An Open Letter on Open Access | Slaw

flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2024-01-16


by John Willinsky

Dear Tri-Agency,

I was delighted to see your announcement last summer that the Tri-Agency, representing Canada’s major research funders (CHIR, NSERC, SSHRC), have decided to review your Open Access Policy on Publications. Your continuing efforts to increase the public’s ability to consult research and scholarship through this policy are admirable. Having seen your invitation for public input on the review process, I wanted to make a small contribution, as a professor of education who started a Public Knowledge Project 25 years ago to support public access to research, and as a school teacher before that keen to awaken young people’s interest in new areas of knowledge. Given the intellectual property rights at issue, I thought I might also take advantage of my Slaw column to make this an open letter.

The goal of your policy review is to further “peer-reviewed journal publications arising from agency-supported research [are] freely available, without subscription or fee, at the time of publication” (my emphasis). This last phrase represents the one change the Tri-Agency is currently considering. It involves eliminating the policy’s current allowance of an embargo period, which permits publishers to delay open access by 12-months after the publication first appears. At one level, gaining public access to research “at the time of publication” is no small thing. The first year of publication, especially for biomedical research, may well be when an article can have its greatest impact. The change will result in a small increase in open access (if only to authors’ final drafts) and will align Canada’s policy with a similar move by U.S. funding agencies scheduled to come into effect, following a parallel a review process, at the same time.

Given that you have set aside more than two years for this review, I’d like to propose expanding the agenda beyond this small, if still significant, adjustment to a public access policy that can be traced back nearly two decades in the U.S. At the time the policy originally took shape, publishers held that efforts to bring about open access to research violated their intellectual property rights in this body of work. First the American and then the Canadian funding agencies countered the publishers’ claim by, in effect, asserting their own proprietary claims to “agency-supported research,” for which they sought open access, if after an embargo period intended to protect the publishers’ subscriptions.

Today, it’s a different story for open access, following the pandemic and in the face of devastating climate change. Amid fake news and talk of post-truth, open access is currently held by publishers, researchers, and universities alike to be the future of scholarly publishing. Open access is seen as key to an open science movement that is proving vital to a global response to a wide range of threats to humankind. This consensus around open access’ value is taking a variety of publishing forms, from shifting publishing costs to authors from subscriptions to asking libraries to support open access journals. The question today is not about embargo lengths nor about who funded this or that study. It is about how to ensure that all of the science is open at a fair price. It is about how to bring about open access in a timely way, without the big publishers’ open-access profiteering, to which this and this study, among others, point. The question today, then, is far more about finding financially sustainable ways of making open access the operating principle for research because it is a better way to do science.

Here, then, is the Tri-Agency’s opportunity to demonstrate Canada’s research leadership (if perhaps in association with its American research-funding counterparts). It certainly has the power to convene scholarly publishing’s stakeholders around this emerging open access consensus. By calling,


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Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) » flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks

Tags: oa.policies oa.sustainability oa.canada oa.pkp oa.infrastructure oa.chir oa.nserc oa.sshrc oa.funders.public oa.funders oa.advocacy oa.copyright oa.embargoes oa.recommendations oa.subscribe_to_open

Date tagged:

01/16/2024, 03:07

Date published:

01/15/2024, 22:07