Posts Tagged Wellcome Trust

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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More on compliance with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy

In a blog post entitled “Journals compliant with Wellcome mandate” (UK PubMed Central Blog, June 1, 2009), Robert Kiley noted 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%. The data were taken from slide 14/21 of a presentation that’s available via another blog post, “Funder mandates” (UK PubMed Central Blog, May 29, 2009). The potential compliance estimate of 95% is based on the percentage of journals used by Wellcome-funded authors that have a “Wellcome compliant” publishing option. The Wellcome Trust’s OA policy is available at: “Position statement in support of open and unrestricted access to published research” (last updated February 2008).

An estimate of somewhat more recent compliance can be obtained via PubMed. As noted in a NLM Technical Bulletin from the National Library of Medicine, dated May 12, 2006, the search term “wellcome trust [gr]” can be used to retrieve citations (created since June 2, 2005) indicating Wellcome Trust support.

When this search was done (on June 8), but limited to articles published in the last 1 year, the proportion of articles for which the free full text was available was: 1527/4223 = 36%. When the same search was done for articles published in the last 180 days, the proportion with free full text was: 594/2088 = 28%. So, the proportion of articles with publicly-accessible full text, published between 6 months and one year ago, can be estimated to be: (1527 – 594)/(4223 – 2088) = 933/2135, or 43.7%.

Recent compliance with the Wellcome mandate appears to be approaching 44%. Might the difference between the earlier figure of about 35% and the estimate of close to 44% be explained by articles that are publicly accessible, but not via PMC/UKPMC? Examination of a sample of 100 articles published between 6 months and a year ago (and cited by PubMed) indicated that, for about 6% of these articles, the full text was publicly-accessible only via the journal site, not via PMC. (Usually, the full text was publicly-accessible via both PMC and the journal site).

If the estimate is correct that compliance with the Wellcome mandate (Trust-funded research articles must be available through PMC/UKPMC within 6 months after publication) appears to be about (44% – 6%) = 38%, then recent compliance is  close to the estimate of about 35% (see above), and still well below the estimated potential compliance figure of about 95%.

Added June 18, 2009: More extensive sampling has indicated that, for Trust-funded articles published between 6 months and a year ago (and cited by PubMed), the percentage for which the full text is publicly-accessible only via the journal site, and not via PMC, may be higher than 6%, and may be as high as 10%.

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Comments on the future of OA

An essay by Peter Suber about The Opening of Science and Scholarship provides a concise summary of the ongoing struggle over control of access to the outputs of research and scholarship. The essay is one contribution to the Publius Project, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. See also: Two contributions to the Publius Project on OA, Open Access News, June 6, 2008. Excerpts from the essay:

Authors control the rate of OA growth, for three reasons. They decide whether to submit their work to OA journals, they decide whether to deposit their work in OA repositories, and they decide whether to transfer rights to a publisher.

Two large trends are determining the future of access to research. First, scholarly authors are gradually coming to understand the benefits and opportunities of OA. Second, a titanic struggle is taking place among institutions in a position to influence author decisions: universities, funding agencies, and publishers.

In the age of print, publishers could control access to research they did not conduct, write up, sponsor, fund, or purchase. One reason is that publishers controlled the most effective channel of distribution; but that has changed. Another reason is that the other stakeholders had not aroused themselves to pursue their own interests; but that is changing.

Universities and funding agencies are upstream from publishers. When they want to guarantee OA for their research output, and require their faculty or grantees to retain the rights needed to authorize OA (even if they transfer all other rights to a publisher), they can do so and publishers must accommodate them.


Will those Universities and funding agencies that wish to guarantee OA for their research output succeed in their efforts to convince their faculty or grantees to retain the rights needed to authorize OA? Several crucial experiments are already under way.

Among funding agencies, the Wellcome Trust in the UK is carrying out one of the major pioneering experiments. It has a strong policy that became mandatory for grantholders in October 2006. Specifically, the Wellcome Trust:

  • expects authors of research papers to maximise the opportunities to make their results available for free
  • requires electronic copies of any research papers that have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and are supported in whole or in part by Wellcome Trust funding, to be made available through PubMed Central (PMC) and UK PubMed Central (UK PMC) as soon as possible and in any event within six months of the journal publisher’s official date of final publication
  • will provide grantholders with additional funding, through their institutions, to cover open access charges, where appropriate, in order to meet the Trust’s requirements
  • encourages – and where it pays an open access fee, requires – authors and publishers to license research papers such that they may be freely copied and re-used (for example for text and data-mining purposes), provided that such uses are fully attributed
  • affirms the principle that it is the intrinsic merit of the work, and not the title of the journal in which an author’s work is published, that should be considered in making funding decisions.

A key issue: will there be compliance with the policy of the Wellcome Trust (WT) by publishers, and by grantees? For a post, dated February 24, 2007, about publishers’ compliance, see: Compliance with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy. Early in 2007, data provided by Robert Kiley of the WT indicated that 59% of biomedical publishers were compliant with the WT OA policy, 15% were in active discussion (with WT about the policy), 16% currently had no publicly-available policy, and 10% were non-compliant with the policy.

In a WT news item, Solid start for open access, dated February 21, 2008, there’s a summary of results of an initial study of compliance of grantees with the WT policy. Excerpts:

Just eight months after launching its new open access publishing policy, the Wellcome Trust has found that over a quarter of published, Trust-funded papers are freely available through the online repositories PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central.

