There was a great deal of interest in the recent ‘Open Access Week’. DFID-funded researchers are asking themselves both what is expected of them and what they could do.
Towards a DFID Research Policy on Open Access, a recent report by Peter Ballantyne for DFID, scopes how DFID Research could take forward an open access policy that will lead to greater public access to the research outputs it finances. It is not a policy for DFID; it provides some building blocks for such a policy.
The report provides a snapshot of the current situation across a wide range of projects. It is based on a series of face-to-face and electronic exchanges with people involved in research access and communication. It also draws on the large online literature and debate – but can hardly do justice to all the richness encountered.
Ballantyne highlights some open-access views and concerns among DFID research partners, points to a few cases and examples, and summarises ways DFID Research could make a difference:
1. Take a broad ‘open knowledge’ perspective. It is about more than journal articles.
2. In general:
- Require systematic deposit of outputs and metadata in open-archiving systems and repositories, including in a ‘UKPubDev Central’.
- Require appropriate acknowledgement of DFID funding.
- Encourage use of ‘open licenses’ that recognise authorship and enable re-use.
- Encourage use of open formats and standards.
- Encourage the development of open platforms and initiatives.
3. For different categories of outputs:
- Encourage publication in open-access journals (or hybrid journals).
- Provide funds for any open-access charges.
- Encourage authors and publishers to license articles for re-use, with attribution.
- Establish a complete ‘UKPubDev Central’ repository of DFID-supported outputs.
- Capture metadata centrally.
- Deposit outputs in proper institutional or subject repositories.
- Require that outputs and metadata acknowledge DFID sponsorship.
- Require that significant web content is permanently archived and accessible.
- Encourage the use of social media to report and communicate research.
- Require that projects develop a data curation and accessibility plan.
- In health and medicine, DFID to join the UK PubMed Central (UKPMC), adopting its policies on deposit and licenses already established.
4. In addition:
- Adapt DFID research contracts to mandate these provisions.
- Require each funding proposal to present an ‘accessibility plan’ or framework.
- Include funds for open access in proposed budgets.
- Include accessibility in regular reports of projects.
- Encourage content contribution to any specialised repositories or services.
- Support preferential access initiatives for developing countries.
- Support open-access journal publishing initiatives in developing countries.
- Contribute to awareness-raising efforts that explain open access and how it helps DFID and its partners achieve their scientific and developmental goals.
- Engage other research funders.
- Create an ‘open access to R4D’ fund to support and recognise initiatives.
An outstanding question is if and how such a policy should be applied retrospectively. It is important that current workflows and behaviours are quickly changed to ensure that all future outputs are captured and can be accessed for posterity. But actions are also needed across the community to ensure that what has already been created will remain accessible.