India’s Departments of Biotechnology (DBT) and Science and Technology (DST) have come out with a draft policy for ensuring that the output of public funded research is published in a freely accessible platform.
The Draft Policy states, “since all funds disbursed by DBT/DST are public funds, it is important that the information and knowledge generated through the use of these funds are made publicly available as soon as possible.” The policy envisages that grantees publish their work in an open access journal, and should they choose to publish in a subscription journal, the work must also be deposited in an online repository. This repository should be the grantee’s institution’s repository, and in the absence of such facility, in a repository to be created by the DBT/DST.
To mitigate potential copyright infringement claims, the Policy recommends that if and when the DBT/DST- funded author wishes to publish the work in a non-open access journal, the author must inform the publisher that they would retain the right to place the full-text of the final author version in the institution’s IR and DBT/DST Central. This can be achieved by attaching to the copyright transfer agreement the DBT/DST author addendum. My concern here is the imbalance of bargaining power between the author and publisher (especially of reputed journals), as the publisher can just refuse to publish the article on those terms. How far can a government recommendation influence the behavior of publishers?
The DBT/DST is not the first to take this Open Access route. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) also have open access policies. This is truly commendable when compared to technology transfer practices in countries such as the USA, where the Bayh-Dole Act encourages universities to seek patent protection over the fruits of public-funded research, leading to fragmented ownership of such research. India is making the right move by moving away from this model in this case (the much-criticised ‘Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008, known as the ‘Indian Bayh-Dole Act‘ is fortunately still a Bill).