Back to Grey : Disclosure and Concealment of Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Abstract: The open access principle requires that scientific information be made widely and readily available to society. Defined in 2003 as a “comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community”, open access implies that content be openly accessible and this needs the active commitment of each and every individual producer of scientific knowledge. Yet, in spite of the growing success of the open access initiative, a significant part of scientific and technical information remains unavailable on the web or circulates with restrictions. Even in institutional repositories (IRs) created to provide access to the scientific output of an academic institution, more or less important sectors of the scientific production are missing. This is because of lack of awareness, embargo, deposit of metadata without full text, confidential content etc. This problem concerns in particular electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) that are disseminated with different status – some are freely available, others are under embargo, confidential, restricted to campus access (encrypted or not) or not available at all. While other papers may be available through alternative channels (journals, monographs etc.), ETDs most often are not. Our paper describes a new and unexpected effect of the development of digital libraries and open access, as a paradoxical practice of hiding information from the scientific community and society, while partly sharing it with a restricted population (campus). The study builds on a review of recent papers on ETDs in IRs and evaluates the availability of ETDs in a small panel of European and American academic IRs and networks. It provides empirical evidence on the reality of restricted access and proposes a model of independent variables affecting decisions on embargo and on-campus access, together with a table of different degrees of (non) open access to ETDs in IRs. The paper builds on a study conducted in Lille between January and April 2013 (Schöpfel & Prost 2013) and contributes to a French-German survey on ETD embargoes carried out by the Institute for Science Networking at the University of Oldenburg and the University of Lille.

Open science: The findings of medical research are disseminated too slowly | The Economist

ON JANUARY 1st the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did something that may help to change the practice of science. It brought into force a policy, foreshadowed two years earlier, that research it supports (it is the world’s biggest source of charitable money for scientific endeavours, to the tune of some $4bn a year) must, when published, be freely available to all. On March 23rd it followed this up by announcing that it will pay the cost of putting such research in one particular repository of freely available papers.

AAAS and Gates Foundation Partnership Announcement | Science | AAAS

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have formed a partnership to advance scientific communication and open access publishing. The partnership will also ensure open access to research funded by the Gates Foundation and published in the Science family of journals….As a result of this partnership, AAAS will allow authors funded by the Gates Foundation to publish their research under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) in Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, Science Advances, Science Immunology or Science Robotics. This means that the final published version of any article from a Foundation-funded author submitted to one of the AAAS journals after January 1, 2017 will be immediately available to read, download and reuse….”

Gates Foundation pressuring journals or vice versa?

“Background: The 2014 Gates Foundation OA policy put publishers on notice that in 2017 it would require immediate or unembargoed OA under CC-BY for articles arising from Gates-funded research. Some top journals don’t allow that today. Will the foundation back down in order to let its grantees publish in those journals, will publishers back down in order to publish Gates-funded research, or neither? …

I predict that the Gates Foundation won’t compromise….

Something similar happened when the NIH policy became mandatory in 2008. It allowed embargoes up to 12 months, and didn’t require open licenses. By Gates standards, the NIH policy is weak. But if you recall, many publishers at the time were very unwilling to accommodate it, and very vocal in their opposition. However, the NIH allowed no exceptions, and told grantees that if the publisher they had in mind wouldn’t allow OA on the NIH’s terms, then they must look for another publisher. Before long, all publishers came around. 

Essentially, the NIH forced publishers to choose between accommodating the new policy and refusing to publish the large volume of high-quality research by NIH-funded authors. Not a single surveyed publisher has chosen to refuse to publish NIH-funded authors.

Nor have any of the accommodating publishers gone out of business as a result. Some have continued to make obscene profits. In 2011, three years after the NIH policy became mandatory, the Nature Publishing Group said it detected no harm to its bottom line and positively encouraged compliance, just as it had positively encouraged green OA since 2005.

Before publishers began accommodating the NIH policy, I don’t recall researchers protesting that it would bar them from publishing in the journals of their choice. Even if they thought it would, they evidently preferred to be funded. 

The Gates Foundation will put publishers to the same choice between accommodating the policy and refusing to publish Gates-funded researchers. In 2008, some publishers might have taken the second course, but I doubt that any will do so today. Even if some do, I believe that their resistance won’t last long, if only because researchers will prefer to be funded. 

Publishers might want to resist OA, or unembargoed libre OA, but in the end they must go where the authors are. Authors might want to publish in journals that are high in both quality and prestige, but in the end they must go where the funding is. Authors will find that path easier to take when they realize that many high-quality journals, OA and non-OA, are accommodating the Gates policy. They’ll find it easier still –again, in due time– when promotion and tenure committees catch up with history and stop creating the perverse incentive to choose journal brand over quality and access. 

Research funders are in a key position to change the behavior of authors and publishers, and the Gates Foundation is one funder that really wants to create change.

Moreover, it’s a charity that funds research it finds useful or beneficial. Its interest is to make the results available as widely and easily as possible. It has no reason to compromise, and every reason not to.

That’s the outcome I predict. But I can add that it’s also the most desirable outcome. In 2008, the NIH did the right thing to force publisher accommodation, and in 2017 the time has (long since) come for funders to force publishers to the next level.”

Gates Foundation Adopts Progressive Open Access Policy | Beyond IP Law

“The Gates Foundation is on the brink of implementing an Open Access policy that is the purest in the world. Under the Gates Foundation policy, “information sharing and transparency is promoted by unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.” The radical aspect of the Gates Foundation Open Access policy is that no embargoes, no waivers and no exceptions are allowed. This is not a sudden policy implementation. Three years ago, the Gates Foundation announced and implemented a modified form of this policy. The date of rigorous implementation without embargoes, waivers or exceptions was explicitly detailed as taking effect on January 1, 2017….”

Let’s speed up science by embracing open access publishing

“Despite this success story, most scientific research today is not published openly — meaning freely, to everyone, without delay from the time of publication. Instead, it lives behind time embargoes and paywalls, costing as much as $35 per article to access. Even when scientific information is free to read, it is subject to copyright restrictions that prevent it from being recast quickly in new ways.”

The Icelandic Research Fund Handbook for Applicants, Expert Panels, and External Reviewers, 2d edition, 2017

From pp. 3-4, section 2.3: “According to the Act on Public Support for Scientific Research no. 3/2003 with later amendments, results of research funded by public funds shall be published in open access, unless otherwise agreed upon. Researchers who receive funding from IRF [Icelandic Research Fund] must guarantee that their research findings will be available through open access. Researchers may either publish in open access journals, or in open searchable, digital repositories along with publication in a traditional subscription journal 5 . The final peer reviewed manuscript shall be returned to the repository immediately after the article has been accepted for publication. If the journal demands a waiting period prior to open access, the grantee shall upon submission of manuscript to repository specify that the article shall be made available for public access automatically when the waiting period expires. The rules on open access currently only apply to peer-reviewed texts published in scientific journals….”