Policy News

Indian research goes open

Scientists must  provide free online access to their papers by depositing them in institutional repositories.

K. S. Jayaraman

doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.9 Published online 22 January 2015

India's science ministry has made open access (OA) mandatory for papers resulting from research funded by it in a move to provide free access and maximum visibility to Indian research. 

The OA policyannounced recently requires grant recipients to compulsorily deposit the accepted manuscripts in their respective institutional repository (IR) which can be accessed online by anyone at no charge. This means authors will be able to submit material only to those journals that allow archiving. 

Institutions that currently do not have an IR have been asked to create one "as soon as possible." The research papers are required to be deposited in the IRs within two weeks of their acceptance by the journal. The IRs will make them available online immediately or after any embargo if the journal so insists. The embargo period however cannot exceed six months.

Papers resulting from funds received from April 2012 onwards fall under this rule. The ministry has set up a central repository (www.sciencecentral.in) that will harvest the full text and metadata of publications deposited in all the IRs.

The ministry says it does not intend to violate copyright or other agreements entered into by the researcher with the publisher. On the other hand, it believes that "free, open and digital access of scientific research will ensure percolation of cutting edge research at a rapid pace into higher education curricula, thereby raising the standard of technical and scientific education in the country."

The policy is not intended to promote OA journals either. In any case most journals from India's science academies and science agencies are already OA and the cost of running them is covered by the funding agency.

"It is a big step forward for Indian science, but by no means can it be called ideal," says Subbiah Arunachalam, the prime mover of OA movement in India and a distinguished fellow with the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet & Society. "I would have preferred immediate availability of papers without allowing for any embargo," he told Nature India.

"Also I would not like   taxpayers’ money to be used to meet article processing charges – that range from $50 to $6,000 – levied by certain OA publishers that would drain the funds allocated for research. But this is a good beginning," he said.

The OA policy applies to individual researchers or institutions who have directly or indirectly received funding or other support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) or the Department of Science and Technology (DST), both under the science ministry. OA supporters are hoping that other ministries and departments supporting research will soon fall in line mandating open access to all publicly funded research.