Open Sesame for Open Access

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Following on the heels of efforts of the United States in early 2013 to increase access to federally funded research,  the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Natural Science Foundation of China have announced on May 15 that from now on all research produced by scientists at CAS and all papers produced by NSFC grants must be archived in open access databases within one year of publication.   The development has been widely reported in the trade press, such as Chemistry World and Nature.  These magazines also report that the Ministry of Science and Technology may take a similar approach with respect to their funded research. 

The notice of the Natural  Science Foundation of China noted that  “An important tool in promoting development is publicly funded scientific research, which is the knowledge creation of society that supports innovation.  The publication of funded research papers is a knowledge resource of the whole of society.  When the whole of society can obtain this information, the dissemination of knowledge and its utilization will be promoted….”

China has taken a “green” path to open access by providing for open access after one year.  Open access in general has its supporters and detractors.  While the benefit of wide spread sharing of information would appear obvious, detractors cite the role of publishers in maintaining publication quality, editing and indexing.  Access is facilitated by the availability of differential pricing in many parts of the world.

The White House statement was quite different by requiring policies from research funding agencies and noting as a consideration that publishing also has its role: “The Administration also recognizes that publishers provide valuable services, including the coordination of peer review, that are essential for ensuring the high quality and integrity of many scholarly publications. It is critical that these services continue to be made available. It is also important that Federal policy not adversely affect opportunities for researchers who are not funded by the Federal Government to disseminate any analysis or results of their research.”

Delayed open access, immediate open access, or relying on a market for exclusive rights for writers and publishers – which works better? Will China’s policies ultimately provide enough support for quality publications, which may depend on the services of professional publishers?  Or will the market ultimately find roles for all types of publication practices?

(photo is of the author with Alexander Graham Bell as a wax figure)

 

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