Canada's SSHRC lacks leader, hence leadership, on OA

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 5 May 2006 20:29:03 +0100

Canada is spinning its wheels on mandating OA, and the shrewd comparative
2004 vs. 2006 excerpts juxtaposed by Peter Suber below tell it all.

While the US, the UK, and the European Commission have been moving forward
(if far too slowly) toward mandating OA self-archiving --

-- Canada is not only treading water but floating backwards.

I am told that SSHRC (the only Canadian funding council that had been
actively considering a self-archiving mandate at all) has at last
succeeded in disentangling OA self-archiving from the irrelevant issue
of SSHRC-subsidised journals (with which SSHRC itself had needlessly
and repeatedly confused it), but that has not been enough to inspire
concrete action. (Nor does SSHRC's use of the phrase "imposing mandatory
requirements on researchers to *publish via open access*" inspire
confidence that the confusion has as yet been fully resolved: What needs
to be mandated is not "to publish via open access" but to continue
publishing normally, as always, but, in addition, to self-archive the
author's final draft in the author's Institutional Repository.)

SSHRC seems bent on faithfully following, some day, several years after
the fact, what nations with more initiative will already have gone ahead
and done. In the meanwhile there is to be a flurry of "consultations"
(of which there have already been a half-decade's worth, planet-wide)
among the "major stake-holders." These are and always have been:
Canadian researchers, their institutions, and their funders (i.e.,
Canadian tax-payers), who are, for some reason, described as "cautious"
about "various implementation obstacles" (one is not told about what,
or why, or on what basis this cautiousness has been ascertained).

SSHRC also proposes various pilot projects, to test the waters further
(as if the pilot projects of CERN, Minho, QUT, and Southampton ECS,
and their positive outcomes, were not pilot projects enough: they
mandated self-archiving, and it worked, admirably, and emulably).

I am also told that Canada has a problem with attaching any fulfilment
conditions on their research grants, apart from the researchers
doing whatever they had proposed to do. SSHRC does manage to attach
the condition that a final report needs to be done, describing the
outcomes, and how the money was spent, but, somehow, depositing the
putative publications resulting from the research in the researcher's
institutional repository is asking for too much (even when all legal
issues are mooted by merely requiring that they be *deposited* immediately
upon acceptance for publication, without requiring, but only recommending,
that they be set to Open Access rather than Closed Access).

This is of course all foolish, unthinking nonsense, and characteristic
of a state of indirection and inertia, leaderless -- possibly because
the SSHRC has been without a permanent Director for some time now.

I still have some hope, though, that Quebec can be galvanized into
action, even if the rest of Canada cannot. Stay tuned. Meanwhile,
read and weep:

Reposted from Peter Suber's Open Access News

    The SSHRC restates its OA policy

    In the April 24 report on its March Council meeting, Canada's Social
    Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) restates its position
    on OA. (Thanks to the U of Toronto's OS/OA project:

    Here's the report note in full:

    "Following on Council's October 2004 approval in principle of
    open access --permanent, free, online access to the results of
    federally-funded research-- staff consulted with the social sciences
    and humanities community and reported on the options available
    to make open access a reality. The idea of open access to all
    research is widely accepted, but presents a number of implementation
    obstacles, and the community is by and large cautious. Rather than
    imposing mandatory requirements on researchers to publish via open
    access, Council chose to increase awareness of open access, pursue
    discussions with major stakeholders, and gradually incorporate open
    access provisions in research support programs."

    For comparison, here's its position from October 2004:

    "At the October 2004 meeting, Council endorsed the principles of
    the Open Access movement-promoting and sharing the results of the
    SSHRC-funded research with the public. Council welcomed the news
    that the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
    (CFHSS) has agreed to work with SSHRC to consult with the research
    community on the best way to implement Open Access and incorporate
    its principles into the Council's research support programs. The
    Council also welcomed the involvement of the Canadian Association of
    Research Libraries, which represents a major stakeholder community,
    in the consultations."

Permanent link to OAN post:
Received on Sat May 06 2006 - 01:57:11 BST

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