Governments around the world are developing policies to encourage or ensure open access to the research they fund. These policies vary in scope and implementability, but all of them take the line that publically funded research should be publically available. The “Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications” lays out the Government of Canada’s approach and attitude toward research sharing and dissemination, funneled through the Tri-Agency. The goal of this document is to convince researchers to make their output openly available, as well as to formalize the government’s position on the issue: “The Agencies strongly support open access to research results which promotes the principle of knowledge sharing and mobilization—an essential objective of academia” (n.p.).
On the spectrum of enforceability, the “Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications” falls somewhere between the poles of light recommendation and heavy mandate. The policy is flexible enough to accommodate different publication forms: researchers may make their output accessible via Green OA, Gold OA, or a combination thereof. The policy does remind authors that by accepting funds from the Tri-Council they agree to its terms and policies, and suggests that the Tri-Council will rescind funding in cases of non-compliance. Regardless, the policy lacks teeth. The compilers of the document do not outline how the Tri-Council will determine whether or not researchers are in fact making all funded research openly available. If reporting back to the Tri-Council is the only method for assessment, couldn’t researchers, in theory, leave any closed-access publications off of their funding reports? Until there is a more rigorous, coordinated enforcement system, it is difficult to see how the policy will be applied across the board.
Regardless of pragmatic complexity, the document acknowledges that “Societal advancement is made possible through widespread and barrier-free access to cutting-edge research and knowledge, enabling researchers, scholars, clinicians, policymakers, private sector and not-for-profit organizations and the public to use and build on this knowledge” (n.p). A national acknowledgement of the value of open access to research such as this is invaluable.
Government of Canada. 2015. “Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.” Science.gc.ca. http://www.science.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=F6765465-1