by Jeremy Richards
Thoughtful people must not cede all power to politicians and business interests; we must make our voices heard across the full range of professional, social, and civic circles.
(p. 95: Karr, J.R., 2008, Protecting society from itself: Reconnecting ecology and economy, in Soskolne, C.L., ed., Sustaining Life on Earth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, p. 95-108)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tri-Councils to require open-access publishing?

The Canadian Tri-Council funding agencies are proposing to require researchers to publish in open-access journals (or make their accepted manuscripts available in online archives) starting in September next year. Information on this proposal is provided here, and a pdf of the proposal can be downloaded here.

While I am not opposed to open-access publishing, downloading the cost of publishing onto researchers (who will have to pay up to several thousand dollars per paper) will have a major impact on research budgets, at a time when the size of Tri-Council grants is shrinking for most researchers. It will also limit which journals we can publish in (many journals do not offer open-access publishing options).

It would of course be na├»ve to expect that the savings made by having researchers pay for their own publishing costs (as opposed to readers) would be passed down to researchers to help pay for these new costs. As usual, this is a one-way transfer of funding and benefits.

By the time my shrinking NSERC Discovery grant has been used to pay for increased graduate student costs and now the costs of publishing my and their work, there won't be much left of it. I suppose I should be happy that I still have a grant — 50% of my colleagues now do not. (Yes, I know the percentage is higher for SSHRC and CIHR researchers.) Without a grant, this new policy would presumably mean that you cannot publish anything, which will ensure that you never will get a grant!

Feedback on this proposal is being sought by NSERC until December 13 at:
Let them know what you think.

I had an informative chat with the people at the UofA's Education and Research Archive (ERA), who clarified some of the issues for me. My take on this is that everything depends on the publisher, and some publishers simply do not allow open-access publishing or archiving of accepted manuscripts. The proposed Tri-Council policy would effectively prohibit publishing in such journals (at pain of investigation under a breach of the "Responsible Conduct of Research Framework"). Speaking personally, this would mean that I could not publish in the top peer-reviewed journal in my field (of which I am also an Associate Editor).