Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Canadian Institutes of Health Research Moves to Back Open Access Science

Leave it to me to get my science news from a technology law blog, but at any rate I just learned from Geist that the CIHR (Canada's NIH so to speak) has introduced a new policy on open access publishing. It will now be mandatory for researchers to make sure all published CIHR-funded work is available online free of charge within 6 months. Good news. Except when the publisher of an article specifically prohibits this. Not-as-good news.

The new policy has good intentions to be sure - but will it actually lead to an increase in the accessibility of scientific publications, or will the publisher's copyright stipulations prevent this? A quick search of a few life science publisher's copyright policies reveals considerable variability in the freedoms they grant the original authors to share their research online:

Cell, Cancer Cell, etc. - Author cannot archive pre-print. Author can archive post-print on their own server given that the publisher is cited and linked to, but the publisher's print or PDF cannot be used.

Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Genetics, etc. - Similar to Cell, but pre-print is allowed and there is a 6-month embargo before post-print archiving is allowed.

Cancer Research - Archiving not allowed. Except for NIH researchers, who can archive 12 months post-print. (Look to see if this exception is also granted to CIHR researchers in light of the new policy).

PLoS Biology, Medicine - Author may archive pre- and post-print under a Creative Commons Attribution License. No restrictions.

Journal of Biological Chemistry - Similar to Cell, but pre-print is allowed.

Blood - Similar to Cell, except Wellcome Trust (British funding agency) researchers may submit to the Biomed Central Repository for a fee.

As it is common practice for scientists to send copies of their articles back and forth and free of charge upon request, I don't see how any of these restrictions are justified; making your article available for download just makes the process more efficient, and makes it easier for non-academic members of the public to read about science with their own eyes.


Glen Newton said...

You might also be interested in the recent Financial Times article on Open Access "The irony of a web without science" I talk about.