Gates Foundation Will Require All Funded Research To Be Open Access

Kjetil Ree via Wikimedia Commons

The scientific journal PLOS ONE made news in February when it announced that all of the data used in published studies would need to be made openly available. This is part of a growing trend to make scientific data more widely available, without being hidden behind paywalls and journal subscriptions.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds healthcare projects ranging from agricultural development to supplying HIV treatments in Africa, has announced that starting on January 1, 2015, all research that receives full or partial funding from the Foundation will be required to submit that research to open access journals. For a period of two years, certain aspects of these requirements can be waived, so long as the paper and supporting data is made available within twelve months. Starting in 2017, everything must be made open from the beginning.

The Foundation’s press release outlined certain conditions that all researchers must meet if they are to accept money in the future. First and foremost, the research must be submitted to journals whose content is available to access online. Though most journals have online content these days, this stipulation covers all bases, just to be sure.

The next requirement is that published articles have a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0), or something with similar provisions. CC BY 4.0 allows all of the content to be reproduced for any type of use, even commercial.

Some subscription-based journals will allow authors to pay an additional fee to make articles open access. In order to help researchers comply with these new requirements, the Foundation will pay any reasonable costs associated with making the content open to the public.

Additionally, there will be no embargo period for any of the published research. When papers are under embargo, they are only allowed to be accessed by certain people until the public release date. Embargoes will be allowed during the transition period leading up to 2017, but only for a 12 month period of time. After that, all papers and supporting data must be made immediately available to the public, compliant with all of these requirements.

While this might sound like a fantastic way for researchers to build off of one another more easily and expedite research and discovery, not everyone is completely on board with this new model. Nature released a blog entry that criticized certain aspects of the plan, particularly the Creative Commons mandate. Many publishers, including industry leaders like Nature and Science, do not allow their material to be reproduced for commercial purposes, for fear it will become altered, misrepresented, and sold in a way that does not preserve the journal’s reputation.

Scientists receiving funding from the Gates Foundation may not be able to publish in these high-impact journals, which may be problematic for those who are seeking a larger audience for their work. Seemingly, this would go against the wishes of the Gates Foundation’s new open access policy, which wants as many people as possible to be able to read and replicate the work.

[Hat tip: io9]

[Header image: Kjetil Ree via Wikimedia Commons]

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