The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

CIHR revises (i.e., weakens) Open Access policy

CIHR, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, has been a national (and, in some regards, international) leader in the development and promotion of open access (OA) to research outputs, including peer-reviewed articles. However, the future of CIHR’s leadership in the area of public access to publicly-funded research is in question. After forging new ground with a research access policy requiring OA within 6 months of publication of research results, the CIHR had a strange kerfuffle in 2011 in which they rolled out and then rolled back an open data policy (see this and subsequent blog posts for more info).

In this week’s CIHR funding news, they have renamed the “Policy on Access to Research Outputs” the “Open Access Policy” and extended the embargo period from 6 months to the NIH-standard 12 months. While I understand that the NIH, being the largest biomedical research funder in the world, effectively set the industry standard at 12 months with their own policy (rolled out after the CIHR policy), the CIHR requiring 6 months gave researchers a leg to stand on when negotiating a shorter embargo period with publishers. While standard journal publishing contracts in biomedicine allow public archiving after 1 year, the argument that a contract must be modified because “my federal funder requires this after 6 months” was rarely denied (<–statement based on anecdata, but I do not know of any higher form of evidence regarding this question; if you do let me know).

Not only has CIHR removed this leverage to provide more timely public access to Canadian researchers’ outputs, they have failed to couple it with the strength of the NIH policy — a requirement for immediate deposit (with optional delayed public access) in PubMed Central. Without this requirement for immediate (upon acceptance for publication) deposit, few researchers will remember to go back and deposit their article draft a year later when the OA requirement goes into effect. There is still no known process for auditing compliance with this policy, nearly 5 years after it originally went into effect.

This is another disappointing development from a tri-council funder that used to be a clear leader in OA. If anyone has any further information on the process of revising this policy, I’d love to hear about it.


(Disclosure: I and many of my colleagues are and have previously been funded by CIHR. I am currently a CIHR Vanier Scholar.)

Actual CIHR “Funding news” snippet follows:

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

3) Application and Funding Policies

a) Update to the CIHR Open Access Policy

Starting January 2013, CIHR-funded researchers will be required to make their peer-reviewed publications freely accessible within 12 months of publication – at the latest. Amendments to the CIHR Open Access Policy, formerly known as the Policy on Access to Research Outputs, modify current requirements to provide the public with freely accessible research articles while aligning with other major funding agencies, such as the US National Institutes of Health. Researchers can comply with the green open access policy by depositing the articles in an archive, such as PubMed Central Canada or an institutional repository, and/or by publishing results in an open access journal.

While the CIHR Open Access Policy provides researchers with clear guidance on CIHR’s minimum expectation, in the spirit of public benefits of research, CIHR continues to encourage researchers to make their publications accessible for free as soon as possible after publication. Compliance with the policy will continue to be monitored through end of grant reporting.

The revised Open Access Policy is available online:

For further information, please contact


2 responses to “CIHR revises (i.e., weakens) Open Access policy

  1. stevanharnad December 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    The updated Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Open Access Mandate has taken one step forward and one step back:

    One step forward [clauses in parentheses have been removed]:

    Grant recipients are required to [make every effort to] ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher’s website (Option #1) or an online repository (Option #2)

    One step back:

    [as soon as possible and in any event] within [six] 12 months of publication. Under the second option, grant recipients must archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts immediately upon publication in a digital archive…

    But there is a simple way to fix and optimize it.

    The archiving must always be done by the author, not the publisher (and preferably in the author’s institutional repository, never the publisher’s website, so the institution can verify timely compliance); and the deposit must be done immediately upon publication in every instance. (The length of the allowable embargo is less important than the necessity of immediate institutional deposit by the author. PMC Canada and others can then harvest automatically from the author’s institutional repositories.)


    Grant recipients are required to archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts of their publications in their institutional repository immediately upon publication and must ensure that they are freely accessible within [X] months of publication.

    Integrating Institutional and Funder Open Access Mandates: Belgian Model

    How to Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates

    Optimize the NIH Mandate Now: Deposit Institutionally, Harvest Centrally

    Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?

    Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?

  2. Pingback: Scholarly Publishing News » Blog Archive » Changes to CIHR OA Policy

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