I have been working in science for close to 15 years; for some of that time as a PhD student and then as a postgraduate research scientist. Throughout that time, I have watched as the big science publishers have taken control of an ever-larger share of research journals and then subjected those publications to “pay walls”. In effect, what this has meant is that key research findings (and the associated data) are locked-away and available only to those who work for large institutions with the money to pay the steep subscription fees.
To counter this, an “Open Access” (OA) movement has arisen which encourages scientists to make their data and research findings available through OA journals. Whilst this movement has been mildly successful, a 2014 study estimated that only 24% of research papers are available through OA.
Now a coalition of European funding agencies called “cOAlition S” have come together and agreed that from 2020, research results arising from projects that they have funded can only appear in OA journals. Writing simultaneously in PLOS Biology, Frontiers in Neuroscience and PLOS Medicine, the president of Science Europe, Marc Schiltz explained:
Universality is a fundamental principle of science… only results that can be discussed, challenged, and, where appropriate, tested and reproduced by others qualify as scientific. Science, as an institution of organised criticism, can therefore only function properly if research results are made openly available to the community so that they can be submitted to the test and scrutiny of other researchers. Marc Schiltz, 4 September 2018
To this end, the following principle has been adopted by cOAlition S:
By 2020 scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants provided by participating national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms. Main Principle of cOAlition S
Ten supporting principles have been adopted to facilitate implementation.
This is an excellent move.
Key Australian funding agencies have already committed to a similar (albeit slightly more lax) policy through the FAIR Principles. For instance, the Australian Research Council has an “Open Access Policy” which states:
Any Research Output Published in respect of ARC Funded Research must be made Openly Accessible within a twelve (12) month period… it is acceptable for Research Outputs to be made Openly Accessible either in an Institutional Repository or somewhere other than an Institutional Repository, for example, through a publisher’s website, if the Published version of the article is Open Access with an associated licence, such as a Creative Commons licence. ARC Open Access Policy 2017.1
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) also has a similar policy as do many Australian universities. Unfortunately I could not find similar policies for Commonwealth Government funding agencies in my discipline area, including the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (AgriFutures), the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) or Horticulture Innovation Australia.
Let’s hope they get on board soon.
These views are my own, and do not represent the views of my employer.