Global Research Council/DFG

Accessible. Open-access scientific publishing was a major topic for participants at the Global Research Council meeting in Berlin.

Research Funders Propose Steps to Promote Open Access

Martin is a contributing news editor and writer based in Amsterdam

A group of research funding organizations from around the world today put its weight behind open access (OA) to the scientific literature but stopped short of making concrete policy recommendations for its members. The landscape for research and publishing is too varied to come up with general solutions, leaders of the Global Research Council (GRC) said today at the end of the group's second annual meeting in Berlin.

For instance, GRC's Action Plan towards Open Access to Publications does not recommend making it compulsory for grantees to publish their work in journals that comply with an established OA policy, as some of its members do; it also doesn't wade into the hotly debated choice between "gold" and "green" OA models. (In the gold model, authors pay to publish in a journal that makes papers freely available on the web; in green, they publish in any journal but also "self-archive" their paper in a public repository.) Such issues differ from one region of the world to the other and also depend on the funder's mandate, said Peter Strohschneider, president of the German Research Foundation and co-host of the meeting, today at a press conference.

Instead, GRC proposes a list of actions that members can consider to raise awareness about OA, for instance by publicizing OA success stories or organizing workshops in developing countries. It also proposes action steps for supporting OA, such as encouraging publishers to develop new business models; monitoring the affordability of OA publication costs; and helping scholarly societies, many of which publish journals, to make the transition to OA. It's OK that different parts of the world will have "different velocities" when it comes to OA, Strohschneider says; "the important thing is that we're all going the same direction."

Long-time OA advocate Stevan Harnad, a cognitive scientist at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, says that the report should have strongly endorsed green OA, because it's "the most important, effective, and rapidly growing OA plan of action." If scientists—or their institutions—are obliged to make copies of papers available in their own electronic archives, gold OA at affordable prices will move ahead as well, he says, because journal subscriptions will become unsustainable.

In contrast, Harnad is strongly opposed to GRC's apparent support for so-called "hybrid open access," in which scientists can pay publishers to have the firewall removed from individual papers in a non-OA journal; that's a form of "double-dipping" by publishers, he says.

GRC was launched last year in Washington, D.C. This year's meeting, which gathered more than 50 international and governmental agencies, semigovernment organizations, and private funders, also adopted a 1-page set of principles concerning research integrity that funding agencies should adhere to. The Chinese Academy of Sciences will host next year's meeting in Beijing.

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