training by UCLA which will force investigators to know the policy, but not necessarily comply with the policy.”
  • From Slide 43: 57% (37/65 respondents) answered “Yes” to the question: “Do you think you need further training on this issue?“.

Comments: The response rate was not high for this survey. Of 103 NIH Workshop Attendees, only 43% of 69 survey respondents were sure that they had attended a Workshop. So, the response rate from NIH Workshop attendees was 0.43×69/103=29%. It’s not stated how many Translational Researchers were surveyed, but it’s unlikely that the response rate for the Translational Researchers was higher than it was for the NIH Workshop Attendees.

Might the survey results be biased in a way that yielded an underestimate of knowledge about the NIH Public Access Policy by translational and other researchers at UCLA? This also seems unlikely.

A question that wasn’t answered in the slide presentation: were the 28 respondents who had successfully submitted an article to PubMed Central (see Slide 36/44) also the most knowledgeable about the NIH Public Access Policy? (If not, does it matter?).

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Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s OA policy

HSF Open access to research outputs policy: Guidelines, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Last updated: June 29, 2010. [FriendFeed entry]. Excerpts:

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s (HSF’s) mission is to lead in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy. To that end, HSF is committed to enhancing the application of research results. By adopting this policy, HSF expects that the cutting edge research we fund will be freely accessible and useable for the international research community, policymakers, health care administrators, clinicians, and the public.


This policy applies to all publications which report work and findings obtained with the support, in whole or in part, of any type of grant awarded June 1 2010 and onward from the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF). HSF also encourages immediate compliance with this policy by researchers publishing work supported by HSF grants received before June 1 2010.

HSF recognizes that there may be reasonable limitations and exceptions to compliance. However, researchers are expected to make every effort to comply and must notify HSF staff immediately when there are exceptions or limitations.


HSF covers expenses that researchers reasonably may incur related to publishing in Open Access or hybrid scholarly journals.

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Preliminary data about CIHR-supported publications cited in PubMed

Technical Bulletin No. 372 of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) was posted on January 5, 2010. Excerpt:

Effective mid-October 2009, when a published article has an acknowledgement of funding support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), that information is added to the PubMed journal citation.

At present, a search using the country name alone (a search on ‘canada [gr]‘) retrieves the relevant records, because CIHR is the only Canadian organization in the Grant Number field in PubMed at this time.

Thus, it’s now feasible to obtain, via PubMed, data that will provide  indicators of compliance with the Policy on Access to Research Outputs of the CIHR. This policy “applies to all grants awarded January 1, 2008 and onward, which have received funding in whole or in part from CIHR“.

For example, the Advanced Search option in PubMed can be used to obtain an estimate of the total number of CIHR-supported publications with a publication date in the last 2 months of 2009. The result (search #1): 867.

Of these, links to ‘free full text’ were available for a total of (search#2): 82 (9.5% of 867). Of these 82 publications, 23 (28%) were published in PLoS ONE (search#3).

Analogous data can be obtained for several topics (such as ‘Cancer’). Total number of cancer-related (and CIHR-supported) publications with a publication date in the last 2 months of 2009 (search #4):  221. Number of these for which links to ‘free full text’ were available (search #5): 23 (10% of 221). Of these 23 publications, 7 (30%) were published in PLoS ONE (search #6). (The other 16 articles were distributed across 14 different journals).

Comment: As the Policy on Access to Research Outputs of the CIHR is implemented, one can expect to see an increase in the percentage of CIHR-supported publications (cited in PubMed) for which links to ‘free full text’ will be available. As noted in NLM Technical Bulletin No. 372:

A PubMed Central Canada manuscript submission system will be implemented in early 2010. This will be another source for grant information from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

(Note: the link to PMC Canada in the current version of NLM Technical Bulletin No. 372 is corrupted).

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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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What’s the future of OA?

Tom Wilson, in a message sent to the BOAI Forum on October 31, 2009, suggested that “… any strategy [for the OA movement] evolved today on the assumption that the future is likely to be the same as the past is probably going to fail“. Other excerpts:

No one knows exactly how the ‘open access’ movement will pan out ….. Strong advocacy of repositories is strong advocacy of the status quo in scholarly communication. ….. scholars are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and producing free OA journals on some kind of subsidy basis and any economist will tell you that social benefit is maximised by this form of OA.

Stevan Harnad, in a response to the same Forum, has reiterated some of his well-known perspectives:

The purpose of the Open Access movement is not to knock down the publishing industry. The purpose is to provide Open Access to refereed research articles. ….. The way to take matters in their [scholars'] own hands is to deposit the refereed final drafts of all their journal articles in their university’s OA Repository.

