Gates Foundation to insist on Open Access science

All funded research – and data - to be released under Creative Commons, say Bill and Melinda

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has drawn a line in the sand: as of next year, it will only fund research that is released in full, for free, immediately upon publication.

The Foundation's pitching the decision as enabling greater scrutiny of research, and therefore better outcomes.

A new Open Access Policy spells out the new rules: for the next two years, publishers will be offered the chance for a one-year embargo of any Foundation-funded research. But once January 1st, 2017, ticks over, all bets are off and researchers working for the Foundation will be required to release their work “under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0) or an equivalent license.”

“This will permit all users of the publication to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (including commercial) without further permission or fees being required.”

The Foundation's not asking scientific publishers to roll over: the policy says it “would pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication on these terms.” But it is insisting that all research it funds is released, along with underlying data, on the day of publication.

The decision is notable because many scientific journals paywall research. The Gates Foundation funds over 1,000 papers a year, so insisting they are released in full at no cost to the public gives the Open Access movement a nice little bit of momentum.

Given that the Foundation is funding this effort it does not, however, do much to help the development of alternative business models for scientific publishers. Not every researcher, after all, has the backing of an organisation with pockets as deep as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. ®

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