Canadian Tri-Agency Open Access Policy Feedback

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The results of Canada's Tri-Agency open access policy consultation have been released and are available on their website. Given the impact this policy will have on University of Windsor researchers, I'd like to provide a few comments on the policy and consultation results from a Windsor perspective. To provide some context, the objective the initial policy was to "improve access to the published results of research funded by the Agencies, and to increase the dissemination and exchange of research results." While this principle was broadly supported in the consultation results, there were of course concerns about the mechanisms for attaining them. In section 3.1 of the draft two options were provided to authors for providing open access to their Tri-Council funded work:

"Grant recipients are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication, either through the publisher's website (Option #1) or an online repository (Option #2)." (Draft Policy)".

There were a couple of key concerns raised  about these options that I will comment on here.

How will this policy impact the choice of venue for publication?

Looking at option 1, while there are a growing number of high quality OA journals it is true that the current selection of open access journals can be limited, and not every open access journal is the right choice in terms of content and impact. However there are many traditional non-OA journals that offer the option of paying for OA to select articles, something that would likely have to come out of tri-agency grants. However there are still journals that would not fall within the umbrella of OA or paid OA, and paid OA may not be a reasonable option for all authors. However this doesn't mean that you are forced to choose a less desirable venue for publication, which leads to option 2 - Posting in an online repository. Institutional repositories (IR) like Windsor's Scholarship at UWindsor that host research published by members of a university or institution are becoming more and more commonplace alongside of various disciplinary repositories like the ArXiv. An important feature of IRs is that they are journal agnostic and host articles published from a huge range of journals. As an author you publish in your journal of choice, and in that process upload a version of your paper to the repository. Most journals now have specific language dealing with this process and it is likely that the systematic distribution of articles as a result of a national mandate would require agreements between the funding bodies and publishers to ensure that authors can both publish in the place most relevant to their work while making an OA copy available in a repository. For Windsor authors, the Tri-Council policy shouldn't have an adverse impact on their choice of journals so long as they are comfortable with option 2 as their method of open access distribution. Again, it is important to note that option 2 works alongside publishing in a traditional journal, it does not preclude publishing in a traditional journal.

The Visibility of IR Content

IRs and disciplinary repositories often represent siloed collections of content running on different software platforms. While searching within specific IRs can be helpful in some cases (like searching for theses or large conference archives such as the OSSA archive: http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/ossaarchive) researchers obviously want to have a federated search that extends beyond a specific silo. Thankfully such a search has been in use for quite some time in Google Scholar. Most repositories including Scholarship at UWindsor are designed for indexing by Google Scholar and Google so that the content is easily discoverable there. Links to repository contents appear seamlessly in your search results as "PDF from UWINDSOR" in the same way that the libary's subscription content does. In addition, IR directories like OpenDOAR list and enable searching across thousands of IRs. Scholarship at UWindsor alone receives thousands of visitors a month and its contents have been downloaded nearly 200,000 times since launch. That said there may be limitations and room for improvement here. Google Scholar may be less optimal for non-English language research. The interfaces on sites like OpenDOAR could be improved, and indexing of IRs across the country could be supported and implemented at a national level.

It will be interesting to continue to watch the Tri-Council policy develop as it launches this fall 2014. However, given what we have seen so far the University of Windsor is well positioned to help researchers on our campus meet the requirements of the mandate. As always, comments questions and concerns are welcome and can be directed to me (Dave Johnston) or your library liaison.