The Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Biotechnology (DST/DBT) together released the second draft of its Open Access Policy and has invited comments on the same. The Open Access Policy is the DST/DBT initiative aimed at trying to increase the availability of the findings of publicly funded research by encouraging these to be made open access. The manner in which the policy achieves this is by requiring every DST or DBT funded or other indirectly funded research to be deposited in repositories specifically set up for the purpose. The authors may choose to publish these in journals of their choice and may impose an embargo on the open access availability of the paper for the maximum period of one year after which however, it will be openly available.
Anubha has done a nice post for CIS comparing the two policies here and there are a number of differences between the two drafts. Some of the issues that she’s discussed are publishing freedom, creation of repositories and the embargo period.
I’d like to highlight however a significant change here – that in the copyright policy. The first draft’s copyright section reads,
“Copyright: In case the scientist produces research as part of her employment with a government body, the copyright vests in the government body, unless otherwise agreed upon to the contrary. Therefore, if the copyright continues to vest in the Government, transfer of rights would have to be by the Government, or by the scientist after prior permission from the Government. If the research has been produced the scientist in the course of her employment with any institution, copyright vests in the institution concerned, unless otherwise agreed upon to the contrary. The institution should Retain the right to make the articles freely available gratis, whether the journal is open – access or subscription – based. The DBT/DST recommends that all authors receiving funds from DBT/DST should, at the time of returning the copyright transfer form, 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.”
It also had an addendum which tries to modify the publication agreement to take into account this open access policy. However, the second draft does not retain any of this language and instead states,
“It is not the intent of this policy to violate copyright or other agreements entered into by the researcher, institution or funding agency. However, the DST and DBT expects the authors to bring to the notice of publishers their obligations under this policy to deposit the manuscript in institutional or central depository of funding agency.”
The modified language seems somewhat timid in the handling of the copyright and I haven’t really found a comment (the comments on the first draft are accessible here) that would explain why the DST/DBT retreated in the manner that it has. With the latter wording it seems that the copyright now vests with the authors and subsequently with the publishers (depending on the nature of the agreement with the journal) irrespective of the agency that funded the research. I have not had the chance to examine agreements that researchers sign with the DST/DBT while undertaking projects or employment contracts that researchers have with public institutions and readers are welcome to share information on whether a S.17(c)-esque requirement is made out in those agreements. If it is not, then the original wording of the draft policy would have better aided the Open Access Policy. Perhaps one justification for this change is that academic journals might not be open to such language, pretty much depriving them off them the valuable resource that earns them their bread and butter, correspondingly making it harder for academics to publish. In any case, this handling of copyright, in my opinion grants substantially less amount of bite to the policy and in effect is doing nothing but creating a repository of information, with no clear indication on what can be done with this information. If the copyright still vests with the respective authors or publishing houses, it could open up the use of this material to substantial amounts of litigation defeating the Open Access philosophy. While the policy itself is a commendable initiative, some clarity in this regard would be much appreciated.