Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A call for Open Access supporters to favor grant proposals from researchers promising Open Access publishing

In the world of scientific research, perhaps the most critical step is the acquisition of funding to do research. A key component of grant reviews these days are "Release Policies" for data, tools and research materials. In general, the more "Open" one is with these release policies, the more likely one is to get a grant. This of course makes great sense. If one is going to keep ones data or tools or material private for as long as possible, then one is not advancing science as rapidly as someone else who did the same work but also released everything rapidly.

I believe now is the time for the same thing to be done regarding Open Acces publishing. One can use the same litmus test here. Imagine two grant proposals, to do identical work. And furthermore, asssume the researchers will succeed in their work. And one researcher promised to publish in an Open Access manner while the other promises to publish in a non Open manner. Again, assuming everything else is equal, I think the proposal promising Open Access publishing HAS to be scored higher than the one promising non Open publishing.

Certainly in NSF proposals this could be considered as a component of the Broader Impact criteria and people should write it into their grants. If anyone has any ideas about how this could be specifically incorporated into NIH or DOE or other grants please let me know.

So I call on researchers who support Open Access publishing in any way to start to bring this up on grant panels and in grant reviews. And to score proposals accordingly. That is, if someone has a record of publishing in Open Access journals, they should be moved up a notch compared to others. Just how much is a "notch". That should be up to individuals. But it is the principle here that is important - publishing in Open Access journals should be a component of grant reviews.


  1. That is a good point. Openness in general should be a plus be it formal publications, databases or any other form of disclosure.


    How about equal credit from NSF for authors who make their research Open Access by self-archiving it? Publishing in an Open Access Journal is just one of the two roads to 100% Open Access -- the "golden" road -- and not the fastest, surest, most widely used road, nor the one with the greatest immediate growth potential. The surer road is the "green" road of Open Access self-archiving, and it is that road that has already been endorsed by 94% of journals, and mandated by five out of eight RCUK research funding councils in the UK, plus the Wellcome Trust, plus 7 institutions and universities worldwide, including CERN. And it is the green road that the FRPAA, European Commission, Australia, the Bangalore Commitment (China, India Brazil) and Canada's CIHR are proposing to mandate. (Credit where credit is due: Let us not be color-blinded by "gold fever! The golden age's time will come...)

    Stevan Harnad
    American Scientist Open Access Forum

  3. Good point Steven and I thought I had chosen my words carefully to say that this was about Open Access publishing in any manner. That is why I said things like "in an open manner" and "open access." I slipped up at the end and said "Open Access journals". What I meant was Open Access in any way.

    A question about self-archiving. Do you know how many people who self-archive also deposit material into article databases like Pubmed Central? I believe one of the more convincing arguments in favor of the Open Access movement is the ability to guarantee long term free access to publications and thus worry about self archiving from that point of view.

  4. Lots of people with small grants are put off by the high publication charges of the good open access journals. A commitment from granting agencies to explicitly support these charges might encourage researchers to commit to incurring them.

    Something like: "Check this box if you promise to publish in open access journals, and we'll up your grant by 1%."

  5. Rosie

    I completely agree that funding agencies should support page charges for Open Access journals and many do. But it also costs money to develop software to be Open Source, and it costs money to release useful databases of ones data. Yet if someone had those in a grant proposal, they would get moved to the top of the heap, even though some of the funding was going to that part of the grant. Thus what I am saying is - if someone says they will publish in an Open Access manner, they should also be moved up if all else is equal. This might come at a cost to some other part of the work, but I think that is worth it.

  6. Many funding agencies do already explicitly allow (and in many cases actively encourage) the use of grants to pay open access publication fees.

    BioMed Central has collated a list of funders and their policies on open access publication fees.

  7. Matthew. I think you need a new category or to clear up a category. Do the funders give EXTRA money to support publishing in an Open Access manner? Or is it just that they allow the use of their funds to do this?