“Last month, European research funders collectively called for research publications to be made free, fully and immediately; so far, 14 funders have signed up. Before that, at least 50 funders and 700 research institutions worldwide had already mandated some form of open access for the work they support. Federally funded agencies and institutions argue that taxpayers should be able to read publicly funded research, and that broader accessibility will allow researchers whose institutions do not subscribe to a particular journal to build on existing research.
However, few empirical analyses have examined whether work supported by funding agencies with such mandates actually is open access1–4. Here, we report the first large-scale analysis of compliance, focusing on 12 selected funding agencies. Bibliometric data are fraught with idiosyncrasies (see ‘Analysis methods’), but the trends are clear.
Of the more than 1.3 million papers we identified as subject to the selected funders’ open-access mandates, we found that some two-thirds were indeed freely available to read. Rates varied greatly, from around 90% for work funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and UK biomedical funder the Wellcome Trust, to 23% for work supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (see ‘Mandates matter’)….
Our findings have policy implications. They highlight the importance to open access of enforcement, timeliness and infrastructure. And they underline the need to establish sustainable and equitable systems as the financial burdens for science publishing shift from research libraries to authors’ research funds….
Funders that allow authors to deposit papers after publication see lower rates of compliance, presumably because authors lose track of this obligation….
in chemistry research, 81% of work funded by the NIH is publicly available, whereas that is true of only around one-quarter of chemistry studies supported by the NSF and CIHR. Different funders support different types of work, but the variations we found also remain consistent within sub-disciplines (see Supplementary Information, Figure S5). Although researchers cite norms and needs within disciplines as a reason not to comply with open-access mandates, we believe that the funding agency is a stronger driver of open access than is the culture of any particular discipline….”