by Melissa Rothfus
Google Scholar recently released a new feature to the Scholar Profile section that tracks whether articles that are supposed to be open access under funder mandates are actually freely available. The feature is controversial. Some have decried the accuracy of the information and the suggestion to use Google Drive to make publications open (Google Scholar is not a repository and does not meet funder requirements). At the same time, there may be value in reminding funded researchers — and others — to ensure their work is open as required.
While the reminder might be new, the mandate is not. Publications arising from research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) since 2008 are required to be publicly accessible within one year of publication. In 2015, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) followed with the same requirement. (See Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications). Internationally, many agencies that award funding from public sources have similar policies. These are fueled by the expectation that research paid for by the public should be accessible to benefit the public. Publications in traditional journals that require subscription access are often unavailable to governments, practitioners, and the general public.
There are several ways in which publications can be made open access. One is through an open access journal, but that’s not the only option. Deposit in our institutional repository, DalSpace, offers a way to comply with funder requirements free of charge to authors and readers. This is possible because some publishers permit authors to make a version of their work available in a repository after an embargo period, even if the work was not published open access. Check the Making Published Work Open Access LibGuide page for more information for guidance on making previously published work available in DalSpace, or for tips to consider before publishing.
The new Google Scholar feature is a reminder that it is all too easy to forget about open access responsibilities when you’ve already got your sights set on the next project. But researchers should keep in mind that making work open does more than just comply with funder policies — when research is more accessible to a broader audience, it has the best chance for the biggest impact. The more people who can read it, the more people who can use it, implement it, draw on it, build on it, and cite it.