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Funder policies on Open Access Publishing PDF Print

This section covers the parts of funder policies that are concerned with Open Access publishing ONLY. It does not cover funder policies where they apply to the alternative means of providing Open Access, self-archiving.  Funder policies are primarily concerned with self-archiving but some of them have clauses that refer to Open Access publishing outlets (journals and books) and these are described briefly here.

Most funder policies mention Open Access publishing (journals and books) only in that they make a statement about encouraging grant holders to use such publishing outlets where possible. Most funder policies go no further than that, and none make this activity mandatory for the simple reason that no funder wishes to dictate where its researchers publish their findings.

Money for publishing charges

Some funders are prepared to make funds available - new money in the case, for example, of the Wellcome Trust, or existing money where they permit funds from the grant to be used - to pay article-processing charges (APCs) where these are levied by publishers. APCs are payable only in a minority of cases: approaching 60% of Open Access journals do not levy any charge.

Because funder policies differ in nuance on this issue, each has to be examined as an individual case to see whether additional funds are made available to uthors for paying APCs, and how these funds are transferred if so. The Wellcome Trust, for example, transfers cash to the institution in general, rather than to the individual authors whose work it supports by grants. The Wellcome Trust is also unusual in that it will pay publishers to deposit articles covered by Wellcome's Open Access policy into PubMed Central on the author's behalf. Other funders pay money relating to APCs directly to the author, while still others prmit the author discretionary use of existing grant funds for this purpose. And some funders do none of these, preferring to focus on the self-archiving route to open Access and avoiding involvement with formal publishing processes altogether.

Gratis or libre Open Access

Mostly, funders are not (yet) specific about the type of Open Access that the publisher must guarantee, but some have paid more attention to this issue. The Wellcome Trust has been the most thorough and specific on this point. Its policy insists on publishers permitting a more liberal (or 'libre') Open Access to articles rather than simple free online access ('gratis' OA). Libre OA means that at least some permission barriers are removed (as well as the price barrier that is removed by gratis OA). In the best cases, all permisison barriers are removed so that articles can be unrestrictedly re-used as well as freely accessed.

This is important because new technologies (data-mining and text-mining tools) are critical for research progress in the future. These tools can extract facts and data from article texts and graphics and put them together with data from other texts and graphics to make new knowledge.  The conditions of use of gratis OA do not necessarily enable the use of these tools: libre OA conditions do, and they also permit other types of re-use of the work, amongst them the freeing up of copying restrictions so that teachers can make full use of copies in their courses and the permitting of the re-use of parts of articles, such as graphs or tables, in new articles without the necessity of seeking permission from the publisher.

While the gratis/libre distinction has not yet become part of mainstream funder thinking, it will surely do so in future. Re-use of research findings is the foundation of e-research and scientific progress will increasingly depend upon computer-mediated approaches to generating data by mining and combining data from existing datasets. Funders that wish to see the best value created from their money will need to require libre Open Access in their policies.

File formats specified by funder policies

The follow-on from funder requirements for libre Open Access is that articles must be in a form that enables re-use. PDF (Portable Document Format) is not a suitable format. Text-mining tools cannot work effectively on PDF files: a flat PDF document does not even facilitate effective cutting-and-pasting of graphics. The best format for re-use is XML. Authors can make their articles available in XML by using the facilities provided in common desktop packages, such as MS Office.

Publishers almost routinely work in XML themselves because it brings a richness to their articles and enables specialised mark-up and linking. The Wellcome Trust stipulates that articles covered by its policy are deposited in PubMed Central in XML format. This is the type of policy that other funders will adopt in time in order to further the interests of researchers.