As interest in and support for open access grows, funders and institutions have responded by enacting their own open access policies. These polices are an important force within the larger open access movement as they encourage and sometimes require researchers to make their research publications openly available. Critics of open access mandates express concern over policies that appear to dictate where and how authors can publish and often cite academic freedom as an argument against such policies. Balancing a desire to support open access with the need to support researcher choice can be complicated for funders and institutions. As a result, the success of open access mandates is unevenly distributed across geographical regions and organizational structures.

Europe is Leading the Pack

In Europe, where funding is very centralized, there has been a concentrated effort to operationalize a broad open access policy referred to as “Plan S”. Plan S has been put forward by cOALition S, a group of national research funding organisations supported by the European Commission and the European Research Council. Its primary objective is to reach complete open access for all funded research by 2021. Since its announcement in 2018 stakeholders in Europe and across the globe have shared both their support for and criticism against the project and the proposed implementation strategy. In response to early criticisms, the original plan was pushed back a year in order to give publishers time to ensure their publications would meet Plan S requirements for authors. Other concerns have also been addressed by the addition of new principles. Despite these modifications, many are still concerned about the consequences – both intended and unintended – that Plan S will have on the academic publishing ecosystem.

North America has seen a much more uneven growth of open access mandates and while many notable funders do require open access (for example: The Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationNational Institutes of HealthNational Science Foundation), many others do not.

Individual institutions also have open access policies in place, with MIT and Harvard being notable examples. The University of British Columbia does not currently have an open access policy, but did issue a position statement in 2013 in support of open access.

A comprehensive database of funder and organizational mandates from around the world can be found at ROARMAP (https://roarmap.eprints.org/).

Canada’s Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

In Canada the Tri-Agencies released an open access policy on publications in 2015 which now requires all funded research published in academic journals to be made open access within 12 months of publication.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Take 5 with UBC Library – Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, The University of British Columbia, 2018.

Dig Deeper

To learn more about the impact of open access mandates, Review: Larivière, Vincent and Cassidy R. Sugimoto (2018). Do authors comply when funders enforce open access to research?


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