Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Open Access Interviews: Johannes Fournier, speaking for the Global Research Council

Johannes Fournier
During a two-day inaugural Global Summit on Merit Review held in Washington last May — which was organised by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) at the request of the White House Office of Science & Technology (OSTP) — a new organisation called the Global Research Council (GRC) came into being.

Explaining the rationale for the new organisation, NSF Director Subra Suresh said, “This global summit is the first step toward a more unified approach to the scientific process. Science can rise above economic and cultural differences to help develop trust and clear the path for agreements in other areas. Global scientific collaboration expands the pool of knowledge that belongs to everyone and serves as a tool to improve health, security and opportunity throughout the world. Good science anywhere is good for science everywhere.”

The first initiative of the GRC was to publish a Merit Review Statement. Released at the end of the Washington summit, this outlines a set of principles for assessing funding applications, including the need to provide expert assessment, transparency, impartiality, appropriateness, and confidentiality, as well as integrity and ethical consideration.

But for Open Access (OA) advocates, a more interesting outcome of the Washington summit was the news that the GRC had decided to take up the issue of OA. As a result, at a second summit — to be held in Berlin at the end of May with representatives from around 70 research agencies — GRC will release consensus statements on both merit review and OA.

But what exactly is GRC, how will it be funded, what is its remit, and what precisely are its aspirations so far as Open Access is concerned?

To find out more I conducted an interview with Johannes Fournier, who works for the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Fournier is Program Director for the Scientific Library Services and Information Systems group, the unit within DFG’s head office which looks after information infrastructure and Open Access. As host of the upcoming GRC annual meeting, the DFG has taken the lead on the issue of OA, and Fournier took part in all the regional conferences that have been held in preparation for the May event.

Fournier is also assisting the GRC’s International Steering Committee in developing an action plan on Open Access. 


If you wish to read the interview with Johannes Fournier, please click on the link below.

I am publishing the interview under the CC BY-NC-ND licence. As such, you are free to copy and distribute it as you wish, so long as you credit me as the author, do not alter or transform the text, and do not use it for any commercial purpose. 

To read the interview (as a PDF file) click HERE.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rockefeller University Press: CC-BY is not essential for Open Access

The new Open Access (OA) policy that Research Councils UK (RCUK) plans to introduce on April 1st has proved highly controversial within the research community.
Mike Rossner
 Some have expressed concern over its preference for Gold OA (OA publishing), and its concomitant disdain for Green OA (self-archiving). Others have been angered by its vacillating attitude towards the appropriate length for self-archiving embargoes.

But what may turn out to be the most divisive aspect of the new policy are its licensing requirements, notably its insistence that when RCUK-funded researchers embrace Gold OA, and pay an article-processing charge (APC), the publisher must make the paper available under a CC-BY licence.

Adding to the discomfort of those who are unhappy with this funding condition, on the same day (April 1st) the UK’s Wellcome Trust  — which was highly influential in the development of the RCUK policy — will introduce a similar rule.

The divisiveness of this new licensing approach is, perhaps, no better demonstrated than the decision by the executive director of Rockefeller University Press (RUP) Mike Rossner to pen an editorial called “New mandates? No problem for The Rockefeller University Press”.

In the editorial, Rossner questions the need for RCUK and Wellcome to insist on CC-BY, and challenges their justification that it is necessary to do so in order to permit reuse of the research they have funded, particularly through text and data mining of papers.


It is important to note that over the years RUP has gained for itself an enviable reputation as one of the most (if not the most) OA-friendly of all the traditional publishers.

RUP insists on no more than a six-month embargo before the papers it publishes can be made freely available — and in fact it releases them all itself at that point. Moreover, unlike other subscription publishers, RUP licences all its content under the more liberal CC-BY-NC-SA licence.

In addition, Rossner has on a number of occasions publicly criticised other publishers when they have sought to derail OA — e.g. here and here.

Indeed, so OA-friendly did Rossner appear to be to OA advocates that in 2009 the OA advocacy group SPARC honoured him as a SPARC Innovator. As SPARC put it at the time, “Mike Rossner is an anomaly, of sorts, in the scientific publishing world. He is a force from within the establishment pushing for policies to make information more widely accessible and verifiable.”

Since then, Rossner has continued to prove OA-friendly. Last year he publicly supported the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) — which, amongst other things, would have reduced the embargo period specified in the Public Access Policy of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 12 months to 6 months, and required all the major agencies of the federal government to introduce the new strengthened policy too.

Likewise, Rossner publicly disavowed the publisher-sponsored Research Works Act (RWA), a US bill that would have had the opposite effect to FRPAA, reversing the NIH Public Access policy and preventing other federal agencies from imposing similar requirements on researchers. 

And last year Rossner — with SPARC’s Heather Joseph, plus Michael Carroll, and John Willbanks — co-founded Access2Research, and launched the petition that led to the recent executive directive ordering all US Federal Agencies with research and development budgets over $100M to develop public access policies within twelve months (referred to by Rossner below as the White House directive).