The study, which focused on Trust-funded papers published in May 2007, showed that 27 per cent of papers published in this month complied with the Trust’s open access policy, by being made available through the online databases PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central within six months of publication. This is an increase on the 15 per cent figure for research published in December 2006.

Encouragingly, over 90 per cent of papers published in May 2007 were published in journals that comply with the Trust’s open access policy – a result of close cooperation between the Wellcome Trust and the major scientific, technical and medical publishers.

It’s noteworthy that, 8 months after the WT policy became mandatory in October 2006, over 90% of WT-funded papers were already being published in policy-compliant journals (even though only 27% of these papers could actually be accessed via the designated online repositories, PMC and UK PMC). More recent data aren’t yet available, but can be expected to show an increase in the proportion of WT-funded papers available via the designated repositories.

Among Universities, Harvard in the USA is at the early stages of an experiment that has attracted much attention. For some examples of comments about the policy (adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Science on February 12, 2008), see: Much ado about the Harvard OA policy. In early May of 2008, the Law School at Harvard adopted a similar policy. See: Harvard Law School joins Harvard FAS in mandating OA, Peter Suber, Open Access News, May 7, 2008.

This policy is currently being implemented. The office that will be responsible for implementing the policy is being set up. See: Stuart M. Shieber to lead new OSC, Harvard University Gazette, May 22, 2008. If the policy can be successfully implemented, it seems likely to be extremely influential.

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Compliance with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy

The BioMed Central Open Access Colloquium on “Open Access: How Can We Achieve Quality and Quantity?“, held on February 8, 2007, included a very interesting presentation by Robert Kiley, Head of e-Strategy of the Wellcome Library. His presentation was part of the session on “The open access imperative: where are we now, and where do we want to be?“, and was entitled: “Funding open-access publications“. His PPT presentation can be downloaded.

The presentation includes some noteworthy information about compliance of publishers with the OA policy of the Wellcome Trust (WT).

On Slide 6 of the presentation, it’s pointed out that “OA increasingly seen as a service – which publishers offer to meet the needs of funders and authors“.

So, what are the variations from publisher to publisher in relation to the provision of this service? Information from Slide 7 of the presentation:

Significant number of commercial and not-for-profit publishers now offer an OA option that is fully compliant with the Trust’s requirements (e.g. PLoS, BMC, Elsevier, OUP, CUP, BMJPG, Sage, Taylor & Francis)“.

Other publishers allow the author to self archive a version of the final article and make that available within 6 months (e.g. Nature, AAAS, AMA, Am. Physiological Assoc)“.

However, some publishers have policies that do not allow Wellcome-funded authors to publish in these titles. High profile publishers that do not offer a WT-compliant policy include the American Association of Immunologists, and the American Association for Cancer Research“.

Slide 8 presents information obtained via the RoMEO database. The data indicate that 59% of biomedical publishers are compliant with the WT OA policy, 15% are in active discussion (with WT about the policy), 16% currently have no publicly-available policy, and 10% are non-compliant with the policy.

Slide 9 shows that, of the WT-compliant publishers, 75% permit compliance via the self-archiving (Green OA) route and 17% via a paid OA option. Both options are offered by 8% of WT-compliant publishers.

Slide 10 presents data from the “PubMed 4000 study”, which “analysed papers indexed by PubMed, and attributed to WT funding, and looked to see if these were published in journals that had a WT-compliant policy“. Of these, 70% had a WT-compliant policy, 20% were in active discussion, 5% had no policy, and 5% were non-compliant. (A Google search didn’t reveal any other information about this “PubMed 4000 study”).

Slide 11 is entitled: “How are OA costs being met?“, and includes the information that “80% of the research that is attributed to the Trust, also cites another funder“. For this reason, the WT is “Investigating the feasibility of asking the researcher to estimate the relative contribution of each funder“. And, “Whilst we [the WT] are in this transition period, WT will – if required – pick up 100% of the OA costs for any research attributed to the Trust“. It’s also noted on this slide that: “Only 22% of OA funds made available to UK universities in the year 05-06 has been claimed“.

Slide 12 is entitled: “Total cost of paying for OA?“. Excerpts: “Providing OA to all the research papers it helps fund will cost the Trust between 1%-2% of its annual research budget“. … “If every single one of those papers was published as an open access article, with an average cost of £1650 per article, the total cost to the Trust would be £6.64 million; just over 1% of our annual research budget“. “Trust is rarely the sole funder of a research team, and more than 80% of papers that acknowledge our support also acknowledge the support of one or more other funders. In time these costs will be spread throughout the research budget and fall below the figure estimated here“.

The presentation ends with a quotation (2006) from Sir John Sulston: “Ensuring that the outputs of research are freely available to all is the best way to maximise their utility. Open access is good for science, the research community and mankind”.

The audio aspect of Robert Kiley’s presentation is also available.

I noted his comments about “WT-recalcitrant publishers“, and his remarks that “researchers have the power“. When they move (from recalcitrant publishers to other publishers), “impact … will follow them“.

Increasing numbers of funding agencies, with the WT in a crucial leadership role, have become major representatives of the public interest, in the escalating tug-of-war between those who support OA and those who, at present, do not. Information of the kind outlined above is badly needed, to foster evidence-based policy decisions by funding agencies.

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