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New Zealand has its first Open Access Policy thanks to Lincoln University. We have been lagging behind in the OA landscape when it comes to tertiary institutions, and Lincoln’s position is a great step.

From their website:

Lincoln University takes the position that if public funding has supported the creation of research or other content then it’s reasonable to make it publicly accessible. So our new Open Access Policy endorses making this content openly and freely available as the preferred option.

That the public should have access to the outputs of the work they fund through their taxes has been a compelling argument around other international policies. A similar position statement was made in the  Tasman Declaration. New Zealand’s NZGOAL, released in 2010 provides a similar framework for State Service Agencies, but tertiary institutions are not included in the framework despite receiving substantial public funding in several forms. It has been then up to the individual universities to decide whether the principles of NZGOAL are adopted. Lincoln University has taken a leadership role for the tertiary sector, and I am hopeful that other  NZ institutions will follow their lead.

CC-BY-NC-SA by biblioteekje on Flickr

I have been often asked where the funds to pay for Open Access publishing will come from, at least in relation to the publication of research articles. What we sometimes seem to forget is that we are already paying for these costs through the portion of the overheads of our grants that go towards library costs for access and re-use of copyrighted material.  In many instances, too,  the charges for publication of, say a colour figure, can be equal or more than what it would cost to publish the same article in an Open Access journal. The maths just don’t work for me.

What we also seem to sometimes forget is that most publishers will allow the posting of the peer reviewed version of the author’s manuscript in their institutional repository. Why aren’t researchers not doing this more widely is not very clear.

And here is where Lincoln strikes a nice balance: posting in the institutional repository (aka Green Open Access) comes at no extra financial cost to the individual researcher.  IT will be interesting to see how the policy is implemented at Lincoln.

But is it enough?

It is a great start.

One of the issues with the Open Access discussion is that it sometimes the issue of copyright (and the resulting license to reuse) does not always feature prominently in the conversation. I (personally) consider that fronting the fee with a journal to make a paper open access when I still need to transfer the copyright to the journal is a waste of money. There is not much added value to the version of the manuscript that I can place in the repository and the final journal version (other than perhaps aesthetics). I am happy, however, to pay an OA fee when this comes attached with a Creative Commons licence that allows reuse, including commercial re-use, because that is where the true value of Open Access is. Lincoln University takes a good step by encouraging the use of Creative Commons licences – but In their absence the articles should still be made free to view through the institutional repository.

How is NZ doing in OA?

The articles that are deposited in Institutional repositories in New Zealand can be found through nzresarch.org.nz.  Today’s search returned 14,273  journal articles. It is unfortunate that the great majority of them (13,986) are “all rights reserved” and only 232 allow commercial reuse. If we really want to benefit from our research to drive innovation, then we should be doing better.

So where to next?

Lincoln University has taken a great first step, and hopefully the other NZ research institutions will follow. I am also hoping we will start to see a similar move from NZ funding agencies encouraging researchers to adopt the principles of NZGOAL or to place Open Access mandates on their funded research.

Perhaps next time a funding body or organisation asks you to donate money for their research to help cure a condition, you might ask them if they have an Open Access policy