Research Funders Require Public Access

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A growing number of funding agencies are adopting policies that require their researchers to make their publications openly available to the public and other researchers either by depositing their articles in an open-access repository or by publishing in an open-access journal.

Governments all over the world, including Canada, are recognizing that the public has the fundamental right to access the results of publicly funded research. And, consensus is building that enhanced access to research results helps to ensure that taxpayers get a full return on their investment.

In Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Policy on Access to Research Outputs came into effect on January 1, 2008. The preamble for the policy offers some insight into the underlying motivation:

Advancements in science and health care are made possible through widespread and barrier-free access to cutting-edge research and knowledge enabling scientists, clinicians, policymakers and the public to use and build on this knowledge.

To that end, the policy states:

Grant recipients are now required to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible within six months of publication.(2)

Similar policies are being considered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), as well as other federal and provincial research funding agencies. The CIHR policy is in step with research funding councils elsewhere. The U.S., U.K., E.U., Australia, South Africa, and many other nations are moving quickly to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by technologies to improve the visibility and impact of research.

(2) See