Comment: My own opinion is that both perspectives are tenable. I agree with Stevan Harnad that the most important short-term goal of the OA movement is to “provide Open Access to refereed research articles“. I also agree with Tom Wilson that ”No one knows exactly how the ‘open access’ movement will pan out” over the longer term, and that “the status quo in scholarly communication” seems likely to be unstable.

However, if the “status quo” is identified as a somewhat bewildering variety of options for scholarly communication that are changing quickly as technologies evolve, and are varying from field to field (and even across sub-disciplines in the same field), then this “status quo” may persist for quite a few years, before a smaller number of “best practices” become firmly established.

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More about compliance with WT’s OA policy

As noted in a previous post (dated June 9, 2009), Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust (WT) has reported data indicating that (for Trust-funded research papers published between October of 2007 and August of 2008) potential compliance was about 95%, but actual compliance hovered around 35%.

He recently discussed compliance with the OA policy of the WT in one of the presentations that are available via OASPA 2009 (presentations recorded at the 1st Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing, Lund, Sweden, September 14–16, 2009). His presentation is Open Access and the Wellcome Trust (video, 34 min, including a Q & A session).

At about 11.35 min, there’s a slide entitled: Issues – still to be resolved. Four issues are listed: Improving compliance with the OA mandate; Improving methods for researchers to meet author-side payments; Clarifying publishers’ OA policy; and, Working out how to flip the model from “subscriber pays” to “author pays”.

The next slide, at about 11.45 min, shows a plot of compliance (% of papers available in PubMed Central or UKPMC within 6 months of publication) for various dates between November 2006 and January 2009. The plot indicates an upward trend (an increase in compliance) from about 15% compliance on November 2006 to about 36% compliance by January 2009.

The next slide, at about 14.30 min, is entitled: What is being deposited? Data for Wellcome-supported papers in UKPMC are shown, for the period January 2007 to January 2009. During this period, only 16% of 3684 Wellcome papers in UKPMC were author depositions. The remaining 84% were publisher depositions.

The next slide, at about 15.15 min, is entitled: Improving compliance with mandate. Three problems affecting compliance are addressed: Problem in part – authors not self-archiving; …in part, publishers not having workflows to support “author pays” model; ..but, in part, we (funders) have not yet demonstrated the benefits of OA, something we are addressing through UKPMC.

At about 17.00 min, he remarks (not on a slide) that WT hasn’t used the “nuclear option” yet (has not told grantees that WT will stop funding those who don’t comply with the OA mandate).

At about 18.30 min, he begins to address the third problem, that: in part, we (funders) have not yet demonstrated the benefits of OA, something we are addressing through UKPMC. The purpose is to “give something back” to researchers, via new services at UKPMC.

From about 20.25 min to 25.15 min, he addresses the other three issues (other than Improving compliance with the OA mandate) mentioned on an earlier slide: Improving methods for researchers to meet author-side payments; Clarifying publishers’ OA policy; and, Working out how to flip the model from “subscriber pays” to “author pays”.

His final slide, which appears at about 25.15 min, is entitled: Take home messages (one of which is the need to take action on improving compliance). The Q & A session with members of the audience begins at about 26.45 min.

Comment: The OA policy of the Wellcome Trust is of special interest because the WT is involved in a pioneering effort to implement a strong mandate. So far, the WT has avoided use of the “nuclear option” to enforce compliance (the option that grantees who don’t comply lose support from the WT). Instead of focusing attention only on author self-archiving, other ways of improving compliance are also being explored, such as finding ways to enhance publisher depositions (currently, the major source of depositions). As of October 15, 2009, there have been 180 views of the video about Open Access and the Wellcome Trust. Close attention should be paid, by members of those agencies planning to implement strong OA mandates, to relevant information provided by the WT.

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CBCRA OA policy revised

An Open Access Policy was adopted by the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA) in April 2007. This policy was revised in April 2009, and can be accessed via the CBCRA Open Access Archive subsection of the Research Program section of the CBCRA website. The CBCRA OA Policy has changed from a request to a requirement.

Revised Policy [PDF]. Excerpt:

CBCRA requires that grant holders supply an electronic copy of final, accepted manuscripts funded in whole or in part by CBCRA grants, to be posted in 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.

The first sentence of the previous policy was:

CBCRA requests that grant holders supply an electronic copy of final, accepted manuscripts funded in whole or in part by CBCRA grants.

Note that the word “requests” in this first sentence has been replaced by “requires” in the revised policy.

For a post by Peter Suber in Open Access News about the previous policy, see: CBCRA formally requests OA to the research it funds, October 2, 2007. (Coverage of CBCRA in Open Access News can be searched via:

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